CIO Wendy Pfeiffer on getting hybrid work right

Wendy M. Pfeiffer is a expertise chief who’s as devoted to excellence in operations and supply as she is to sustaining a deal with innovation. She joined Nutanix as SVP and CIO following a profitable profession main expertise groups at corporations like GoPro, Yahoo, Cisco Methods, and Robert Half. Extremely regarded by her trade friends for her brave transparency and candor, Pfeiffer additionally serves on the boards of Qualys, SADA Methods, and the American Gaming Affiliation (AGA). 

On a current episode of the Tech Whisperers podcast, Pfeiffer shared her insights in regards to the quite a few calls for being positioned on CIOs right this moment, what she’s gained from her board experiences, and the way the methods during which we work are evolving. Afterwards, we spent a while speaking by way of Pfeiffer’s five-part series for “The Forecast by Nutanix” on IT’s function in enabling hybrid work, in addition to what she’s realized working IT for a hybrid-first firm. What follows is that dialog, edited for size and readability.

Dan Roberts: What motivated you to provide this collection on hybrid work?

Wendy Pfeiffer: Work is now eternally hybrid. What I imply by that’s, we’re not going to have the ability to rely on having everybody in the identical place on the similar time ever once more. So, how can we reply to this modified nature of labor? As a substitute of simply being observers and saying, “Properly, it’s not prefer it was,” how can we deal with altering the strategies we use to reply to that?

If I take into consideration my major mission as an IT skilled, it’s to allow expertise in service of enterprise and other people, and right this moment, enterprise is totally different. Know-how is totally different. Individuals are totally different. So, I’ve been excited about this loads, learning it, studying, and talking to people. And the underside line is, I didn’t discover that anybody had any nice concepts.

So, I began excited about the IT expertise as a product, and the worker expertise as a product. If I had been delivering a product into a brand new market, I would wish to study every little thing I may about that market, after which I would wish to regulate some parameters of the product to be applicable. And in doing so, I found these easy ideas that I believe make a distinction in the direction of enabling hybrid work.

Hybrid work is asynchronous, so it’s a must to allow asynchronous issues. It’s characterised by context switching, and context switching has a destructive impression on productiveness. How can we counterbalance that? There are simply all kinds of ideas which might be on the coronary heart of hybrid work that, in case you take them one after the other, we have already got some tooling to handle. We have already got some methods in use. We have already got some design considering round learn how to handle these issues. If we focus our efforts on these, we will enhance the character of labor.

Half one focuses on managing fixed change. Why ought to that change into an even bigger focus in 2023, and what are some on a regular basis methods we will try this in a hybrid office?

I believe that hybrid work normally is characterised by the change that comes from steady context switching on goal. Like most individuals, I discover change to be tense, and but, I’ve developed some methods to take care of change. One is to have a house base, a basis that’s not altering and that’s stable at the same time as issues round it modifications. So, I used to be excited about learn how to create a stable basis in expertise, and one of many best methods to do this is thru ‘anchor applied sciences.’

In my group, now we have chosen a handful of anchor applied sciences, and we’ve doubled down on enabling our staff to be very comfy with them, to at all times count on that these applied sciences can be obtainable, functioning, and even to really feel knowledgeable in them, the identical manner that you simply really feel knowledgeable after you’ve been utilizing your smartphone for some time. We would like individuals to really feel like, I’m not only a medium person of Zoom or Slack — I’m a Zoom ninja and know all of the secrets and techniques. As quickly as that competence and bedrock are there, then that provides us the inspiration from which to launch new issues.

For instance, with on-line whiteboarding, I’m not launching a brand new expertise; I’m launching a brand new on-line whiteboarding characteristic within the context of Zoom. So, I’m minimizing the quantity of change the worker has to undergo. They already really feel comfy once they see it present up as a characteristic in considered one of these anchor applied sciences.

It’s psychological, however it makes an enormous distinction by way of our adoption of latest applied sciences. We discover that after we are launching new applied sciences within the context of our anchor purposes, we see a large uptick in adoption. Prior to now, we’d launch a brand new expertise, and about 30 days in, we’d see a few 25% adoption price. Now we see about an 80% adoption price. And, you realize, that’s a fantastic factor — a lot much less coaching time, rapid productiveness for our staff, and so on.

In your second video, you get into asynchronous productiveness, and also you speak about these ‘watercooler’ conversations that many CIOs are involved about — probability conferences that foster collaboration and innovation. How has that modified within the hybrid office?

Earlier than the pandemic, most of us who labored in international corporations already had individuals who labored in several time zones in several places all around the world and had been a part of our groups. However again then, we didn’t care what sort of an expertise that they had. We didn’t pay a lot consideration to them. You type of needed to be bodily within the room, the place the dialog was taking place, to have a voice in that dialog. So we had been leaving among the productiveness of these ‘distant’ contributors on the desk.

For instance, earlier than the pandemic, about 30% of our staff, globally, had been full-time distant. They weren’t related to a hub workplace. However 99% of the time, after we would have ideation classes or technique or planning classes, these of us in a US time zone would bodily get collectively in a convention room. If any person couldn’t be in that convention room, they might be on the decision, however they wouldn’t actually collaborate and take part. We’d use whiteboards, and the very act of stepping up and writing scribbles down on the whiteboard is an unique in-room expertise. When you’re not in that room whereas it’s taking place, you’ll be able to take a look at these whiteboards afterwards they usually’re unintelligible. When you’re listening in otherwise you’re even viewing that dialog from a digital camera within the room, you’ll be able to’t perceive these whiteboard scribblings.

In 2023, we’re taking a look at totally 60% to 80% of most data employees, not less than in some unspecified time in the future each week, working remotely. We’re by no means all going to be again in that room. Due to this fact, the largest request I get as a CIO — and it’s often from senior executives — is expounded to that: ‘Ideation has stopped; innovation goes to grind to a halt as a result of we will’t all sit on this room and whiteboard collectively.’

I’ve a distinct standpoint. I believe that maybe if we will discover a method to ideate in a hybrid mode or asynchronously, then we will abruptly make the most of that 30% of our worker inhabitants whom we used to not interact. Now we will have 100% participation.

What are among the methods you’re doing that?

Asynchronous work requires a steady-state set of content material that folks can work together with. It requires writing, for lack of a greater time period. It requires expressing concepts in a context that transcends house and time. After which, after all, not everyone likes to learn, not everyone speaks the identical language, so we additionally want tooling that makes recordings and that creates transcripts of these recordings, in order that over the course of 24 hours, a worldwide workforce that is likely to be residing in 15 totally different time zones and 30 totally different international locations can all participate in contributing to a dialog.

We’re utilizing tooling that creates persistent methods of speaking in order that, even in case you’re not within the room the place it occurs, you’ll be able to nonetheless perceive what occurred, have a voice in what occurs sooner or later, and make your mark. There are different instruments and concepts as nicely. Nutanix’s Head of Design, Satish Ramachandran, talks about the necessity to make organizational modifications to create ecosystems of collaboration round a time zone radius, in order that we deal with our international employees extra respectfully.

Again within the day after we would have crucial conferences within the US time zone, we had one other set of executives who had been lacking dinnertime or getting up at 4 within the morning to take part. Most of us realized after we had been all working from dwelling that that’s extremely disrespectful to our households and ourselves. Individuals don’t wish to return to that. And but, these persons are key contributors, so we have to discover methods of guaranteeing that we’re respectful of all contributors.

Elements three and 4 are about lowering context switching and specializing in automation and self-service. Why is that necessary? 

One factor that occurs if you end up working in a number of modes is that the work itself can change into advanced and the applied sciences that we use can change into advanced. The extra that we personalize, the extra now we have individuals partaking in utilizing expertise from all totally different contexts — this creates the necessity to perform a little little bit of every little thing.

The query turns into: How can we take care of the complexity of a piece atmosphere that’s inclusive of client tech and public web and but additionally should be very performant in bodily places of work and must occur throughout time zones and SaaS purposes and on-premises knowledge facilities and all of these issues? It’s overwhelming even to speak about it!

When now we have nice complexity and excessive volumes, these are great instances to automate, to take these high-volume duties, these advanced duties, break them down into elements and hand them off to the machine. It’s the identical precept behind meeting strains. It’s organising staff to succeed utilizing the right combination of applied sciences, processes, and methodologies.

The fifth half explores client expertise experiences for hybrid work. How do corporations profit by integrating client expertise into the hybrid work system?

I believe one of many issues we miss as employers is that during the last 15 years or so, expertise has change into enjoyable. I’m an enormous gamer. I like the artwork and the science and the aptitude and the interplay design that’s grown up round that house. I’m an enormous proponent of cell units. All of these items mix some critical expertise, but additionally with critical enjoyable. There are every kind of interactions which might be obtainable which might be simply tremendous cool. So why do now we have to be so Eighties and unhappy and critical within the office?

If we introduced our sense of engagement and our sense of enjoyable and our sense of enjoyment in utilizing these applied sciences to work, what may we obtain, notably if we’re working in an organization that’s making merchandise for different human beings? There’s no rule in opposition to me sitting right here in my gaming chair, utilizing considered one of my gaming computer systems, to do work. I’m even curating my very own visible expertise. I’ve this actually cool streamer digital camera that lets me present up superbly. Even utilizing that client tech to curate my look is among the issues that’s obtainable to me, so why not have slightly enjoyable as I’m working? Why wouldn’t we allow our staff to be comfy and be ok with themselves and the way they’re exhibiting up professionally?

There are a number of research that present a direct correlation between worker happiness and worker productiveness. Actually, many research present that staff are about 15% extra productive once they report their temper as being completely happy versus their temper as being unhappy. So why not? Why not have happier staff through the use of expertise to offer them the experiences that they get pleasure from, even whereas they’re working?

For extra from Pfeiffer on the altering nature of labor and her ardour for growing the human facet of expertise, tune in to the Tech Whisperers podcast.


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