But as new people come into the organization, you have this concept of deposits and withdrawals on the relationship bank at work. Work calls are the withdrawals. Deposits come in the form of going to lunch together, talking to somebody, inquiring about what’s going on in their personal life. Those things are more difficult but not impossible to recreate in a virtual work environment. They require deliberate effort. If your only interactions are work calls, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for making friends.
In the office, we would have gone to dinner together. So, now we send food to people’s homes and have dinner together through videoconferencing. I sent a home office enablement kit to my team, a nameplate, a coffee mug, a stress ball, saying, hey, we’re probably going to be in this condition for longer than any of us would have anticipated, so here’s a little something to make your home office more office like. Little gestures of kindness go a long way in times like this.
You’ve said that in terms of technology many people these days experience the "Jetsons" at home and "Flintstones" at work. What did you mean?
New people coming into work have a very different set of expectations from people 10, five or even three years ago. When I first started working, I accepted that things are more complicated in a big enterprise. That’s the nature of the beast. New people come to work thinking “the technology should be better than in my personal life.” And often it isn’t.
So when did it become OK to live like the Jetsons at home and like the Flintstones at work? If you have this kind of disparity in the experience, the short answer is it’s not OK and people will make decisions about where they want to work based on that difference.
Today’s best user experience is tomorrow’s minimum expectation. IT departments have to focus on that experience. Can you onboard new hires and off-board those departing without coming into the office? Can you provision people with tools to do their jobs seamlessly? Quality of life issues sound pedestrian, but the state of IT is a daily reflection of what the company thinks about its people. The culture of a place is a function of how your work gets done and your culture is the only unique thing you have.
What has been the most significant change for your team?
From an IT perspective, this has compressed 10 years of strategy into 10 weeks of execution.
Before the pandemic, IT departments were broadly all on the same journey. They wanted the benefits of the cloud, and to embrace software as a delivery model that gives them scale and security. They wanted to get out of legacy data center operations. They needed to provide their employees with collaboration tools to allow them to be productive from anywhere. And to have a cyber strategy that permits that kind of flexibility while still being secure.
In a large enterprise, everything is a scale problem. You’re dealing sometimes in highly regulated spaces, with different sets of privacy concerns around the globe, different data residency obligations that have to be met. People are working through these challenges on various timelines.
Many people thought they had more time to get there. Suddenly, this all became critical. You’re in this classic thing of trying to change the tires on the car while it’s going 60 miles an hour. IBM’s decision to consolidate IT into a single shared service was a force multiplier in being able to effect change at scale. We were empowered to make decisions.
Before COVID-19, only 25 percent of IBM’s 350,000 plus people were not in a traditional office. Our strategy was to bring people back into the office. So this was a very rapid change in a matter of weeks to get to 98 percent of people working remotely.
As it pertains to cyber, you’ve got three broad areas: technology, policy and education. The technology is pretty straightforward. Here are the capabilities. Here are the solutions. The education is pretty straightforward. We’ll be transparent with about what we will and won’t do and under what circumstances.
It tends to be the policy that causes the most churn in an enterprise, who’s entitled to what, what will we pay for, what will we not pay for, what do we want to permit from a policy perspective. When you’re under duress, it motivates you to find answers to these questions and compress your existing plans.
Any pleasant surprises?
We were working 24/7 for weeks, a lot of long nights. But the end result was the business didn’t experience any disruption. That has been a nice surprise.
We survey our people to ask them how they feel about working remotely. How supported have you felt through this process? How is your mental well-being? How stressed do you feel? Are you proud to be working here?
Overwhelmingly, the answers have been positive. 96% feel this has been well handled. They were able to continue doing their jobs without disruption. They have the hardware and software and IT support they need.
While we’re seeing a little bit of an elevated stress level, this stems from general concerns about the health and well being of people’s families and the news.
We also look closely at metrics around productivity, emails being sent, meetings being had, sales cadence activity, number of software releases, Slack activity, which shows that if anything, people are more productive working remotely. They don’t have the commute time. They are having up to two hours more per day of meetings.