Happy employees equal happy customers — and fans. Can IT deliver for them all?

The next BriefingsDirect workplace productivity discussion explores how businesses are using the latest digital technologies to re-imagine the employee experience — and to transform their operations and results.

Employee experience isn’t just a buzz term. Research shows that engaged employees are happier, more productive, and deliver a superior customer experience, all of which translates into bottom line results.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. 

To learn how, our panel will now explore how IT helps deliver a compelling experience that enables employees to work when, where, and how they want — and to perform at their best. Joining us are Adam Jones, Chief Revenue Officer, who oversees IT for the Miami Marlins Major League Baseball team and organization, and Tim Minahan, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer at Citrix. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Tim, when it comes to employee experience, Citrix has been at the forefront of the conversation and of the technology shaping it. In fact, I remember covering one of the first press conferences that Citrix had, and this is going back about 30 years, and the solutions were there for people to work remotely. It seemed crazy at the time, delivering apps over the wire, over the Internet.

But you are still innovating. You’re at it again. About a year ago, you laid out an aggressive plan to help companies power their way to even better ways to work. So, it begs the question: Tim, what’s wrong with the way people are working today and the way that employees are experiencing work today?

From daily grind to digital growth 

Minahan: That topic is top of mind both for C-level and board members around the globe. We are entering an era of a new talent crisis. What’s driving it is, number one, there are just too few workers. Demographically McKinsey estimates that in the next few years we will be short by 95 million medium- to high-skilled workers around the globe.

Minahan

And that’s being frustrated by our traditional work models, which tend to organize around physical hubs. I build an office building, call center, or manufacturing facility and I do my best to hire the best talent around that hub. But the talent isn’t always located there.

The second thing is, as more companies become digital businesses — trying to develop new digital business lines, engage customers through new digital business channels, develop new digital business revenue streams — oftentimes they lack the right skills. They lack skills to help drive to this next level of transformation. If companies are fortunate enough to identify employees with those skills, there is a huge likelihood that they will be disengaged at work. 

In fact, the latest Gallup study finds that globally 85 percent of workers are disengaged at work. A key component of that frustration has to do with their work environment.

We spend a lot of time talking about vision alignment and career development — and all of that is important. But a key gap that many companies are overlooking is that they have a frustrating work environment. They are not giving their employees the tools or resources they need to do their jobs effectively.

In fact, all the choice we have around our applications and our devices has actually begun to create noise that distracts us from doing our core jobs in the best way possible.

Gardner: Is this a case of people being distracted by the interfaces? Is there too much information and overload? Are we not adding enough intelligence to provide a contextual approach? All of the above? 

Minahan: It is certainly “all of the above,” Dana. First off, there are just too many applications. The typical enterprise IT manager is responsible for more than 500 applications. At the individual employee level, a typical worker uses more than a dozen applications through the course of their day, and oftentimes needs to traverse four or five different applications just to do a single business process. That could be something as simple as finding the change in a deal status, or even executing one particular transaction.

Work Isn’t Working for Your Employees.

Find Out How Technology Can Help

And that would be bad enough, except consider that oftentimes we are distracted by apps that aren’t even core to our jobs. Last time I checked, Dana, neither you nor I, nor Adam were hired to spend our day approving expense reports in something like SAP Concur, which is a great application. But it’s not core to my job. Or, we are approving performance reviews in Workday, or a purchase request in SAP Ariba. Certainly, these distract from our day. By doing so, we need to constantly navigate via new application interfaces. We need to learn new applications that aren’t even core to our jobs. 

To your point around disruption and context switching, today — because we have all of these different channels, and not just e-mail, but Slack and Microsoft Teams and all of these applications – just finding information consumes a large part of our day. We can’t remember where we stored something, or we can’t remember the change in that deal status. So we have to spend about 20 percent of our day switching between all of these different contexts, just to get the information or insight we need to do our jobs.

Gardner: Clearly too much of a good thing. And to a large degree, IT has brought about that good thing. Has IT created this problem?

Minahan: In part. But I think employees share a bit of responsibility themselves. As an employee, I know I’m always pushing IT by saying, “Hey, absolutely, this is the one tool we need to do a more effective job at marketing, strategy, or what-have-you.”

We keep adding to the top of what we already have. And IT is in a tough position of either saying, “No,” or finding a way to layer on more and more choices. And that has the unintended side effect of what we have just mentioned — which is the complexity that frustrates today’s employee experience.

Workspace unity and security 

Gardner: Now, the IT people have faced complexity issues before, and many times they have come up with solutions to mitigate the complexity. But we also have to remember that you can’t just give employees absolute freedom. There have to be guardrails, and rules, compliance, and regulatory issues must be addressed. 

So, security and digital freedom need to be in balance. How do we get to the point, Tim, where we can create that balance, and give freedom — but not so much that they are at risk?

Minahan: You’re absolutely right. At Citrix, we firmly believe this problem needs to be solved. We are making the investments, working with our customers and our partners, to go out and solve it. We believe the right way to solve it is through a digital workspace that unifies everything your employees need to be productive in one, unified experience that wrappers those applications and content, and makes them available across any device or platform, no matter where you are.

A workspace that’s just unified but not secure doesn’t fully address the needs of the enterprise. We believe the workspace should wrapper in a layer of contextual security policies that know who you are.

If you are in the office, on the corporate network using your laptop, perfect. You also need to have access to the same content and applications to do your job on the train ride home, on your smartphone, and maybe while visiting a friend. You need to be able to log on through a web interface. You want your work to travel with you, so you can work anytime, anywhere. 

But such a workspace that’s just unified — but not secure — doesn’t fully address the needs of the enterprise. The second attribute of what’s required for a true digital workspace is that it needs to be secure. When you have those applications and content within the workspace, we believe the workspace should wrapper that in a layer of contextual security policies that know who you are, what you typically have access to, and how you typically access it. The security must know if you do your work through one device or another, and then apply the right policies when there are anomalies outside of that realm. 

For example, maybe you are logging in from a different place. If so, we are going to turn off certain capabilities within your applications, such as the capability to download, print, or screen-capture. Maybe we need to require a second layer of authentication, if you are logging on from a new device. 

And so, this approach brings together the idea of employee experience and balances it with the security that the enterprise needs. 

Gardner:We are also seeing more intelligence brought into this process. We are seeing more integration end-to-end, and we are anticipating the best worker experience. But companies, of course, are looking for productivity improvements to help their bottom line and their top line.

Want Employees to Perform at Their Best?

Let Them Thrive Using

An Intelligent Workspace

Is there a way to help businesses understand the economic benefits of the best digital workspace? How do we prove that this is the right way to go?

Minahan: Dana, you hit the nail on the head. I mentioned there are three attributes required for an effective digital workspace. We talked about the first two, unifying everything an employee needs to be productive with one unified experience, and secondly securing that to ensure that applications’ content is more secure in the workspace than when native. So that organizes your workday, and that’s a phenomenal head start. 

Work smart, with intelligence 

But, to your point, we can do better by building on that foundation and injecting intelligence into the workspace. You can then begin to help employees work better. You can help employees remove that noise from their day by using things such as machine learning (ML)artificial intelligence (AI), simplified workflows, and what we call micro appsto guide an employee through their workdays. The workspace is not just someplace they go to launch an application, but it is someplace they go to get work done.

We have begun providing capabilities that literally reach into your enterprise applications and extract out the key insights and tasks that are personal to each employee. So when you log into the workspace, Dana, it would say, “Hey, Dana, it’s time for you to approve that expense report.”

You don’t need to log-in to the app again. You just quickly open a review. If you want, you can click “approve” and move on, saving yourself minutes. And you multiply that throughout the course of the day. We estimate you can give an employee back 10 to 20 percent of their workweek. So, an added day each week of improved productivity. 

But it’s not just about streamlined tasks. It’s also about improved insights, of making sure that you understand the information you need. Maybe it’s that change in a deal status and presenting that up to you so you don’t need to log-in to Salesforce and check on that dashboard. It’s presented to you because the workspace knows it’s of interest to you. 

To your point, this could dramatically improve the overall productivity for an employee, improve their overall experience at work, and by extension allow them to serve their customers in a much better way. They have the resources, tools, and the information at their fingertips to deliver a superior customer experience. 

The Miami Marlins have a very sophisticated approach to user experience. They look at heir employees and their fan base across multiple ways of making the experience exceptional.

Gardner: We are entering an age, Tim, where we let the machines do what they do best and know the difference, so that then allows people to do what they can do best, creatively, and most productively. It’s an exciting time. 

Let’s look at a compelling use case. The Miami Marlins have a very sophisticated approach to user experience. And they are not just looking at their employees, they are looking at the end-users — their fan base across multiple different ways of entertainment and for intercepting the baseball experience. 

Baseball, in a sense, was hibernating over the winter, and now the new season has played out well in 2019. And your fans in Miami are getting treated to a world-class experience. 

Tell me, Adam, what went on behind-the-scenes that allows you in IT to make this happen? What is the secret sauce for providing such great experiences?

Marlins’ Major League IT advantage 

Jones: The Marlins is a 25-year-old franchise. We find ourselves in build mode coming into the mid-2019 season, following a change in ownership and leadership. We have elevated the standards and vision for the organization.

We are becoming a world-class sports and entertainment enterprise, and so are building a next-generation IT infrastructure to enable the 300-plus employees who operate across our lines of business and the various assets of the organization. We are very pleased to have our longtime partner, Citrix, deploy their digital workspace solutions to enable our employees to deliver against the higher standards that we have set. 

Gardner: Is it difficult to create a common technological approach for different types of user experience requirements? You have fans, scouts, and employees. There are a lot of different endpoints. How does a common technological approach work under those circumstances?

Jones: The diversity within our enterprise necessitates having tools and solutions that have a lot of agility and can be flexible across the various requirements of an organization such as ours. We are operating a very robust baseball operation — as well as a sophisticated business. We are looking to scale and engage a very diverse audience. We need to have the resources available to invest and develop talent on the baseball side. So, what we have within the Citrix environment is the capability to enable that very diverse set of activities within one environment.

Gardner: And we have become used to, in our consumer lives, having a sort of seamless segue between different things that we are doing. Are you approaching that same seamless integration when it comes to how people encounter your content across multiple channels? Is there a way for you to present yourselves in such a way that the technology takes over and allows people to feel like they are experiencing the same Miami Marlins experience regardless of how they actually intercept your organization and your sport?

Want Employees to Perform at Their Best?

Let Them Thrive Using

An Intelligent Workspace

Jones: Like many of our peers, we are looking to establish more robust, rounded relationships with our fans and community. And that means going beyond our home schedule to more of a 365-day relationship, with a number of touch points and a variety of content.

The mobility of our workforce to get out into the community — but not lose productivity — is incredibly important as we evolve into a more sophisticated and complex set of activities and requirements.

Gardner: Controlling your content, making sure you can make choices about who gets to see what, to protect your franchise, is important. Are you reaching a balance between offering a full experience of interesting content and technology, but at the same time protecting and securing your assets and your franchise?

Safe! at digital content distribution 

Jones: Security is our highest priority, particularly as we continue to develop more content and more intellectual property. What we have within the Citrix environment is very robust controls, with the capability to facilitate fairly broad collaboration among our workforce. So again, we are able to disseminate that content in near real-time so that we are creating impactful and timely moments with our fans.

Gardner: Tim, this sounds like a world-class use case for advanced technology. We have scale, security, omni-channel distribution, and a dynamic group of people who want to interact as much as they can. Why is the Miami Marlins such a powerful and interesting use-case from your perspective?

Minahan: The Marlins are a fantastic example of a world champion organization now moving into the digital edge. They are rethinking the fan experience, not just at the stadium but in how they engage across their digital properties and in the community. Adam and the other leadership there are looking across the board to figure out how the sport of baseball and fan experience evolve. They are exploring the linkage between the fan experience, or customer experience, and the employee experience, and they are learning about the role that technology plays in connecting the two.

Work Isn’t Working for Your Employees.

Find Out How Technology Can Help

They are a great example of a customer at the forefront of looking at these new digital channels and how they impact customer relationships — and how they impact values for employees as well.

Gardner: Tim, we have heard over the past decade about how data and information are so integral to making a baseball team successful. It’s a data-driven enterprise as much as any. How will the intelligence you are baking into more of the Citrix products help make the Miami Marlins baseball team a more intelligent organization? What are the tools behind the intelligent baseball future?

Minahan: A lot of the same intelligence capabilities we are incorporating into the workspace for our customers — around ML, AI, and micro apps — will ensure that the Marlins organization — everyone from the front office to the field manager — has the right insights and tasks presented to them at the right time. As a result, they can deliver the best experience, whether that is recruiting the best talent for the team or delivering the best experience for the fans. 

We are going to learn a lot, as we always have from our customers, from the Miami Marlins about how we can continue to adapt that to help them deliver that superior employee experience and, hence, the superior fan experience.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Citrix

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About Dana Gardner

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, an enterprise IT analysis, market research, and consulting firm. Gardner, a leading identifier of software and cloud productivity trends and new IT business growth opportunities, honed his skills and refined his insights as an industry analyst, pundit, and news editor covering the emerging software development and enterprise infrastructure arenas for the last 18 years. Gardner tracks and analyzes a critical set of enterprise software technologies and business development issues: Cloud computing, hybrid IT, software-defined data center, IT productivity, multicloud, AI, ML, and intelligent enterprise. His specific interests include social media, cloud standards and security, as well as integrated marketing technologies and techniques. Gardner is a former senior analyst at Yankee Group and Aberdeen Group, and a former editor-at-large and founding online news editor at InfoWorld. He is a former news editor at IDG News Service, Digital News & Review, and Design News.
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