As organisations navigate the changes that have come to characterise the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic — including record-breaking numbers of employees leaving their jobs in the Great Resignation — many realise that they are more vulnerable than ever to facing a depleted workforce.
To address this challenge, a growing number of enterprises are deploying digital employee experience (DEX) tools and services to support a modern workforce. Some see DEX as a key to improving workers’ satisfaction and therefore retaining them at a time when many are considering job and career changes.
What is digital employee experience?
Digital employee experience is a measure of how effectively employees interact with various technologies in the workplace — and how they feel about those technologies. A DEX strategy focuses on tracking, assessing, and improving employees’ technology experience.
DEX management tools support that strategy by aggregating usage and performance data, analysing that data, and providing insights that help companies make improvements to their technology.
For instance, the software might evaluate how easy it is for people to use a company’s collaboration platforms, how fast the network is during peak hours, or how effective their mobile apps and devices are for performing everyday business tasks.
In short, DEX tools enable companies to better understand and enhance their employees’ experiences with technology.
Why digital employee experience matters
The thinking behind measuring and evaluating DEX is that workers who find it hard or complex to complete their tasks using the platforms their employers provide will be less satisfied and less productive than they might otherwise be. As a result, they might be more inclined to move on to a different job at another organisation.
“Leaders should care about DEX because it impacts overall employee engagement,” says Andrew Hewitt, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “If technology gets in the way of an employee’s ability to be successful at work, they will grow increasingly frustrated, burnt out, and eventually leave the company.”
With the ongoing popularity of remote and hybrid work triggered by the pandemic, research firm Gartner notes, employees are much more likely to be interacting with their colleagues, customers, and others via technology, and this necessitates deeper visibility into and management of end-users’ experience with technology.
What DEX tools do
Gartner calls DEX tools “an evolution of digital experience monitoring, unified endpoint management (UEM), and remote monitoring and management tools.”
They offer new capabilities such as “the collection of employee sentiment data, integration of team and organisational structure data, and actionable insights driven by improved analytics and machine learning (ML) engines,” the firm says.
“DEX tools utilise a software agent installed on the endpoint device,” says Dan Wilson, senior director analyst at Gartner.
“All of them support Windows, most support macOS, and some support Android and Linux. These agents collect a significant amount of telemetry and logs, and some perform synthetic transactions. They also include bidirectional engagement, where [administrators] can push communications to employees and [gather] sentiment from employees by way of surveys.”
The near real-time processing of aggregated data from endpoints, applications, employee sentiment, and organisational context helps provide insights that companies can leverage to make improvements, Wilson says.
The data is processed by advanced analytics engines or machine learning into actionable insights and reports that cover a range of use cases including identifying technology issues and automating self-healing, improving troubleshooting and root-cause analysis for major incidents, basic software asset management and license recovery, enabling performance-based (rather than scheduled) device refresh cycles, and confirming key performance indicators and service-level agreements.
DEX provides a more performant and stable technology environment, says Hewitt. Other benefits Forrester notes include increased employee satisfaction, better insight into qualitative feedback, and reduced software expenditures through software license reclamation.
What’s more, says Wilson, DEX tools can integrate with IT service management tools to automate the creation and updating of various tickets, and to surface details on how technology is being used to service desk analysts for faster triage and remediation. They also integrate with IT self-service portals and chatbots, he adds.
“IT leaders are looking [to have] fewer technology issues that disrupt and impede employee productivity, reduced overhead on IT staff through automation, improved endpoint configuration and patch compliance, better balance of objective and subjective success measures, [and] shifting IT toward being more proactive and human centric,” Wilson says. DEX software helps them achieve all these objectives.
The market for DEX tools and services is on the rise, and Gartner expects DEX adoption to increase rapidly in the coming years. By 2025, the firm predicts, half of IT organisations will have established a DEX strategy, team, and management tool, an increase from just five per cent in 2021.
“The shift to hybrid work, continued digital workplace investment, accelerated software release cadence, and unprecedented [loss of talent through resignations] are driving demand for objective measurement and continuous improvement of DEX,” Wilson says.
Forrester, which sometimes refers to DEX tools as end-user experience management (EUEM), in a May 2022 report said 33 per cent of global software decision-makers indicate they have implemented or are expanding implementation of EUEM software. An additional 32 per cent said they’re currently implementing or will implement it over the next 12 months.
DEX tool vendors are all reporting significant growth and adoption, Wilson says, with smaller vendors growing by up to 50 per cent and larger vendors by up to 25 per cent annually.
Key vendors and tools in the DEX market include 1E Tachyon, ControlUp Edge DX, Ivanti Neurons for Enterprise Experience Management, Lakeside Software SysTrack, Nanoheal, Nexthink Experience, Riverbed Alluvio Aternity, and VMware Workspace ONE Intelligence Digital Employee Experience Management, according to Gartner.
Experts warn that numerous factors may prevent companies from getting the most out of DEX tools — or from deploying them in the first place. One of the most common obstacles to success with DEX tools is a lack of motivation, direction, or skillset to do more than maintain the status quo, Wilson says.
There is also what Wilson calls an “ignorance is bliss” mindset, where IT leaders fear that suddenly unveiling a massive volume of technology issues will make the department look bad.
IT often values quantitative technology and activity-based metrics over employee-centric experience measures, Wilson says. “DEX may be too advanced for low-maturity IT organisations,” he says.
A Forrester report from 2021 notes that the organisations most advanced in DEX maturity — based on a model the firm created that evaluates organisations in a number of areas — are likely to see the strongest benefits.
For example, advanced-maturity organisations are seven times more likely than basic-maturity organisations to say they have seen fewer disruptions to the end-user experience as a result of their current DEX practices. Highly mature organisations are also much more likely to see higher employee retention and 33 per cent more likely to report high employee satisfaction.
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