Vendor Vision: Insights from the Solutions Side with Jason Coari, Lakeside Software

SINC’s Director of Content Annie Liljegren spoke with Jason Coari in November 2021, and has edited this interview for length and clarity.

I'm speaking with Jason Coari, Senior Director Product Marketing at Lakeside Software. Based in London, Jason will be joining us in Scottsdale, AZ for our 2021 West IT & Security Leaders Forum, where he'll deliver a keynote presentation: "Empower Your Digital Workforce."

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Jason, you had a deep background in tech long before joining Lakeside towards the end of the pandemic year. What can you share about that move?

Jason Coari: Yes, I’ve been in technology for my entire career, and most recently I’ve focused on end-user computing: both at Lakeside and with my previous company.

Coming to Lakeside when I did was really exciting because I knew the relevance of the kind of tech Lakeside provides, and that it is becoming even more relevant after the pandemic.

I’m looking at it from two angles: trying to provide the employees’ personal perspective, and ensure that perspective is being collected and is guiding decisions. And on the other side, making sure IT has the tools to act on that guidance in an intuitive way that helps teams work better, again ultimately to help out a business’s employees.

When you poll employees as well as C-level executives, both say they’re actually more productive while they’re remote working. But what’s quite compelling, from my perspective, is that when you actually double-click on that productivity, under the covers suggests there’s problems within the productivity increases, and that some of it may not be sustainable.

Employees may be more productive because they’re simply working longer hours, or because they’re not commuting. Employees suggested they now have problems collaborating, more than they did prior to the pandemic, because all that collaboration is now being implemented through technology. So if the tech isn’t working, collaboration isn’t happening, and collaboration is obviously a major mechanism driving productivity.

There’s all sorts of elements related to the pandemic and how it’s affecting employee experience, and I’m personally very grateful to be right in the middle of it.

We often hear about a possible disconnect between the employer's perception of their employees' satisfaction level with the digital experience, and then the actual degree of satisfaction. From the vendor perspective, what do you see when coming to that problem?

JC: Yes, that’s a good question, Annie. The analogy I most often apply to an instance like this is the watermelon effect. That’s where IT is basically seeing everything look green, you know, all of our SLAs, we’re meeting our targets when it comes to meantime resolution, or we’ve got our ticket volumes and we know where those are relative to our overall goals or KPIs, but inside it’s red: employees are frustrated in some way.

And so the reality is that while those indicators may be green, they’re green because of the exact things happening on the employee side that you don’t want to be happening, and it’s actually causing productivity losses.

An example of this might be employees that perhaps lost faith in the service desk because they believe incidents are taking too long to respond to, or they’re worried about downtime because of course you’re using your computer more than ever, and so you don’t have to turn it off to get your device serviced. And so what’s happening is they’re living with their problems.

But those problems are having a direct impact on their engagement and their overall productivity, so IT sees this as everything looks rosy, everything looks great, but the employees are suffering.

What we allow organizations to adopt, both as a posture and just a best practice in general, is giving IT organizations better tools to monitor what’s going on within the device from the employee perspective—how they’re actually using the technology that’s being deployed, and a mechanism to engage employees when they need to be engaged.

So, a mechanism that can alert when employees may be working too many hours, or they’re suffering a certain issue, that automatically triggers a survey or some other sort of engagement. That helps IT take a pulse of what’s going on with employees, or even giving the employer the ability to self-heal the problem they’re seeing and solve it themselves.

We find that all employees, across the board, value a sense of autonomy. We like being able to control our own environment to the best of our ability, and so giving IT tools to allow employees to do that is good for the employee and it’s good for the business.

Give us an example of what that self-healing functionality might that look like, and also what Lakeside brings to the table—what sets you apart?

JC: Sure, let’s say an employee is having a connectivity issue; connectivity is one of the most important aspects of having a good digital employee experience.

With a piece of software like Lakesides Digital Experience Cloud, we can actually detect wifi signal strength and we can help IT generate a popup on an employee’s laptop that says Oh, looks like your wifi signal strength is low, and then provide a course of action the employee can take to remedy.

And that sort of problem where the employee is experiencing a connectivity issue—some employees wouldn’t necessarily realize it’s a wifi strength issue, they may think it’s a website that’s not performing, they may think it’s something related to memory or hardware or their device in general. Giving the employees that bit of information they can act on is again really good for the employees, as well as for the business.

As far as what Lakeside uniquely brings to the category, we have an ability to collect a degree of telemetry off of that device application and network that is truly superior within our category.

I say that because we collect across more metrics—we collect across 10,000 metrics—and we also do it more frequently. We collect data every 15 seconds, while there are others in the category that collect either every hour, or sometimes just every day.

But an employee might be having an issue that occurs intermittently or occasionally. Well, if you’re only collecting data once every hour, what happens if you’re collecting the status of that device when the incident is not manifesting itself? You’re never going to see it in the first place; you’re not getting accurate insight. Data by itself is just data, but having better data can drive better insights and those better insights can drive better actionability. So by putting all that together we give organizations the most opportunity to impact and improve digital employee experience within the category.

I’ll also share several great case studies in my presentation, specifically, one that has to do with asset rationalization. Lakeside services some very large American enterprises, and what we’ve found is that often hardware refresh cycles are conducted in ways that cost businesses a tremendous amount of capital. When it comes to refreshing the devices of thousands of employees, you think about the aggregate amount, the overall cost of that kind of investment the company’s making.

The reality we often see is that most devices don’t actually need replacing, they just need upgrading: they need upgraded memory, they need upgraded hardware. In some cases they need perhaps upgraded processors, but there’s also an opportunity to move a lot of employees from physical infrastructure to thin clients.

Giving enterprises that kind of flexibility and the ability to be more prescriptive in how they deploy hardware to their technology ends up saving organizations millions of dollars, and so I’ll be sharing more about that in the presentation.

Great to hear you'll have some exciting case studies for us. Your presentation is titled “Empower Your Digital Workforce,” and as we're thinking about the future of work—that's become something of a buzz phrase, but let’s dig into it from the vendor perspective. I don't want to use the word ‘assume,’ but what are you anticipating about what that workforce is going to look like? Coming out of our recent global event, there must be some things you’re presuming about the workplace of the near future or of the future, and what's going to stick.

JC: That’s a terrific question. There’s a few observations I would make based on existing trends and I suppose a short-term view out, for the next one, two, maybe three years. The world landscape changes rapidly, the technology landscape changes rapidly, and who knows what kind of environmental factors may come into play that we can’t predict at this time.

But one thing that’s happening in front of us, and that I think is perhaps one positive consequence of the pandemic, is this concept of organizations and enterprises ensuring their employees can be productive anywhere.

That freedom in giving employees more of a choice on where they are productive will, I believe, ultimately benefit employees and benefit their organizations. But the only reason organizations are able to adopt this commercial posture has to do with the fact that technology is such a critical element of employee productivity. That’s an area I don’t expect to change, and an area I think will only grow over the coming years.

And as organizations adopt the posture of supporting worker productivity, no matter where they work, I think that takes IT from a kind of back office within a commercial organization, and puts them right into the driving seat—into the front office of executive conversations.

For the Forum attendees, I think the importance of our position relative to overall company performance really improved in step change to another level over the last year or two. IT’s ability to help organizations weather this storm of the Great Resignation, for example, and to help deal with labor shortages by ensuring that employees are happy. A lot of that happiness has to do with not being frustrated, and so much of that frustration can stem from technology. Ensuring that IT is equipped to deliver the best possible digital experience, and putting IT in the driver’s seat I think is really important, and is going to continue.

The other thing I would predict is that all of us in IT are becoming more cross-functional in nature: more and more business functions are reliant on IT for the ultimate output of the employees within their group. IT is becoming more of a business partner with those groups, and therefore needs solutions that give more insight into how employees are using the technology that’s being deployed.

So again, I think the kind of perspectives provided by that user-centric approach and which digital experience management solutions offer will be critical in supporting those other business functions.

Indeed. We hear so often from our community that folks feel they're not taking full advantage of the solutions or products they have deployed. It sounds like you’re speaking to that need to take stock, to assess how we're making use of what we have. And to your point about enabling people to be productive anywhere, if we remove some of the generational challenges that we sometimes see, you can make that a lot easier for folks. So something as simple as an employee not realizing they have a connectivity issue—a system that anticipates that might somewhat level the playing field between different generations that maybe aren't as familiar with technology as another. Would that be fair to say?

JC:  Annie, what you just brought up is actually something I often saw in the technology conferences I presented at this year: the idea of digital friction in the business and adoption of digital tools. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all. There really are different tolerances among employees and so a company really needs to not have a one-size-fits-all IT department. You need the ability to personalize IT service delivery and the ability to group employees, and that’s something a solution like ours can do.

Yes, you’re sharing a point more true than ever, which is that an organization’s digital culture and whether employees embrace the digital tools provided by the business is more critical than it’s ever been.

It’s critical for companies to treat that as something that needs investment and which in some ways needs digital caretakers. It needs measurement, it needs metrics behind it, and the ability to benchmark, because without that kind of insight how do you actually improve upon it? And it needs resourcing, so, yes, 100%.

Such a relevant area for discussion—we hear that theme of adoption frustration all the time. This is your first SINC event; What are you excited to share with the West audience, or to get the audience talking about in the discussion? What are you looking forward to about your presentation and the event itself?

JC: Well, this is my first in-person event in some time so I’m pretty jazzed (laughs).

I know the term “digital employee experience” is still fairly new to a lot of organizations out there. “Employee experience” is a term that’s getting much more attention these days, and of course the idea of the customer experience has had a tremendous amount of attention for the past few years.

So I’d love it if the attendees took away a greater sense of understanding as to why I’m paying such attention to digital employee experience, why technology matters so greatly to employees in today’s world, and why it’s so important. I hope to provide a deeper understanding that, with investment and with resourcing, it’s an area of the business where you really can make genuine improvements through solutions within our category.

And then I’m also thinking about all the people in that room, how we’re all IT professionals and we’re all part of this industry, collectively. It’s a rare opportunity to have a general sharing of experience on this kind of scale, so it would be fantastic to have a spirited discussion around the challenges people are seeing and how others are resolving those challenges.

Having a discussion where all of us, including myself, can walk away having learned something—that would be really tremendous.

Sounds great, Jason. That’s exactly what we are about: curating environments and events where that level of quality conversation can take place. Thanks for your time; we’ll see you in Scottsdale.

JC: Thank you so much, it’s been delightful talking to you.