The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the way people work, as working from home became the rule rather than the exception. Moving forward, many companies are continuing to support 100% remote workforces, or they’re adopting a hybrid work model, with some employees working in the corporate office, some working at home, and many splitting their time between the two.
These remote and hybrid workers rely on company-provided technology to communicate with managers, co-workers, and customers. Savvy organizations want to provide every worker with a good digital employee experience (DEX) — the perception that employees have about the technology they interact with for work. To do that, companies need total visibility into how their employees are experiencing the technology they depend on to do their jobs.
“DEX is a strategy that focuses on employees, their experience, and their use of technology,” states Gartner’s Innovation Insight for the Digital Employee Experience report. “This strategy is supported by a set of tools that offers key feature sets to provide insights that drive action — both in the form of a script or technology automation and human action or behavioral change.”
Growing interest in DEX tools
Dan Wilson, senior director analyst at Gartner and one of the authors of the report, says the firm is seeing an increasing amount of interest from clients around digital employee experience in general and in digital employee experience tools in particular.
“I was shocked when I did a comparison of the clients’ inquiry volumes. I’m seeing about a 40%, quarter-over-quarter increase in volume since January of 2021,” he said. “So there’s a tremendous amount of interest here. And we think it’s being driven by the anxiety around the Great Resignation, which is really scaring a lot of companies in terms of making sure they focus on taking care of employees.”
DEX tools, sometimes called digital employee experience management (DEEM) tools, are particularly useful for large enterprises with more than 10,000 employees that have a lot of legacy technology in very complex environments, said Andrew Hewitt, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “We’ve seen a lot of deployments of digital employee experience management tools in financial services, government, and manufacturing — companies that are sometimes 100 years old and have a lot of legacy technology that can impact that overall end-user experience,” he said.
However, DEX tools are also particularly relevant for companies that want to ensure they offer employees excellent technology experiences so that they can retain their talent, he added. “This resonates very well with financial services customers that want to prevent employees from going to Silicon Valley tech companies,” Hewitt said. “They will often use [DEX tools] to set a good foundational technology experience that enables people to be productive and feel like they can actually get their work done.”
How DEX tools work
Digital employee experience tools “can provide a deeper understanding of employees’ experiences with digital technologies and enable digital workplace teams to build an approach focused on employees’ individual preferences,” Gartner noted in an infographic.
Digital employee experience is an outcome of a lot of different technologies all playing together in an ecosystem, Hewitt said. That digital employee experience can be good, it can be bad, it can be neutral. By aggregating and analyzing usage and performance data for various workplace technologies, DEX tools can help companies pinpoint which technologies are underperforming and provide guidance on how to improve them.
“These are [software] agent-based tools that go out and collect telemetry data across all the different technologies, such as devices, applications, networks, that people use on a daily basis,” Hewitt said. “And basically [analyze] and use that data to benchmark the experience to identify issues with the overall experience and hopefully remediate those issues as well fix anything that comes up.”
For example, a company can install an agent on a device to collect data on its performance, its stability, how quickly it’s booting up, or how many applications are crashing, Hewitt said.
“All of the tools support agents for Windows, most support macOS, some support Android and Linux,” Wilson said. “However, nothing I’m aware of exists for iOS, and that’s primarily because Apple restricts [the use of agents] on the iOS side of things.”
As well as monitoring and optimizing applications, devices, and other technologies, DEX tools also collect employee sentiment data about the technology, generally done through integrated surveys, Wilson added.
Advanced analytics engines in DEX platforms allow near real-time processing of the collected data into actionable insights, reports, and alerts for admins. And DEX software can integrate with IT service management tools for faster issue resolution, in some cases automating troubleshooting and remediation.
Features to look for in DEX tools
There are a number of features organizations should look for when researching DEX tools, including:
- Continuous monitoring across devices, virtualization, applications, and networks to measure actual employee experience.
- Real-time reporting and alerts for administrators when issues arise.
- Ability to interact with employees via such tools as integrated desktop messaging.
- Prebuilt scripts and configurable capabilities that enable IT to fix problems.
- Root cause analysis to allow troubleshooting across devices, applications, virtualization, and networks.
- Integration of analytics and troubleshooting with messaging and remediation capabilities to diagnose and resolve issues.
- Qualitative feedback capability to collect employee sentiment though integrated surveys.
- Internal benchmarking capability to compare the digital employee experience scores of employees in different locations.
Additionally, companies should look for DEX tools that are hosted in the cloud rather than on-premises tools, Wilson said. “The big difference is the analytics capability — the engine that is used to do the analysis,” he said. “On premises, you don’t have the power of machine learning and big data analysis.”
When it comes to selecting and implementing DEX tools, enterprises need to consider the potential challenges. For example, DEX tools can be expensive, so to receive the necessary resources and funding, IT leaders have to convince business leaders that the short-term and long-term payoffs will justify the upfront investments.
In addition, organizations need to be aware of the changes that will accompany the implementation of DEX tools. Not only will companies have to train employees, but they will also have to modify their workflows and business processes.
“DEX strategy and tools require reskilling or acquiring talent with curiosity, problem-solving, and data analytics skills, in addition to establishing a new mindset and approach to IT’s role as an enabler, rather than a controller of technology,” the Gartner report stated. The report advised “dedicating and developing engineers into DEX tool subject matter experts but maintaining integration into digital workplace engineering and operations teams.”
Because of privacy issues, business leaders in companies that are required to comply with legal or regulatory requirements on data collection and use may oppose implementing DEX tools. While DEX tools can anonymize personalized data, doing so can reduce its value. DEX tools need to understand and support individuals to significantly improve the employee experience.
“These tools look at user behavior on devices, so you have to be sure that the vendors have good privacy protection, good data deletion capabilities and features, and that they’re aware of certain geographic privacy laws,” such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, Hewitt said.
In addition, companies only get out of these DEX platforms what they put into them, he said. “And what I mean by that is that the companies that are most successful with digital employee experience management tools have dedicated team members that manage it,” he said. “DEX tools are never going to be successful if you just deploy them.”
Organizations also need to understand that it will take some time before they’ve captured enough data to effectively gauge the health of their employees’ digital experiences, according to Hewitt. “It typically takes a couple months to collect all that data,” he said. “So while it’s not very difficult to deploy the agents from an implementation perspective, it does take some time to collect enough data to be able to derive any insights from it.”
6 leading DEX tools
There are a number of digital employee experience tools on the market, so to help you begin your research, we’ve highlighted the following products based on discussions with analysts and independent research.
1E Tachyon Experience: Offers real-time diagnosis and remediation of performance and availability issues across devices and applications. Leverages microtransactions (executed in milliseconds) on all endpoints to check health based on performance, stability, responsiveness, and user sentiment. Performs root cause analysis and automated resolution. Provides actionable insights that help companies make informed decisions about where to invest and what to prioritize. (Contact 1E for security info.)
Aternity Digital Experience Management: Offers enterprise-scale analytics for every endpoint, application, transaction, and user, helping companies quickly resolve issues by showing them the breakdowns of response times between client devices, networks, and app back ends. Self-healing control and AI-powered visibility help IT enhance the performance of business applications. Customers can compare their employees’ digital experiences with those of hundreds of other Aternity customers. Aternity comes in three editions: Fundamentals, Essentials, and Enterprise. (See Aternity’s security info.)
ControlUp: Continuously monitors the availability and performance of organizations’ end-user computing environments. Provides rapid root cause analysis and remediation in addition to historical views of complex IT infrastructure. Uses experiential data to help IT detect any issues that affect employees’ performance and enables IT to improve or fix problems quickly. ControlUp comes in four editions: Pro, Enterprise, Platinum, and Ultimate. (See ControlUp’s security info.)
Lakeside Digital Experience Cloud: Allows companies to monitor, measure, and enhance their employees’ interactions with the technology they use in the workplace. Customers can perform end-user experience management, digital workplace planning, remote work management, IT asset optimization, and proactive service desk operations. Helps IT determine the root causes of existing issues and identify potential future issues. Integrations include ServiceNow, Microsoft, Citrix, VMware, and Splunk. (Contact Lakeside for security info.)
Nexthink Experience: Guides admins to proactively manage and improve employees’ technology experience, including problems to focus on, likely causes, and remediation steps. Correlates technical performance with employee sentiment to help IT pinpoint each issue, its root cause, who it’s affecting, and how to solve it. Provides flexible dashboards, event visibility and visualizations, automated issue identification and remediation, and prebuilt integrations with ServiceNow and Splunk. (Contact Nexthink for security info.)
VMware Digital Employee Experience Management: Aggregates data from a variety of sources, including third-party systems, and gives IT total visibility across desktops, mobile devices, and apps. Offers actionable insights, a policy-based automation engine, and prebuilt integrations for ServiceNow and Slack. Out-of-the box dashboards and reports give administrators at-a-glance insight into the digital employee experience, application performance, and device health. Automates data-driven root cause analysis to detect incidents, troubleshoot, and remediate issues. Part of VMware’s Workspace ONE platform. (See VMware’s security info.)
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