Tech Sessions Podcast - Ep. 2: The Borderless Office: Crafting a Resilient, Anywhere Digital Workplace

Digital Workplace Tech Sessions Podcast - Ep. 2: The Borderless Office: Crafting a Resilient, Anywhere Digital Workplace


In the latest episode of the Tech Sessions podcast, Al Solorzano, VP of Digital Workplace at e360, and Patrick O'Brien, Solutions Architect at e360, discuss the strategies organizations can employ to foster a borderless office environment.

They explore the challenges and solutions in building a digital workplace that not only enhance productivity but also bolster business resiliency and employee satisfaction.

Whether you're a CIO, IT director, or an enthusiastic IT professional, this discussion offers valuable insights into making your digital workplace more adaptive and successful.

Listen to the Episode:

Watch the Episode:

Key Topics Covered:

  • Defining the Digital Workplace: Understanding what constitutes a digital workplace and why it's crucial for modern businesses.
  • Evolution Post-COVID: How the digital workplace has transformed since the pandemic, emphasizing remote work and the need for robust digital infrastructures.
  • Key Components of a Digital Workplace: Identity, data, and device management as foundational elements.
  • Enhancing Digital Employee Experience (DEX): Strategies to improve user satisfaction and productivity through better technology and management practices.
  • Business Strategy Integration: How the digital workplace aligns with broader business strategies like mergers, acquisitions, and talent management.
  • Observability and Data Management: Tools and practices to monitor and manage the performance of digital systems and their impact on the workplace.

Key Takeaways:

  • Comprehensive Strategy is Essential: A well-rounded digital workplace strategy must address not only technological needs but also employee experience and business alignment.
  • Employee Experience is Critical: Optimizing the digital workplace to enhance employee satisfaction and productivity directly influences retention and overall business success.
  • Adaptability and Resilience: Post-COVID, organizations need a digital workplace that is not only functional but also resilient to changes and challenges in the work environment.
  • Technology Integration: Effective integration of technologies like identity management, data security, and device management is vital for a secure and efficient digital workplace.
  • Future-Proofing: Embracing new technologies and trends, such as AI and enhanced digital employee experiences, can provide competitive advantages and future-proof the organization.

Read the Transcript:

ep. 2DW Tech Sessions - Borderless Office

[00:00:00] Welcome to the Digital Workplace Tech Sessions Podcast

[00:00:00] Welcome to the Digital Workplace edition of the tech sessions podcast. In this session, we're going to be talking about the Digital Workplace strategy that your organization needs to be leveraging all the benefits of having a Digital Workplace strategy and the ways you're going to go ahead and develop one. I'm Al Solorzano, VP of our Digital Workplace practice here at e360. And I'm here with my cohost, Patrick O'Brien, principal architect here at e360. What's up, Patrick?

[00:00:42] Patrick O'Brien: Hey.

[00:00:43] Al Solorzano: .. I've been here for quite some time. I've been really focused on this technology and these concepts around the Digital Workplace, and really excited to bring some of these conversations to you that we've been having with a lot of our customers. So let's go ahead and just get right started. So, Patrick, I'll, I'm gonna talk to you about a couple things.

[00:00:59] Al Solorzano: First, .. Let's get some con context.

[00:01:03] Defining the Digital Workplace and Its Importance

[00:01:03] Al Solorzano: What is a Digital Workplace and why is it relevant to our customers?

[00:01:08] Patrick O'Brien: Well, .. thank you for asking the hardest question of the day. Right now. I always define the Digital Workplace as everything from the end user to the back of the data center, because it's all connected.

[00:01:20] Patrick O'Brien: You can't say, oh, we care about the end user, but we don't understand Active Directory, or we don't understand storage or locality. And you really have a number of pieces that are interconnected. You have to worry about user profiles and identity. .. Access to the data locality, to the data, .. Performance on the device.

[00:01:37] Patrick O'Brien: How is the device connected and authenticated through the network? So it's a big web that covers a pretty broad, pretty broad sphere.

[00:01:45] Al Solorzano: Yeah. So, but why is it relevant? Right. Why, why do, why does it matter to customers? Why does it matter to users? What, what, what do you usually talk about there?

[00:01:55] Patrick O'Brien: Well, as we've seen over the last four years, [00:02:00] users.

[00:02:00] Patrick O'Brien: Are very vocal. If they don't like their experience, if you have to work from home and the experience is terrible, there's a chance you're going to start looking for another job. And on the flip side, if administrators have to manage an environment that is difficult to manage because of user experience problems, they might be looking for another job.

[00:02:17] Patrick O'Brien: The thing is relevant to anybody. in any business because a positive experience keeps a happy workforce and a negative experience makes people start considering their options. So we really, you know, it's a daily conversation for us with any business.

[00:02:32] The Evolution of the Digital Workplace Post-COVID

[00:02:32] Al Solorzano: Yeah, I mean, do you, I know, I feel it when I see it as pre-COVID and post-COVID, right pre COVID, we had a lot of, you know, kind of the users always were coming into the office and, and having that in office experience COVID hit.

[00:02:47] Al Solorzano: And immediately there was a response of everybody's got to figure out how to work remotely. Right. And. Everybody did respond to that. And now we're kind of evolving into kind of like the next phase is just how do we optimize that experience? What do we do to make that user be able to have that hybrid workforce and hybrid workforce is coming up quite often.

[00:03:04] Al Solorzano: Right.

[00:03:06] Patrick O'Brien: It really is. And to that point, that next phase, I think what the pandemic drove us to is ready, fire, aim, let's work out of the office. And the borderless office was born. We could all be connected. I mean, people were more productive than ever, and it was great. But like you said, nobody optimized anything and now we're paying a fairly heavy technical debt of just shooting everybody out of the office.

[00:03:29] Patrick O'Brien: And now how do we get our data back? How do we get our users to be in a place where they can seamlessly come into the office or work from home without having to have multiple logins and a different experience, they want a, you know, single sign on optimized, fluid, seamless, borderless office. And that really is this phase now.

[00:03:48] Patrick O'Brien: And I think. That is probably the bulk of our conversations today. You know, oops, we hurried up four years ago. Now, what do we do? So,

[00:03:59] Key Components of a Digital Workplace: Identity, Data, and Device

[00:03:59] Al Solorzano: and I know when we, [00:04:00] when we, sometimes we boil it down for customers to kind of like the three main talk talking points we've talked about. And you already hit on a couple of them, right?

[00:04:06] Al Solorzano: Identity. The data and the device, right? That, that kind of trifecta of really what makes up a Digital Workplace. And there's a whole lot of other aspects, collaboration tools and application delivery solutions, but really when you boil it down to identity data and device, you know, where, where does somebody start?

[00:04:25] Al Solorzano: But, you know, by having those conversations, I mean, where do we, where do we want to start with conversations on that?

[00:04:31] Patrick O'Brien: Well, that's kind of that's a heavy question because we have a lot of there's so many different requirements in this space. You could have an organization that has a concern with contractors or remote workers.

[00:04:44] Patrick O'Brien: And if somebody is terminated or leaves for another position, or, you know, retires. How do you get the data back? How do you get the device back? So we have a number of concerns around securing the endpoint, endpoint management, preventing data exfiltration. There are a number of concerns around that. At the same time, we could have somebody say, we just acquired a business and we brought this new business unit on of a thousand employees and everybody's complaining because it's slow and unusable.

[00:05:13] Patrick O'Brien: .. Where, where do we focus or what's driving this? I think it's, it's a lot. And the lazy consulting answer, it depends. I'll try not to say those two words again on this call, but, .. It really does.

[00:05:26] Al Solorzano: I don't know. It really does because every organization is always in a different, .. Stage in what they're doing with their Digital Workplace.

[00:05:33] Al Solorzano: Right. I think that's important for a lot of our customers to understand is like there's no, there's no one way of getting to a optimized Digital Workplace strategy. It's about understanding your current state and kind of evolving and iterating through different versions. So you talked about security, like that's a, that's a big piece of this, right?

[00:05:51] Al Solorzano: Because now that potentially this hybrid workforce is using Yeah. Yeah. .. Personal devices or a mix of personal and corporate devices. Security is a big deal. .. [00:06:00] I know you've talked about experience a lot, right? Maybe you can talk about experience of why does this matter, for our customers and for our clients.

[00:06:10] Enhancing Digital Employee Experience for Productivity and Satisfaction

[00:06:10] Patrick O'Brien: Well, .. Digital employee experience or DEX is very, it's a, it's a hot topic now in, in end user computing. And it really in, I'd say any, any workforce in general now, because employees have been empowered, really the pandemic showed employers that employees can leave, they can go wherever they want.

[00:06:32] Patrick O'Brien: There is a, there is always a need to hire skilled. People in your organization, whether you're in it, manufacturing biotech. It doesn't matter where you work. If you have skills, you're in demand. And if you go to work every day and it takes you 10 minutes to log in, it's painful, you have to go through several layers of authentication and it's just cumbersome, you're not going to be happy as, as an end user, as the, as that worker at the same time, .. Administrators, you know, there, there's a lot of migration right now.

[00:07:05] Patrick O'Brien: People are.

[00:07:12] Patrick O'Brien: You know, whether it's, they've outsourced their it and you have, you know, contractors overseas or staff in house, if they don't like managing it, they can go get another job. So that's really, that for me, that user experience piece is the most important because if you don't have the user, you don't have a business, right?

[00:07:34] Patrick O'Brien: Ah. That comes up for me all the time. I

[00:07:38] Al Solorzano: mean, at least another conversation we have often, which is productivity, right? .. And efficiencies like from a user's perspective, like you mentioned, if it takes me 10 logins to get to my application, that's probably not a great experience and it's causing me to kind of delay to actually get to that, .. My actual work completed, but of course that has a business impact, right?

[00:07:59] Al Solorzano: [00:08:00] That has a financial cost associated with the organization that if, you know, Their personal Wi Fi is having problems. If their internet is having issues, if their device has to constantly be rebooted for patches and things like that, that that affects productivity and actually has an impact on the bottom line, .. You know, for a lot of our customers.

[00:08:18] Al Solorzano: Maybe want to talk about that a little bit.

[00:08:22] Patrick O'Brien: Productivity is a, it's a, it's another loaded word because we found that people working remotely would be just as, or more productive. I know personally working from home for the last few years, people have no problem booking calls back to back to back to back to back for throughout the day.

[00:08:37] Patrick O'Brien: There is no time to walk between meetings. You just work. 8 10 hours a day. No problem. But if between every meeting, you have to, like you said, do multiple logins or change systems, and it's very cumbersome that that can that can be worse than having to commute to an office. So we have to find that balance of meeting compliance requirements, meeting.

[00:08:59] Patrick O'Brien: You know, whatever, whatever the business needs are for authentication and security, but at the same time making it seamless for the user. And we've talked a lot about multi factor authentication and there's the pros and cons of that. The ability to do things like single sign on and how to carry that user's identity throughout the, throughout the network.

[00:09:18] Patrick O'Brien: And firms are really focused on that now. And we're talking about how to integrate all these systems in the back end. So if a user logs in that, That session or that token can carry through seamlessly. Users like that. They don't like logging in multiple times for the same, for the same desktop or the same application.

[00:09:35] Al Solorzano: Yeah. I think productivity of finding data with all the locations that data could potentially reside these days. It's a, you know, back in the day we used to call them portals and now there's, you know, integrations with dashboards and integrations with, .. Platforms like Microsoft Teams is a good example that's trying to consolidate all the applications and experiences and workflows that are needed for productivity.[00:10:00]

[00:10:00] Al Solorzano: So all those are coming into play for sure. .. I do want to drill down on digital employee experience a little bit. You know, one thing that I hear quite often is they're kind of, you know, is there a need for it? Of course, we'll get to that, but maybe a better understanding about what it means. Cause I, what I hear often is some of the tools that are out there.

[00:10:19] Al Solorzano: .. You know, if it's, let's talk about like website. Employee interaction or sorry, digital experience when it comes to websites, things like, Hey, I want to know that five items read into the dashboard into the cart and only three were purchased. Why was that? It took extra five seconds to go find a search, and that's why we're losing business.

[00:10:38] Al Solorzano: So I see that on the consumer website conversation, which is really where experience is starting from. But now we're talking about the employee experience. So maybe talk about some of that a little bit to say, like, where, what kind of data are they able to see and understand and understand what that impact looks like?

[00:10:56] Patrick O'Brien: Well, another big word that comes up a lot is observability, and observability is important because as an organization, being able to see the data is key. So what can we capture now? Things like how long does it take a user when they click a button? How long does it take them to actually get into their session?

[00:11:15] Patrick O'Brien: How long does it take that application to launch? .. When they are connecting into your network, what is the network performance? How many different, you know, hops do they have to make through the environment to get to the data or through the applications? And then even more abstract than that, when are users not happy?

[00:11:34] Patrick O'Brien: And how can you map that? And certain solutions now have self serve where you can do something as simple as click a smiley face if you like it or click an angry face if you don't. And that data gets passed to the IT organization and to business leaders who can see, Hey, this user is not happy. What's the problem?

[00:11:50] Patrick O'Brien: Oh, their log on time was delayed. It took a minute to get in instead of 10 seconds like they were expecting or their performance is poor and they can peel back. Okay. [00:12:00] The data and see what the problem is. Sometimes it's the business's fault. Maybe they have a missed configuration. Other times it's something as simple as, Oh, we see that users at home and their wifi latency is quite high.

[00:12:11] Patrick O'Brien: So let's call them and tell them, reboot their router. And all of this feeds into keeping the employee happy, keeping them knowledgeable and aware. And if I'm told, Hey, the problem is restart your router. And that fixes everything. I'm happy. I'm not just angry at my keyboard. This sucks. I don't like it. So.

[00:12:30] Patrick O'Brien: That's, that's, I mean, there are, there are so many things that you can feed into this, into these systems at performance of every process application, you can really, really dive into it if you choose. Yeah, we

[00:12:40] Al Solorzano: used to, we used to call that like the last mile, right? What are the things that IT can see within the data center?

[00:12:48] Al Solorzano: Right. And has always tools to see what's going on within the data center. But as soon as it gets out to the internet, down to that endpoint, down to that person's networking, and they're in a Starbucks, you lose that visibility. You lose that observability. Right. So some of the tools that are out there are definitely kind of focusing on that experience.

[00:13:05] Al Solorzano: And, you know, if you have a corporate policy that States, you know, we are not going to support you on a Starbucks wifi, great example. Right, and you're like, Hey, you know, for security purposes, for, you know, Performance purposes, we can't guarantee you the same experience, right? .. Or you're sitting by your pool super far away from your wifi versus sitting right next to it, right?

[00:13:24] Al Solorzano: Those are two different experiences and being able to have that data from it. So last mile, let's call it that, right? So a lot of, a lot of the same terms, observability and everything else in there. Makes sense.

[00:13:36] The Impact of Digital Workplace on Business Strategies

[00:13:36] Al Solorzano: So, you know, when we're having these conversations, .. You know, because of what's been going on in the industry for, for many years, does Digital Workplace just mean VDI?

[00:13:48] Al Solorzano: And how do we kind of have those conversations with customers?

[00:13:51] Patrick O'Brien: You know, I really don't think so. Maybe at one time you could argue it did, but more and more times now [00:14:00] users don't need a full desktop. They need access to an application, and they can get to that application from a cell phone, from a tablet, from a laptop, from a desktop.

[00:14:08] Patrick O'Brien: You know, there are times you don't need a full desktop, whether it's Windows, Mac, Linux, whatever, you don't need a desktop anymore. So that, I think, right there eliminates VDI as the, as the only option for Digital Workplace, because now you can have a user who can log into Microsoft for a Power BI report.

[00:14:27] Patrick O'Brien: They can log into ServiceNow to check out a ticket. They can log into SAP to do whatever they need to Salesforce. Any of these solutions, they can get to it. Whether it's software as a service and they just go to a website or the employer is publishing everything to them, whether it's shortcuts or through a portal, many firms still call them portals.

[00:14:47] Patrick O'Brien: I'm going to go with that, but whether they have this, this landing page portal, what have you, employers can commonly provide this solution, you know, these solutions in one place and they don't need a full desktop to do it. So I think all the experience and the access to the data, it's the entire workplace, whether

[00:15:04] Al Solorzano: it's every application, right?

[00:15:06] Al Solorzano: SaaS based apps. Client server apps, hosted applications. I think, you know, one of the things that we're seeing is that even things like leveraging conditional access, we've talked about that quite often with a lot of customers is being able to determine which of your portfolio applications require you to be.

[00:15:23] Al Solorzano: Maybe on the corporate network from a corporate device with a VPN client or through a VDI session versus ones that you're like, you know what, anybody can access it from anywhere. It's low priority data or, .. You know, that we don't need as much compliancy type rules. So no, I think those are, those are relevant because I think, like you said, it's, it started off with.

[00:15:43] Al Solorzano: You know, virtualized applications 20, 30 plus years ago, in some cases, and still viable, still a viable option for a lot of customers, a lot of organizations, a lot of use cases. But now we're running into those. All right. Well, what else? What else is possible? Right? Enterprise browser functionality. We'll talk about [00:16:00] that during some conversations.

[00:16:02] Al Solorzano: But even just the local management type tools, leveraging local devices. So those are some good insights. Anything else you want to follow up with before we jump into some other segments in terms of. ..

[00:16:15] Patrick O'Brien: no, I mean, I think, I think even firms that don't necessarily believe or invest in things like digital employee experience, Probably should, because I'm sure they've had turnover over the last few years because somebody wasn't happy with the tools and whether they like their manager or not is irrelevant if they can't do their job and they're miserable logging into their machine every day.

[00:16:37] Patrick O'Brien: So really taking some time to review the process and see how, how your end users are functioning, whether it's customers or contractors or business partners or employees are using your systems, you can make it a better experience for everybody. Fairly minimal cost. So that's really my takeaway is it's important.

[00:16:58] Patrick O'Brien: You know, you don't have end users. You probably don't leave the business.

[00:17:02] Al Solorzano: Yeah. And as a user, if you don't have access to data or applications, there's a, you got problems there too.

[00:17:07] Patrick O'Brien: Exactly.

[00:17:08] Al Solorzano: All right. So let's have some conversations on business impact, .. Around the, having a good Digital Workplace strategy.

[00:17:17] Al Solorzano: I know one, I. Personally love to talk about is talent acquisition and retention. You already talked about the retention part. I know I've had a lot of conversations with customers around, .. You know, again, post COVID everybody had to be hired within 30, 40, 50 miles of the office of a physical corporate office.

[00:17:38] Al Solorzano: .. You had a couple of people that were allowed to work from home and then COVID hit and everybody had to work remote. And in some cases over the last couple of years, those users have moved away. Or, or requested to move away, away from the corporate office, you know, taking care of, .. Elderly parents, .. Moving to a cheaper location, just getting out of certain areas, whatever they wanted, like whatever the reason was, but [00:18:00] that retention and acquisition kind of strategy, I think is something that a lot of organizations are struggling with.

[00:18:06] Al Solorzano: Right. .. And then we, we've had numerous conversations on why the Digital Workplace strategy is helping and address those, any other comments on, on that?

[00:18:15] Patrick O'Brien: Well, the other side of that, I think that's fairly compelling is because we have such mature and understood solutions now for how to access data and how to work collaboratively over many, many miles or states or continents, .. You've seen big tech firms pull up out of the Bay Area and California, Silicon Valley moved to Texas, moved to the Midwest because they can, leaving their manufacturing site.

[00:18:40] Patrick O'Brien: In Silicon Valley, you're leaving a research lab. They're moving their headquarters because their leadership and their business units can still work seamlessly because now they have voice and video calling that can be fairly optimized. Like, you're right next to each other. You can have access to data that feels like milliseconds instead of states or continents away.

[00:19:00] Patrick O'Brien: And because we have these solutions in place, businesses can pick up and move. You can hire from anywhere. You can work from anywhere. And that goes for the brick and mortar business as well as every employee.

[00:19:10] Al Solorzano: Yeah, one of my, my favorite stories is, .. Let's just say it was a, it was a place that hired a bunch of rocket scientists.

[00:19:17] Al Solorzano: Let's just say that. And, .. What they were struggling with was they had to find the best rocket scientist within 30 miles of their office because of where it was located. It was costly. .. And it was, Very tough to get to, .. Traffic wise. And so they were finding that talent was, was hard to find. Then they also found that the people that they had hired and maintained them, they're smartest guys that were like, Hey, look, I'm either getting a job offer that's in another city, or I want to move.

[00:19:46] Al Solorzano: I love this place. .. I want to get out of here. So now this kind of having a strategy around the Digital Workplace has allowed them to really still secure the data. You know, maintain their identity and manage the device, .. [00:20:00] Through many miles away now, you know, globally, in fact, and they could hire the best rocket scientist or retain the best rocket scientist without necessarily having to keep them in the office.

[00:20:11] Al Solorzano: So one of my favorite stories to talk about, because I feel like that's. A huge benefit of having a good Digital Workplace strategy where not having one results in you saying I can only hire people 30 minutes away. So that's a good one. .. Another common one, mergers and acquisitions.

[00:20:27] Mergers, Acquisitions, and the Digital Workplace Strategy

[00:20:27] Al Solorzano: Let's talk about that one.

[00:20:28] Al Solorzano: Go for it.

[00:20:29] Patrick O'Brien: Well, M&A has always been And an area of interest for a lot of, you know, larger companies, investment firms, what have you, and the pain has always been to IT Organizations having to mash everything together. Now, with a robust Digital Workplace outlook, you can give them a log into your system and say, Oh, log into this, whether it's a Citrix or a VMware or an AWS workspaces or Microsoft AVD or Windows 365. Give them a login They can come in and start using your systems day one without a painful migration of users, migration of data, and you can do that in parallel or on the back end separately bringing legacy data over or new data in.

[00:21:14] Patrick O'Brien: Whatever you choose to do, you can, you can shorten your runway considerably. You can start working day one if, if you want to, and you have those backend systems in place already.

[00:21:23] Al Solorzano: Yeah. Another, .. Another good example I've had from a customer of ours, .. Again, their business strategy was to grow through mergers and acquisitions and, you know, it, you know, Tended to find this out too late.

[00:21:36] Al Solorzano: They typically would find it out the day before it went public or even days after it went public, they would find it out. And so it was then tasked with, you know, get these guys integrated because we want to return our investment, right? We, we made an investment in this organization, get them in. And one of our clients, what we did is we helped to develop.

[00:21:56] Al Solorzano: Basically the IT answer to mergers and acquisitions, right? So we [00:22:00] basically came up with a Strategy, which basically was a Digital Workplace strategy. We just didn't call it that, you know, 20 years ago .. And when we built that mergers and acquisitions strategy that allowed them to Basically kind of have a cookie cutter model.

[00:22:13] Al Solorzano: And now we've taken that same strategy to some of our other customers and said, Hey, look, if that's your business model, and now that we understand that here is your cookie cutter model that you can bring in. And again, look, I'll be honest, not every acquisition is cookie cutter, right? Everyone's got some one offs, but the idea there is to try to.

[00:22:29] Al Solorzano: Try to do whatever, 80 20 rule, 90 10 rule, whatever you can get to to say, hey, this is how we're going to get the return on our investment as quick as we possibly can. Then we can start consolidating, like you mentioned, identity can get down to a single identity. Then we can get down to one data repository.

[00:22:45] Al Solorzano: And we all manage the devices through the same technologies and concepts. And then we're building out the collaboration tools and this technology stack so that they're all, you know, Consolidated as opposed to leave those guys alone for the next 10 years. And we're double paying for things, right?

[00:22:59] Al Solorzano: Because that's typically what we would say. So even though you've got your investment, you're actually have doubled your cost because you have so many tools in place and trying to get them all managed. Not to mention the experience like we've talked about.

[00:23:09] Patrick O'Brien: And the added cost of when you need to go through something like an insurance audit or a compliance audit.

[00:23:16] Patrick O'Brien: Now they have to spend twice as long looking through your books because you have two sets of them, two sets of file servers, two sets, two data centers potentially. So having the ability to move everybody in potentially day zero is, is great for showing your regulators and your compliance people. We're, we're putting this together.

[00:23:37] Patrick O'Brien: They're moving into one system and you can sunset all these old systems and stop double paying as. As you move out of them.

[00:23:46] Business Resiliency and the Digital Workplace

[00:23:46] Al Solorzano: So let's talk about next, next topics. .. So again, where does, where does having a good Digital Workplace strategy help for like business resiliency? What kind of conversations are you having with customers around that?

[00:23:58] Patrick O'Brien: Well, .. The [00:24:00] legacy answer to resiliency was, okay, something broke. We're going to call Iron Mountain. We're going to get a tape backup trucked in. We're going to reload our data and build the servers. We'll be back online in two or three days. Now you can have a hot copy of your data in a diSaaSter recovery site, depending on your requirements for DR diSaaSter recovery.

[00:24:20] Patrick O'Brien: You could have a secondary site with a single login to both and have everything automated. If I'm a user and I'm trying to log into datacenter A and it's down. I don't know it's down. I'm getting routed to datacenter B. .. Certain applications are now hosted in the cloud, which helps resiliency and logon because if Microsoft or Amazon has an outage in the west, they're probably online in the east and you could still get to your data potentially.

[00:24:46] Patrick O'Brien: So you're able to really spread out and it's not to the detriment of the end user anymore. They don't have to know 10 different logons, 10 different passwords. It's It's a single sign on whether the system is local in your data center, hosted in the cloud or in a DR site somewhere, the user doesn't know and they shouldn't care because to them, it's a seamless experience being able to offer that to your users.

[00:25:09] Patrick O'Brien: It makes business leader lives easier because now. They don't hear complaining if there's an outage, oops, a telephone pole fell over. Now we're out of business for a day. Like you don't have that conversation anymore. If you, if you employ these strategies, you're able to stop caring because you have everything in place.

[00:25:27] Patrick O'Brien: Your user can get to work and your teams can repair and, you know, get back online.

[00:25:33] Exploring Business Resiliency in the Digital Age

[00:25:33] Al Solorzano: Yeah. And business resiliency these days, I think has opened up more conversations than just like it.

[00:25:38] IT

[00:25:38] Al Solorzano: DiSaaSter recovery, backup stuff. I think of it as like, what was the response during COVID, right? Are you going to have a business?

[00:25:46] Al Solorzano: Do you have employees? How do you get them to function and work? Like you mentioned the, .. Someone cutting a fiber line or backing up into a pole. I think we've all had stories where we hear things like that, but even, even personal experiences where like, you know, my internet goes down and I got [00:26:00] five meetings to get set up for that day, right?

[00:26:01] Al Solorzano: What do I do? I have a MiFi hotspot. I'm able to. Go to another location. I can just go to anybody else's house and still have access to some of the same security and the same capabilities. So it kind of all adds up to even like user resiliency when it comes from the business side, but it affects how the business functions.

[00:26:18] The Evolution of Data Management and Collaboration

[00:26:18] Al Solorzano: And again, also, we used to talk about. You know, every piece of data had to be stored in the data center right back in the day, because that was the only way that we could back up and maintain it. But now with a lot of these collaboration pools, there's local copies of the data, there's files and synchronization, SaaS based applications.

[00:26:35] Al Solorzano: So I think all of those come into play, right?

[00:26:37] Patrick O'Brien: Yeah, it, it really comes down to, and I'm trying not to say it depends, but it really comes down to requirements here. If the firm is able to spread their data out, whether it's like you said, through a SaaS application or through something, you know, like a teams or a one drive or a share file or whatever their collaboration tool happens to be.

[00:27:00] Patrick O'Brien: If users have access to that from any internet connection on earth, they can still do their job and still access files and still work with their team. So that's, it has, it has really reduced downtime. And I think that improves efficiency and return for any business.

[00:27:18] Al Solorzano: And you're able to handle all the weird situations that occur in life, such as a tree falling on your house and taking out something, right?

[00:27:26] Navigating Contractor and Third-Party Data Access

[00:27:26] Al Solorzano: So, so another one, cause it kind of relates to how businesses are kind of, .. Evolving. We're seeing a lot of customers of ours that have been using contractors and third party partners, .. And trying to figure out how to give them, you know, access to the corporate data, but necessarily you don't necessarily manage or own that device.

[00:27:46] Al Solorzano: So maybe talk about how Digital Workplace has helped, .. Deal with contractors and third party use cases.

[00:27:51] Patrick O'Brien: And I think this has been a pain point for firms for a long time. If you outsource a business unit to [00:28:00] India or South America or wherever, somewhere far away on the globe, there can be significant difficulty in getting back to the data.

[00:28:08] Patrick O'Brien: You know, again, 20 years ago, it's sort of in a very different answer than today. But now, with broadband internet being very common throughout the world, you can extend your workplace to another continent if you want to. You give users a secure logon. You can use endpoint management tools. IGEL comes to mind immediately, where you can Lock, you can give somebody a bootable thumb drive and they boot into your environment for their workday and they unplug and they're back on their corporate owned endpoint by the end of the day.

[00:28:37] Patrick O'Brien: So you, you can, you can work with a variety of solutions to secure the endpoint or use something like Intune. You can manage endpoints that way if you want to have someone enroll. At the same time, .. There is a, there is an inherent risk. You have. a contractor. They're not an employee of yours. Maybe data gets lost.

[00:28:56] Patrick O'Brien: Maybe data gets mishandled, and now you might be liable for something. So through Digital Workplace strategy, you can do things like watermark a screen. You can keep data from being able to come out of your network. You can actually prevent the ability to copy paste. For instance, you can prevent files being pulled out because they have no way they're actually on your network.

[00:29:16] Patrick O'Brien: They're looking at a screen of your network. .. It really again comes down to requirements, but we can Really secure, really secure that contractor third party use case through a variety of ways and at the same time allow better user experience for them because they're coming in from overseas and that could be a horrible log on time.

[00:29:37] Patrick O'Brien: It could make data hard to access. It could make the experience miserable because it's laggy or slow and you can use solutions and modern protocols to, you know, offer the best compression and the best performance.

[00:29:49] Al Solorzano: One of the, .. Use cases I've had, .. That came up or conversations I had with a customer around their third party contractors was, .. Not [00:30:00] only did they sign an agreement to outsource a specific task, that task had a certain number of SLAs associated with it.

[00:30:07] Al Solorzano: They were supposed to perform X number of transactions or X number of calls, and if they breached that term, the contracting company was going to owe them back. On the flip side, the contracting company said, well, if we can come up with a huge number of reasons of why we can't meet that SLA, we'll never have to pay that, that difference.

[00:30:26] Al Solorzano: Right? So typically there was a lot of things like, well, the, you know, your performance is slow. I can't get access to the things I need to get to. And so, When we've had those conversations with customers about what they're doing with contractors and third parties, it tended to be whatever they did for their physical PC deployment was immediately replicated.

[00:30:45] Al Solorzano: When we're having the conversations, we're opening the door to, Hey, there's other ways of doing this, right? There's other ways that we can leverage these solutions. And again, not that we're trying to come up with a thousand different corner cases for customers, but there definitely are very common corner cases that need to be addressed, such as.

[00:31:03] Al Solorzano: Providing a con an external non employee access to data and be able to put work through workflows in your environment. That's a very common use case. You got to come up with some strategies around that. So definitely a good conversation for getting started around Digital Workplace. That's great. Well, let's talk.

[00:31:20] Al Solorzano: Oh, good.

[00:31:20] Patrick O'Brien: Or we leave that you just, when you talked about being able to hold a contractor liable with SLAs and the contractor being able to turn it around on you, that's where things like, if we'll talk about observability again, being able to see the session. From the contractor's endpoint overseas to your data center and proving it's working or being able to see why it's not working, I think offers tremendous value being able to see, you know, G.

[00:31:44] Patrick O'Brien: I. Joe famously said, knowing is half the battle. And if you did having that observability into the session allows you to know and and act on any any knowledge gained.

[00:31:56] Al Solorzano: Excellent.

[00:31:57] The Role of IT Leadership in Digital Workplace Strategy

[00:31:57] Al Solorzano: So let's talk about role of it leadership, [00:32:00] right? So now we're starting to talk about where does it leadership come into play and trying to develop and drive that Digital Workplace.

[00:32:06] Al Solorzano: And I don't use the word, like to use the word transformation that often, but really you are transforming, right? You are changing the organization. It's just become, you know, digital transformation was a big word for a while there, right? But conceptually, where, where do you think, you know, where should the role of it leadership start around developing a Digital Workplace strategy?

[00:32:28] Patrick O'Brien: That's a. It's another toughie because you have a number of different constituencies all pitching in on what that strategy should be. You have end users complaining that it's slow. You have finance people saying it's too expensive. You have operations people saying they need better security or better performance.

[00:32:47] Patrick O'Brien: So you have, you have a number of different constituencies who care about that. I think it really goes into, you know, overall vision. What is your business need today? Are you providing a service out to customers? Are you manufacturing? And we can look at what are you actually doing? Like, do you have facilities you need to offer secure access to?

[00:33:06] Patrick O'Brien: Do you have remote workforces everywhere? What are we doing today? And there are a variety of technologies to choose from to, to really support and hit those, hit those goals and support your dreams as a business. So I think first step is hearing from your constituencies and choosing technologies that support that, whether it's end user experience or I.

[00:33:31] Patrick O'Brien: T. service management, you know, observability into sessions. If it comes to security to, you know, make compliance folks happy. We have to make sure we check the boxes for your business requirements and choosing the right technologies to help you do that.

[00:33:45] Al Solorzano: I think we see a lot of organizations try to boil the ocean because there's a lot of pieces that you just talked about, right?

[00:33:50] Al Solorzano: .. You didn't even mention security in that, in that particular wording that we've been talking about a lot today. .. You know, when we're, when we're seeing customers. [00:34:00] Having all these conversations, right? What I, what I tend to focus on is like, you need to build that vision, right? That vision for the organization.

[00:34:09] Al Solorzano: Now, like you said, that does require you to understand where are you at today? Right. Where are you at today? Where do you want to be in the future? Right. Building kind of like that plan and that roadmap and really trying to understand, you know, what are the business objectives for the organization? Maybe it is some of the things we already talked about.

[00:34:28] Al Solorzano: Acquisition of talent, hiring mergers and acquisitions, resiliency, contract, whatever it happens to be and others. Right. .. But you got to kind of build that vision based upon understanding where you're at today. Where are you trying to get to? And then kind of, how do you kind of bid in all these solutions as you're moving forward?

[00:34:47] Al Solorzano: So I know that that definitely comes up. You already mentioned technology selection. That's another big one, right? Understanding all the technology stacks that are out there. And in many organizations, we used to call those the, you know, the, the, .. The black ops it, right. That that stuff that's behind the scenes and no one really knows about it.

[00:35:02] Al Solorzano: It's being purchased by somebody else. Those have always been trying to get pulled in. And there's always a reason that somebody has for, oh, that's This is why I have to use this one tool and that's fine. Right. But you're trying to develop that strategy around that 80 20, 90 10 type rule, right. As we're kind of moving forward.

[00:35:18] Al Solorzano: So technology selection's a biggie. .. I think you already talked about balancing of like security and usability. You wanna hit on that one again? '

[00:35:25] Balancing Security and Usability in IT Solutions

[00:35:25] Al Solorzano: cause I think that's another big, .. Focus of why IT leadership needs to step in. 'cause it does need the balance right.

[00:35:33] Patrick O'Brien: I, I think that balance is the key word there because you can always add more security.

[00:35:39] Patrick O'Brien: You can make a user have to re login for every keystroke. I mean that, that would be incredibly painful, but

[00:35:45] Al Solorzano: man, that would hurt so bad,

[00:35:48] Patrick O'Brien: but every, every menu you click, log in again, prove it's you, MFA prompt to your phone. Like you could really make users jump through a lot of hoops.

[00:35:56] Al Solorzano: Yeah. Hold the camera up to your face to make sure it's you on every single keystroke, right?[00:36:00]

[00:36:00] Patrick O'Brien: Retinal scan on every log in. But the, the reality is if you're providing that kind of experience to end users or to it, having to manage it, they're probably not going to stay very long. I mean, that, that gets to a point where it's just unusable. So providing usability, but maintaining security that that's the balancing act.

[00:36:19] Patrick O'Brien: Right. And a lot of firms have made the mistake of. Being a little too lax on security. And we've seen that, you know, there's been a number of breaches and a number of oopsies in the news over the last several years where they left a default password here, or they didn't enforce MFA there and so on, you know, accounts get hacked on Facebook without MFA email gets hacked without MFA.

[00:36:41] Patrick O'Brien: So. There are a number of things you can add in place, and I said MFA about five times, but you could add something like multi factor authentication to prompt somebody on their cell phone. You have a high, much higher likelihood that it's a real human being logging into your system and the human being you want to be logging in because you're texting their cell phone or sending a push notification to their phone.

[00:37:01] Patrick O'Brien: .. You know, there are, there are definitely sweet spots you can hit there of adding the correct tools in place, you know, complex passwords, .. MFA. Only allowing access to the data that's part of your job role and that comes to data classification that comes to, you know, correct security group enrollment and user group enrollment.

[00:37:20] Patrick O'Brien: So there are things you can put in place to make sure your employees can do their jobs without pain, but they can't get hacked and run wild through your network, taking everything. So it's at least

[00:37:30] The Importance of Education and Communication in IT

[00:37:30] Al Solorzano: at least the next one is education and communication. Right. .. I know I've been in a lot of conversations.

[00:37:37] Al Solorzano: I, as a user, I think we've all experienced that scenario where something got rolled out and we were like, Whoa, what happened? Oh, something has decided or security has decided that we're going to enable this function and it breaks how I, how I'm productive I am or things like that or education. .. New features being rolled out, .. Constantly happen, especially now that, you know, You know, basically a lot of either things are SaaS based [00:38:00] or, .. Managed by updates or apps are pushed out from your phone and understanding how fast these features are coming out.

[00:38:06] Al Solorzano: So maybe talk about where like education and communication are key from like IT leaders.

[00:38:11] Patrick O'Brien: Well, I already quoted G. I. Joe on knowledge, so I think I've already got the moon on this one, but, .. Really that is the thing is things are coming out faster than ever exploits are coming out faster than ever and being aware at training your end users to be aware of some incredibly basic exploits that are still very effective things like phishing.

[00:38:35] Patrick O'Brien: You know, things like not leaving your computer unlocked if you do go to Starbucks, you know, protecting, you have to protect the Digital Workplace as an end user because you are responsible for it. You know, if data gets, gets leaked on your, on your session, they'll see it with all of these observability tools I talked about.

[00:38:53] Patrick O'Brien: So. Make sure you do the basics. Stay, stay vigilant, keep learning and listen to your IT group because they're learning too. I mean, every day it's, it's astounding how often phishing is the cost of billion dollar data, data settlements that come out when a big tech firm gets breached. It was phishing in the IT organization and we're in the news again.

[00:39:19] Al Solorzano: I think we've already also hit on monitoring and, and feedback loops, right? We've hit, we've hit on that a little bit, that that's kind of another piece where it leaders need to step in and have a good understanding about what kind of metrics they're measuring, being able to report and communicate on those metrics and have that feedback loop.

[00:39:35] Al Solorzano: So whether it's a happy face or smile, you know, or a sad face about your experience as a user, or just understanding the metrics about the, the daily use of the experience. I think that's the last piece I would probably throw out there for where it leaders can kind of step in. .. so next question I have and we'll probably go a little quickly on this one because I want to get to a couple more questions.

[00:39:55] Al Solorzano: .. actually, you know what? I'm gonna go [00:40:00] with this one. I do want to summarize. How about let's summarize where we were just talking about where I. T. leaders, the practice, what should be done. So I'm going to summarize by saying where do clients start with building a Digital Workplace strategy. I'm going to summarize by saying you need to create that vision.

[00:40:17] Al Solorzano: Understanding the business goals. What are you trying to do and where are you trying to get to understanding where your current state is of the technology stack that you have, which includes the technology selection solutions and conversations, we've talked about that, .. Mapping those all to some sort of key initiatives and projects would be the next phase that I typically would talk about.

[00:40:37] Al Solorzano: And then we said, monitoring, evaluating, iterating. Right. And really kind of understanding it as you're making all these changes, because again, you can make a decision today and we've had this, .. Right, Patrick, which is decisions made today. And then two months later, a new technology comes out that we're like, Ooh, that's actually kind of interesting, right?

[00:40:55] Al Solorzano: That's a new way of doing things. So always being able to pay attention and reiterate what you're doing again, without losing focus on that higher level strategy of what you're trying to achieve.

[00:41:08] Al Solorzano: So let's get into, .. Let's get some rapid fire questions on you, Patrick. .. Okay. Let's talk about, .. I would love you to name what are the three most common things that affect the user's experience and IT doesn't have the tool set to see. What are the three things you typically see?

[00:41:27] Patrick O'Brien: Okay, .. bring your own device endpoints.

[00:41:31] Patrick O'Brien: So if a user is using their own laptop or their own computer at their home, .. Really there are two pieces there. IT typically can't see into their home network. So their home internet, home network, and also that endpoint. Because the business doesn't own that endpoint, they can't find it. Manage it very effectively.

[00:41:49] Patrick O'Brien: So those are, those are a couple of couple of biggies there. A third, .. Well, I just, I just [00:42:00] blew my answer on two of them. ..

[00:42:03] Al Solorzano: we'll go back and rename the question to name two things that affect.

[00:42:07] Patrick O'Brien: It's the, the end point is, is probably the biggest though. That's the biggest struggle in that, in the BYO initiatives that firms have put out there.

[00:42:14] Al Solorzano: Yeah. Cause I think, I think you're summarizing it, which is basically, it's just, it's really about that user, that user side, that last mile that, that typically it can see, especially when it's, whether it's a contractor owned device or a personal type device. Right. I think that's their internet connection, their wifi.

[00:42:30] Al Solorzano: All of those are definitely a great answers.

[00:42:33] Future Trends: AI and Digital Workplace Innovations

[00:42:33] Al Solorzano: So let's talk about future. Yeah. So, .. Kind of, .. If you could summarize, you know, what your prediction is as some of the most significant change coming to the Digital Workplace strategy over the next couple of years.

[00:42:45] Patrick O'Brien: Well, .. Many, many tech manufacturers, tech vendors, .. The phrase generative AI and gen AI is probably huge.

[00:42:57] Patrick O'Brien: I mean, Microsoft has copilot for instance, and that it has already started making tremendous impacts throughout many enterprises. So being able to leverage AI and put solutions in place to help. And it could be something as mundane as having an internal self service. Helpdesk module. Hey, my email is locked out.

[00:43:19] Patrick O'Brien: Oh, and the AI can respond. I see that. Please confirm your login with the correct password. Click this button to unlock. It can, it can take some of the burden off of a helpdesk with basic self service tasks up to allowing people to do their jobs faster and better and more effectively. Pull all the financial numbers for the last 10 minutes.

[00:43:39] Patrick O'Brien: Three years, put them together in this format and spit out a table and it will do it in 30 seconds instead of two days. So being able to optimize people's time, I think you're going to see a significant integration of AI with everything we do. That's

[00:43:55] Al Solorzano: great. I definitely have already seen some of that impact and I think we're going to continue to [00:44:00] see more evolution in there.

[00:44:02] Starting Steps and Key Technologies for Digital Workplace Strategy

[00:44:02] Al Solorzano: So if a customer is going to be starting this. Path going down through, you know, building a Digital Workplace strategy. What's something, what's like the first step if they're like, Hey, look, if I just got to make one step right now, I got to get something in to kind of start kind of understanding what's going on, kind of what technology, what solution, what concept would you kind of preach to them as being the first step again?

[00:44:26] Al Solorzano: And not again, vision and strategy is important and you got to build that. But we know that takes time, right? We know that takes time. And in the meantime, they got initiatives, they got problems, right? What do we do?

[00:44:38] Patrick O'Brien: Well, if you have problems, what do we do? What's the user experience? What is the problem?

[00:44:43] Patrick O'Brien: And having a tool and starting with a tool or tools in place to be able to see what are the problems? Like, can you elaborate on the problems? Do you see what's actually causing the problems? Whether it's, you know, again, .. Data is getting lost or miscategorized. You can see, you know, you can put in tools to.

[00:45:00] Patrick O'Brien: See who's touching what you can see how the user experiences. So any of anything in that digital employee experience space is probably going to offer, .. An eye opening experience for many leaders because they'll see problems they didn't even know they had that users are begrudgingly dealing with, or it has misdiagnosed.

[00:45:19] Patrick O'Brien: Now they can find them and remediate them fairly quickly because they know. Now they know what the problems are. So I would start with something like that. Yeah. You want me to name some companies, for instance, or that I think we're,

[00:45:31] Al Solorzano: I think we're good. I think these are employee experience, I think is the good, good idea.

[00:45:35] Al Solorzano: Cause I think, like you said, it's a, it's the pain point, right? Where's the pain go fix the pain. Now, does that mean you're done? Right. It just means got to solve the pain first and then be able to move on to, .. The more holistic approach and kind of building something out. So that makes sense. So what about, .. Any other technology advancements or concepts that you find that are resonating or coming up often with [00:46:00] customers?

[00:46:01] Patrick O'Brien: I think a big one. Is, and you mentioned enterprise browser already, but I think that's becoming a very, very, .. Crucial bit for a lot of our, our large enterprises, because now if they have to deal with contractors or business partners, you know, third parties, they deal with common use case is, you know, A manufacturer sells products at the retail level, so they sell them directly from their website or, you know, through stores, through Amazon, but they also sell them through retail places like Target or Walmart.

[00:46:32] Patrick O'Brien: So it's a very well known retail brand. And to deal with warranty claims and RMAs, the retail employees at these retail stores have to be able to log in and process that warranty issue or process the RMA. Okay. And the manufacturer uses enterprise browser to extend their network to a, you know, a single web page in their network out to these retail stores without opening up their entire network.

[00:46:55] Patrick O'Brien: So being able to extend just the bits of your network out securely without opening the door to everything, that's a, that's a big deal. And it's a technology that has matured quite a bit over the last two or three years. So we're going to see a lot more of that where firms can offer very tightly secured parts of the network out to the world.

[00:47:16] Patrick O'Brien: With minimal risk and especially for those SaaS and

[00:47:19] Al Solorzano: web based apps. Exactly. Right. That makes sense. .. What about zero trust Where does zero trust kind of fall into that space?

[00:47:27] Patrick O'Brien: Everything is zero trust now. So zero trust, I think for me, and I think also everybody will give you a different definition on what zero trust means or zero trust network access is ETNA.

[00:47:39] Patrick O'Brien: Everyone will give you a different answer, but really it comes down to Nobody can wander into your network and touch things because you don't trust them. So you force them to log in, you force them to get a prompt to log into each part of the network. Like if they're moving from their email to one drive, they, they're, they get an authentication prompt on their phone.

[00:47:58] Patrick O'Brien: So making sure they, you know, they [00:48:00] pass every checkpoint to go through the environment, minimal inconvenience to the user, maximum security for the organization. It's still, I think hits that balance fairly well. That's. I think always been a big deal. And in light of some of these incredibly high profile breaches where people could wander into.

[00:48:17] Patrick O'Brien: Very large networks and grab data everywhere would have been prevented or minimized with a zero trust approach. So you're seeing a lot of firms take this, take this strategy on now.

[00:48:26] Al Solorzano: Sounds good.

[00:48:28] Concluding Thoughts on Digital Workplace Strategy

[00:48:28] Al Solorzano: So I think we're going to wrap this up. I want to say, thank you, Patrick, really appreciate your time and your knowledge and your experience, .. Having conversations with customers.

[00:48:35] Al Solorzano: I think I'll wrap it up with one thought, which is, you know, the, the Digital Workplace strategy that your organization is either has, has won. And you don't know it, right? .. Or it doesn't have one, but you've kind of have something patched and cloged together, right? .. Really got to understand where you guys are at, .. To understand where, you know, where are you at today?

[00:49:00] Al Solorzano: Where are you moving towards and how can we as e360 help you kind of move forward, .. With those technologies, those concepts and those strategies to, you know, Make you more productive, make your business a better,..H, .. More profitable, .. To align towards where your growth is from your executive perspective.

[00:49:17] Al Solorzano: That's kind of our goal and our focus around what we do. So really want to say, appreciate your time. Hopefully you got a little bit of, .. Good information from this. Hopefully you got a lot of information from this. .. Definitely there's some conferences around digital employee experience. There's conferences around, .. End user computing.

[00:49:35] Al Solorzano: There's conferences around, you know, physical endpoint management and all those solutions that are. .. Definitely take a look at some of those, .. Conferences. I know we'll be at a lot of them. I would also recommend you go ahead and check out our website, .. e360. com. Follow us on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

[00:49:51] Al Solorzano: .. We always have our X, sorry. .. And we have a lot of content that we generate and have conversations with customers, .. On the social media pages, but just want to say thanks [00:50:00] to everybody. Again, thank you, Patrick. Really appreciate your time.

[00:50:02] Patrick O'Brien: Yeah, thanks. It was a pleasure. Have a great day.

Written By: Al Solorzano