Ryan interviews Alex Russell, joint managing director at Aptronics, about the challenges of managing the remote employee experience and how IT can help improve at-home productivity.
Shaky WiFi connectivity, unreliable VPNs, and nonexistent work-life balance are just a few of the challenges that accompany remote work.
In this episode, Alex Russell, joint managing director at Aptronics, shares how he's managing the shift to working from home and supporting employee productivity, including:
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Ryan Purvis 0:00
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In this series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in their field story from the frontlines, the problems they face and how they solve them. The years they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took that will help you to get to grips with the digital workspace inner workings.
Alex Russell 0:32
So welcome, Alex to the digital workspace works podcast, you might wouldn't mind is giving me an introduction to who you are and who you work for.
Great. Thank you, Ron, thank you for having me.
My name is Alex Russell, I work for the eo h Group of Companies in a division called ioco. And I work within a lot of business of Iowa code called compute and platform. And I am, what one would say, a digital workspace and subject matter expert. Since you're an expert, can you give us an idea, your definition of the digital workspace?
Remember, that's just a title.
So, yeah, I would, I would say the best way to describe a digital workspace is a workspace, which keeps you engaged and active now, and removes the friction that we traditionally experience from non digital workspace environment. Yeah, now that friction is a big thing often with with COVID-19 and how things have affected South Africa or what have you seen changing it in that regard?
Yeah, I saw a post
the other day. And they reckon that it's kind of accelerated the adoption of remote working by 10 years. And I was kind of bought it for about 10 years. Now, in terms of it being a standard practice in any business. I think historically, it was always been a and a alternative, an alternative to not being in the office. Yeah, tentative to having to get something done. And I really just don't want to get into the office, where now it's kind of a absolutely your way of life. Now, what have you seen from your customer's point of view? And are they now prioritizing in their heads apart is because it was, you know, reaction and affecting lockdown. But are they actually doing it almost the right way now, and going back to make sure it works properly? Or is it still fighting fires? So we see three phases to this. This sort of remote working becoming systemic in an organization, kind of thrown into this whole crisis mode of my word, you know, from one week to the next is locked down. You're going to have to go and look at your business continuity planning, and hopefully it stood up, you know, I agree, everything was like, Oh, my word, everyone needs to move out the office. And what they find is just, you know, the remote, this is continuity planning just didn't stand up. Now we kind of into this phase of, of it being okay, it's, it's, it is a norm. And it's part of what we do. And we're looking to organizations are really looking to drive more efficiencies out of what they experienced in crisis mode, and changing a lot of things. So potentially looking at increasing their remote working tool sets and looking at additional tool sets. And and I think organization going to move into something which is their absolute need to make remote working as productive as they traditionally felt. They lived in a brick and mortar building. And for that organize that we're seeing customers really starting to look at accelerating a lot of their cloud services. Because they know that this is going to need to be around as part of a the way that they're going to do business. And we're seeing customers saying, gee, I'm not getting great value out of that tool set. It's not going to scale. For what I want to do. I need to look at other tool sets. So there's a lot of talking going on. They are evaluating technology looking at new ways of doing things. And I think those organizations that were more digitally fluid in a moment they were able to do prior to code and have narrowed the gap those who haven't are finding the gap. Hell of a lot bigger to close. Yeah, it's an issue piece of in that tool enablement or the lack of scalability. I think there's a lot of business processes that don't work. In office. You mentioned some behavioral changes, you want to talk to some of those those changes that you made. Yeah, I think, personally, personal behavioral changes, I think the, the need to be a lot more disciplined in the allocation of your time. Yeah. And what you doing in that time, so it's all good, too. I love Microsoft 365. Analytics, and setting up a focus time is brilliant. It really understands my my pattern, and it gives me great insight. So So for me, the inside said that 365 was really giving me to say, geez, you're applying a little too quickly to emails, yeah. You're you're not effectively setting your week up in advance, you kind of it's too close to the side of the week that is kind of getting done. So are you prioritizing that? It's probably been like the last six months. And I'll tell you, I've just been a lot more selfish. And by time, yeah, was people will consume your time and not consume it for for their benefit, probably very necessary. But they are priorities, neon priorities. And I mean, that's the most important thing. You for personal
fulfillment, you know, you need to do, but then again, you need to make yourself available. Yeah, you need to make yourself because people do need you, people do need you to, to square things away, too. So you're going to be on top of things. So I definitely have become a lot more prudent with the utilization of my time and the allocation of their time itself. And I think one thing that this whole situation is really taught me is, we lost a lot of humanity in the way we work. Now, Wow, I've, I didn't realize what we were doing until this actually this this really, and I thought we were quite she may, but we weren't quite robotic, you know, really robotic in what we do and how we do it. And, you know, there's, you've got just that amount of time to do certain things. Sometimes, why don't we need an agenda, let's just have a discussion about the things that that actually matter a little bit more than what it is about getting this thing over the line. And the humanity for me is really hit time, on the basis that I think having a digital workspaces will bring humanity back into the way people have freed up time. Yeah, I mean, I think you Well, I agree with you to a large extent, I think the the integrated working has benefits where you can go and do something with the family still be able to do a phone call, or or do the knowledge work, you have to get done. Because you had the time of the family first, which you would have had to put off because you had to draft an office or whatever, and get an office to be in the office. Yeah, and it mentally probably wasn't doing any good. But now you have that positive vibe from you know, go there, we go to the beach, on a good day on a Friday morning, for an hour. And then we drive home and then the day starts, but maybe on the ocean and you know, you come back that Friday is a great day just chilled. I mean, it's a lot of work, but yes, may not replace. So yeah. One thing I've found, and I've noticed for many, many places and slack holding employee experience, okay, well, when COVID and we're well not gonna code just remote working, you know, has we rolled out a Facebook solution to our organization at the beginning of COVID. And we say Jesus at work was at users really operation needed this from finance to procurement to logistics, to sales, you know, really needed the infrastructure to be able to operate from you know, all all buildings are shut down, and but we still need you to move kit around and we still need to get things done. I'll tell you two weeks, three weeks into to our lockdown We had to go and increase the capacity to 150 of users. Now on the basis that, you know, what we thought was a solution, it stood out to business continuity. So a VPN for Geez. Okay, so core users will use our our Citrix environment. Non core central user can use VPN, and just these technologies, the VPN technologies didn't stand up, you know, didn't stand up to the user experience. Because the frustrations that were being built into employees, I just couldn't get things done. Because the VPN will drop. And connectivity. Although fibers in really every home to a degree, not all our employees have fobbing me home. Yeah. So you buzzing LTE and that is dropping, then we've got the great South African emoji process. And you know, you've got different areas that are just switched off because they need to do maintenance on on lines and and these outages. So we had like a few pandemics actually. And we the one thing that we realized and was feedback from employees was it was so different for them when they had the reliability of a workspace where they could just get things done. Yeah. One would say if I have no internet connectivity, well, you're not going to do anything, given that as a challenge. But that's the one challenge, not the many challenges that they're dealing with. Now, just frustration that was building up in our teams to say, I can't process the transaction quick enough, you know, so just kind of moving the goalposts
gave us the opportunity to really drive as productive employees remotely as they were inside. And the difference we've seen is that, yes, we're getting more out of employees, but they're not spending as long doing things that they would traditionally do. Hmm. And having to search like Cheez Whiz, these foster would fall shares that on a continent to the file share. And I just map it into your digital workspace. And we're going to give you you don't map your one drop, then they you got so yeah, we also found that I uses digital dexterity has changed as well. Yeah, you understand how to use these tools, because you can give them everything but they don't have to use them. While they're not really. That's what I would ask you to do. Because I mean, some of the signals have been around here 20 years, they say, in different maturity levels and stuff. But the biggest problem has been the user adoption of them. And you mentioned sort of capacity doubling, a lot of those BCP plans always by sort of 60% capacity as a thumbs up, this mega Baker's will never use it. And now you're sitting in a situation where you've not only had to use it, but you've had, you've had to roll it out to more people than you thought. And I think a lot of investment that's been, you know, always cut off, because I will never use I'll never use will never use has forced a few companies to maybe fold. Because I couldn't keep up. When it came to ask you about your end user experience. Employee experience, how are you capturing the feedback was was surveys and that wasn't support calls. So so it was it was a combination of a few things. One is we actually say we actually opened a team's channel. Yeah, that was you don't need to log calls via the help desk. Because the real time, the necessity to just know that someone was there. We just opened a team supply channel. And we've actually kept it open Funny enough, even though the call levels have gone down. And we found that the frustration users was far less because it wasn't another step to lager call. Yeah, my first response, and that it was like, hey, instantaneous SPI communication. I've got an issue and possum to an engineer monitoring this channel, and that could get resolved. Because that real calmness, yeah. We still have some users, you do the right thing and they go and login call and the turn around and their calls. And what we find is initially the spike in the calls was, you know, I can't get system access. And I find my machines running too slow. No. And I find that a lot of the telemetry that was being given to us was their interpretation what the issue was. Yeah. As your user says that that's what it is, well, then you're going to find a lot to call, and you're going to get to them. As you move them into this digital space, we've got a good backup do to say, Well, hey, we're not getting my machine slow. As I call them, this application is slow. Yeah, they're kind of outside teams to kind of be like, exactly where the, the challenge was. And so I think we're in the infancy of, of utilizing, I think that the benefits of this whole digital experience monitoring tool toolset in a more effective and fluid way that then gives us a lot more insights predictably, that then allow us to automate a few things that drives a better experience for the user named Stephanie, honest evolution of the workspace for our users is where we're not seeing a good trend in terms of utilization and supportability. And, and just overall performance. But we're looking to denyse to say, Well, what else is the system is telling us? Can we make things more predictive for us? And also, are they a better experience for the user, that you have something in place to do the monitoring or the system they're using? I mean,
yeah, so we use the subtraction chain to give us that that insight. Again, I think tools are all good, depends on how people use them. And we've had one or two users who kind of gravitated towards the treating for my help desk point of view, and really drew that insight and the tool sets off, and others kind of got four or five calls. And they just don't know where to go and never ever and screaming. So they kind of, you know, maybe going down a rabbit hole a little bit better, they find the bestie to get this cool result. And we found that those individuals that were using the insights from Alexa on you were far more effective in getting through more calls far more effective in delivering a call a closing a call quicker. And and eventually we'll be giving some insight back into our Citrix team to say guys, you know, this users pro these users are experiencing issues around profile, the profiles, maybe you need to look at it that way, when a user will complain about an issue give you this sort of version was great on the data and coming out of something license check match up or
Unknown Speaker 17:40
was complimentary? That's probably why
Alex Russell 17:42
I think when the user got the sitter or when their user made the right call of what the issue was it correlated, because they would kind of look at exactly where that that issue is. It's like their score, whatever it might be. Yeah, we didn't get it right. It kind of had to be more troubleshooting. And kind of a delay, like, hold on, I need to lose your system and interrogate some of the information. And then I need to create a correlation to Okay, I can see where the issues it's not actually that it's something else that we need to look at. Okay, and what are you seeing now with you said, if this is your next evolution that suggests experience monitoring? What is your next thing? Is it internal focus first, are you going to start going out to
Unknown Speaker 18:27
customers with other offering
Alex Russell 18:28
now so so I think we're we're now packaging the same in an as a service offering to take to market we've launched a new marketplace, a digital marketplace, where we're going to launch our as a service offerings through and our core workspace recording and call workspace is going to be launched through our marketplace. And yeah, it's good for us, I'm sure out there. It's good for many of our of our of our customers and potential customers if we would love to attract, okay, and you're looking outside of Africa, I mean to global customers, as well as Australia, South African African solution. I think we're localized a little bit more on the basis that, you know, we, as an organization have a footprint in Switzerland, we have a footprint in the UK, but they're not the to the full extent is our a local organization, and the reach to marketing channels to market are more suited to certain types of products and development and enterprise applications, rather than necessarily. Digital workspaces, bed. The beauty about what we're creating nine of our as a service call workspace offering is an ability to drop a pod down into some other locations and to centrally manage and support it in a way that drives the cost of the solution. A done, they can also segue into other other markets, we must say to you haven't kept activated or captured our market share. So I think we will spend more time refining our solution and getting it adopted locally. And before we take it into other markets. So if there's something you'd release soon, we'll go here link in the show notes. So when it's when it's launched, yeah, yeah. So we're, we've just finished off we start a new financial year. So the part of our investment strategy is around as a service model. So within the next quarter, we will have that app and we'll definitely be sharing that with you guys.
Unknown Speaker 21:09
Sounds good. Sounds good.
Unknown Speaker 21:12
I think we're pretty tight up there. Listen to the comments on
Alex Russell 21:15
No, I think we're all good for masa had a
Unknown Speaker 21:19
Unknown Speaker 21:22
Where can people find you online?
Alex Russell 21:24
I am. I'm on most
traditional LinkedIn. Yeah. Alex Russell, and on Twitter. My handle is at smart access at is m AR t, AX CSS. And that's pretty much my digital mediums.
Unknown Speaker 21:53
Cool. Thanks for being on the podcast.
Alex Russell 21:55
Well, thank you, Ron. And I appreciate your time. And
the way he goes today, man. Thanks for well.
Ryan Purvis 22:05
Thank you for listening to today's episode. Hey, the big nose producer, editor. Thank you, Heather for your hard work on this episode. He subscribes to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DW w podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website www digital workspace that works. Please also visit our website www dot digital workspace that works and subscribe to our newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Joint Managing Director at Aptronics
Experienced Managing Director with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. I have deep domain expertise in transforming end user computing environments and creating digitally fueled workspace experiences. My skills and experience provide a strong platform that integrates thinking and doing to make an impact. Strong business development professional graduated from University of South Africa.