Monday, June 01, 2020

Work in a COVID-19 World: Back to the Office Won’t Mean Back to Normal
Transcript of a discussion on charting a course through unprecedented complexity to deliver the office of the future.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Citrix.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect.

Businesses around the globe now face uncharted waters when it comes to planning the new normal for where and how their employees return to work. The complex maze of risk factors, precautions, constantly changing pandemic impacts -- and the need for boosting employee satisfaction and productivity -- are proving a daunting challenge.

Stay with us here as we explore how companies can make better decisions and develop adept policies on where and how to work for safety, peace of mind, and economic recovery.

Here to share their recent findings and chart new ways to think about working through a pandemic are Donna Kimmel, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Citrix. Welcome, Donna.

Donna Kimmel: Hi, there, Dana. Thanks for having me.

Gardner: We’re also here with Tony Gomes, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at Citrix. Welcome, Tony.

Tony Gomes: Hey, Dana, great to be with you.

Gardner: Donna, these are some of the most difficult decisions businesses and workers have faced when it comes to physically going to work. Workers are not only concerned for themselves; they are worried about the impacts on their families and communities. Businesses, of course, are facing unprecedented change in how they manage their people and processes.

So even though there are few precedents -- and we’re really only in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic -- how has Citrix begun to develop guidelines for you and your customers for an acceptable return to work.

Move forward with values

Kimmel: It really starts with a foundation that’s incredibly important to Tony, me, and our leadership team. It starts with our values and culture. Who are we? How do we operate? What’s important to us? Because that enables us to frame the responses to everything we do. As you indicated, this is a daunting task -- and it’s a humbling task.

When we focus on our culture and our values -- putting our people, their health, and their safety first -- that enables us to focus on business continuity and ultimately our customers and communities. Without that focus on values we wouldn’t be able to make as easily the decisions we’re making. We also realized as a part of this that there are no easy answers and no one-size-fits-all solutions.

We recognized that creating a framework that we utilize around the world has to be adopted based on the various sites, locations, and business needs across our organization. And, as we’ve acknowledged in the past, we also realized that this really means, it “takes a village.”

The number of employees partnering with us across multiple disciplines in the organization is tremendous. We have partnership not only from legal and human resources (HR), but also our finance organization, IT, real estate and facilities, our global risk team, procurement, communications, our travel organization, and all of our functional leaders and site leaders. It’s a tremendous effort to put this together, to create what we believe is the right thing to do -- in terms of managing the health and safety of our employees -- as we bring them back into the workforce.

Gomes: Yes, we’ve tapped the entire Citrix global organization for talent. And we have found two things. One, when it comes to going through this, be open to innovation and answers from all parts of the organization.

For example, our sites in the Asia-Pacific region that have been dealing the longest with COVID-19 and are in the process of returning to the office, they have been innovative. They are teaching the rest of our site leaders the best ways to go about reopening their sites. So even as the corporate leaders are here in the US, we’re learning an awful lot from our colleagues on the ground in the Asia-Pacific region.
Ready They're Not--Survey Reveals
Employees Reluctant to Return to Office
Two, be aware that this process is going to call upon you to have skills on your team that you may not have had on your team before. So that means experts on business continuity, for example, but also medical experts.

One of the decisions Donna and I made early on is that we needed to bring medical expertise to our team. Donna, through her relationships and her team, along with a top-notch benefits consultant, found great medical resources and expertise for us to rely on. That’s an example of calling upon new talents, and it’s causing us to look for innovation in every corner of the organization.

Gardner: Citrix has conducted some recent studies that help us understand where the employees are coming from. Tell us about the state of their thinking right now.

Get comfortable to get to work

Kimmel: Citrix did a study with one poll of about 2,000 US workers. We found that at least 67 percent of the respondents did not feel comfortable returning to the office for at least one month.

And in examining the sentiment of what it would take for them to feel comfortable coming back into the office, some 51 percent indicated that there has to be testing and screening. Another 46 percent prefer to wait until a [novel coronavirus] vaccine is ready. And 82 percent were looking for some kind of contact-tracing to make sure that we could at least connect with other individuals if there was an issue.

This was an external study, but as we talk with our own employees -- our own surveys of roundtable discussions, group dialogues, and feedback we get from our managers -- we are finding similar results. Many of our employees, though they would like to be able to come back to the office, recognize that coming back immediately, post-COVID-19, is not going to be to the same office that they left. We recognize that we need to make sure we’re creating a safe environment, one conducive for them to be productive in the office.

Gardner: Tony, what jumped out to you as interesting and telling in these recent findings?

Gomes: Donna hit on it, which is how aligned the results of this external study are coming in with our own experiences; what we’re listening for and hearing from our global workforce and what our own internal surveys are telling us.

We’ve been taking that feedback and building that into the way we’re approaching the reopening decision-making process.

For example, we know that employees are concerned about whether the cities, states, and countries they live and work in have adequate testing. Is there adequate contact-tracing? Are the medical facilities capable of supporting COVID-19 patients in a non-crisis mode?

So we built all of that into our decision-making. Every time we analyze whether an office or campus is ready for a phased reopening approach, we first look for those factors, along with governmental lifting and governmental lockdown orders.

We’re trying to be clear, communicating with employees that, “Hey, we are looking at all of this.” In that way it becomes a feedback loop. We hear the concern. We build the concern into our processes. We communicate back to the employees that our decisions are being made on the basis of what they express to us and are concerned about.

But it’s really amazing to see the alignment of the external study and what we’re hearing internally.

Kimmel: What Tony is acknowledging is right-on about understanding the concerns of our employees. They want to have a sense of confidence that the setup of the office will be appropriate for them.

We’re also trying to provide choice to our employees. Even as we’ll be looking at the critical roles that need to come back, we want to make sure that employees have the opportunity to self-select in terms of understanding what it will be like to work in the office in that environment.
Back to Office Won't Mean Back to Normal.
Poll Shows Workers Demand Strict Precautions
We also know that employees have specific concerns: Maybe they have their own health concerns, or family members that live with them have health issues where they would be at greater risk, or they’re not back to normal societal functioning so at-home caregiving is still an issue. Parents just came through homeschooling, but they still may need to provide summer day camps or provide other support for elder care.

We also recognize that some people are just nervous and don’t feel comfortable. So we’re trying to put our employees’ minds at ease by providing them a good look at what it will be like -- and feel like -- to come back to the office. They should know the safety and security that we’re putting into place on their behalf, but still also providing them with a feeling of comfort to make a decision on what they think is right based on their own circumstances.

Gardner: It strikes me that organizations, while planning, need to also stay agile, to be flexible, and perhaps recognize that being able to react is more important than coming up with the final answer quickly. Is that your understanding as well, that organizations need to come up with new ways of being able to adapt rapidly and do whatever the changing circumstances require?

Cross-train your functionality 

Gomes: Absolutely, Dana. What Donna and I have tried to do is build a strong cross-functional team that has a lot of capacity across all of the functional areas. Then we try to create decision-making frameworks from the top down.

We then set some basic planning assumptions, or answer some of the big questions, especially in terms of the level of care that we’re going to provide to each employee across the globe. Those include areas such as social distancing, personal protective equipment (PPE), things like that, that we’re going to make sure that every employee has across the globe.

But then it’s a different decision based on how that gets implemented at each and every site, when, where, and who leads. Who has a bigger or smaller team, and how do they influence or control the process? How much support from corporate headquarters versus local initiatives are taken?

Those are very different from site-to-site, along with the conditions they are responding to. The public health conditions are dynamic and different in every location -- and they are constantly changing. And that’s where you need to give your teams the ability to respond and foster that active-response capacity.

Kimmel: We’ve worked really hard to make sure that we’re making faster, timely decisions, but we also recognize that we may not have all the information. We’ve done a lot of digging, a lot of research, and have great information. We’re very transparent with our employees in terms of where we are, what information we have at the time that we’re making the decisions, and we recognize that because it’s moving so quickly we may have to adapt those decisions.

As Tony indicated, that can be based on a site, a region, a country, or medical circumstances and new medical information. So, again, it goes back to our ability to live our values and what’s important to us. That includes transparency of decisions, of bringing employees along on the journey so that they understand how and why we’ve arrived at those decisions. And then when we need to shift them, they will understand why we’ve made a shift.

One of the positive byproducts or outcomes of this situation is being able to pivot to make good and fast decisions and being transparent about where and why we need to make them so that we can continue to pivot if necessary.
One of the positive byproducts of the situation is being able to pivot to make good and fast decisions and being transparent about where and why we need to make them so that we can continue to pivot if necessary.

Gardner: Of course, some of those big decisions initially meant having more people than ever working remotely and from their homes. A lot of business executives weren’t always on board with that. Now that we’ve gone through it, what have we learned?

Are people able to get their work done? They seem to be cautious about wanting to come back without the proper precautions in place. But even if we continue to work remotely, the work seems to be getting done.

Donna, what’s your impression about letting people continue to work at home? Has that been okay at Citrix?

Work from home, the office, or hybrid 

Kimmel: Tony and I and the rest of the leadership team certainly recognized as we were all thrust into this that we would be 100 percent work-from-home (WFH). We all realized and learned very quickly that there were very few, if any, roles that were so critical that they had to be done in the office.

Because remote work is part of the Citrix brand, we were able to enable employees to work securely and access their information from anywhere, anytime. We recognized, all of a sudden, that we were capable of doing that in more areas than we had recognized.
Help All Employees Feel Safe,
It Matters More Than Ever
We’re now able to say, “Okay, what might be the new normal beyond this?” We recognize that there will be re-integration back into our worksites done in the current COVID-19 environment.

But beyond COVID, post-vaccines, as we think about our business continuity going forward, I do think that we will be moving into, very purposefully, a more hybrid work arrangement. That means new, innovative, in-office opportunities because we still want people to be working face-to-face and have those in-person sort of collisions, as we call them. Those you can’t do at all or they are harder to do on videoconferencing.

But there can be a new balance between in-office and remote work -- and fine-tuning our own practices – that will enable us to be as effective as possible in both environments.

So, no doubt, we have already started to undertake that as a post-COVID approach. We are asking what it will look like for us, and then how do we then make sure from a philosophical and a strategy perspective that the right practices are put into place to enable it.

This has been a big, forced experiment. We looked at it and said, “Wow, we did it. We’ve done really well. We’ve been very fortunate.”

Home is where the productivity is

Gomes: Donna’s team has designed some great surveys with great participation across the global workforce. It’s revealed that a very high percentage of our employees feel as productive -- if not even more productive -- working from home rather than working from the office.

And the thing is, when you peel back the onion and you look at specific teams and specific locations, and what they can accomplish through this, it’s just really amazing.

For example, Donna and I, earlier this morning, were on a videoconference with our site leadership team in Bangalore, India where we have our second-largest office, which has quite a few functions. That campus represents all of the Citrix functions, spread across a number of buildings. We were looking at detailed information about the productivity of our product engineering teams over their last agile planning interval, their continuous integration interval, and how they are planning for their next interval.

We looked at information coming from our order processing team in Bangalore and also from our support team. And what we saw is increased productivity across those teams. We’re looking at not just anecdotal information, but objective data showing that more co-checks occurred, fewer bugs, and more on-time delivery of new functionality occurred within the interval that we had just completed.

We are just tremendously proud of what our teams are accomplishing during this time of global, personal, family, and societal stress. But there is something more here. Donna has put her finger on it, which is there is a way to drive increased productivity by creating these environments where more people can work from home.
Ready They're Not--Survey Reveals
Employees Reluctant to Return to Office
There are challenges, and Donna’s team is especially focused on the challenges of remote management. How do you replace the casual interactions that can lead to innovation and creative thinking? How do you deal with team members or teams that rely on more in-person interaction for their team dynamic?

So there are challenges we need to address. But we have also uncovered something I think here that’s pretty powerful -- and we are seeing it, not just anecdotally, but through actual data.

Gardner: As we query more companies about their productivity over the past few months, we will probably see more instances where working at home has actually been a benefit.

I know from the employee perspective that many people feel that they save money and time by not commuting. They are not paying for transportation. They have more of a work balance with their lives. They have more control, in a sense, over their lives.

The technology has been there for some time, Donna, to allow this. It was really a cultural hurdle we had to overcome that the pandemic has endowed us with. Not that a pandemic is a good thing, but the results allow us to test models that now show how technology and processes can allow for higher productivity when working from home.
Will what you are experiencing at Citrix follow through to other companies?

Kimmel: Oh, yes, definitely. I have been on a number of calls with my peers at other companies. Everyone is talking about what’s next and how they design this into their organizations.

We recognize all of the benefits, Dana, that you just indicated. We recognize that those benefits are things that we want to be able to capture. New employees coming into the workforce, the Gen Zs and the Millennials, are looking for flexibility to be able to balance that work and life and integrate it in a more productive way for themselves. Part of that is a bit of a push in terms of what we are hearing from employees.

It also enables us to tap into new talent pools. Folks that may not live near a particular office but have tremendous skills that they can offer. There are those who may have varying disabilities who may not be able to commute or don’t live near offices. There are a number of ways for us to tap into more workers that have the skills that we are looking for who don’t actually live in near offices. So again, all of that I think is quite helpful to us.

Legal lessons for employers

Gardner: Tony, what are some of the legal implications if we have a voluntary return to work? What does that mean for companies? Are there issues about not being able to force people, or not being able to fire them, or flexibly manage them?

Gomes: One of things that we have seen, Dana, during this pandemic, is significant changes in employee relations laws around the globe. This is not just in the United States, but everywhere. Governments are trying to both protect employees, preserve jobs, and provide guidance to employers to clarify how existing legal requirements apply in this pandemic.

For example, here in the United States both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have put out guidelines that address things such as PPE. What criteria do employers need to meet when they are providing PPE to employees? How do you work within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements when offering employees the ability to come back to the office? How do you permit them to opt out without calling them out, without highlighting that they may have an underlying medical condition that you as an employer are obligated to maintain as confidential and allow the employee to keep confidential?

Back to Office Won't Mean Back to Normal.
Poll Shows Workers Demand Strict Precautions
Another big area that impacts the employer-employee relationship, that is changing in this environment, is privacy laws – especially laws and regulatory requirements that impact the way that employers request, manage, and store personal health information about employees.

Just recently a new bill was introduced in the US Congress to try and address these issues and provide employees greater protection, and provide employers more certainty, especially in areas such as the digital processing and storage of personal health information through things such as contact-tracing apps.

Gardner: Donna, we have only been at this for a few months, adjusting to this new world, this new normal. What have we learned about what works and what doesn’t work?

Is there anything that jumps out to you that says this is a definite thing you want to do – or something you should probably avoid -- when it comes to managing the work-balance new normal?

Place trust in the new normal 

Kimmel: One, we learned that this can be done. That shifts the mental models that some had come into, that for any employment engagement you would prefer to have face-to-face-only interactions. And so this taught us something.

It also helped us build trust in each other, and trust in leadership, because we continue to make decisions based on our values. We have been very transparent with employees, with phenomenal amounts of communication we put out there -- two-way, with high empathy, and building better relationships. That also means better collaboration and relationship-building, not only between team members, but between managers and employees. It has been a really strong outcome.
It helped us build trust in each other and in leadership because we continue to make decisions based on our values. We have been very transparent with employees, with high empathy, and building better relationships. That also means better collaboration. It has been a really strong outcome.

And again, that’s part of the empathy, the opportunity for empathy, as you learn more about each other’s families. You are meeting them as they run by on the video. You are hearing about the struggles that people face. And so managers, employees, and team members are working with each other to help mitigate those as much as possible.

Those are some big aspects of what we have learned. And, as I mentioned earlier, we have benefitted from our ability to make decisions faster, acknowledging various risks, and using the detailed information such as what Tony’s team brings to the table to help us make good decisions at any given time. Those are some of the benefits and positive outcomes we have seen.

The challenges are when we go into the post-COVID-19 phase, we recognize that children may be back to school. Caregiving resources may be in place, so we may not be dealing with as many of those challenges. But we recognize there is sometimes still isolation and loneliness that can arise from working remotely.

People are human. We are creatures who want to be near each other and with each other. So we still need to find that balance to make sure everyone feels like they are included, involved, and contributing to the success of the organization. We must increase and improve our managers’ ability to lead productively in this environment. I think that is also really important.

And we must look for ways to drive collaboration, not only when people come back into the office -- because we know how to do that well -- but how do we have the right technology tools to enable us to collaborate well while we are away – from white-boarding techniques and things that enable us to collaborate even more from a WFH and remote perspective.

So it will be about the fine-tuning of enabling success, stronger success, more impactful success in that environment.

Gardner: Tony, what do you see as things that are working and maybe some things that are not that people should be thinking about?

Level-up by listening to people 

Gomes: One of the things that’s really working is a high level of productivity that we are seeing -- unexpectedly high – even though about 98 percent of our company has been working from home for eight weeks-plus. So that’s one.

The other thing that is really working is our approach to investing in our employees and listening to our employees. I mean this very tangibly, whether it’s the stipend that we provide our employees to go out and buy the equipment that they need to more comfortably and more productively work from home or to support charities and organizations or small businesses. This is truly tangibly investing in employees, truly tangibly, in integrated, multichannel ways, listening to the feedback from employees and processing that, putting that into your processes and feeding it back to them. That’s really worked.

And again, the proof is in the high-level productivity and the very high level of satisfaction despite the very challenging environment. Donna mentioned some of them. One of the bigger challenges that we see right now is obviously the challenge of employees who have families, who have childcare, and other family care responsibilities in the middle of this pandemic while trying to work and many times being even more productive than they ever have been for us when working in the office.

So again, it’s nice to say we invest in our employees and we expect our employees to reciprocate, but we are actually seeing this in action. We have made very tangible investments and we see it coming back to us.

Mind and body together win the race 

On the other hand, we have to be really careful about a couple of things. One, this is a long-term game, an ultramarathon, where we are only in the first quarter, if you will. It feels like we should be down at the two-minute warning, but we are really in the first quarter of this game. We have a long way to go before we get to viable therapeutics and viable, widely available effective vaccines that will allow us to truly come back to the work and social life we had before this crisis. So we have got to be prepared mentally to run this ultramarathon, and we have to help and coach our teams to have that mindset.
Help All Employees Feel Safe,
It Matters More Than Ever
As Donna alluded to, this is also going to be a challenge in mental health. This is going to be very difficult because of its length, severity, and multifaceted impact -- not just on employees but across society. So being supportive and empathetic to the mental health challenges many of us are going to face is going to be very important.

View this as a long-term challenge and pay attention to the mental health of your employees and teams as much as you are paying attention to their physical health.

Kimmel: It’s been incredibly important for us to focus on mental health for our employees. We have tried to pull together as many resources as possible, not only for our employees but for our managers who tend to be in the squeeze point, because they themselves may be experiencing some of these same issues and pressures.

And then they also carry that caring sense of responsibility for their employees, which adds to the pressure. So, for us, paying attention to that and making sure we have the right resources is really important to our strategy. I can’t agree more, this is absolutely a marathon, not a sprint.

Gardner: I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. You have been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect discussion on how businesses around the globe are planning for the new normal for where and how their employees work. And we have learned how companies can make better decisions and develop adept policies on where and how to work safely with peace of mind and with economic recovery throughout this pandemic.

So a big thank you to our guests, Donna Kimmel, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Citrix. Thank you so much, Donna.

Kimmel: Thank you, Dana. It’s great to be here.

Gardner: And we have also been with Tony Gomes, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at Citrix. Thank you, Tony.

Gomes: Thank you, Dana. I really enjoyed the conversation.

Gardner: And a big thank you as well to our audience for joining this BriefingsDirect business continuity innovation discussion. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host throughout this series of Citrix-sponsored BriefingsDirect discussions.

Thanks again for listening. Please pass this along to your business community and do come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Citrix.

Transcript of a discussion on making better decisions and creating adept policies that usher in an acceptable future of work and economic recovery. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2020. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, May 07, 2020

HPE Pointnext’s Nine-Step Plan for Enterprises to Attain the New Business Normal

A discussion on a new plan designed to navigate the immediate pandemic crisis and -- in parallel -- plan for your organization’s IT and business future.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the BriefingsDirect Voice of Innovation podcast series.

I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator for this timely discussion on nine steps IT for organizations to take amid the COVID-19 pandemic to attain a new business normal.

As enterprises develop an IT response to the novel coronavirus crisis, they face both immediate and longer-term crisis management challenges. There are many benefits to simultaneously steadying the business amid unprecedented disruption -- and readying the company to succeed in a changed world.

Stay with us now as we examine a Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Pointnext Services nine-step plan designed to navigate the immediate crisis and -- in parallel -- plan for your organization’s future.

Here to share the Pointnext plan and its positive impact on your business’ ongoing health are Rohit Dixit, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Worldwide Advisory and Professional Services at HPE Pointnext Services. Welcome, Rohit.

Rohit Dixit: Thank you, Dana. It’s good to be here.

Gardner: We are also here with Craig Partridge, Senior Director, Worldwide Advisory and Transformation Practice, HPE Pointnext Services. Welcome, Craig.

Craig Partridge: Hi, Dana. It’s nice to be on the call.

Gardner: We’re delighted to have you both with us.

Rohit, as you were crafting your nine-step model, what was the inspiration? How did this come about?

Pandemic’s particular problem

Dixit: We had been working, obviously, on engaging with our customers as the new situation was evolving, with conversations about how they should react. We saw a lot of different customers and clients engaging in very different ways. Some showed some best practices, but not others.

We heard these conversations and observed how people were reacting. We compared that to our experiences managing large IT organizations and with working with many customers in the past. We then put all of those learnings together and collated them into this nine-step model.

It comes a bit out of our past experience, but with a lot of input and conversations with customers now, and then structuring all of that into a set of best practices.

Gardner: Of course, at Pointnext Services you are used to managing risk, thinking a lot about security incident management, for example. How is reacting to the pandemic different? Is this a different type of risk?

Dixit: Oh, it’s a very different kind of risk, for sure, Dana. It’s hitting businesses from so many different directions. Usually the risk is either a cyber threat, for example, or a discontinuity, or some kind of disruption you are dealing with. This one is coming at us from many, many different directions at the same time.

Then, on top of that, customers are seeing cybersecurity issues pop up. Cyber-attacks have actually increased. So yeah, it’s affecting everybody -- from end-users all the way to the core of the business and to the supply chain. It’s definitely multi-dimensional.

Gardner: You are in a unique position, working with so many different clients. You can observe what’s working and what’s not working and then apply that back rather quickly. How is that going? Are you able to turn around rapidly from what you are learning in the field and apply that to these steps?

Dixit: Dana, by using the nine steps as a guide, we have focused immediately to what we call the triage step. We can understand what is the most important thing that we should be doing right now for the safety of employees, and how we can contribute that back to the community and keep the most essential business operations running.
Nine Steps to the New Normal
For IT to Follow in Two Phases
That’s been the primary area of focus. But now as that triage step stabilizes a little bit, what we are seeing is the customers trying to think, if not long-term, at least medium-term. What does this lead to? What are the next steps? Those are the two conversations we are having with our customers -- and within ourselves as well, because obviously we are as impacted as everybody else is. Working through that in a step-by-step manner is the basis of the nine steps for the new normal model.

Gardner: Craig, I imagine that as these enterprises and IT departments are grappling with the momentary crisis, they might tend to lose that long-term view. How do you help them look at both the big picture in the long term as well as focus on today’s issues?

Partridge: I want to pick up on the something that Rohit alluded to. We have never seen this kind of disruption before. And you asked why this is different. Although a lot of the responses learned by HPE from helping customers manage things like their security posture and cyber threats, you have to understand that for most customers that’s an issue for their organization alone. It’s about their ability to maintain a security posture, what’s vulnerable in that conversation, and the risks they are mitigating for the impact that is directly associated with their organization.
We have never seen the global economy being put on pause. It's not just the effect on being able to transact, protect revenue and core services, and continue to be viable. It's all of their ecosystems and supply chain being put on hold.

What we have never seen before is the global economy being put on pause. So it’s not just the effect on how an individual organization continues to be able to transact and protect revenue, protect core services, and continue to be able to be viable. It’s all of their ecosystem, it’s their entire supply chain, and it’s the global economy that’s being put on hold here.

When Rohit talks to these different dimensions, this is absolutely different. So we might have learned methods, have pragmatic ways to get through the forest fire now, and have ways to think about the future. But this is on a completely different scale. That’s the challenge customers are having right now and that’s why we are trying to help them out.

Gardner: Rohit, you have taken your nine steps and you have put them into two buckets, a two-mode approach. Why was that required and the right way to go?

One step at a time, now to the future 

Dixit: The model consists of the nine steps and it has two modes. The first one being immediate crisis management and then the second one is bridging to the new normal.

In the first step, the immediate crisis management, you do the triage that we were talking about. You adjust your operations to the most critical, life-sustaining kinds of activities. When you are in that mode, you stabilize and then finally you sustain on an ongoing basis.

And then the second mode is the bridge to the new normal, and here we are adjusting in parallel to what you are observing in the world around you. But you also start to align to a point of view with the business. Within IT, it means using that observation and that alignment to design a new point of view about the future, about the business, and where it’s going. You ask, how should IT be supporting the production of the new businesses?

Next comes a transformation to that new end-state and then optimizing that end-state. Honestly, in many ways, that means preparing for whatever the next shock is going to be because at some point there will be another disruption on the horizon.

So that’s how we divided up the model. The two modes are critical for a couple of reasons. First, you can’t take a long-term approach while a crisis unfolds. You need to keep your employees safe, keep the most critical functions going, and that’s priority number one.

The governance you put around the crisis management processes, and the teams you put there, have to be very different. They are focused on the here and the now.

In parallel, though, you can’t live in crisis-mode forever. You have to start thinking about getting to the new normal. If you wait for the crisis to completely pass before you do that, you will miss the learnings that come out of all of this, and the speed and expediency you need to get to the new normal -- and to adapt to a world that has changed.

That’s why we talk about the two-mode approach, which deals with the here and the now -- but at the same time prepares you for the mid- to long term as well.

Gardner: Craig, when you are in the heat of firefighting you can lose track of governance, management, planning architecture, and the methodologies. How are your clients dealing with keeping this managed even though you are in an intense moment?  How does that relate to what we refer to as minimum viable operations? How do we keep at minimum-viable and govern at the same time?

Security and speed needed 

Partridge: That’s a really key point, isn’t it? We are trained for a technology-driven operating model, to be very secure, safe, and predictable. And we manage change very carefully -- even when we are doing things at an extreme pace, we are doing it in a very predictable way.

What this nine steps model introduces is that when you start running to the fire of immediate crisis management, you want to go in and roll with the governance model because you need extreme speed in your response. So you need small teams that can act autonomously – with a light governance model -- to go to those particular fires and make very quick decisions.

And so, you are going to make some wrong decisions -- and that’s okay because speed trumps perfection in this mode. But it doesn’t take away from that second team coming onstream and looking at the longer term. That’s the more traditional cadence of what we do as technologists and strategists. It’s just that now, looking forward, it’s a future landscape that is a radically different one.

And so ideas that might have been on hold or may not have been core to the value proposition before suddenly spring up as ideas that you can start to imagine your future being based around.

Those things are key in the model, the idea of two modes and two speeds. Don’t think about getting it right, it’s more about protecting critical systems and being able to continue to transact. But in the future, start looking at the opportunities that may not have been available to you in the past.

Gardner: How about being able to maintain a culture of innovation and creativity? We have seen in past crises some of the great inventions of technology and science. People when placed in a moment of need actually dig down deep in their minds and come up with some very creative and new thinking. How do we foster that level of innovation while also maintaining governance and the capability to react quickly?

Creativity on the rise 

Partridge: I couldn’t agree more. As an industry and as individuals, we are typically very creative. Certainly technologists are very creative people in the application of technologies, of different use cases, and business outcomes. That creativity doesn’t go away. I love the phrase, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” the idea that in a crisis those are the moments when you are most innovative, you are most creative, and people are coming to the fore.

For many of our customers, the ideas on how to respond -- not just tactically, but strategically to these big disruptive moments -- might already be on the table. People are already in the organization with the notion of how to create value in the new normal.
Nine Steps to the New Normal
For IT to Follow in Two Phases
These moments bring those people to the surface, don’t they? They make champions out of innovators. Maybe they didn’t have the right moment in time or the right space to be that creative in the past.

Or maybe it’s a permission thing for many customers. They just didn’t have the permission. What’s key to these big, disruptive events is to create an environment where innovation is fostered, where those people that may have had ideas in the past but said, “Well, that will never work; it’s not core to the business model, it’s not core to driving innovation and productivity,” to create the environment where there are no sacred cows. Give them the space to come to the fore with those ideas. Create those kinds of new governance models.

Dixit: I would actually say that this is a great opportunity, right? Discontinuities in how we work create great cracks through which big innovations can be driven.

The phrase that I like to use is, “Never waste a crisis,” because a crisis creates discontinuities and opportunities. It’s a mindset thing. If we go through this crisis playing defense – and just trying to maintain what we already have, tweak it a little bit – that will be very unfortunate.
This goes back to Craig’s point about a sacred cow. We had a conversation with a customer who was talking about their hybrid IT mix, what apps and what workloads should run where. They had reached an uneasy alliance between risk and innovation. Their mix settled at a certain point of public, private, on-premises, and consumption-based sources.

But now they are finding that, because the environment has changed so much, they can revisit that mix from scratch. They have learned new things, and they want to bring more things on-premises. Or, they have learned something new and they decided to place some data in the cloud or use new Internet of things (IoT) and new artificial intelligence (AI) models.

The point is we shouldn’t approach this in just a defensive mode. We should approach it in an innovative mode, in a great-opportunity-being-presented-to-us-mode, because that’s exactly what it is.

Nine steps, two modes, one plan 

Gardner: And getting back to how this came about, the nine steps plan, Rohit, were you thinking of a specific industry or segment? Were you thinking public sector, private sector? Do these nine steps apply equally to everyone?

Dixit: That’s a good question, Dana. When we drew up the nine steps model, we drew from multiple industries. I think the model is applicable across all industries and across all segments -- large enterprise and small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) as well.

The way it gets applied might be slightly different because for an enterprise their focus is more on the transaction, the monetary, and keeping revenue streams going in addition to, of course, the safety of their employees and communities.
When we drew up the nine steps model, we drew from multiple industries. The model is applicable across all industries and segments -- large enterprises and SMBs.

But the public sector, they approach it very differently. They have national priorities, and citizen welfare is much more important. By the way, availability of cash, for example, might be different based on an SMB versus enterprise versus public sector.

But the applicability is across all, it’s just the way you apply the steps and how you bridge to the new normal. For example, what you would prioritize in the triage mode might be different for an industry or segment, but the applicability is very broad.

Partridge: I completely agree about the universal applicability of the nine steps model. For many industries, cash is going to be a big constraint right now. Just surviving through the next few months -- to continue to transact and exchange value -- is going to be the hard yards.

There are some industries where, at the moment, they are probably going to get some significant investment. Think about areas like the public sector -- education, healthcare, and areas where critical national infrastructure is being stressed, like the telephones providing communication services because everybody is relying on that much more.

There are some industries where not just the nine steps model is universally applicable. Some industries are absolutely going to have the capability to invest because suddenly what they do is priority number one, not just the same citizen, welfare and health services, but to allow us to communicate and collaborate across the great distances we now work with.

So, I think it’s universally applicable and I think there is a story in each of the sectors which is probably a little bit different than others that we should consider.

Stay on track, prioritize safety 

Gardner: Craig, you mentioned earlier that mistakes will be made and that it’s okay. It’s part of the process when you are dealing in a crisis management environment. But are there key priorities that should influence and drive the decision-making -- what keeps people on track?

Partridge: That’s a really good question, Dana. How do we prioritize some of the triage and adjust steps during the early phases of that crisis management phase of the model? A number of things have emerged that are universally applicable in those moments. And it starts, of course, with the safety of your people. And by your people, not just your employees and, of course, your customers, but also the people you interact with. In the government sector, it’s the citizens that you look after, and their welfare.

From inside of HPE, everything has been geared around the safety and welfare of the people and how we must protect that. That has to be number one in how you prioritize.

The second area you talked about before, the minimum viable operating model. So it’s about aligning the decisions you make in order to sustain the capability to continue to be productive in whichever way you can.

You’re focusing on things that create immediate revenue or immediate revenue-generating operations, anything that goes into continuing to get cash into the organization. Continuing to drive revenue is going to be really key. Keep that high on the priority list.

A third area would be around contractual commitments. Despite the global pandemic pausing movement in many economies around the world, there are still contractual commitments in play. So you want to make sure that your minimum viable operating model allows you to make good on the commitments you have with your customers.

Also, in the triage stage, think about your organization’s security posture. That’s clearly going to feature heavily in how you make priority decisions a key. You have a distributed workforce now. You have a completely different remote connectivity model and that’s going to open you up to all sorts of vulnerabilities that you need to consider.
Nine Steps to the New Normal
For IT to Follow in Two Phases
Anything around critical customer support is key. So anything that enables you to continue to support your customers in a way that you would like to be supported yourself. Reach out to that customer, make sure they are well, safe, and are coping. What can you do to step in to help them through that process? I think that’s the key.

I will just conclude on prioritization with preserving the core transactional services that enable organizations to breathe; what we might describe as the oxygen apps, such as the enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems of the world, the finance systems, and the things that allow cash to flow in and out of the transactions and orders that need to be fulfilled. Those kinds of core systems need protection in these moments. So that would be my list of priorities.

Gardner: Rohit, critical customer support services is near the top of requirements for many. I know from my personal experience that it’s frustrating when I go to a supplier and find that they are no longer taking phone calls or that there is a long waiting line. How are you helping your organizations factor in customer support? And I imagine, you have to do it yourself, for your own organization, at HPE Pointnext Services.

Communicate clearly, remotely 

Dixit: Yes, absolutely. The first one is the one that you alluded to, the communications channels. How do we make sure that people can communicate and collaborate even though they are remote? How can we help in those kinds of things? Remote desktops. This has, for example, became extremely critical, as well as things like shared secure storage, which is critical so that people can exchange information and share data. And then wrapping around all of that for safe remote connectivity, collaboration, and storage, is a security angle to make sure that you do all of that in a protected, secure manner.

Those are the kinds of things we are very much focused on -- not just for ourselves, but also for our customers. We’re finding different levels of maturity in terms of their current adoption of any of these services across different industries and segments. So we are intersecting the customers at different points of their maturity and then moving them up that maturity stack for fully remote communication, collaboration, and then becoming much more secure in that.

Gardner: Rohit, how should teams organize themselves around these nine steps? We’ve talked about process and technology, but there is also the people side of the equation. What are you advising around team organization in order to follow these nine steps and preparing for the new normal?

Dixit: This is for me one of the most fascinating aspects of the model. In our triage step we borrowed a lot of our thinking from the way hospitals do triage. And we learned in that triage model that quick, immediate reaction means you need small teams that can work with autonomous decision-making. And you don’t want to overlay on that initially a restrictive governance model. The quick reaction through the “fog of war,” or whatever you want to call it, is extremely critical in that stage.
We borrowed a lot of our thinking from the way hospitals do triage. We learned that quick, immediate reaction means you need small teams that can work with autonomous decision-making.

By setting up small, autonomous teams that function independently, that make decisions independently, and you keep a light-touch governance model, then that feeds in broader directions, shares information, and captures learnings so that you remain very flexible.

Now, the fascinating aspect of this is that -- as you bridge to the new normal, as you start to think about the mid- to the long-term -- the mode of operation becomes very different. You need somebody to collect all the information. You need somebody who is able to coordinate across the business, across IT, and the different functions, partners, and the customers. Then you can create a point of view about what the future holds.

What do we think the future mode of operations is going to look like from a business perspective? Translate that into IT needs and create a transformation plan, start to execute on that plan, which is not the skirmished approach that you’re taking in the immediate crisis management. You’re taking a much more evolved transformation approach that you’re going toward.

And what we find is, these modes of operations are very different. In fact, we advocate that you put two different teams on them. You can’t have the crisis management also involved in long-term planning and vice versa. It’s too much to handle and it’s very conflicting in the way it’s approached. So we suggest that you have two different approaches, two different governance models, two different teams that at some point in the future will come together.

Gardner: Craig, while you’re putting these small teams to work, are you able to see leadership qualities in people that maybe you didn’t have an opportunity to see before? Is this an opportunity for individuals to step up -- and for managers to start looking for the type of leadership qualities -- in this cauldron of crisis that will be of great value later?

Tech leaders emerge 

Partridge: I think that’s a fantastic observation because never more do you see leadership qualities on display than when people are in such pressurized systems. These are the moments of decision-making that need to be made rapidly, and where they have to have the confidence to acknowledge that sometimes those decisions may be wrong. The kind of leadership qualities that you’re going to see exhibited through this nine-step model are exactly the kind of leadership qualities that are going to give you that short list to potentially stand out for the next leaders of the organization.

With any of these moments of crisis management and long-term planning, those that step forward and take on that burden and start to lead the organization through the thinking, process, strategy, and the vision are going to be that pool of the next talent. So nurture them through this process because they could lead you well into the future.

Gardner: And I suppose this is also a time when we can look for technologies that are innovative and work in a pinch to be elevated in priority. I think we’re accelerating adoption patterns in this crisis mode.

So what about the information technology, Craig? Are we starting to see more use of cloud-first, software as a service (SaaS) models, multi-cloud, and hybrid IT? How are the various models of IT now available manifesting themselves in terms of being applicable now in the crisis?

Partridge: This global pandemic is maybe the first one that’s going to showcase why technology has become such an integral part of how customers build, deliver, and create their value propositions. First, the most immediate area where technology has come into play is that massively distributed workforce now working from home. How was that possible even 10 years ago? How is it possible for an organization of 50,000 employees to suddenly have 70 percent to 80 percent of that workforce now communicating and collaborating online using virtual sessions?

The technology that underpins all of that remote experience has absolutely come to the fore. Then there are some technologies, which you may not see, but which are absolutely critical to how, as a society, we will respond to this.

Think about all of the data modeling and the number crunching that’s going on in these high-performance compute (HPC) platforms out there actively searching for the cure and the remedy to the novel coronavirus crisis. And the scientific field and HPC have become absolutely key to that.
The capability to instantly consume and to match that with what you pay has two benefits. It keeps costs aligned and it eases economic pressure by deferring capital spending over time.

You mentioned as-a-service models, and absolutely the capability to instantly consume and to match that with what you pay has two benefits. Not only does it keep the costs aligned, which is a threat that people are really going to focus on, but it might ease some of that economic pressure, because, as we know in those kinds of models, technology is consumed not as an upfront capital asset. It’s deferred over the use of its life, easing the economic stresses that customers are going to have.

If we hadn’t been through the cloud era, through pivoting technology to it being consumed as a service, then I don’t think we’d be in a position where we could respond as well in this particular time.

Dixit: What’s also very important is the mode of consumption of the technology. More and more customers are going to look for flexible models, especially in how they think about their hybrid IT model. What is the right mix of that hybrid IT? I think in these as-a-service models, or consumption-based models -- where you pay for what you consume, no more, no less, and it allows you to flex up or down -- that flexibility is going to drive a lot of the technology choices.

Gardner: As we transition to the new normal and we recognize we have to be thinking strategically as well as tactically at all times, do you have any reassurance that you can provide, Rohit, to people as they endeavor to get to that new normal?

Crisis management and strategic planning going hand-in-hand sounds like a great challenge. Are you seeing success? Are you seeing early signs that people are getting this and that it will be something that will put them in a stronger position having gone through this crisis?

In difficulty lies opportunity 

Dixit: Dana, for me, one of the best things I have seen in my interactions with customers, even internally at HPE, is the level of care and support that the companies are giving to their employees. I think it’s amazing. As a society and as a community, I’m really heartened by how positive the reactions have been and how well the companies are supporting them. That’s just one point, and I think technology does play a part in that, in enabling that.

The point I go back to is to never waste a crisis. The discontinuities we talked about, the great opportunities that this creates, if we approach this with the right mindset -- and I see a lot of companies actually doing that, approaching this from an opportunity perspective instead of just playing defense. I think that’s really good to see.
Nine Steps to the New Normal
For IT to Follow in Two Phases
If somebody is looking to design for the future, there is now more technology, consumption methods, and different means of approaching a problem than ever existed before. You have private cloud, public cloud, and you have consumption models on-premises, off-premises, and via colocation options. You have IoT, AI, and containerization. There is so much innovation out there and so many ways of doing things differently. Take that opportunity-based approach, it is going to be very disruptive and could be the making of a lot of great innovation.

Gardner: Craig, what light at the end of the tunnel do you see based on the work you’re doing with clients right now? What’s encouraging you that this is going to be a path to new levels of innovation and creativity?

Partridge: Over the last few years, I’ve been spending most of my time working with customers through their digital transformation agendas. A big focus has been the pivot toward better experiences: better customer engagement, better citizen engagement.  And a lot of that is enabled through digital engagement models underpinned by technology and driven by software.

What we are seeing now is the proof-positive that those investments made over the last few years were exactly the right investments to make. Those companies now have the capability to reach out very quickly, very rapidly. They can enable new features, new functions, new services, and new capabilities through those software-delivered experiences.

For me, what’s heartwarming is to see how we have embraced technology in our daily lives. It’s those customers who went in early with a customer experience-focused, technology-enabled, and edge-to-cloud outcome. Those are the ones now able to dance very quickly around this axis that we described in the HPE Pointnext Services nine-step model. So it’s a great proof-point.

Gardner: A lot of the detail to the nine-step program, and some great visual graphics, are available at Enterprise.nxt. An article is there about the nine-step process and dealing with the current crisis as well as setting yourself up for a new future.

Where else can people go to learn more about how to approach this as a partnership? Where else can people learn about how to deal with the current situation and try to come out in the best shape they can?

Dixit: There are a lot of great resources that customers and partners can reach out to with HPE, specifically of course,, and a specific page around COVID-19 responses and great resources available to our customers and partners.
Pick up the phone and speak to your HPE counterparts because they are there to help you. Nothing is more important to HPE than being there for our partners and customers.

A lot of the capabilities that underpin some of the technology conversations we have been having are enabled through our Pointnext Services organization. So again, visit to be able to get access to some of the resources.

And just pick up the phone and speak to HPE counterparts because they are there to help you. Nothing is more important to HPE at the moment than being there for our partners and customers.

Gardner: We are going to be doing more podcast discussions on dealing with the nine-step program as well as crisis management and long-term digital transformation here at BriefingsDirect, so look for more content there.

I’m afraid we are going to have to leave it there. We have been examining nine steps IT organizations can take amid the COVID-19 pandemic to attain a new normal.

And we have learned about the many benefits of simultaneously steadying business amid unprecedented disruption and readying companies to succeed in a changed world.

So please join me in thanking our guests, Rohit Dixit, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Worldwide Advisory and Professional Services, HPE Pointnext Services. Thank you so much, Rohit.

Dixit: Thank you very much, Dana. Please be safe and stay healthy.

Gardner: Thank you. We have also been joined by Craig Partridge, Senior Director, Worldwide Advisory and Transformation Practice, HPE Pointnext Services. Thank you, Craig.

Partridge: Dana, it’s been an absolute pleasure and I look forward to talking to you again in the near future.

Gardner: And thanks as well to our audience for joining this sponsored BriefingsDirect Voice of Innovation discussion. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of HPE-supported discussions.

Thanks again for listening. Please pass this along to your IT community, and do come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

A discussion on a new plan designed to navigate the immediate pandemic crisis and -- in parallel -- plan for your organization’s IT and business future. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2020. All rights reserved.

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