Alley & Electric are excited to bring you their series “Reimagining the Workplace”. This four-part series touches on different aspects of returning to the office and how to best support your team in this unknown time.
When it’s business as usual, we often lose sight of the important behind-the-scenes role that IT plays in our company’s day-to-day. But in times of major disruption -- like the current global crisis -- it is crucial for organizations to maintain strong business continuity, and IT is the foundation.
In part two of our series, we hear from experts from Electric on topics including:
- Cybersecurity best practices
- Hardware and software management in the offices of the future
- Adoption of standardization & automation
- Prepare to be tracked and tested as you return to work - Many reopening businesses will be asking workers to take coronavirus tests, report symptoms, don masks, wear dongles, and work under the gaze of new sensors and cameras.
- Safe Work Playbook Files - An interactive guide for COVID-19 pandemic preparedness and response
- 9 Future of Work Trends Post-COVID-19 - As the pandemic resets major work trends, HR leaders need to rethink workforce and employee planning, management, performance and experience strategies.
- COVID-19 and the technology industry - The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is causing widespread concern and economic hardship for consumers, businesses and communities across the globe. We’ve prepared some general guidance on COVID-19: What US business leaders should know, covering the key areas of crisis management, supply chain, workforce, tax and trade, and financial reporting.
- Data between the lines - IT will design the future of work
Hally Darnell 0:00
Excited to be here, Alley and Electric, bringing you the series on reimagining the workplace. For those of you that did not attend the first part, which was a couple weeks ago now, or are just not familiar in general, this is a four-part series that we are working on, touching different aspects of returning to the office and how to best support your teams in this unknown time. We're also recording all of them so if you're missing this one or want to pass it on to a team member, we will be sure to follow up with those recordings after this. And before I pass it over to Erin and Julian, our lovely, lovely panelists today, so they can introduce themselves, I want to give you guys a little bit of a quick overview of both Electric and Alley in case you have never heard of either of us or need a little refresher. Either way, I'm going to do it even if you fall in neither of those categories. Starting with Electric— Electric is reinventing how businesses manage their IT support, security, and devices through our user-friendly interface and your favorite chat interfaces like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Electric streamlines time-consuming and business-critical IT tasks by providing lightning-fast support and visibility into your IT infrastructure. The TLDR is that we are working to revolutionize IT by making it simple, effortless, and lightning-fast for businesses all over the place. And then Alley, our other amazing partner, and actually an electric customer, which is pretty exciting, is a community of entrepreneurs and corporate partners leveraging innovation to create positive change. Alley offers two key products: labs and accelerators. Labs owned independently or with a corporate partner like Verizon 5G Labs if you were wondering what their logo was doing on the banner for this event. They're vibrant workspaces populated by diverse, impact-driven entrepreneurs. And accelerators are short-term challenges and programs specifically built to meet the innovation goals of corporate partners. Alley's mission is to create good change and foster an ecosystem founded on sustainable entrepreneurship where substance is valued over style. Awesome. If you have any questions about that, we'll be following up with more information as well. Going to pass the mic over to Julian and Erin. We'll kick it off with Julian, just to go ahead and introduce themselves before we dive into some of our pre-prepared questions and then our Q&A portion of the webinar. Julian, won't you take it away?
Julian Hutchinson 2:24
Yeah, yeah, my name is Julian. I've worked in IT for not a crazy amount of time— about 10 years now. I started Electric in 2016. Oh, gosh, I just aged myself. But I started off on the Service Desk. It was like four people, so I kind of also was internal IT. Expanded, built out a bunch of different departments for Electric, kind of came back to my home which is internal IT so helped the business scale from— once again five people, to 150 people plus now. So I've kind of seen the, you know, ups and downs and I've also helped support our customers. So I kind of get both sides of it, the internal IT and then supporting our customers. So yeah, that's basically me in a nutshell.
Erin Merchant 3:13
Hi, I'm Erin Merchant, I do many things, I have worn many hats. I have also been doing IT for 10 plus years, which yeah, it makes me feel old. I'm currently the Technology Evangelist at askSpoke which while is a mouthful, is an amazing product that is bettering the world through a new envisioning of ticketing and really expanding to the Service Desk as a whole. I don't particularly care about long walks on the beach, but I do like a nice piece of toast. And what I really care about is seeing IT as a business partner and a strategic part of all businesses now and going forward. And that's what I'm here to preach.
Hally Darnell 3:59
Love it. Great way to kick off these questions because you know you're talking to some serious subject-matter experts. So we're going to kick it off with the first question that aligns with the title, which I'm assuming is while you are all here, about how IT's role has changed. The biggest changes that you guys have seen not only in your department but in your roles in general as it pertains to your day-to-day end-user requests, budget, overall strategy, any of those areas. Lay it on me.
Julian Hutchinson 4:33
Yeah, I'll kick it off. I mean, the biggest part for me is I'm a big mover, I love to move around. I actually have kind of like a joke with my CFO, we have logs and who comes in and comes out. And every month I'm like, top and I'm talking about like top by hundreds of login, like logs of me going in and out. So with us working remote, that's gone. So people don't see me, people don't see me on a regular basis, so they're just like, "Hey, where's— how do I reach Julian?" I mean, they know how to, but it's that physical interaction that's definitely missing. The other part of it is being in an office, I'm used to my daily routine, checking conference rooms, making sure— testing the network, making sure that the printer people are on the right network because if you're on the guest network, you can't connect to it. And, you know, basically stuff like that. I think my— the biggest impact of my day-to-day is not having a physical presence for people to know, recognize, flag me down. But what I've— it's actually helped me because I've become more reliant on data. So I think one of the things that I kind of was more oblivious to for a better part of it, not oblivious, but I didn't use it as much is trends. I want to see kind of since people aren't there in the office, what kind of tickets are they giving to me on a regular basis? Do they ask for a bunch of monitors and stuff to go to their house for— you know, working from home? Do they have a lot of network issues? Do I need to send them a hotspot? So basically collecting that data so that I'm able to be more proactive in my approach. I think for me and the company, our strategy hasn't really changed. I mean, it's changed in certain parts, but the goal is always to be making sure our environment is secure. And whether it's remote or not, that's always been the number one thing to me. So making sure that if you're home, if your password— or, not your password— if your computer's lost, what's going to happen? Do you need to panic? Do we need to you know, call the SWAT team? Yes? No? No. That's what my goal is- to make sure none of that happens. I think the other part is, a lot of what I will want it to do is do improvements in the office, like improve the infrastructure, you know, servers, things like that. But that's kind of been put on hold for obvious reasons. What it does allow is for that budget to kind of be moved to other places for now. It's still like top of mind— or back, I guess back of mind right now, but it's still— we can use that money to do better and bigger things like getting people more monitors, getting people mice, keyboards, desk chairs, so they're more comfortable in their apartment while working. And I get to evaluate a lot more tools that actually are more beneficial to, you know, working from home environments versus like we're in the office like no one, no one's using house phones right now. I mean, unless you take your house phone home with you and you plug it in through— so kind of like looking for more VOIP providers, stuff like that. So it— I guess it has changed, it has changed but the core of it is still the same to me.
Hally Darnell 7:59
Erin Merchant 8:00
Yeah, I mean, he talked about just like the ways that we've had to, you know, mind shift within the nitty-gritty of what a day-to-day look like— looks like as an IT administrator, I think Julian just encapsulated that chaos really, really well. Which is really to say, I think the thing that's changed— this is also the portion where we get to, like, do a little bit of a look back and just be like, yeah, this has been hard for us too, right? Like, that's actually what this is, like, we're just validating everybody else's experiences right now.
Hally Darnell 8:31
Erin Merchant 8:32
So, totally down for this btdubs, 'cause like, you know, we all haven't had any time to actually sit there and like, you know, digest the fact that we've been doing a lot.
Unknown Speaker 8:42
Erin Merchant 8:44
Right? Exactly. Yeah. So I mean, like, I totally agree that the day-to-day really hasn't changed, right? Like the function of our job doesn't change regardless of location, right? Like the way in which you interact with what you do does, and I think that that is not just a statement that's applicable to IT, but particularly for us. There's also that statement that you know, like our users, or, right now our co-workers are right now becoming a different level of expert, which is something that I've said before. So sorry if anybody's heard me say this before, you're getting a repeat. But it's true, right? Like we're actually getting involved in people's technological experience at a little bit more accelerated rate, which is pretty cool because that also gives us some time back— ha ha ha, to work on things that we may have considered a backlog item or have now been expedited because of the natural— well, the unnatural, natural change that happened with us all being in a distributed workforce. This obviously doesn't take into account other large-scale organizations that do have like pipeline and institution where they have essential workers as well, which is something that I frequently, in my own privilege tend to forget as a, you know, another point, is that there are people who are actually still dealing with essential folks being in office and have to figure out how to balance the necessity of work there as well, and what the hierarchy of that support is. I think when you then translate that to budget, because that is so much on everybody's mind is like, what did budget look like? What does it look like now? And then how do I miraculously predict a budget that I can't actually predict, is where do you divide and conquer with your money, right? And what is the prioritization of the money that you're putting into the way that you're responding in time of crisis? And then how is that going to translate to the things you actually want to do once that crisis normalizes? And I use normalize very loosely here, right, like get into a normal cadence, shall we say? Partially because we already know that a lot of us are strapped, for better or worse, right? Like there's just a nature of austerity that's happening right now? But then that austerity affects your strategy. And it affects how deeply or how much internal thought is being put to build or buy, which is a huge question especially as you're doing tool rollouts and evaluating a lot more of them because of necessitate of changes like Julian said. Or like literally, do you have the people power to do so too, right? Like how much of that resourcing now needs to be put towards contracts, or not contracts, or hiring, or not hiring, or rescinding, right? Like, our play/pause button kind of feels like it's consistently just been on—
Julian Hutchinson 11:41
Erin Merchant 11:41
Yeah, Like there's not— you can't see it anymore. But all of this is to say right, like that, we can kvetch about what this looks like all day long and what it feels like right now but it is directly implementing, or it is directly interacting with the way that we are going to approach IT as a whole in the near future. Because we are now at this point where we are having these conversations about what the future of work looks like. And regardless of if we are in charge of defining it, we are going to build it. So everything that we're doing right now is coming into play as being the stepping stone to strategy, budget, and our day-to-day, tomorrow.
Hally Darnell 12:24
Erin Merchant 11:43
Real small stuff, super small.
Hally Darnell 12:04
Yeah, just minor, like probably won't notice it, no biggie. Thank you both, that touched on every kind of sub-topic there, amazing. I think both of you also hit on the fact— and something that we talk about a lot at Electric as well is that IT, while not a traditional customer or not— yeah— well, not a traditional customer experience-customer success role, it really essentially is, and the end-users are your customers. So in that same vein, because again, I think you both kind of hit on the fact that you know, the day-to-day requests that people are putting in is maybe a big part of what's changed. But what are some unique ways in which your company is enabling your remote teams to stay productive and happy, both equally as important? I would love to just get your takes on that. Even in the short-term, and then maybe what you're hoping to see in the future.
Julian Hutchinson 13:25
Yeah. So it's— I guess it's two parts. I mean, our HR team is— they've been doing this for a while, like, they have a bunch of experience. So while we haven't had a pandemic in their lifetime, they have environments where they have like remote workers and how do you get them involved in like the feeling or the culture and stuff like that. So they put together a lot of events, whether it's like a— they have workout from home, where people work up a sweat, they have those events. I'm not going to it, but some people do go to it. You know, they have events where people can do just like picnics, they have where people just have lunchtime, doesn't matter who it is, people spark up different conversations, people will spark up friendships with people they never even knew. Lifelong friendships can form. We also do, I've seen game nights. So that has been interesting where they have— I don't know what they use, but there's like, we had one where there was a host, and they would split us up into groups and then ask us questions and who would win and people got bragging rights. So they put together a lot of those kind of events where people can go to and bond and kind of just take a little step back from work. So you know, when you're in the office, you can stop by and talk to a friend. I mean, you can still do that in video chat, but now we have new hires coming in, we have different people that we've never been exposed to. Now you can kind of meet them, you can just like "oh, hey, how you doing? Let's talk." In terms of me helping with that, it's being the same old me of being you know, understanding, being— having a smile on my face, telling people like "hey, I can help you with this, like, come to me." Just being the non-stereotypical IT person— which I hate, by the way, that's not true. We are most of the time very friendly and we're just like, "Hey, we're here to help you." And we're— for the most part, we're used to like the weird questions and sometimes it actually helps us because we get to think about it. I think the other thing that the whole company likes to do, and I've gotten more on board on, is doing surveys, like just doing heat checks. I've done it with my team where it's just like, Hey, you know, how do you guys feeling? Tell me green, yellow, red, what's going on? What's on your plate? What can I help with? Doing anonymous surveys also definitely helps. So people— if you don't want to say what exactly is on your mind, you can be like, hey, it's anonymous. I don't actually have to give my name. So that for the team level, for the company level, for you know, all those different things combined, helps us kind of understand where we are. If we're failing, if we're succeeding, like where we can improve on. Hey, we reached this goal. It's great, but we can do better. Let's do that. So combining all those kind of, I believe has definitely helped people have a better work— work-work-work— homework experience, even though it's just home, whatever, had a better experience overall, just being home in this environment, I'm being kind of distance from the outside world. So yeah.
Hally Darnell 16:23
Honestly, Julian, until you just like mentioned surveys right now, I just realized that the number of surveys that I have taken in the last like, three months is insane. But it's like, I've never given my feedback to that extent before. Not that there's not a forum for it, but it's so true, and like now I'm like, I actually think I might have spent half of my 40 hours a week taking surveys at this rate. But despite that, Erin, I'll let you take this question as well.
Erin Merchant 16:54
I mean, I don't really need to say much more. I feel like I mean, I'm huge on the survey thing, mostly because you know, well let's do the whole, like, let's blow this up to like the hundred-thousand-foot view, right? Like what that is is enabling communication which, you know, like not to re-answer a previous question, but I think that that's also a big transitional change that we've gone through in IT in this very moment, is if we were not already participating in a culture of hyper-communication, there was this conversation that I had about calling it over-communication versus hyper-communication, which I think is a good differentiator, because you're not over-communicating, right? Like we are just actually like, we're just turning up the dial of frequency, and maybe providing a little bit more in-depth. But you talk about being like, spatially comfortable. That is one of both the biggest changes that I think we've had to undergo but also something that has become very apparent that is a really good tool for us to use to democratize the experience that someone is having at home. Because there are so many variables, there are just so many variables that we can't take into account in terms of somebody's work-life balance, in terms of what their situation at home or in their place of residence is. We don't know what other stimuli may be impacting the way that they want to work. I love the practical solutions, too I can sit here and talk about the hundred-thousand-foot view all day. But there are a lot of really simple things that I think we've also done and that I've seen happen around the industry in the interest of keeping that experience very equitable to everyone who's going to be online really. You know, some of the really simple ones are like setting up Donut meetings for people, speaking to the point that Julian made about, like interacting with people that you've never met before, right? Like all of a sudden you have this whole culture that you have to rebuild, which usually also isn't directed by us, right? Like, again, we're the enablers, we're not necessarily like the people dictating the way that you want that culture to perpetuate or the good parts of your culture to perpetuate. Which I'm all aboard, like, I love being a part of that experience, right? Like, because that is actually what we're building is, you know, the technology is the thing, and the experience is actually what we're all about. But like Donuts have been really helpful because it got me introduced to a bunch of people that I didn't know, I know that I've seen a lot of chatter around some of the community circles around using applications or Slack integrations or Microsoft Team integrations like that. I think that the after-hours stuff and especially the ability to do it ad hoc and you know, teaching people to be power users with the tools that can enable them to interact with others and interact with their teammates in a similar way that would be you know, like, quote, "water cooler talk" or talk over a beer. We made a joke yesterday about beer or bouch— like beer or kombucha, you know, a beer or bouch. I like that one so much. I had to keep it in.
Hally Darnell 19:43
I was hoping that you would. That and COVID-ed-ness, we'll get there. But COVID-i-ness was a good invention yesterday, as well.
Erin Merchant 20:01
I'll put a pin in that one for later. I'll save that one for when it really counts.
Hally Darnell 20:04
Erin Merchant 20:04
So if anybody's playing bingo at home, this is your buzzword Bingo. But yeah, I mean, like, there's essentially this essence that we were trying to reencapsulate when we have, you know, our own spaces that we live in now. And I think enabling people to be able to power— like become a power user, if they weren't already feeling that way within a distributed space, is a big component of that. I think this survey is like when you then talk about how you want to translate what's working and what's not, right, which isn't always something that is coming from or in service of IT, though, we talked about budget, I mean, that's a huge component of it, right? Like you don't want to implement something, and you don't want to retain something if it's not actually being utilized. The language around the questions that I feel like we're asking are becoming more experience-based and if we weren't already familiarized with the language around that, we are very quickly becoming that. "We" being IT, are very quickly becoming familiarized with it specifically because the reporting that we're doing goes back to our partner teams that are both thinking about what's happening right now, and the ever "ehh" that's happening out in the world about when we are returning to an office as a whole unit, not as a tiered unit. As well as what's happening next, right? So you're talking about that— those are all the people that we all know, should and always will be our biggest champions and partners, it's, you know, HR, finance, and your workplace or facilities teams. And in a lot of cases, also, like some of your ancillary security teams, too, right? Like it's your DevOps folks as well because it does have a direct correlation with that. And in a lot of times, it could also be security as a physical presence, right? Those are those are the teams who really need to know what the sentiment is around technological use because it's going to help us prepare for the things that we do need to do to get people safely back into a workplace, if and when that happens for a particular company. And I think we all know that like, every other day, there's a blog post about whether or not this is happening yet so, you know, let's just start building all of our different— all of our different scenarios in that portfolio.
Hally Darnell 22:27
Erin, thank you so much for continuing to perfectly help me transition into the next question. Incredible, love your work. Two things that I wanted to mention. I don't want to get too existential here, but we had a brief meeting yesterday, as we're all aware, just to kind of talk through what questions we were going to include in this and this next question was kind of like a, I don't necessarily know if IT touches this, but I would love to get your opinions on it. And then the other kind of part that I wanted to throw in there is I think an underlying theme of this entire webinar to this point is that IT has now turned into a, you know, the emergency— or not the emergency person, but the necessary person that's one of the first people back in the office to helping with HR. Erin, you put it perfectly— IT is the enabler. And so circling it back to this question after that tangent is I would love to hear in both of your experiences how IT's role is supporting COVID-19-driven initiatives inside and outside of the office. Obviously, you know, a thermometer is technically a piece of technology, that was what started me off in this question in the first place. I'm like— is that— does that make sense? So, without further ado, I would love to hear how you both are assisting in that transition.
Julian Hutchinson 23:53
Yeah, it's fun. I mean, we talked about it a little bit yesterday, but— I joke about this with Ian who's our other internal IT guy, but it came from, you know, everything's on fire. And I have like this favorite meme with the dog sitting in the house and the whole place is on fire. He's like, "This is fine. This is fine." That's kind of how it was in the very beginning. It was like, we kind of need to get everything kind of done, we need to get people their equipment, we need to make sure that we're set up for success in terms of our structure. I mean, for the most part, if your IT team is doing their job, sorry to say.
Hally Darnell 24:29
Julian Hutchinson 24:30
But— perfect, I love it! But if your IT team was doing it in terms of like the infrastructure, if people are going home, they already have their equipment encrypted. You know, they already have policy on their computer to make sure it's in like the best shape to not always be in the office. You already thought about like a disaster recovery plan, where you'd be like, hey, VPN, how do you access this? How do I do this? How do I do that? But the very beginning was very much oh my gosh, what's going on? But you always had to pause— not pause, but while you're doing that, it's collecting the data. Because if you do all that stuff and then you don't remember, or you don't have any record of what actually happened, it's just like okay, I did all that and honestly, I learned nothing. So if it happens again, I'm in a bad place. So, the second part is—
Hally Darnell 25:19
Just blocked all that out as soon as it happened.
Julian Hutchinson 25:21
Like, it didn't happen. You know you were stressed, but it didn't actually happen because you got no take-aways.
Hally Darnell 25:26
I remember the day our office closed we— or the day before our office closed we got a Slack in our general Slack channel that was like "all right, Kevin, our repairs guy is going to be coming around with bubble wrap." And I'm like, where have they been like stockpiling all this bubble wrap in preparation for a pandemic? Because this is a— yeah. So from my perspective as an end-user on the marketing team, I was like, alright, we feel like— I kind of feel like they knew this was coming, which is a little sus as well. But here we are.
Julian Hutchinson 25:56
No, no idea. Honestly, it was just one of those things where okay, we know what's happening now, let us put together everything we need, and make sure it's seamless to the end-user because that's the big thing. We got to look like, you know, we got everything under control because if we don't look like it, other people are gonna panic. So big thing there, but—
Hally Darnell 26:15
And you're always walking fast around the office. So—
Julian Hutchinson 26:17
Hally Darnell 26:17
Like, no one was thrown off. You know, you're just like running from one side to the other.
Julian Hutchinson 26:23
My exercise— my smartwatch is always getting steps. That's how I do— I get my exercise in. But yeah, after that initial phase, like the next one is using that data that we collected to make processes, evaluate tools, just make sure that we're set up to like, "Hey, this is happening a lot. Okay, do we need a process to you know, make sure this is streamlined, that's a good user experience? Okay, let's put that in place." "This tool, okay, it worked good for in the office, it's not working now, we need to evaluate the different options." So using that data to kind of push things along or decide, hey, we're not going to do this anymore. We don't need to do that. So it's definitely using that data. And I don't know how long it's gonna take, some people are already there, some people are not, but I'm gonna say it as— future is— we need to figure— not figure out, but a lot of companies need to start figuring out what is it going to look like when people are coming back into the office? Luckily, my HR team, I mean, I don't have to think about a lot of it. I'm part of it, obviously, but I don't have to do the heavy brain lifting is how many people are going to be in the office? How do we enforce social distancing? How do we ensure like people who are in the office are not sick? How do we like, kind of bring like— on their desks that they're going to be using, maybe they're not sitting at their same desk, because the person that's also coming in normally would sit two feet away from them. How do we make sure that there's a desk set up in different environments, that they still have everything they need, depending on the department to go ahead? It was touched on but like, if that's going to stay at their station, what's the policy for cleaning down that equipment if someone else is going to use it? So there's a lot of stuff that because we know what's going on, we've collected that data that it's allowing us to prepare for the future. And just, you know, being IT people just always thinking of our own issues that we might run into just using our 10 years of experience. Yes, we haven't had a pandemic before, but we kind of know like things like, you know, what, I know this person likes to, you know, scratch weird places and touch their keyboard, I want to make sure that's cleaned down for the next person, you know, do weird stuff. But I'm just thinking about all those scenarios to plan and prepare for the "next phase" of COVID.
Erin Merchant 28:43
Yeah, I mean, it basically— I'm not sure I can take myself seriously with this, but it feels very apropos.
Julian Hutchinson 28:49
I can, I love it!
Erin Merchant 28:50
Hally Darnell 28:51
We're taking you very seriously.
Erin Merchant 28:53
It feels very apropos for where we are. Yeah, I know. I live to be taken seriously, clearly. So— but it's very— it's actually kind of apropos. Like where we went, but— it's like if I wanted to, like, let's see if I can play this game. So you know, like we— this is also—it tells you how many virtual backgrounds I have. We started *here* and then we went *here*. And then we were like, "okay, we gotta get our shit together." And then we're like, gonna be *here*, like in a minute, right? Like basically, like, I need like a future one, I need something cool and "beep-boop-y" and future, that's actually what I was going for. But I tried it, cool. props to me. So here's the thing, right? Like it basically came down to three parts. This is a story in three parts, and then I'm going to see if I can make a PPE analogy here or use the acronym for IT stuff, I'm going to co-opt PPE. So you know, like our role, in the beginning, is exactly what you would expect from IT, and that was reactionary. I think people are very used to— and companies are very used to the components of IT that are reactionary because that is also the point of service that they see most frequently from us. There's also the statement that that's when IT comes out of the woodwork, right? When something goes badly, you run to your trusty IT person because we're here to solve those problems. But it's when those things happen that are critical, our critical-thinking skills are most visible, not most useful, but most visible. So I wouldn't say that there was anything that was really different in that, but then when you talk about the way that it transitioned, we kind of already touched on this but we became enablers and communication experts. And the focus of the things that we were doing gained a lot more depth, specifically because they went from being thing-focused, focused on the technology itself, which I also think is like high level, a fundamental shift that we are seeing in the way that people approach IT as a profession, to being people-focused, which is a huge, important thing for me because that's the whole reason that I do what I do. Is I am doing this, not in service of a piece of hardware, I can honestly give two craps about that piece of hardware. I care about the people and what they're doing with that hardware. I care about the things that they get to create with that, and what it enables them to do, because that is— I mean, first off, that's what pays my bills. But really, I get to share in that experience with them, and I want to make sure that that experience is flawless. So I— you know, like that's kind of where we're at right now. And the whole reason why I used that, you know, visual analogy of you know, like being floating out in space is literally just because we are in some ways, very disconnected. But we're all still wearing the same suits. We're all still— you know, we all still end up going back to the same quote "spaceship," right? So there's still some unification that's happening in the way that we can both like centralize, create more efficiency around, and build something you know, like totally in the guise of the world of tomorrow from the perspective of the technologist. And then when you talk about our role in the future, I mean, this is probably when I get to get on my soapbox and say like, you know, I know that it's a really tough time for some people in IT particularly because they ended up on the chopping block as somebody who was considered quote "non-essential" to a business in a time of crisis. But the reality of that— I mean, I can make all kinds of statements where I'm going to throw shade about you know, like companies that had to cut down on those folks and you know, what I actually think is going to determine like— where people want to work in the profession of IT in the future by their reaction to that, because I think that there is you know, a whole conversation to have there. But what I think it really means is that if you did that, you are going to be up shit creek. I don't know how to say it any better than that because not only are the teams that we talked about that are collaborative partners, HR, finance, facilities workplace, security. The last one that's missing from that is IT again, right? Like we aren't necessarily going to be the people who are designing it, but we are going to build your workspace of the future. So if you don't have someone on hand, you better find someone fast and we are going to be in high freakin' demand. So, you know, this is my— you know, keep your head up, you know, to anyone out there who's still on the hunt. Also, sidebar, I am happy to connect you with anyone in my network. I'm here for you. I know there are people still hiring. But right, like keep your head up, because we are absolutely integral to business right now and in the future. So then, what does that actually look like for me? I don't know when I'm going back to the office. I know that I'm probably going to be one of the first people that's back in the office, Julian already said that I don't need to reiterate this. We are simply because of the nature of the things that we touch. We may not necessarily be the people who are picking and choosing what tech is going to be used because it may not necessarily solely be our purview. I think desks is a great example. It's electronic, it has a plug, but it doesn't necessarily apply to us if you have ancillary teams. But we enable the technology that people are going to have that's going to be able to allow them to get to that space, to utilize that space with a certain level of safety and distancing about themselves, etc. Here's my analogy. So PPE: I think this is two things because there's something that Julian said that I want to emphasize, right? Like we took all of this emergency that we had to participate in really quickly, and really reactionary, and we struggled and a lot of us probably, like, drank or smoked or screamed into a void.
Julian Hutchinson 34:38
Hally Darnell 34:39
All of the above, yeah.
Erin Merchant 34:40
Right? Like, we did that a lot because we knew that our workload had increased exponentially. And all of the things that we had that we knew were standard workload, were piling up even higher. When when you say the magic— the magic "B" word in IT, the "backlog" word, you know, like it, just, everyone gets palpitations. So I would say that it's preparation, post-mortem, and experience. Haha, I did it! And I think the reason that that's super important is because we didn't order playbooks, you could actually— let's swap it out for playbooks, I like that better. So this is the thing, we— none of us had a pandemic playbook. Wasn't you know, wasn't expecting that, wasn't ever gonna expect that. I mean, maybe I should have, I have a public health degree I probably should have. But you know, like, if you don't have a playbook, you probably have things in other playbooks that are applicable if you don't have a playbook, You need them, you need them now. So if you or your leadership doesn't have that in place— I'm not just talking about your corporate leadership, but you and your IT leadership do not have that, now's your time. How can you use the second "P" to do that? Oh my god, a post mortem! Wow! So, unfortunately, you have to dig up that whole experience that you've had and rehash some very troubling times.
Julian Hutchinson 36:00
Yep. Cry into a pillow a little bit, too.
Erin Merchant 36:03
Yeah, exactly, you know, hold hands, sing Kumbaya. Or, don't hold hands, I don't know, bump elbow, sing Kumbaya, there you go, and go through that. What went well? What didn't go well? What would you do differently? How does this impact the business? These are all direct questions that you can ask, by the way, this is practical advice. Does our business have playbooks, and what is missing from them? Just literally simply reading through those as they exist in their current state may help you find those job gaps. And then also taking that and when we're talking about the future, because I love to make this very approachable to the practical place that we are going to potentially be is what are the things that I know are going to be broken? Conference rooms, (inaudible—
Julian Hutchinson 36:49
Erin Merchant 36:50
Desks, right? Like, all of these things, anything— or IoT devices, all that stuff. What is going to be broken? What is going to be broken? What don't I want people to touch? What don't I want people to worry about? And I know it's weird to phrase those things in the negative, but that's kind of where we're at is the "what don't I want people to have to do, because it is actually going to have positive effect?" Take all those questions, write them down in a really crappy-looking list, and then put that into an actual performative document. And then you're going to decrease the amount of unknowns that you have going into this very nebulous world that we live in right now. And then experience, I think that that's actually like the last thing that I want to cover, and I think it's what we already know. We've done this before. We haven't done this on this scale, but we've done this before. We've been here before, our networks have been on fire. We've dealt with outages that are out of our control because they're SaaS-based. You know, like somebody spilled water all over their computer. Like, this is all one— no pun intended, or maybe a little bit— one non-distilled form of all of those things that just happen to happen at once. So it's literally taking the experiences that we have, and then going, "Okay, if I take one encapsulated ticket that was really, really crappy that I had to deal with that kind of escalated out of control, how do we blow that up to the ten-thousand-foot view? And what would my response be if I was in a managerial, a directorial or a VP level position?" Not only is it a great exercise in terms of thought leadership, it's a really great exercise because you are the person with that experience in IT and you are going to be able to want to provide that to your leadership. Career development and proactive thinking, all in one!
Julian Hutchinson 38:38
What do you know!
Erin Merchant 38:40
Right? It's crazy. There you go.
Hally Darnell 38:43
I wanted to note that in regards to making a list of all of these questions to ask, the Alley team is amazing and they transcribe these webinars so quickly, so you can just copy and paste that, put it on your list, there you go, amazing. And then per usual, Erin has teed me up for my second to last question before we dive into the Q&A, but we'll make this rapid-fire because I think you know, we both— you both pretty much touched on it. How do you think people and business' perception of IT has changed over the last few months? You talked about people in IT being put on the chopping block, we saw a lot of that, I think probably both of our teams saw a lot of that on our customer side and prospect side and it's crazy because we're all here preaching you know, like IT is the— man— IT is the something of the cell. I was looking for the word there and then I completely lost it
Erin Merchant 39:42
Hally Darnell 39:43
Yeah, put it in the Q&A if you recall, but yes, would love to hear how you think IT's perception has changed, whether it's on you know, your friends being like what do you do all day or your business or prospects whatever.
Julian Hutchinson 39:57
I mean, in terms of business' perception of IT, I hope, I really hope that it has not changed. If anything, it's gotten like "I need this more." The way that I see it is if you have internal IT, and this hit, they handled it in a way where you're just like, "what would I do without them?" Like I'm all of a sudden working from home. I got (inaudible), I got computers. Some people went to the other side of the country, some people went to the other— well, not the other side of the world. But people went in different places like what— some people— but what happens if something gets lost with that? I have a server, I need people to still access it. How do I maintain that server? How do I still have people access and how do I keep people from working? How do you do that? Your IT team is doing that. So if they were doing their job and they are still doing their job, all that stuff, while it may not have been super seamless, you've gotten to a place where you're just like, I'm still working. I still have a business. I'm not like dying. The other side of it is there are people that are just like, you know what, I don't need Internal IT. And I think we touched— Erin touched on this, they're going to be in some serious hot water. You know, when some of these things— like all of a sudden when the smoke clears and be like, wait, this was— this is going on, this is going on, I don't have this, this person lost their laptop, and now I don't have— like, all that data is unsecure. Like, there's a lot of things that are more than likely falling through the cracks that are just not being dealt with. And if you had an internal IT team, and you actually knew what they were doing on a day-to-day basis and you know listening to them, you would definitely have a better view of like, I really need them, they are essential kind of thing. So my hope is that it has only gotten better. But realistically, I feel like some companies have just been like, "Yeah, I don't need them." But they're gonna find out soon enough, that's just my take.
Erin Merchant 41:52
Yeah, I mean, I agree with that sentiment. I— there's so many— there's so many angles that I want to address. Oh, btdubs, somebody said HVAC in the chat in adding to the things that are probably just like hanging out there and breaking, and I was just like, "Ooh, yeah, that's a good crossover one that I hadn't considered." You can tell I haven't worked in an environment that has an HVAC in a while or one that I have to maintain myself, so good call out. Yeah, I mean, I think I've soapboxed about this already, and it's not just because I want like self-perpetuation of my role to make sure that I have continual job security, but I do think this is where I'm going to get a little "ugh" and heady, but in an important way, I do think that there has been a serious underestimation of the value of IT as it pertains to your whole business until this time. And that is specifically because of the visibility of the work that is done within IT. And if you don't have both the cycles, the resources, or you know, like no shade, literally the leadership. We were— we've been born and bred and trained in an environment that didn't also understand that this was like a role that we could take, right? Like we're coming into that right now. If you don't have somebody who's proactively going out to do that, and proactively, like— quite frankly, in a lot of times, like providing an extensive amount of extra energy to make sure that the business knows that IT is so integral, you're probably are going to suffer quite a bit going forward, because we just don't know what— you know, speaking to the ways that there are other stimuli impacting people's lives right now, we literally don't know what that's going to look like. And I can only imagine both like the desire as well as the resistance to coming back to work as we know it. And when it comes down to that when you're asking the multiplicity of questions within your corporation, within your business within, you know, the scope of your work, one of those has to be well, how am I going to make sure that people— I can't lose them, I don't want to lose them. I love them as an employee, I think they're incredibly important, right? Which is what I hope we're all hearing from our places of work, is how do I make sure that I can allow them or how am I going to make sure that I'm getting what I want out of them? Which is their heightened productivity and their you know, like, consistent delivery of work, but how am I going to make sure that they have what they need to do their job? That's our job. That's what I do. That's what we do, right? So if you're asking those questions, even if you're asking them for the wrong reasons, ultimately one of those people that you're going to need is an internal IT person/team— I hope you have more than a person unless you're actually sized appropriately. You know, a person, a team, an MSP, a consultant, like you're gonna need somebody. You need an expert, that's really what it is and that's certainly not to say that I don't want people to you know, like, solely lean on only consultancy because this is an amazing profession. You have no idea what, you know people can do for you once they work internally in IT. We dope, we like doing cool shit.
Julian Hutchinson 45:05
Erin Merchant 45:05
And we'll do even more for you when we actually understand the environment that we're working in. So you know— but I think there's the other— there's another component that I just want to hit on because they know it's top of mind for a lot of us. And I'm also going to preface this with like, white lady over here, but like, there's definitely a representation problem that's happening in IT that I want to see change. And it's something that I have personally approached from the guise of like wanting to see more women and a diversity of women. But I know that that is an expanding conversation that we need to have. So, I mean, do I think that that is also a component of the way that things have changed over the last few months? Hell yeah. And I'm invested in, you know, like understanding my own biases and not so I can help to be part of the solution in this and make sure that we do actually see like a really robust, really inclusive, really equitable next evolution of IT as well. Because like I said, we're going to be super important, and we have an opportunity to hire very soon in the future here, and this is one of the ways that we know that we can make an impact.
Hally Darnell 46:13
Thank you so much for touching on that, Erin, I think that conversation is something that should have a place in literally every single public recording available from this point forward. So thank you for touching on that as well. Okay, it's 2:52, I want to be conscientious of everyone's time, I have three questions from the Q&A. So I'm going to dive into those and skip some of my eloquently, beautifully written, preset questions just so we can cover some of these Q&A topics. First off is how do you effectively manage equipment without a physical location? I think that's an awesome question. I think I know the answer, which is shocking. But I would like to leave it to the professionals on this one.
Julian Hutchinson 46:55
I mean, I— one of the departments that I floated through and actually created, and we use a lot for our customers is MDM tools, whether it's like Jamf, Verdantis, Systems Meraki, Kaseya, ConnectWise Automate, any one of those is basically just having some kind of tool in place that allows you to kind of just check up on the machine. I like to do a lot of reports on when was the last time it was checked in, does it have these policies? Like you can just put together reports that pull that information. I mean, yes, those are something— for the most part you would want to, like start looking into before you know, like a pandemic hit. But it's never too late. Like even if you're like in this environment, like okay, how do I do this? You can figure out a plan to remotely roll these things out to your end-users. You know who's in the company, you can see like, Oh, this is their computer, oh, this person didn't do it. But you definitely need a tool because you know, you can't go to everyone's computer and check like hey, Timmy, what are you doing on your computer? You can't do that. So you need a tool that's lightweight, that doesn't interfere with anything, of course, explaining the details. I'm a really big believer in cultures of companies and sometimes that, you know, can be like, Oh my god, you're putting this on my machine but letting people understand what it does, what it's for, what it can't do is a big thing. I'm sorry. But I'm using an MDM tools or RMM tools, whatever you— however you want to call it, to get that information. And you can use that information to do things better, like hey, this person's computer is three years old, do I need to replace it? Stuff like that. This person's computer is unencrypted, I need to make sure that it is. So it will definitely provide you with insight that you would probably bang your head against the desk trying to get otherwise. So that's my big one.
Hally Darnell 48:48
I was gonna say the same thing, obviously. Erin, do you have anything else to add on top of that?
Erin Merchant 48:54
Oh, God. Where do we start? I mean, you need to communicate tool. I mean, that's actually like a huge one. And I know that sounds like, well, that's really obvious but also like you really do. Mostly because like we're just so fragmented in the ways that we're communicating right now, to begin with, and I know it seems counterintuitive to add another one but when you're talking about like the expediency that's required in communication right now like that's really what it's all about. Email isn't just gonna— isn't going to cut it. I wholly second an MDM. I think the sucky part about saying that one because I like very fundamentally believe that, too, is that they cost a lot of money and I know that that's like— right? Like, if you don't have one in place, or maybe you haven't— like you have one in place, but you haven't really been doing like diligence on management. Sometimes that can be a hard sell, but I do know there are a lot of companies who are doing really like both competitive as well as deferred pricing. So there's that I really don't mean that as pitch, but you know, it's like one of those things that I know came up. Truthfully, not a pitch. I also think that reporting tools, which is another one where it's like, "well, that cost a lot of money." It's like, "Oh, yeah, sorry." But like reporting tools are really— if you have one already, or you at least have the ability to connect, right? Like if you have somebody who can help you implement the connections between as many tools as you need, especially— Oh, and an IDP, duh, duh! Like, but I think the reporting tool is a really important one, because of this whole conversation that we've had about, you know, like, just the fragmentation of communication, and how hard it is to really like pulse check with people when there's so many other things going on. There's a lot— and actually, Julian literally said this. He's, you know like he said, he's grabbing a lot more data and he's doing a lot more data-driven analytics of like, the way that it can impact your influence culture, right? Like it's that whole thing of like, numbers don't actually— like numbers are unfeeling, but they also can give you a baseline especially when we're working in a position where we don't know what our priorities need to be or how to prioritize in time of crisis. So yeah, those— I mean, there's a whole other laundry list, but I think those are the big ones that like, if you're going to tackle something right now tackle those, honestly.
Hally Darnell 51:15
Love it. Again, transcribed. Copy and paste both of their answers to that one. Those, yeah, peak importance. Last question, and then we will do the final housekeeping bits is how do you troubleshoot issues that appear to truly require physical intervention, whether it's a hardwired connection, adapter, etc, etc?
Erin Merchant 51:36
Hally Darnell 51:38
You don't need it, throw it off the boat.
Julian Hutchinson 51:41
Don't do it.
Erin Merchant 51:42
I think I said, drop kick it out the window many, many times. I mean, I hate to say this, I mean, we didn't really talk about it at all. And I know it's another thing that's changed for a lot of us is just like the safety around hardware. Like physical safety around hardware, but like that one of the weirdest things that I never thought I was actually going to have to think about it was like hardware in terms of procurement and how to manage that lifecycle in a distributed world, when you don't have that lifecycle management set up, which I don't really like. But I think it also gets to the actual question, or the answer of the question that's being asked is, like, I'm doing a lot more break-fix than I ever thought that I would be. And it sucks, 'cause it's sunk cost. But, you know, like, I'm not gonna sit here and do the whole, like, it's a problem between the keyboard and the chair thing I, you know, like I will spend, I think the thing about that is like, we know that those situations come up where it's really hard for this stuff to translate in practice. I will sit with somebody for way longer than my patience has probably allotted me in a traditional work setting because I know that there's this whole component that I don't have access to, right? Like there's a literal lack of visibility. And an interest in privacy in the (inaudible). Like I, you know, this is about like the most that I generally want to welcome people into my home. And I'm perfectly comfortable with this, but I'm not going to ask somebody to do that, right, like if they're not comfortable with it. So, yeah, I mean, like, the trade-off is spending more time with someone to troubleshoot through those hardware things that really do need hands and being as descriptive and specific as possible. And if you don't have the time, patience, capacity, whatever to do that I think the answer is literally break-fix. Or just like a replacement. I think the sucky part on the other end of that is sometimes you recognize that by doing that, you're going to have to go through the steps with those folks all over again. So then, like during that actual, like, "sent" time, like delivery time is preempting a lot of the documentation or the communication around that as well.
Julian Hutchinson 53:54
Yeah, I mean, just I guess little add on, so it is one thing that started early on is people just breaking their computers. Like, I mean, with a company of four people you'd like "no one's gonna do it." No, everyone was doing like you're four people stop doing it. Anyway, but having loaners on-hand. I like to do it as like, hey, how many people do I have? Okay, maybe a percentage of how many that is? What I did was just as one of those, you know, panicking, what do I do? What do I do? What do I do? I actually have those loners with me. So when something is broken, I'm able to package that up. It's already set up. I already have the loners already configured so it's less on my end of actually getting it to them, put it in a box, ship it out to them. Clean it down, of course, send them cleaning supplies with it and say like "hey, when you have it, clean it down a little bit." And then having that broken device kind of fixed. Of course, you go through all the troubleshooting, you know, I've literally exhausted every option that I have getting it fixed but at least getting them up and running with something. At some point, you know, you're gonna be like "do I really want to have"— you know if you have a company of 1000, you know people do you want 100 loners? Obviously maybe not. But it goes back to data. If you can kind of see how often it happens, you can kind of predict on how many loners and how many of these extra things that you need to have on hand. So that's one thing that having an IT department, they kind of think ahead of time, like, they know this is what's going on. So it's not like a "Oh my gosh, let's panic" it's kind of it's more effort on our end. So you know, we don't always want to sit there for five hours troubleshooting something, and we're just like, I know it's broken, but I really want to help this person. We will do it, we have done it. But in the end having that, okay, we're done. We can't do this. What are the next steps? Loaner, get fixed, get you back up and running, so you can make money for the company and pay my salary. So yeah.
Erin Merchant 55:53
Yeah, where it's at!
Hally Darnell 55:56
Like, whose computers are breaking, and then you say make money for the company? Oh, it's sales, got it! Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 56:04
Hally Darnell 56:04
Yeah, right. Okay, we are one minute over time, so I'm going to do the world's quickest housekeeping. And that is: this was recorded, we're going to be sending this out as well as a ton of other resources. Finally, huge, huge thank you to both Julian and Erin. Feel like I personally left with a ton of great insights. Can't wait to rewatch later and listen to how terrible the sound of my own voices. But thank you guys so much again, and please tune in for part three of our Reimagining the Workplace Series coming in July. That's it. Thanks. Bye. Have a good one.
Julian Hutchinson 56:35