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In this Leadership Insights video interview, Mike Vizard talks to Harsh Kumar, a senior product manager for ServiceNow, about how digital employee experience is transforming IT service management (ITSM).



Mike Vizard: Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of the Digital CXO Leadership Insights series. I’m your host, Mike Vizard.
Today, we’re with Harsh Kumar, senior principal product manager at ServiceNow, and we’re going to be talking about how digital employee experience and focusing on that has made IT service people better and more responsive.
Hey, Harsh. Welcome to the show.

Harsh Kumar: Thanks, Mike. Thanks for having me on the show. I’m really excited to talk about digital employee experience and the tool and the market and the futuristic vision and strategy across.

Mike Vizard: Well, walk us through what happened here, because it seems like it was a happy accident in the sense that, well, covid not being happy, but a lot of folks were working from home and they needed a better experience. Most of what initially was provided was people were rushed out the door and they were given a VPN and told to log in and kind of hope for the best.
It seemed like ever since then, IT folks who did an admirable job of that part really kind of stepped up and started providing better experiences. But from your perspective, what went into that and what have we learned so far?

Harsh Kumar: There are a couple of things. One is, when you look at IT in general, IT has never been proactive. IT is always reactive, even when employees were in the offices.
When the hybrid workforce was announced or when the people started moving from offices to home, IT didn’t have any visibility to employees in general. Even before, IT didn’t have any visibility into what employees were doing, it’s just that employees, when they had issues, they used to walk to IT and they used to basically show, “Hey, here’s my laptop, I’m facing this issue. Can you resolve this issue?” Or they used to manually raise an incident and they used to address those incidents on the IT ascent.
Now, with the hybrid workforce, IT wants to know more on what employees are facing, how long the employees are logging in, what employees are using, what application services that employees are basically having an issue with, and is the laptop doing good?
There are a ton of visibility, especially when you look at decks. There’s a ton of visibility that IT wants to know during this hybrid workforce in general. The main narrative is, “Hey, how can I get at least a visibility because none of my employees are showing up to office?” And even if they show up, they basically don’t have any visibility into employee’s laptop. Which application do they are using? Are they having an issue? Do they have a battery issue?
I’ll just give you a simple example. I was having a call, a Zoom call, the other day and my Zoom crashed. Whenever there’s a Zoom crash, IT doesn’t have any visibility. Now, let’s say if it occurs multiple times, what do I do is I basically restarted my laptop at that point. I didn’t do much.
Now, if IT had any visibility into my Zoom crash or the version of Zoom that I’m using, IT would reach out to me and say, “Hey, here’s your Zoom issue that I saw, and here’s the resolution for that issue.”
So, that’s where IT is trying to move forward, where IT wants to get visibility into the application and application services that employees are using and wants to have [inaudible 00:03:38] visibility, not just on the application, even the device. How is the battery doing? How is the boot time is? When did the employee last restart the laptop? What is the VPN that the employee is connected to? Lot of visibility is missing and right now, IT wants to get ahead of it with our DEX solutions.

Mike Vizard: Are there metrics or things that I should be monitoring that I wasn’t monitoring before if I’m an IT organization? What am I looking at when it comes to digital experience that I might not have thought about looking at when I was just basically following the idle framework?

Harsh Kumar: There are a lot of metrics. When you look at every DEX solution out there, there are a lot of things in terms of, there’s something called DEX core, there’s something called DEX metrics that basically comes into in the hands of IT. But the main thing that most of the DEX solution don’t focus on is the proactive incident response.
What I’ve seen in the market is basically, how can IT know that there’s an issue with the employee’s laptop? How can basically IT get ahead of it? Is there any alert or an incident created by the particular DEX tool for IT to resolve? That’s the proactive incident response that is not there, and that is a main narrative of any digital employee [inaudible 00:05:07].
The third narrative that I see, especially the first narrative is always a visibility, IT wants to know, “Hey, what’s happening on the employee device?”, second thing IT wants to know is, “Hey, I want to do a proactive incident response where I know of issues and I have a record of that particular issue in time for me to resolve.” And the third narrative is basically employee empathy.
When it comes to employee empathy, it is basically… I’ll just give a simple example here. So the simple example is, let’s say me, as an employee of ServiceNow, if I have to raise a IT request, what would I do? I go to Okta, I do two-step verification, I go to employee portal, I search for the catalog, fill up the form, and then submit.
So it took close to 5 to 10 clicks or maybe more than that just to raise one IT request. It’s a pretty bad experience from my perspective. From an employee perspective, it’s a pretty bad experience. If I have to raise a request, if I have to resolve something, it has to be within two clicks for a better user experience. Employee empathy by itself is missing in most of the digital employee experience tools that I see.
Now, when it comes to metrics, to your question, when it comes to metrics, metrics is all there. In most of the tools, in most of the product that I see, data is there, but data is collected. But outcome is not there, of proactive incident response or even in terms of employee empathy.
Again, I’m basically stressing on two things. One is proactive incident response where IT knows the issues that the employees are facing and IT takes care of those particular issues before employee complaints.
Then the second is, how can a DEX tool provide a self-service experience? Because when you look at DEX as a [inaudible 00:07:00] digital employee experience, employee is key. How can I basically stress on that employee? How can I provide a self-service tool for employee to easily create requests, easily debug something on their laptop, easily know that… Let’s say if I had a Zoom crash and the issue was to resolve a Zoom crash through removing Zoom cache, how can I basically execute an action on a self-service tool on my laptop without reaching IT so that I could resolve that issue?
So, shifting to left, where employee resolves their own issue by executing certain actions if the IT is aware of those actions and they can basically put those actions on their laptop. For self-service actions, let’s say even for password reset, we used to have an action where, let’s say employee forgets their password. We used to have an action to do password resets.
Similarly, let’s say there’s a Zoom crash. How can a employee remove the Zoom cache? Or how can an employee upgrade their Zoom by themselves without creating an incident? How can we provide that self-service narrative of having that employee empathy and elevating the employee experience is critical for a DEX tool. Those are the two things that are missing in most of the DEX tools that I see around.

Mike Vizard: Do you think that IT leaders are being evaluated more on the digital experience that they provide? Because historically, it was, “Here’s my uptime report” and we got five lines, but maybe today, people want more.

Harsh Kumar: There are multiple ways to measure the KPIs or the performance of a DEX tool. Now, it can help many leaders. DEX tools can basically help, not just in giving that visibility or not just providing the proactive incident response or the employee empathy, it can also help IT or leaders to save cost in a sense that, if you look at DEX tools in general, most of the DEX tools are basically software asset management tools by itself.
Every DEX tool out there already know what are the installed software on my laptop, they know what are the running process on their laptop. All they have to do is convert the data into asset management tool so that IT can basically save costs.
When you look at a DEX tool, DEX knows, “Hey, here is the running process here. Here is the hardware that…” Let’s say my hardware model is pretty old. How can IT know, “Hey, I need to replace this employee’s laptop.”? Let’s say this particular laptop is under warranty for five years. Or this particular laptop is on a lease from a particular vendor. You can go to that particular vendor and say, “Hey, this laptop is old. Can you replace this laptop?” So, IT can save the hardware cost, save the software cost by building the asset management workflows around it.
I’ll give a simple use case here. I’m using Zoom right now. We are all on Zoom call. It can know how long Harsh has been using Zoom, how long Mike has been using Zoom. Now, let’s say I haven’t opened Zoom for let’s say the last three months. IT can basically reclaim my Zoom license because I haven’t opened Zoom. So IT has that visibility through the DEX tool, but IT hasn’t opened up many of the DEX tools haven’t opened up of using DEX product as an asset management product.
And you can use the DEX product as an asset management product because you have the visibility, you have the data. All you have to do is build workflows around the DEX data and have the reclamation workflows run on the software licenses. Even with every DEX tool that I’ve seen around, the meter even the software usage, the hardware usage, everything.
Now, I’ll just give a another example here. Let’s say is an expensive SaaS-licensed product. It costs us close to a hundred dollars per employee per month, correct me if I’m wrong. Now, IT would like to reclaim unused software licenses of Now, IT can monitor, with the DEX tools, IT has a visibility of every SaaS application and installed application, can meter those websites or the browser application the employees use and can help IT to reclaim unused Miro licenses by the DEX tools.
But I see, from the DEX market itself, I haven’t seen many vendors are not doing. And to your question, Mike, DEX can be used as an asset management tool and IT leaders can get way benefit of saving cost of using DEX tool as an asset management tool. And DEX can provide a good KPIs in terms of hardware cost savings, software cost savings. It can also save even in terms of battery health.
I was talking to one customer, the other customer told me that, “Hey, I want to know the battery health of this particular of all my employee’s laptop.” I asked the customer, “Why do you want to know the battery health?” The customer told me that, “Hey, I want to know the battery health, the current capacity of the battery, the design capacity of the battery. I want to know the cycle count of the battery. By knowing that, I can basically save on battery cost.”
I asked the customer, “How you want to do this?” By knowing the current capacity is less than the design capacity by 70%, and if the battery is under warranty period, you can basically… Every battery on a laptop or any workstation comes with a five-year warranty period. And if you are under the five-year warranty period, you can go to the warranty provider and can get the battery replaced. So, in turn, you are saving the hardware costs.
I just gave you one example. There are so many examples that I could share where IT can save hardware costs, software costs, and many other costs with the DEX tools.

Mike Vizard: One of the areas where we see a lot of friction, especially around digital experience, is cyber security. Will the DEX tool be extended in some way to reduce that friction or is that always going to be trouble we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with separately?

Harsh Kumar: Again, every DEX tool that I’ve seen out there does has some risk in terms of getting the employee data into the instance or the platform. The authentication have to be done right in terms of cybersecurity, in terms of how that particular client… Every DEX tool I’ve seen out there has a client which is compatible with Windows and Mac. And that particular client, when it authenticates with the platform or the SaaS platform, it has to go through complete mutual log, doesn’t have to store any data.
So there are security concerns that I’ve seen in multiple DEX deployments across the industry, but every DEX vendor has their own best practices to address those cybersecurity issues in terms of whitelisting the actions that the DEX tool can execute, doing a complete mutual log between end-to-end connection between the laptop to the platform and also on the platform, how you can basically revoke a rogue laptop from accessing the platform.
There are a ton of ways you can address those cybersecurity issues. I’ve seen even customers in general, when they basically start deploying DEX, one of the main concern is mainly pushback from the end user computing team. Say, “Hey, why do you need DEX? Why can’t you use this particular MDM tools to do this?”
But again, the value proposition is more in terms of to the business and also in terms of employee empathy and employee experience by using the DX tools. And that’s where we need to convince the cybersecurity team that here is the value proposition. The value proposition is more, and also, here are the steps to mitigate those risks, cybersecurity risk. And that’s where the DEX tools are mainly their focus on educating the cybersecurity teams to understand more on how they can mitigate those risks with those particular tools.

Mike Vizard: Do you think that, now that IT people themselves are working from home more often, that they have more empathy, to your point, and they are much more sensitive to these issues and they’re willing to go the extra mile?

Harsh Kumar: They are, but they need tools to do things. Again, what I see in the industry is more of shift left where employees are basically fixing their own issues. Employees are fixing their own application issues. Employees are basically, let’s say even if I want to reset my password, I can reset my password. Let’s say if I want to grant admin access on my laptop, I can basically execute an action that could give me admin access for two hours.
There’s something called shift left that is happening in industry where IT, all the IT actions, IT-centric actions or which the employee wants, are shifting where employees are basically doing self-service. Even if I want a new battery, what would I do is I basically have an action that I could execute to look at my battery health. How is my battery health? What is the design capacity of my battery? What is the current capacity of my battery? How is my battery health doing? Is it charging at the same time?
It is just like when you have a car, let’s say imagine this as a car. Let’s say it’s an EV car, electric car. You know how fast it charges, how fast it discharges. So you should be knowing, as an employee, because you own this laptop or even IT owns the laptop indirectly, but you own this laptop, you should be knowing what is the performance of this particular machine is so that you get a better sense of what you are dealing with.
And also, you can go and complain to IT on any issues that you have with this particular laptop and you can show the data to IT that, “Hey, this is the data that I see on my laptop and this is the data that is indicating. Can you fix this issue for me?” IT, again, it’s an employee. IT folks are employees too. They’re also facing the same set of issues, but they have a way to resolve their issues, but employees don’t. But shifting to left, where employees do self-service is critical for IT where you are not just saving employees’ time, you are also saving IT’s time and resolving employees’ issues.

Mike Vizard: Of course these days, you can’t walk down the street without somebody leaping out to tell you about their great new AI thing. How will AI get applied to all of this as we think about self-service in the ultimate extreme?

Harsh Kumar: There are multiple narratives, Mike, in terms of how AI can fit into as a DEX tool or inside the DEX.
One narrative that I’ve seen that is coming upcoming in the industry is providing an AI assistant to the proactive persona. Whoever the persona who is responsible for DEX, it can be a DEX engineer or it can be IT workplace services, IT end user analytics team, or any team which uses the DEX data, providing an AI assistant to them.
So let’s say if I’m an IT agent, or let’s say imagine. Let’s say there’s an incident raised by an employee on a battery issue or let’s say on an application issue or a Zoom crash. Let’s say the incident comes in. Now the incident basically has the details of the employee. With the AI assistant being there on the platform, AI can basically tell me, “Hey, here’s the performance of this particular laptop. Here are the issue that the employee faced during this time, and here is how you resolve this particular issue. By executing…”
It’s not just providing the data, it’s also providing corrective actions. So providing those AI actions is critical for IT to resolve those issues. So it is not just providing the data, “Hey, here’s the employee data, here’s what the employee face, the issue,” it’s also about what are the actions, what are the recommended actions that it could take with that AI assistant.
As I mentioned, one example is let’s say employee had a Zoom crash and employee complained about a Zoom crash by raising an incident. Now the IT knows that employee had a Zoom crash and it happened at this point in time because of the cache size went up. AI can tell you that and even DEX can tell you that.
Now, what is a resolution for that? Now, there are thousands of resolutions. You can remove the cache, you can kill the process, Zoom process, you can restart the process, you can basically contact the Zoom as well and you can raise a request to Zoom, “Hey, what’s happening for this particular version of Zoom or your client that what is happening?”
Providing that action to IT is critical so that IT can reduce the MTTR, mean time to resolve. That’s mainly one thing that I’ve seen where AI assistant for IT will change the narrative with DEX, with the DEX data being there and DEX providing the resolutions for IT to execute through playbooks or actions is critical.
The second AI narrative that I see is anomaly detection. So, you need to detect an anomaly. There’s multiple anomaly detection engines out there, which basically looks at how you can basically detect… Let’s say there’s a CPU usage or memory usage or disk usage. Now, you need need to compare anomaly on a CPU usage. Now, you basically generate an alert on an anomaly, but I haven’t seen an engine which can basically compare multiple metrics or multiple data from that particular device to generate a multivariate anomaly engine. AI can basically help to have that multivariate anomaly engine where you compare different metrics from the source and you can generate anomaly alerts.
It’s basically AI generated anomaly alerts where AI compares not just one metric, it compares multiple metrics at the same time, at the same interval, and it can basically generate an alert on that particular anomaly.
I’ve seen those two narratives that are coming up with the AI with the DEX being there, with the DEX collecting the data and DEX pushing the data to the SaaS platforms. Having that AI being there will help with the AI assistant, with the anomaly detection engines, with the multivariate anomaly detection engines or the next set of tools that are coming in the market with AI being used in those tools.

Mike Vizard: All right, folks, you heard it here. It all begins and ends with the digital experience and everything in between is a means to that end. Hey, Harsh, thanks for being on the show.

Harsh Kumar: Thanks, Mike.

Mike Vizard: All right, and thank you for all watching the latest episode of the Digital CxO Leadership Series. You can find this episode and others on our website, and we invite you to check them all out. Until then, we’ll see you next time.