An interview with Eileen Jennings-Brown, Head of Technology at Wellcome, about what the digital workspace means, improving digital experiences, tackling legacy tech, and more.
What happens when you cross a charity, bank, museum, and library? You get Wellcome, the workplace of this week's guest, Eileen Jennings-Brown. In her role as Head of Technology, Eileen Jennings-Brown has the unusual charter of supporting the technology needs of these diverse segments. In this episode, Eileen shares her digital-first philosophy for creating great experiences and powering Wellcome's mission of funding scientific research into urgent health challenges.
Meet Our Guest
Eileen Jennings-Brown is the Head of Technology at Wellcome, a global charitable foundation supporting science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone, including mental health, global heating and infectious diseases. She was named one of CW's Top 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech in 2020. Eileen is also a mentor, tech advocate, speaker, and champion for inclusivity and equality in STEM.
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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 the script for the digital workspace inner workings.
Welcome to the digital workspace week's podcast. I mean, if you wouldn't mind giving us a brief introduction to yourself.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 0:38
Hi, everybody. I am Eileen Jennings Brown. I am Scottish if you can't tell from the accent. I live in Scotland. But I actually work in London. So yes, I did that commute weekend we lived in hotels, until we all went into lockdown back in March. The organization I work for is called the Wellcome Trust. And we are a philanthropic organization. We're a charity force and we give away money. Last year, we gave away a billion pounds to charity, we gave away a billion pounds to help science and into research into urgent health issues. So that's what we do first and foremost, but we're also a bank. And Catherine Derman herself, and we're also museum and a library. So require an interest in organization. But I had a team of 65 people. My role is head of technology. And we provide all the IP structure or the IT services, applications, change delivery and products across the wall suite. So we're very busy. And we've been very busy throughout the last, I don't know nine months now I can't believe in Titans gone. That's that's me in a nutshell really where I am today.
I actually wanted to ask you, but we're in Scotland, you're commuting from
Well, I live and a wee town called hour, which is just outside Sterling. It is equidistant between Edinburgh and Glasgow. And it's just off the motorway as well. So it was actually quite tactical moving here because it meant for the commute, I could actually go from any of the airports or just don't pull the motorway. So I commute from usually from Edinburgh. But I do like to keep it interesting for myself because doing the same community can be code I find rather boring. So sometimes I like to drive sometimes I read get train. Sometimes I fly. Sometimes I didn't go to school if I haven't been at all for the last nine months. You'll get it. I've kept interesting.
Ryan Purvis 2:45
I used to do the commute from from London to Edinburgh.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 2:50
Riverside, you came up
Ryan Purvis 2:53
until the class switched, because used to catch a 7am flight. And then when the clocks which is a 6am flight kills you absolutely kills you.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 3:02
So dark as well isn't I mean, it's what's the time? No. So the sun is going to set here in about 15 minutes is about 15 minutes already. And that said though, is is quite dark in the winter. But in the summertime at 11 o'clock at night, you can go and have a round of golf. Yes. Great. So how long did you do that commute for the nine
Ryan Purvis 3:27
Unknown Speaker 3:29
That's quite a long time.
Ryan Purvis 3:30
It wasn't every day. It wasn't every week. Okay, it was a good was a couple times a row house. I was helping a business up in in Fife. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So it was it was actually quite I quite enjoyed it because it was just outside of a nice little town. You know? What communities Andrews either feel I'm gonna go.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 3:57
I was gonna ask you for a fight and fight. So so far. It's very pricy.
Ryan Purvis 4:05
Yeah, I couldn't actually tell you. That's what it was.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 4:09
Yeah, there's a great comedian called I mean, who's gonna see called Billy Connolly as if you don't know who bill is cordless. But he Gordon golden calf on internet he did the sketch by Kirkcaldy and it's where linoleum comes from. But nobody can pronounce the word linoleum. I'm not going to tell you the joke but it will have you in stitches. And Kirkcaldy and linoleum. And now listen to this. Everybody
Ryan Purvis 4:39
know him as a comedian is really good. I like it as an actor to name a couple movies that he did.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 4:46
Harry Potter movies movie wasn't a
Ryan Purvis 4:52
couple. He did the manuscript God, to which way he is you're gonna struggle. Boss stole money and he couldn't get insurance paid and they called him back to God took them to court. And then he did another one which was called
Unknown Speaker 5:09
Ryan Purvis 5:12
phase. Eager is a florist and he basically, you know, lived his life as a forest and he's pretty chilled and stuff. And he gets Miss Miss because they are confusing with a big picture the assassin who's a mobster, okay. And then he walks out. Everyone thinks he's his mobster. Meanwhile, he's just as far as it turns out, his brother is used, his nickname has been Joby this mouse to be the successor.
Unknown Speaker 5:38
Ryan Purvis 5:41
Because he appears, and it's really well done. Yeah.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 5:47
I haven't heard of it. But it does say quite funny. So thanks for the recommendation,
Ryan Purvis 5:52
no problem. Something in my head, it's worth sharing. So this is one of the questions. So what does the digital workspace mean? I mean, you mentioned quite a few different avenues for business, I would think it would be quite a few different flavors. You know, being a museum or a bank or a city that you'd have to contend with getting people to work we know.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 6:16
Yeah, well, I saw. I love the term digital workspace. And I actually think that Welcome to the digital organization. We do 95% of our work online. I think the challenge for any for many organizations out there is actually recognizing that they are a digital workspace. And so welcome does think that we are a charity force to me give this money we help science and research, and so on and so forth. But the reality is that you can't do that without the digital technology. And without the platforms to communicate, whatever your messages are. They're all these products and tools that help people be productive and manage performance. So I'm a big fan of helping organizations and businesses understand and recognize you're a digital organization. First, you want to create a digital workspace environment for your staff. And then you happen to be a bank or you happen to be a museum, I realized the museum as little as a size, but harder because people come in and they like to touch stuff, it's a bit more tactile. But actually in a museum we have we use digital to help enhance the experience of coming into the museum. So we have a specialism, we've got an AV team, and the AV team may come do the lighting and all the video in order to make whatever the artifacts are really stand out and be able to tell their story. So for me a digital workspace to answer your question, because I realize I've got off on one I really I just like the terminal. I like people to try and think about a digital this or that, you know, I'm pointing left to pointing right and name as what hi does that then affect me? To answer your question, what does a digital workspace mean, to me, I actually think is about simplification, is about having the boring tasks that you would otherwise not enjoy doing have been done for you through automation, for example. And being able to connect and communicate and have experiences that are different to an experience that you may have. If you were to physically be in a location. Actually, you can enhance a physical experience through digital as well. So there's quite a broad answer. Pick from that the one that resonates.
Ryan Purvis 8:53
I think what you said the beginning was actually quite quite nice in a way that you sort of positions as a platform of platforms with vertical RSI solutions that almost sounds remark marketing feel. But But as you get more specific as you move away from the platform to be more specific, you know, you do get a tower. Age. When you say something like a museum, that's more tactile. So you might have AR and VR applied to do something where you wouldn't have any say for office work and he's working with spreadsheets.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 9:26
That's right, yeah. But then I would like to think that for somebody who works with spreadsheets, if the wanted, we could use digital to try and make that really interesting for them. Instead or a bit more like an experienced human. Maybe we could use augmentation or virtual reality in order to try and make that interesting and automate some of the boring stuff. So yeah, and then you look at the site where the bank is got a buyer, we just manage our own investment but actually our own portfolio, but actually all of that gone through digital technology, they can't do it without having the Bloomberg and the JP Morgan's and all of this technology around them to even have that data visible to them so they can make the decisions. So I'm not sure that people instantly recognize how much they depend on digital and therefore surround themselves with a digital workspace in order to do their jobs. And it leeches into the home you know, you can, you can get all of this tech in your house Internet of Things, you can control your washing machine from the train, you can turn your lights on from someone else's house, you can you know, the Internet of Things, digital workspaces beyond just a workspace, it's actually digital, we have like,
Ryan Purvis 10:46
yeah, I think you saw that a bit what it was previously, for some people completely separate environments, or separate ecosystems, has now blended completely. So is that integrated working? Now?
Eileen Jennings-Brown 10:59
Ryan Purvis 11:02
are very similar to what you've said. To me, it's how do you get your work done, using whatever tools, technology and sometimes not even the technology as the sense of electronic technology, but it could be the riot writing pad to take your notes on that you can take a picture of it and go into your filing system digitally, or, you know, we were traveling back South Africa for two months. So I'm packing my bag, pack my virtual office back now, which has now become my go bag. You know, it's those things that are that are not necessary technology base, but they are part of my digital working kit, if you like so, anyway, that gets me to be able to do more work in context. That's that's that's digital workspace
Eileen Jennings-Brown 11:49
being forced down a path to have to adopt a digital product or some piece of technology? Because actually, that's the only choices left open to you.
Ryan Purvis 12:02
Do you mean? Well give me some context that question.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 12:05
So I didn't know I really good example actually is buying you're taxing your car. I can't go into the post office anymore. By the car tax, you can only do it online. The interesting thing about that is that alienated an entire gender or sorry, no gender an entire demographic for individuals who were in digital incapable. So So almost they had no choice and digital because that was the only way they could achieve outcome that they wanted to. Are you finding that for you.
Ryan Purvis 12:41
It's funny that example because that's exactly the example I saw last Sunday at the post office. And it wasn't an old person who was complaining. It was a 25 year old, it was literally losing his marbles. Wow, because he didn't want to go online to do his context, Daddy, but his dad helped him fill in the form. And I don't know, maybe he was, you know, he has a disability or something. But he just could not get the fact that the post office didn't do anymore. And it was easy to do. And it literally not difficult. But he would not get past this thing. And he filled in a form and it should just take the form and pay and take his money. And it got ugly, ugly British we can get. But but it is it is that examine? And yes, I think to some extent as one of the problems with what people see as digital. They see it often as restrictive mechanism as opposed to an enabling mechanism.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 13:34
Yeah, she didn't have she may she had something trying to do. Please pass we've taken it too far. And it and then to your point, it has made it quite restrictive.
Ryan Purvis 13:45
Yeah, my favorite examples is the Excel problem. Yeah, you have someone from the business, it's both a workbook full of macros, and whatever it is to do some piece of work they've automated, they've got to learn how to use macros and excel calculations and formulas and stuff. And that takes a spreadsheet which was one person automating the laws making it easier has now become the team's way of doing the work. Yeah, just because it's saving in time, inverted commas, maybe it is maybe it isn't. But at some point that becomes the backbone of that business unit. And someone decides always to have such an application and you spend so much time trying to figure what the application is and all the flexibility that Excel offers has to get taken away to some extent when you build an application system and often what ends up being the output isn't what the people are using once it because it was actually quite enjoyed that it was an excellent they could just add a new sheet when they wanted to add more formulas or manipulate the formulas and and all that stuff it says find code actually didn't want that.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 14:49
So true actually Yes. And these things just more often the other people come along they take ownership it becomes a thing it was never intended to be when a you know first came to life and yes Listen to us sleep digital
Ryan Purvis 15:06
process at UBS called. And use applications, which was the process we had to register if you bought yourself your own application. So if you use Excel or something like that it was a way of tracking down all these things. But just just to know that,
Eileen Jennings-Brown 15:25
yeah, that's quite clever. Actually. It makes people feel empowered and like to have autonomy, but a big brother's actually watching.
Ryan Purvis 15:33
Yeah, that's feeling good. Because the minute you put yourself on the radar, this is when all these these things diminish on the radar. The Erie is going through a certification process, which means now you have another thing you have to do beyond your day job to fit in. I don't think it was ever well received. But for my worry, because I used to ride obviously, lab vacations do things. Yeah, there's often you will see this thing pop up. Because, you know, it's detecting all the axes in the running on in the bank. Yeah. And you get you get sort of flagged for running the axes that that wouldn't belong to an application. You'd have to put it into the energy system.
Heather Bicknell 16:14
Shadow it? Yeah.
Ryan Purvis 16:17
Yeah, Shadow it, that's a good thing. Yeah.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 16:24
Shadow it. Sometimes you have to embrace it.
Heather Bicknell 16:29
I feel like that's the trend I've seen is that more and more, it's realizing, especially with SAS that people are going to adopt, you know, these technologies and businesses moving faster. So it's not necessarily, you know, Shadow, it kind of sounds like a shady thing that people are doing to get around it. But I think a lot of the time, it's just technology, so easy for anyone to run with these days, and people want to move fast. So I
Eileen Jennings-Brown 16:58
make a good point there. Actually, that's so true. And that's what we've seen as well. And so we try and embrace this, by letting people find the products that actually will serve the purpose that they need it to. I mean, they're bad spirits there, in terms of what their role is, they know what works for them. Our role is then to try and make sure it's secure is compliant, it fits with the overall strategy, the architecture, there's no duplication of products are doing all the same thing. So the role of is changing, because being able to look after a product yourself is actually becoming easier for the individual. And the role of it is changing as a result. And it's just whether it can keep up with that.
Ryan Purvis 17:42
Now, the last phrase is the key point that keeping up because often it is so bogged down with so many projects, and you mentioned transformation projects. And then a business wants to do something they want to pivot, they need to go into new markets or something like that. And they need to have a new CRM or something like that for that space. And it can't just, you know, drop everything and put a team on that often is just a credit card transaction, they go and sign up for some trial. That's Your Eminence, no on the corporate record card, start using it for a couple months. And then somehow that gets back into it is another application to worry about. And then they find out the bad things go, as you say security problems or no, thankfully, it doesn't. And then you'll get the data in and out as well, because you want to use it in other parts of the business. Yeah.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 18:29
It just finds itself as part of the ecosystem surreptitiously until somebody in it or security stumble upon us. Yes. Oh, yes. Interesting days, and that everybody is the digital workplace today. Back to that question, I'd like to add to the list of what it means to me is complex.
Ryan Purvis 18:53
Yeah. Yeah. Well, a level of complexity delivers, but hopefully a simple experience to you to
Eileen Jennings-Brown 19:00
like, Ah, you should get trademarks or
Heather Bicknell 19:08
make a bumper sticker.
Unknown Speaker 19:09
Ryan Purvis 19:11
Yeah, I always think of that iceberg. The iceberg with all the stuff online. And that's, that's, you know, trying to deliver a VR solution, but the US only cares about when you log in in the morning and go to screen, it logs in and about the desktop, and they can work and then they don't care about all the stuff that we think is important around, you know, cloned images that are on the latest build the latest patches, and we seem down 20 gigs of applications to them, and all the data is connected using, you know, volumes and stacks and like better care about that stuff. That is good. It works.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 19:43
That's the what they're interested in. Yeah. They cared about it. They've worked on it. There you go.
Ryan Purvis 19:49
Yeah, dude. I mean, imagine because we mentioned 65 people, but what what is the user base Jakarta?
Eileen Jennings-Brown 19:57
So it's about 1200 people. Okay? Zero, we're all pretty much under one roof. So when I say that we have a bike, we are a charity, and we have a museum, all that's actually under the same roof, which does add its own complexities. And I think the interesting thing about all of this is that that's three different industries. And I see different kinds of people. As for the team, it does, not only is the technology complex, because of new employees, was different user groups, but then the cultures that come with it, because you have creative types who do exhibitions and actually meet and greet visitors into the museum. But then you go people who come from a banking background or an investment background, and they have very specific standards, and they're used to regulation and authority. And so that for the team makes it interesting over and above just the technology complexities that they have. So there seems to be five in mind, but actually, the I worked in what's called the digital technology division. And there's about 100 of us and the whole division, but my team, so we do digital as well, we do user experience got some years ago, we dabble with that appear more, but it's my team doing all of this, you know, if you want to be able to work, then it's my team, they're gonna make that happen for you. And if you want to have a great experience, whilst you're working, then it's my team that are going to facilitate that for you. And it's broken, we're going to sit for you, and we're going to change it and transform it. So one of the things, we touched on transformation, one of the things that we did over the summer, was we changed welcome from adult ec.uk domain extension to.org, which helps with the welcome strategy, which got launched in October. So we have a new strategy that's going out into society, which is about tackling emerging urgent health issues around claimer around mental health. So by changing ourselves to adult org enables Welcome to be recognized as we are, we have a global voice platform. And that was the thing that we did over the summer, we changed our domain name as well. So it's busy times,
Ryan Purvis 22:19
it's easy to do that. Just flick a switch.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 22:24
The interesting thing about the whole project, because about a year ago, we said we put a finger in there, everybody, okay, change this, we think it's going to cost this amount of money. And it's going to take us 18 months, but we didn't actually know at that point in time. And it was really just to secure the budget and to actually help everybody realized that once we are not going to stop this. And we're going to change every single application, everything that everyone walks into every instance that inter dependency, every security certificate, anything that has.ac.uk extension will change to.org. And we need to know go off and discover what that actually takes. But you're absolutely right when it came down to it. And the we and the narrative that we give the organization it was, we're going to flick the switch on the first of September, we're going to flick the switch on email on the first exam, or we literally just talked about it like it was a really simple thing. In the background. We're doing all of this investigating to make sure that we're going to break a thing, we're going to lose out on some costly things we've had somewhere as a result of being recognized as an academic institution, you know, because of some subscription that we had to think so there was a lot of research that Yeah, we did. We did a PR exercise, and we did rebrand for Wellcome Trust, welcome. So we had the great support of our communications team, who actually helped the rest of welcome understand that this was just the technology catching up with a rebrand that we did two years ago. So it can be really difficult, but the narrative and the support of our combs actually made it simpler. We're not either reached yet we still have some of the other bright background work that we've got to do changing applications and interdependencies. But as far as everyone's concerned, welcome is welcome to hoard email addresses are like the physical the bit that you see is all or something in the background. We're still doing work on that
Ryan Purvis 24:22
and I think there's a level of things you have to do before you solutions things you can always have a built in.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 24:28
I agree Yeah, we've got multiple websites and so we're going to we're going to try and tame all as well timing I think was critical and making sure that if we're going to switch this website, you switch them all at the same time and and the content within it. So if there's a reference to welcome to AC UK, somebody's got to go in and do all of that. There's actually quite a lot involved in the pipeline. But it is literally to your point it's just flicking a switch it as easy.
Ryan Purvis 24:57
Did you run in parallel with the old domain Just in case or did you have to get to turn it off to see things are working?
Eileen Jennings-Brown 25:04
And no, no, we didn't have to do that we still got the automated running actually, the the domain name is still running. Because the change itself, because of all the background changes that we're having to do, we have to keep that running and the message may not flavor to everybody that actually you want email us and EC UK won't arrive, we'll probably keep that running quite yours as well, because of maybe some legalities and contracts and stuff, what what have you running but great news, it is globally, we are seen as at org UK, adored UK, a dark house with the voice that we want the rest of the world to understand that we have
Ryan Purvis 25:47
great, you mentioned something about experience. And sort of Dean's that we have is that I mean monitoring and user experience. I mean, that's obviously different when they were in the office to now being remote.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 25:57
Wow. Well, the great thing is that we as a whole we're gonna start today we are against our highest Net Promoter scores in terms of the support and the service that staff has. We've been getting them consistently since closing in March. I think the fact that the team did such a great job of getting everyone decanted out of the building, and then providing the support and putting a couple of new processes in place and what have you, I mean, just read in that we've all cross the summer by being there and being incredibly responsive and proactive. Actually, it bought the team from the backseat, the front foot. So there's a lot of positive feelings towards the Service Desk and tours the team in terms of experience that that behind. I think in terms of monitoring it, we're actually changing some of the underlying technology that we use so that we can be more proactive in monitoring the people that are watching the experience that people have with technology by monitoring the technology itself. So one of the things I've asked the team for is a digital experience score. Now there's products out there, that will tell you a digital experience score, but I've asked them to expand on that and think about, we need to include our net promoter score, we need to include the customer feedback, we need to include, whether we're responding to SL A's or not, on top of the score, that the computer is telling us in terms of hires performing and whether applications are responsive. So ask them to go in and think about a way to combine all of that. So we can get one score for every single person. And we can we can then prioritize those that have the greatest needs. One of the things I'd also like to include into that is accessibility and to understand what is it this is for accessibility with all of our products. So we can try and drive improvements in that. Ideally, we didn't do accessibility by design, you're not that mature yet or sophisticated. But we talk in this way in order to put at the forefront of our minds. So it's in our common language. And you know, one of the questions we'll always say is, is that inclusive for everybody? And if it's not, then we have to start from it being inclusive for everyone, and then build from there. So to answer your question about one chain, the experience of everyone, fantastic job by the team, first Net Promoter Score zabar thought we have a lot of work to do in order to understand add to this experience, score level, what does that actually mean? So we're put in place. Sorry,
Heather Bicknell 28:43
I just thought I'd jump in here because a full disclosure. So I work, this is the space that I work in, I work for a digital experience monitoring vendor. But you're so right about the need to combine the qualitative with the quantitative, that's something that we built in her product, and we talk about all the time, but as well, the leading analyst firms, you know, covering this area, talk about the importance of you know, you not only need to understand the performance and how the technology is being used to create that technology experience score, but also have qualitative feedback mechanism. So the NPS score that you noted is a great example of that. But, you know, whether it's surveying, you know, there's different ways to do it, adding in chat bots, you know, there's different mechanisms, but having both the voice of the user and how they perceive their experience and the actual technology, objective experience, both of those sides need to be incorporated to ultimately really make digital experience initiatives I think successful.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 29:48
Yeah, you make a good point. And it's nice to know that I'm not the only one that thinks like that. And then we're not trying to invent something that is going to just be harder to come up with So it sounds like there's lots of companies out there where we can leverage their experiences and knowledge to help us get the answers that we're looking for. I mean, ideally, the thing that the question that I commonly asked the team is, what is it that we need to shift the dial on, and then go away and reverse engineer all the things that may call that one thing that we need to shift the dial on? And that's what we need to be looking at. So we have some great conversations and team obey that, and we are very different opinions about what the dial on but your point? Yeah, I think if there's other organizations out there who are doing this, and providing our holistic experience, and we in order to understand that, then I'm about to talk to them. But I'd love
Heather Bicknell 30:46
to I just love it, you're you're just you're explaining exactly what this I mean, I'm not trying to sell you on our tool or anything, but you're just explaining you're like it or you're sending the same message back to me, which is the problem, the exact problem that this kind of tool is meant to solve. So I mean, it's great that i think that i think more and more organizations are realizing the need to, you know, prioritize digital experience, I think a few years ago, it wasn't so top of mind, but I'm definitely seeing
Ryan Purvis 31:15
Well, that was a sort of follow up question is have you have you seen your organization as welcome as that becomes, has become a priority topic, whereas before, it was kind of the Grail, everyone had a graphic banner, but no one really wanted to prioritize any funding to do anything about it. Does that make sense?
Eileen Jennings-Brown 31:34
Yeah. And that's such a good question. I think. Yes, we It is very important to us. But we we outcomes. And we recognize that to get the outcome, you need all of the moving parts in order to get out of combat, you're looking for the there was an organization of very open minds, the appetite is there to invest, if that's what it takes to get the right answers that we're looking for? Don't think I'm really answering your question, the Ryan, I'm taking it on another path.
Ryan Purvis 32:16
Is that, you know, I've worked in two large organizations where I've been very lucky that at a very high level, there's been a focus on that. So so when I moved to the UK, I worked for for large American bank, and the CIO that will CTO I think, at the time was driving. This is one of the key agendas. We had to we had to know what the end user experience was at all times, and be able to not only know what they were doing, this was sort of another question I've asked you as well. We need to proactively repair issues with their experience. Now, what does that proactiveness mean? Does that mean carrying up disk space when they run out of disk, when they're carrying out that template files around the space? Does that mean stopping applications or using too many resources because you're in a veteran infrastructure, but whatever it may be, to another organization where it was the number one item and an end user survey to say that the performance of their desktop was affecting the ability to work and they need this fixed to serve a project that Brennan focused on that. Desert, Iseman. So yeah,
Eileen Jennings-Brown 33:20
I mean, well, we didn't have that we didn't have a focus. So we do have a focus on the experience. We look at the support being great. But we also look at the tech the technology being fit for purpose, which in itself, then becomes about the experience, because fit fit for purpose is subjective. And then we have, you know, whatever your organization will be familiar with this, it's about having VIPs, who have different expectations about the performance, they experienced the happier equipment. And so yes, in certain areas, we do have to have a higher focus and priority on making sure those kinds of individuals get the experience that they need. In particular, I'm thinking about those who work in our investments division in the bank. And that's because all of us are here to protect the abdomen, we're all here to welcome has the money so that we can then give that away any to research for science and health. So we do have to prioritize those individuals. Yeah. And we do see so there is a focus on it. Yes. But I think for us, we call it making sure it's fit for purpose. Yeah, understanding what your perceptions fit for purpose is so that we give them the right and the most appropriate experience. Yeah.
Ryan Purvis 34:46
Yeah. I've seen in organizations where it's, it's things like having the right data provided to so that you can order the right hardware for the person. So they don't just get the generic laptop that was left on the shelf. It's been rebuilt in the others get it? It's no, you're the job role they're going into needs as an average. So they get, you know, the right spec laptop, or they go straight to a Citrix environment or to a VDI environment or whatever it is, depending on what they do. So yeah, I see where you guys are going, I'm going back to your supporting of users. Is that is that manual? Or do you have some level of automation involved there as well. So sort of AI Ops, it's this very buzzword now.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 35:31
It's rather manual. And the culture wants that they actually like that human interaction. So the only digital aspects for the support really is people can walk kits themselves, so they can report issues themselves through, we used to, most organizations do, but then behind steam behind that, we have somebody that picks that up, and then makes a phone call. And then what scientists machine and much the traditional way, we don't really have self healing take yet. But with new products that we're rolling out, we will be able to introduce that. And we will use even simple tasks, like they're one of the products that is proactive and identifies, I don't know, a certain critical failure somewhere, it will just reboot the machine. And it was just to automatically not recognize that instead of the whole phone call, I've got a problem. Can you help me type thing. So it is quite, it's quite manual at the moment, I'm really looking forward to it being a bit a lot more automatic or, and even doing things like using chat bots, I can't wait for the team to benefit from having the chat bot in place. Ideally, the team will be able to focus on really interesting things as a result of some of these more mundane tasks me talk through through automation and through the technology through self healing technology. So that's, that's where we're headed with that.
Ryan Purvis 37:08
That's an exciting space. And it's one of those spaces that never ends. It's always there's always something to turn into to to really improve. I mean, rebooting machines, I mean, it's such a silly thing. But but there is definitely data that'll show you if you boot a machine every two weeks Windows machine specifically. You'll see performance improvements.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 37:26
Yeah, yeah. It's crazy. Isn't it? something so simple, and yeah, most people crack a joke about, you know, have you rebooted reboot. But it's true. But when was the last time you rebooted your machines?
Ryan Purvis 37:41
Oh, well, mine is automated. So it's every two weeks by
Unknown Speaker 37:47
yourself, I imagine.
Ryan Purvis 37:49
Yeah, yeah, it. But yeah, I mean, one of the one of my gripes at the moment is the move from Windows seven to Windows 10. And how bad experience windows 10 actually is okay, compared to Windows seven. So, I mean, my background for the last eight years has been dissolved engineering. But he's a good part of that. And looking at this data and trying to get it working, getting natural work energy center, Windows seven in comparison is actually a pretty good operating system. It actually was very, very stable. Windows 10 not so much. It's getting better but but yeah,
Eileen Jennings-Brown 38:24
I I remember when you might be too young to remember Windows ME ever essentially media between 19 2000 I actually really liked Windows ME. Yeah. Even though it was pretty garbage. And it was just windows nightmare with a new front end. Quite later, I made the move from Windows to Mac about five years ago. And for a long time, I would then run a virtual instance of windows on my mapic Yeah, in order to do my job, but I once I moved to Mac, I don't think I could go back to Windows.
Ryan Purvis 39:02
Yeah, no, I'm in that exact position right now. So So I've always use Windows because of work and then most enterprises are Windows based. But actually the conundrum I'm dealing with now is completely do I got a Linux distro? Which is what I'm testing out at the moment because I kind of want to do something not just dribbling Mac straight away and don't see myself staying on Windows.
Unknown Speaker 39:24
Heather Bicknell 39:28
I'm I guess I'm not that user but I use I use Windows 10 for work and Mac for everything else. But But yeah, I mean, I guess I wanted to go back to automation just for a second because there was a recent story I heard of one of our customers and I don't know camera all the exact details. So I'm sure I'm not gonna tell all the all the juicy details but when they are moving their users to remote they they had had some of their user base thing I want to say it was like 10 k users or something like that some portion was already remote. So they had, I think, some sort of virtual desktop infrastructure to make that possible. So they basically were going to when they had to move everybody else remote, duplicate whatever they were doing. And for for some reason, they had to, they were doing like, they spent like four weeks doing manual Disk Cleanup, you know, three times a day, their team was doing some sort of like disk clean thing. And then now that now they realize they could have set up a, you know, I just clean script that would detect this, and then you know, it would take five minutes to set up the script. And then none of that manual work wouldn't be to happen over those four weeks of pain. So I think to your point about like getting to more interesting work and not having to repeat those same low level tasks again, and again, it can get super painful depending on the scenario,
Ryan Purvis 40:57
you actually point a an interesting things I bet a very similar story. We had a 10,000, VDI status, dynamic, static videos, so so they get a cycle. So they keep this cycle shut down to bring them back up. Again,
Heather Bicknell 41:15
Ryan Purvis 41:17
Yeah, so we're gonna move on. And that this is for an outsourced Development Center is one of those sort of cheaper locations. And there was a huge, huge issue with the productivity because these guys couldn't actually function. And, and there was a problem with disk space all the time. And we deployed our damn product that we could just, you know, the alarms, just fodder all day long, brand new space, ran into space, random space. Now, the old approach from the operations guys was just to do this cleanup, which is perfect provision another machine. So you end up with these users with more than one video. And I'm not saying you know, competing, another 10,000. But there'll be another three or 4000, then provisioned. But no one ever took a step back, because I didn't probably never had the data, just take that to that overarching view and actually realize that the C draw that provision was too small for the application that would apply. So that design problem was never fixed. So the perpetual problem cost when the business was forking out for more infrastructure all the time, because they were told it was infrastructure problem. Meanwhile, it was actually there more enough capacity at the infrastructure level. And just to name the designer. And the reason why they started getting used up obviously, was because of pre provisioning. So sometimes just having the data or even the automation is important and being able to interpret it and they'll use common sense, but common sense isn't always common. To fix the core problem, which is the design, sometimes,
Eileen Jennings-Brown 42:48
I can imagine the vocal few horror stories to tell about things that we've seen in our time. I've seen it where we've had systems where it's actually using the drive space as memory, because because there's not a memory data beat into about two years to get to the bottom of the problem, because it was hidden. Yeah. Well, so yeah. You just end up choking resources. And actually, you never fixed the problem, because the problem is in the design.
Ryan Purvis 43:23
Yeah. Well, I mean, this this environment, probably the person who designed it wasn't an engineer in the nicest way. So the users are given one core, one to two gigs of RAM, to run a platform that needed a minimum of 1.4 gigs of RAM you don't you sort of going well, ha and just because it just doesn't work doesn't mean it's productive. You know what I mean? Yeah, so this happens a lot before
Eileen Jennings-Brown 43:50
a budget. I mean, let's be honest, sometimes you just don't want to spend the money. And it could be due to lack of understanding, which is probably around the skills and capability because 10 years ago, that was you tech, and I was all tech. Yeah, people are doing storage in very different ways and provisioning laptops in very different ways and spinning up virtual environments and very different ways.
Ryan Purvis 44:15
Yeah, I think you're right, I mean, the other. The other problem here is you have the operation operational Gaza, designing this, which means they believe something on the fly while they sort of fly the airplane, they're building their plane whilst they are dealing with an issue somewhere else as well. So it's probably not getting the proper diligence, a little fatigued, I would say, Yeah. Which perpetuates problems. So it happens. Yeah.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 44:42
How many times have you seen it where somebody builds something as a test environment and suddenly that is the production and you can't undo it. People are using the lines.
Ryan Purvis 44:53
I sometimes feel like I'm a bit of a grammar school teacher. So when you say prototype, this is what it means. When you say proof of concept, what it means, when you say building a minimum viable product, this is what it means. And none of those things, this should mean that it stays on forever.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 45:10
I mean, we had a thing recently, where I'm gonna say recently, it's been eight months or so. But we were trying to figure out what sums we had. We are hardware. And so we came to the conclusion that we were just going to turn stuff off and see things. And we had an instance where the Smithsonian Museum and America contacted us, because they've been using our images on one of the websites, if you didn't even look after, they'd be using the image. And it wasn't until we turned to off here, the Wi Fi died as somebody over there was actually using this thing for years.
Heather Bicknell 45:50
Yeah, legacy legacy, the pain of legacy technology, which I read Mark chillingworth article about what the work you're doing at welcome. And he was a recent guests on the show. Actually, I don't know if that's kind of how this connection got made, or if that's a happy circumstance. Okay.
Unknown Speaker 46:09
Heather Bicknell 46:11
But yeah, but I got from I gathered from that, you know, being, you know, welcome having been around for so long. And it sounds like you've been involved in a lot of the modernization work there. But I'm sure there's a lot of legacy stuff. So I love the just turning it off and waiting just up screams because sometimes you just, you know, and let me You can, you know, monitor it? To some extent, but, yeah,
Eileen Jennings-Brown 46:33
yeah. And that was, I mean, that's just one example of many. And we do have, I mean, when I came along, we had something like, you know, 100 applications, and we've had a drive to try and get that down. We need some modifications. That's one Bergersen almost. I mean, that's not
Unknown Speaker 46:51
so common, though, to have huge application portfolios like that.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 46:55
Yeah, you're absolutely right. And so sometimes you just got to turn off and see who complains and discover nobody does. So be bold, I would say if anybody's looking for advice, people just do it. What's the worst that can happen?
Ryan Purvis 47:11
So we are an exercise, we've had four and a half 1000 applications that had to be cleaned up. And one of the lines of businesses was adamant that they needed a certain version of Adobe writer, I think the price tag was something silly like and I'm guessing a anomalous was a to grant a license for for 1400 users or something like that. So the price tag there was in the millions. And we had to prove to them with data that they didn't actually need it. But they still were adamant they needed it. So with that been, we put, we put it out and go, we deployed it and stuff. And it ended up circling back when they got the bill. And no one was using it. But they were getting this book because it was you know, instead of it became the bullet again, divided by the total user base, it was actually during charging. And all of a sudden, they didn't need that Lawson's anymore. They just Adobe Reader was fine. In fact, you know, using the browser now to read the PDF is also fine.
Heather Bicknell 48:05
Yeah. Acrobat versus reader. Yeah, most people don't need
Ryan Purvis 48:11
it. But that's education. information.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 48:14
Yeah, I'm a believer that they don't like talking about people thinking that they need to use a product. Sometimes a technique I adopt, if I want to move people away from a product is I try and make access to the the one I don't want them to use, or we don't want them to use part or, and this feeds. And he wrote behavior science with people and people always take the easiest path. And so, you know, we're trying to help start a staff across welcome. think more about doing more self service, and logging on incidents instead of email phone calls. And so I'm toying with the idea and talking to the team about, let's just make it really hard to phone us. And you have to wait on that call for 20 minutes before someone answers it. Because eventually, they will just want to log a ticket themselves. But actually, the reality is that and see our net promoter score plummet before it went back up. And I don't know that we're quite ready with our self service piece to see what kind of fantastic and easy to says. But as a technique that is worth adopting is trying make a thing harder than you will stop using or stop doing. And then they'll just naturally gravitate towards the easier thing.
Ryan Purvis 49:28
So so on their line, we were those two places where I worked where we where we did this, if you were in technology, you couldn't use the voice routes to launch tickets, you had to use technology we put in place so we had chatbots in in Word in one place, we had an easy on task bar item that you could just create a ticket with. And the whole thing was to drive people to using those things not not so much because it was besides cheaper on the actual ticket. But also the more people were typing and more we were giving them options to select the more we can do analysis and bring in things like natural language processing or pattern recognition, please to try and do self service. The other thing which we did was when we thought about doing leases, if you gave those those one to 10, checks that you would do that you'd only pay a level zero resource to do to make that something that that user does themselves. So have you rebooted your machine? Have you closed all the windows, or whatever it is? All those things. And if it did those things, then they were fast tracked, to talk to somebody. And if they didn't do those things, and they would go in the normal queue, so white glove service versus the sort of same classes and service.
Unknown Speaker 50:46
option. Yeah, I
Ryan Purvis 50:48
think you can run for time. So don't get tired. You wanna do Part Two to this, or?
Eileen Jennings-Brown 50:55
Yeah, I'm happy to do so. Yeah, I've just seen the time and I realized that I've got I we're in the process of getting a new unify comm system. And so we were actually trying to tie the whole thing into our meeting room system to last me. The messaging platforms we use teams use slack is these lots of different PC systems. Something very unified. And I have the first supplier day work for clock, no problem.
Heather Bicknell 51:30
Just before we tie up, we usually cap off just giving the guests an opportunity to share you know if if you have any social media or anything where you want people to be able to find you and connect with you. If you want to share that with our with our guests if you're interested in
Eileen Jennings-Brown 51:49
watching you. So I am on Twitter, my Twitter is egb underscore sunshine, and I am on LinkedIn. So those are really the only two social media channels while I'm on Facebook, but I don't use it.
Unknown Speaker 52:07
It was pretty common.
Ryan Purvis 52:09
Go enjoy your demo.
Eileen Jennings-Brown 52:12
Thanks very much. I look forward to speaking to you both fairly soon then. Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed the conversation. It's great.
Heather Bicknell 52:21
Let's do a part two. Thanks.
Ryan Purvis 52:28
Thank you for listening today's episode. Hey, the big news producer editor. Thank you, Heather. for your hard work on this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DW w podcast. The shownotes 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
Head of Technology @ Wellcome Trust; CW’s Top 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech 2020; Mentor; Tech Advocate; Speaker; Champio
Eileen is a well known figure in the top technology echelons across the UK and Europe as a tech advocate, speaker, and champion for inclusivity and equality in STEM. Eileen has also recently been named in the CW’s Top 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech 2020
Eileen started life as an IT support analyst in 1997 and has progressed her career working for businesses across the UK and Europe in a range of different IT roles. She has worked in the IT industry for over 23 years holding senior leadership roles for the past 11 years.
She set up her first IT Consultancy business in 2014 and her second in 2017. She is currently the Head of Technology at Wellcome Trust based in London.