“The very idea of the office is changing,” said the new VMware CIO Jason Conyard in a recent fireside chat.
Last year, Jason was promoted from VP of IT Colleague Experience and Technology to CIO at VMware where his team was given their first order of business: drive the transition from in-office to work-from-home for a workforce of over 30K due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This monumental effort was successful, as the shift went smoothly with minimal disruption to business operations paving the way for the future of work at VMware.
In fact, leading with a people-first mindset and intuitive at-home technology solutions was so well-received that the traditional office concept may evaporate in a post-pandemic world. Instead, offices may become “collaboration and innovation centers.”
In the 20-minute interview, Jason spoke to Robert Ruelas, Vice President, Head of Worldwide End User Computing at VMware. They discussed the pandemic’s impact on how employees and businesses are now thinking about the future of work and how IT departments are helping employees do their best work, regardless of their location.
- According to a July 2020 employee survey, 50% of VMware employees say that they now want to work primarily from home. Thirty-eight percent would prefer an at-home, in-office hybrid.
- BYOD security improvements and employees following best practices show that a remote knowledge workforce is possible and safe.
- Single sign-on and reliable and fast network connections are required for knowledge workers to successfully work from home.
- IoT solutions are likely headed for the office to manage desk and resource reservations and headcounts.
Read on for excerpts from the video of Jason and Robert’s conversation about VMware’s people-first mindset, a reflection on their COVID response, and their predictions about the future of work.
Responding to the Pandemic
Robert Ruelas: If you look at the future of COVID, I mean obviously your team pivoted, you did some things that were mind-boggling within minutes, within hours, within a weekend, went to 95% work from home. Looking back on it, what things would you do differently, where there are some opportunities where you could learn from it, change some things that you think you’d be more effective next time?
Jason Conyard: I think the company handled things incredibly well: over 30,000 people move to being remote in a very short period of time. And, of course, there was the “Let’s just get this done,” and then there was the “Let’s make it better.”
There’s a huge emphasis around well-being in the company, really focusing on people, which I’m really happy about. I think the one thing that I’ve observed is that while we did incredibly well, you can see the teams that took their business continuity planning seriously and those that didn’t. And there’re those that were like “Yeah, we updated the names and the phone numbers,” and there are those that, you know, actually invested the time and ran through tabletop exercises.
There’s a quote that’s often attributed to Eisenhower: “The plan is nothing, planning is everything.” That‘s a perfect example of where you see the areas where people actually took the time to think things through. I would say to anybody that investing that little bit of time will pay dividends at some point in one way, shape or form.
I think the other thing I would just add, I’m going to make a plug for IT professionals here. IT professionals in the past are often in the background. And that’s fine. We’re often in the background, you know, helping out whether it’s your laptop or your email, your Zoom or whatever, it is your business systems, whatever. One of the things I’ve been super proud of with the team has been how human they have been, how they’ve really leaned into conversations. I’ve got emails from colleagues around the company saying how grateful they are that somebody on the Help Desk just spent 10 minutes with them or even a couple of minutes, just making sure that they were well and happy and safe and they had the resources they need. It wasn’t about fixing their Windows machine. So I think that’s really an amazing thing to see coming out of this.
The Future of Workspace and Workplace
Robert Ruelas: [Before the pandemic] VMware was growing fast in well over 100 countries all over the world. What do you think real estate is going to look like now at VMware post-COVID?
Jason Conyard: I think the very idea of the office is changing. I think leading up toward the end of last year, we were really kind of ramping up. We were expanding in a lot of places. I know our campus in Palo Alto, California, we have big plans to do a lot of different things, and we’ve been revisiting and been thinking about how much real estate we need. What purpose will it serve? Which has been an interesting journey.
We’ve really been thinking about how we enable our employees remotely when they’re on the road when they’re traveling for work and such. I think we’ve got a whole new spin on that now. We’re really thinking about how our offices become collaboration and innovation centers and places where people come together, rather than thinking more traditionally about an office being a place where people go to work. So, there are a lot of changes ahead of us in that regard.
Robert Ruelas: As you look at supporting employees who work from home more permanently in some respects, the question of access to the applications and security is coming up. How are you tackling that as well as the productivity and collaboration tools that employees are demanding right now?
Jason Conyard: You are looking for a shameless plug here aren’t you?
Well, obviously we’re using Workspace ONE, of course. Both single sign-on experience, making it easier for our colleagues to find the applications they need. In some cases, our colleagues aren’t even using their laptops at home. They may be just using that as a window to our Horizon environment or virtual environment or desktop streaming.
I think the other thing that we’ve been thinking more about is how do we provide an office-like network experience in people’s homes recognizing that we can’t control the internet. So, looking at how we leverage the VeloCloud Edge products as an example to enhance people’s connectivity. If people are fortunate enough to have more than one ISP, making that service redundant. If you’re doing an event like today, as an example, you want to make sure that you have a stable connection.
I think the other thing that’s really important as well is that as we think more about distributed work, I’m more mindful of the security considerations. You know, when we think about our offices and when people are in the office on the network or your firewalls and very traditional methods of protecting their data and their estate. But when everybody is at home or to the winds as it were, we’ve really been thinking about how we move to more of a zero-trust model and securing the endpoint. I think a lot of that great work we’ve already done is just paying huge dividends now.