What does employee experience mean to end user computing?

Striving towards a better employee experience, Citrix and VMware are working on a bevy of new products. Is this the new, expanded definition of EUC?

Recently, Citrix and VMware have been making significant new investments (and corresponding marketing efforts) in the area of employee experience.

At the same time, there’s a limit to what degree technology can affect employee experience. Much of an experience just comes down to corporate culture and the colleagues people work with. 

So, what can end user computing tech do for employee experience, what can it not do, and what does this mean for our space? I’ve been thinking about this all summer, and today I’m finally writing about it.

This isn’t a blog post that’s going to have all the answers, as many of them probably don’t exist yet. Rather, it’s a post to lay out a few observations and questions that we can think about going forward.

What Citrix and VMware are doing

This most recent round of employee experience talk cropped up late last year when Citrix acquired Sapho, makers of micro/workflow app software. In an interview shortly after, Citrix CMO Tim Minahan talked about how employee experience (in part enabled by Sapho) would be a key part of their strategy. At Synergy 2019 in May, Citrix made Sapho and employee experience the focus of the keynote, mentioning a digital assistant and announcing Citrix Analytics for Performance. 

VMware has been working on Mobile Flows, their own micro/workflow app software, for about two years. They accelerated their employee experience efforts a few weeks ago by announcing Workspace ONE Virtual Assistant and Digital Employee Experience Management at VMworld.

Both companies have published dozens of blog posts on employee experience this year. (This isn’t a product strategy comparison post, by the way. We’ll save that for another time.)

EUC is already about employee experience

Of course, the idea that EUC is intertwined with employee experience isn’t new. We’ve been talking about this for at least a decade, just using different terms. Go back and check out Brian’s June 2011 article, “The consumerization of IT: Why most vendors get it wrong, and why it's a challenge today.”

There are plenty of examples of how EUC tech has already enabled a better employee experience. Companies used enterprise mobility management software to help bring iPhones, Android, and tablets into the enterprise. File servers stuck behind firewalls were replaced by SaaS products like Box. Modern identity management and federating SaaS apps brings the win-win of better security and fewer passwords for users to deal with.

The ultimate realization of EUC improving the employee experience will come as companies continue to implement concepts like providing access to any app from any device in any location; implementing contextual access policies; delivering a modern EUC workspace; using modern device management; and true zero sign.

EUC and productivity

Now, the next area that EUC vendors are getting to leans more on the productivity side, e.g., micro apps/workflow apps, and enterprise-oriented virtual assistants.

Here, I’m always careful to note that the productivity space, even if you narrow the definition down to aggregators and meta apps (think how Slack and Teams can aggregate tasks from other apps), is way broader than the EUC space. The EUC vendors will have some unique angles, but customers have tons of options.

Where’s the limit of what EUC can do?

Now, we get back to the question I posed in the introduction. How much can end user computing—by which I mean desktop, mobile, and EUC admins and learsa, as well as EUC vendors like VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, and others—really affect the user experience, beyond the “core” parts of EUC that I outlined earlier? Here’s where the conversation gets a bit amorphous.

Some of the blog posts have how EUC tech can influence employee experience can get a bit ...I’ll just say... exuberant. This was on my mind because around the same time I started seeing all these posts, I also read an excellent article in the New Yorker, called “Why doctors hate their computers,” by Atul Gawande.

Gawande outlines the limitations and unintended consequences of electronic medical records, but many of the problems he writes about could apply to any industry. There are some quotable points, like “In building a given function [...] the design choices were more political than technical,” as well as the difficulty of the “field required” alert. 

That is to say, this article got me thinking about just how many employee experience issues fall outside the realm of EUC.

Sure, many of these problems are still at least technical problems. Say you have a legacy app that drives your business but is a bear to use. Your desktop admins could make sure the client gets delivered promptly and runs well on your machine. But ultimately, it could be the application architecture that’s the real problem, and then you’re talking a different IT department.

Or maybe it’s a business decision that’s the problem, or a company culture issue, or an issue of short-term thinking, prioritizing the quarterly numbers against anything else. Bottom line, it’s not an EUC thing.

I’m veering into a pessimistic area, so let’s get more optimistic and look at how else EUC could affect employee experience.

A modern EUC strategy, which supports user with any app on any device from anywhere, and has smart contextual security, would truly make the experience better. Having an SLA backing up that experience would be great, too. And if the EUC platform also has some slick micro/workflow apps (maybe with a dash of citizen developer capabilities), as well as a digital assistant to help navigate and manage everything, then that would be a big help, as well.

What about culture? On this front, we can argue that a good EUC experience would help recruit and retain better talent, contributing to a positive culture and employee experience. And communications and collaboration technology can help with this, too. (As an employee in a remote office, I know this one first hand.)

But still, EUC is just part of a larger employee experience. Which matters more: the EUC experience coming out of the IT department, or the business and culture priorities coming down from the top? Either way, if you’re reading this post, you’re probably in the EUC industry, and we all want to do our part by providing a good experience.

As a final note, I’ve recently learned that a lot of these recent employee experience conversations have been inspired by the book “The Employee Experience Advantage: How to Win the War for Talent by Giving Employees the Workspaces they Want, the Tools they Need, and a Culture They Can Celebrate,” by Jacob Morgan. Apparently I’m behind the times on this one, as it came out in 2017 and plenty of people have read it. My copy should arrive tomorrow, so maybe my next article on this topic will be a book review!

Conclusions

I’m of different minds on this topic. The idealistic liberal arts school grad in me loves the idea that EUC could have an outsized effect on overall employee experience. The part of me that graduated during a financial crisis and now has spent almost a decade in the corporate world is a bit more skeptical. But ultimately, we should strive towards a healthy balance of pragmatism and optimism.

There’s a lot of core EUC work that we (customers, vendors, community members, et cetera) can do, which will have a significant effect on employee experience. )That’s one of the things I love about this space.) Broader areas like micro/workflow apps and virtual assistants are also worthy areas of investment. And if aspirational goals like improving the total employee experience help drive us forward, then more power to us.

Postscript: See, I told you this was going to get amorphous. But when we’re talking about a topic like employee experience, that’s just bound to happen because it’s an emotional, human topic. We have plenty of more concrete articles in the works, like getting our hands on these digital assistants ourselves, learning about micro app and workflow app experiences from the field, a look at Microsoft Flow, and more.

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Follow the money. Unless the value proposition and use cases are clear and compelling, it's unlikely people will do much here. How much time and money will be invested to build products that nobody buys. 
Pessimistic view: Shelve ware 
Optimistic view: Marginal edge cases that don't make a lot of money in the next 5 years.
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You should take a look at Nexthink and their take on how User Experience/Productivity affects both employee satisfaction/retention and the company's bottom line and how moving the focus of EUC out of the data center centric model and more to the end user perspective of IT. 
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Sorry, continuing my previous comment...

, truly "shifting left" IT support, positively affects both the end user experience and bottom line overall.
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I've heard their name once or twice before—I just put them at the top of my list to reach out to. Thanks!
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