The New Normal
If you are reading this during business hours, it is safe to say you are probably not in your normal office. If it’s outside of work hours, you are hopefully at home keeping healthy. Either way, you along with everyone else in the world are going through these uncertain times together.
In March, our CEO, Pat Gelsinger, emailed all 40,000 VMware employees advising we were to work from home until further notice. For many of us at VMware, the only change in the way we work became where we work. Our work culture, including our technology solutions, has always been prepared for ‘Work from Anywhere’. With the recent climate, this has allowed us to put much more focus on helping our customers reach this target in short order, as opposed to having to prepare ourselves first.
But what is going to happen when things return to “normal”? And what is the new “normal” going to be? We all understand that things are going to be different and uncertain; what is certain, however, is that the way in which we use our technologies while working remotely will continue to rapidly evolve.
In our End-User Computing business unit, we have talked about our “Any App, Any Device, Any Cloud” strategy at length for years with our customers. It has resonated very well across all industries, and I am personally very proud to see the way our technologies have changed the way we work. However, I am not sure anyone could say that we would see the need for it, to the extent at which we are now.
Every organization is at a different point in their digital transformation journey. Some are realizing they must act now, and implement unified endpoint management with Workspace ONE UEM, security with Carbon Black, and authentication policies with Workspace ONE Access to ensure their employees are productive and their technology is safe. Others who have completed this step, or need to expand their virtualization capacity are rapidly deploying Horizon in the cloud using the Horizon Cloud Service on Azure or extending their datacentres with VMware Managed Cloud on AWS and deploying there. Most of the business challenges we are solving or the outcomes we are providing with this is to “keep the lights on”, and maintain the ability to work when access to a physical office building is not possible. This is not to say that being tactical in this way is not important, but we also need to make sure that we are thinking about how to support whatever the new way of working is going to be. In some cases we are seeing organizations provide essential services, for instance, like providing all remote services using VPN technologies. But depending on business need, over time, this can cause performance, secure access, data protection and authentication challenges and complexities, particularly as an organization’s remote user workforce grows.
The longer that our restrictions and mandatory work from home policies go on, the more end users are getting into the routine and working remotely. But if their user experience suffers as a result of a “good enough” VPN solution or cumbersome authentication process, their productivity declines, user engagement decreases and this can even cause staff to look elsewhere for better work experiences. Although the organization can solve some of these challenges with technology, we need to ensure we do not overlook people and their well-being in this situation. With Workspace ONE Intelligence, we can get insights into how the users’ applications are performing, and the quality of their remote experience. And when performance issues arise, Workspace ONE Intelligence can automate the remediation of the individual issue, without requiring manual support or administrative intervention, which can go a long way to improving user experience. Tying this information with user details such as location, device state and security in Workspace ONE Access can help users streamline and simplify their authentication requests and eliminate denied access messages.
But these are still all technology problems. We all still need reminding at times that we are in this situation together, in order to keep us all safe and healthy. An organization’s biggest asset is the employees, and ensuring their well-being should also be a priority. For many people, it is a strain being forced to stay inside, not being able to interact with colleagues face-to-face, or not get work done using previous methods. A couple of weeks ago I wrote an application that allows an organization to send daily updates regarding COVID-19 statistics, along with a customizable message to Workspace ONE Intelligent Hub. It also allows the user to respond with an update on how they are feeling, be it mentally or physically, and depending on their response, they are directed to the most appropriate corporate resource for help and assistance. It can keep the organization informed of their employees’ wellness, which could be linked with Workspace ONE Intelligence for further trending analysis and insights. This application extends the Workspace ONE Notification framework and brings a more people-centric approach to the solutions we provide.
While no one knows for sure how long we will be working in this new manner, what is becoming clear is that many remote work, personal and social activities that were once perceived as not possible, are in fact completely possible using the right modern technology. Once employees are able to head back to work, part of “the new normal” is an expectation that their work methods will include more flexibility, and that organizations will need to provide much more streamlined and modern user experiences. The platform we now are beginning to lay as a foundation will be the standard for working remotely at an organization. Understandably many organizations have had to scramble to get things working as best they can, but a “good enough” approach will only last so long and will only introduce challenges down the line. Not everything needs to or can be changed at once, but just like the office buildings we are all missing, it all starts with a modern platform and improved user experience.
Pete Lindley is a Senior Specialist Systems Engineer at VMware, based in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Having just short of 20 years experience in the IT industry and with more than 8 of those years specifically working on Enterprise Mobility, Pete brings a long and varied list of skills to VMware. He is responsible for helping customers find the best outcomes using products within the entire End-User Computing portfolio and is a recognized Subject Matter Expert in Windows 10, Android, macOS, with a particular focus on Identity & Access Management.