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Brian Madden and Josh Olson: The Bold New Future of Work

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VMware’s Brian Madden and Josh Olson discuss what will drive success with end-user computing in this DWX Leader interview.

What will drive success with end user computing, both now and in the future? We asked VMware’s Brian Madden and Josh Olson this question and heard their very different and complementary perspectives on the topic.

Brian Madden, distinguished technologist at VMware, is 27 years into his career working with end users. Josh Olson, global head of experiences and solutions and GSI sales at VMware, leads a team that focuses on enabling unique experience solutions in order to meet specific business outcomes. Both are passionate about their work and absolute experts in creating meaningful user experiences.

VMware is a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s Digital Workplace Experience Winter Event, taking place online on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3. Madden and Olson will lead a session titled “Putting It All Together: The Cherry on Top of Your EUC Stack.”

Delivering Corporate Empathy With EUC

SMG Events: Looking back on your careers, was there a moment when you learned something you’ve carried with you ever since?

Brian Madden: All of us give a lot of presentations in our careers, and something I learned early on was that the people staring from the audience are the heroes of your story, not you. People don’t remember facts, and they probably don’t care what you’re talking about. What they care about and what they remember is how you make them feel. If they have a good experience, they’ll look you up later and dig into your information then.

Josh Olson: Early in my tech career I worked on a solution for an implanted device that allowed patients to connect remotely with their doctors. It was such a breakthrough at the time, and we got early feedback from a patient who said, “The solution gave me my life back!” It was so meaningful to hear how the solution allowed the patient to see their daughter off to college — something that would have been impossible for them before. It was a life-affirming event that strengthened my resolve to focus on the use of tech for good. Seeing how you can transform someone’s life with the optimized use of technology is something I can’t get out of my head.

SMG: Your DWX session explores the 'cherry on top' of the EUC stack. Can you expand on that?

Madden: EUC is this massive concept that involves devices and applications and troubleshooting and networks and security and files and data and how you collaborate. These are point solutions and there are multiple vendors for each of them; the differentiator is how you tie them all together.

For example, when digital badges replaced physical badges, we were able to use them to plug into the LMS prior to allowing entry to make sure users had their COVID shots up to date and that their occupancy permit in the building was current. There are multiple digital badge solutions and multiple vendors and multiple security components, and the 'cherry on top' is that we took all these constructs and tied them together to create a useful and powerful solution.

Olson: That badge example was brilliant. I’ll just add that for me the 'cherry on top' is when you not only fulfill the requirements but you provide more than expected. You anticipated their needs because you used human-centered design. My dad always said 'go the extra mile,' and that’s what this is. It’s anticipating what our users are going through so we can suggest the next thing before they ask for it.

Madden: Yes, suggesting the next thing … but with good intentions and with their best interest in mind, not to sell things. Our attitude should be, 'Let us help you.' For example, if an application crashes, our response should be to automatically file a helpdesk report and send the user a link to relaunch the application. Or, when their battery health is under 50% it should trigger a ticket in the procurement system.

Olson: Yes. I call that corporate empathy.

VMWare's Josh Olson: "It's anticipating what our users are going through so we can suggest the next big thing before they ask for it."

It Comes Down to Human-Centered Design

SMG: When putting together your IT delivery strategy and solution, is there a technique for making sure you really see the full picture of what they need?

Olson: It’s about human-centered design. It requires putting the employee in the center and fanning out from there, asking what systems they interface, and why, and getting to the core of it. My kids ask all the time, 'Why?' When you have that childlike curiosity and keep asking why, you find these brilliant golden nuggets of insight deep within a process or system flow. And when you make an optimization change at the core in favor of the human, the entire solution becomes more efficient, empathetic, resilient and empowered.

Madden: Along the lines of what Josh was saying, as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed more appreciation for older people who are using iPhones and iPads. They never used a computer, and now they’re using these things! And one day their app updates and the icon looks different so they can’t find it! Can you imagine what it is like for them? With childlike wonder, let’s go back to thinking about what that process feels like, and let’s figure out what we really need and how to get in front of it.

Olson: That’s exactly right. When we went mobile friendly, we realized these devices have different capabilities and can do things differently. Instead of clicking 47 times, we can scan, and then BOOM an action is completed!

Madden: The big fat button on your phone that says Scan Receipt is so much easier than the old way of uploading receipts on the computer. For those older users (and others!), putting a simple button front and center makes all the difference.

SMG: How do you make the choice between great experience or great security? Does it really have to be one or the other?

Learning Opportunities

Olson: You can’t. What Brian highlighted in that last question was the experience part of it, but we could only roll that out if we had the security part of that right. And that’s what’s fascinating! You only buy security solutions because you are trying to enable a business process to deliver a great employee or customer experience which is how you define what your brand is and what your company does. So you can’t separate the two. And when you try, you fail. If you make something secure but you can’t use it, you don’t have customers. On the other hand, if you have a breach, customers leave. So you can’t have one without the other. Successful companies understand employee experience and customer experience are linked and that they must provide the best experience to improve customer/employee loyalty to the brand. In the end, brands need to provide experience and security simultaneously as they are simply two sides of the same coin, and the whole coin is what customers and employees need.

Madden: When people say security versus experience is a tradeoff, they just haven’t looked at what is possible. The reality is, IT practitioners have been thinking about security and experience for decades and have been making a lot of progress. For example, with passwordless multi-factor authentication (MFA) on mobile devices there are still two factors — my phone (1) and my face (2) — but the experience is that I just have to look at my phone when I click on the application. We have the same number of security factors we’ve always had, but how we address them has changed.

 

SMG: Looking ahead, what developments do you anticipate in the global economy that will impact the workforce and how best to build for them?

Olson: As we continue to see advancements in remote work, I see leaders looking to drive more agility, and to do that they will digitize as many practices as possible. A lot of tribal knowledge is exiting the workforce, so they’ll need to capture that. We’re also seeing advancements in virtual/augmented reality, and we’re going to see more advancements in additive manufacturing (3D printing).

These trends are part of mega trends around Environmental, Social and corporate Governance (ESG) mandates that organizations have globally, and we are going to see big changes in global logistics. ESG goals are becoming front and center with more investment orgs only investing in responsible corporate citizens. Organizations will need to highlight what they are doing toward these goals: they will need to leverage more remote work as that cuts the carbon footprint of the unnecessary commute, and they will need to leverage additive manufacturing to print products Just in Time and where they are needed to also cut down on distribution and carbon costs. They will expand use of AR/VR to enable new collaborative training scenarios helping organizations interact remotely in new ways and collaborate in a global virtual world. All of those areas will take longer to develop and expand over the next 10 years, but for today it will start with broader adoption of the Anywhere Workspace that includes all of the necessary apps/devices/network/security in one place so that automation can be leveraged to provide an optimized experience and enable employees to focus on how to build this bold new future of work.

With all of this, I believe we’re going to get more collaboration. Those times when we actually are together, we’ll see greater use of video in the office to include others who are remote. When we’re not together we’ll see more use of AR/VR solutions to work faster and more efficiently. It’ll all help to ensure better, more inclusive collaboration.

Madden: First, everyone is all hopped up about AR/VR, but that’s not a game changer, it’s a form changer! Virtual reality and augmented reality are just more of what we already have, and they won’t fundamentally change anything. Whether my widget comes from down the street or across the world also will not fundamentally change things. What’s changing things is the fact that people are working from anywhere. We can now hire not the best engineer within 50 miles, but the best engineer on planet earth.

VMWare's Brian Madden: “What is fundamentally changing is the relationship between the employee and the employer. But technology isn’t leading this change; technology is evolving to support this change.”

When you look at the culture of organizations, I think we’re wrong about a lot of things. Some places assume the accoutrements of the office are the culture — whether you can bring your dog and get a massage–but that’s not the culture. And with the global shift to remote work, the engagement model has shifted because your coworkers are no longer the buddies you go to happy hour with. The challenge is, how do organizations create a culture that will retain employees when the traditional engagement model is turned upside down? And another question is, why do I need to retain employees? If only five hours of their week is truly useful, why retain them? What is fundamentally changing is the relationship between the employee and the employer. But technology isn’t leading this change; technology is evolving to support this change.

Olson: Think about ESG and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goals. In this brave new world we are solving new business problems. Salaries are beginning to equalize around the world, and you don’t have to be rich to get rich anymore. I was talking to a developer who wanted to move to the family farm so he could have a better work/life balance and help his aging parents. Imagine having a multitude of highly paid individuals in rural Iowa, and the big impact that will have on that society!

Madden: Globalization in general is a bigger conversation. You want to talk about change and the big impact? It’s not VR! Globalization is the real change to talk about.

Hear more of Olson and Madden's conversation by claiming your free pass to the Digital Workplace Experience here.

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