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Modern Work

CIOs on Creating a Hybrid Work Model That Works

Jo-Ann Oslovsky

The work-from-anywhere world is going through radical transformation yet again. 

Workers today are less occupied by decorating their home offices with ring lights and otherwise making remote work sustainable. Instead, they are settling into a ‘new normal.’

At Salesforce, we are meeting this transformation with a simple approach: a work environment that provides employees with flexibility to work from anywhere while also having access to our offices that will provide a home base for in-person connection and interaction. (I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the many industries, like transportation, hospitality, retail, grocers, and others that have been conducting work in-person throughout the past 18 months. For that, we owe much gratitude.)

CIOs played a critical role in enabling many to work remotely over the past 18 months, and we now have a central role to play in safely navigating the new, hybrid workplace.

From the vantage point of a CIO, adapting to a combination of a hybrid and full-time office model might start with assigning, sharing, supporting, and even sanitizing the right IT equipment for the job, but that won’t ensure employees are productive or empowered. That work requires innovative solutions that puts all employees on equal footing while preserving — and enhancing — productivity. 

In fact, what perhaps should be keeping CIOs up at night is bridging the gap between remote and in-person employees in a way that ensures they can all be at their best, most efficient selves — no matter what device they are using or where they are logging in from. And, enabling both cadres of employees to work effectively together internally, as well as with various external partners.

Here at Salesforce, we’ve prioritized health and safety and taken a science-based approach to reopening to ensure that our employees, customers, and partners feel safe and supported in our offices and surrounding communities. Since closing our offices last March, we’ve safely reopened offices across Asia Pacific, Europe, and the U.S., and introduced vaccinated cohorts, where fully vaccinated employees can opt-in to work in one of our locations.

In fact, what perhaps should be keeping CIOs up at night is bridging the gap between remote and in-person employees in a way that ensures they can all be at their best, most efficient selves — no matter what device they are using or where they are logging in from.

Jo-ann Oslovsky, CIO, Salesforce

For the third installment in our CIO Cabinet Series (see here and here for parts one and two), I’ve asked the braintrust to share their insights on the new hybrid work model and tell us how to help employees thrive while going through yet another transition.

Q. What new technologies and processes should CIOs consider to help their employees be successful from anywhere — in the office, remote or a hybrid combination of the two?

“Data analytics, engagement and integration are the three principal needs for enterprise technology today. With that in mind, one of the key questions that CIOs have to consider is creating engagement across unconnected old systems, since much of the data for our work is run on legacy systems. The other piece of the data puzzle is building an understanding of the big picture, by answering questions like, how satisfied are our customers? What is the cycle time for the work we do? Where are the bottlenecks? All of that requires insights from data and the ability to analyze it in a way that lets you understand the full 360 degree view of your work.” Casey Coleman, SVP of Global Government Solutions, Salesforce, fmr. CIO, GSA

“I see more changes coming around the human-machine interface. For example, I imagine voice is going to become a bigger part of our work — much like the keyboard and mouse did decades ago. Even if we have great automated diary bots right now, they usually only play nicely within the company. But some bots can schedule meeting times with a customer’s bot. Soon those same bots will be able to choose a convenient cafe that serves the kind of coffee everyone liked by coming to the meeting. The rise of these intelligent systems capable of resolving simple business problems for employees will be a big next step.” Craig Walker, SVP, Strategic Customer Advisor (former CIO, Shell)

“Because OwnBackup was born in the cloud, our business application strategy already centers around a SaaS model. Therefore, deploying our software is less cumbersome and almost real time. However, the challenges that have surfaced during the pandemic related to chip shortages and supply chain constraints resulted in our rethinking how to reliably and efficiently deploy hardware like computers on demand to users around the globe. We needed to take a closer look at our procurement processes and our ability to deploy an MDM strategy to enhance how we support and securely manage end-user devices.” Leo Minervini, CIO, OwnBackup

“I have seen a lot of activity around chat platforms and video conferencing, which weren’t new, but they became central to how employees engage.” Federico Larsen, CTO, Copado

“CIOs should rethink their IT assets with composability in mind. Rather than focus on delivering every project from scratch, IT teams can use or build reusable assets that can be consumed by all employees in an organization. A leading practice for scaling the benefits of the composable model is creating a Center for Enablement (C4E). The C4E is a cross-functional team that evangelises the reuse of all assets across the organization. The C4E model fundamentally changes the relationship between IT and the rest of the business. Rather than keeping expertise in one team, the C4E empowers all teams to use assets, provide feedback and create connected experiences faster from anywhere.” Brent Hayward, CEO, MuleSoft

“For businesses to thrive in the future they need to make the biggest bets on data now. Cloud is becoming the first place people go to access their data. AI and machine learning are quickly changing the world of analytics. These trends will have a profound impact on work, and CIOs need to set the right analytics strategy in motion so people across their organization can make deeper data explorations to uncover more possibilities — regardless of their technical expertise or work location.” Andrew Beers, Tableau CTO

Q. The shift to the new hybrid work model — partially in office, partially remote — is placing teams under lots of stress. Can you tell us about a specific problem your team has faced by going remote or hybrid and how you were able to work through it?

“With the pandemic, we’ve noticed employees relocating to parts of the country and world that we would likely not have seen pre-pandemic. This has caused us to rethink our regionalized support model to accommodate time zone differences, and ease this transition for employees who are already under enough stress as is.” Leo Minervini, CIO, OwnBackup

“Nothing can actually replace an in-person relationship, and replicating that experience is as complex an equation as any technologist will face. For us, going through several major releases without having seen each other for over a year has been tough. It required a gigantic sum of work, stress and cross-team coordination just to get back to how things would have been in the office.” Federico Larsen, CTO, Copado

“Technology today allows us to track employees in a way that helps make their lives a little bit easier. IoT tools can collect data on lighting, heating, air quality, and even where people are congregating in the office. That data lets us regularly reconfigure the office to suit the way people are actually working. These tools also let employers take the stress out of coming to work because we can help determine whether it’s a good day or a bad day to commute based on how many people are scheduled, who is coming in and whether or not the office has been cleaned. In turn, these tools help management answer questions like, ‘should we air condition three or four floors?’ ‘Should I just shut down this floor because there’s not enough people coming in?’ They let us be interactive with our teams and a safer, more productive, and more sustainable environment.” Craig Walker, SVP, Strategic Customer Advisor (former CIO, Shell) 

“People, roles, and teams are rapidly changing within many organizations right now, making it difficult to know who to keep informed and how. As a result, we’re seeing this growing trend to bring data and analytics to where people are now making decisions — in collaboration tools like Slack, on our phones, in Salesforce, and in digital or mobile applications. But to make that happen you need a way to easily manage all this data at scale. That’s why Tableau has integrated data management capabilities with our analytics platform. This gives people the ability to access trusted data when and where they need it to make confident decisions. And with the control and visibility IT needs to ensure all this data stays up to date and secure.”  Andrew Beers, Tableau CTO

Q. What is the CIO’s role in making office space and technology safe?

“I’m excited about our whole technology approach to reopening and operating the workplace in a way that is safe. We’re using our platform to make sure that employees are scheduling seats at the office and not just coming in and sitting wherever they want. That is all scheduled and managed through our platform. When someone shows up, they have a code to use as a ticket for a scheduled ride in an elevator to their reserved office space, which has been sanitized and distanced. We’re making sure that those tools are seamless. Regardless of whether you are in the office or working remotely, you have the same experience. We’re also offering training to employees so that they understand how to use these protocols and how to employ safety protocols of their own, like personal protective gear.” Casey Coleman, SVP of Global Government Solutions, Salesforce, fmr. CIO, GSA

“Right now, CIOs should remain vigilant. It’s important to keep the new cleanliness standards up-to-date and have systems in place to track who has been in the same office or meeting room or even on the same elevator. This is not the first pandemic and it might not be the last. It will fall to CIOs to remember the lessons from this last year and help ensure the contact tracing systems we relied on remain workable and don’t become obsolete.”  Federico Larsen, CTO, Copado

Sometimes I find myself wondering how things would be going if everything we were experiencing happened in 2001, and not 2021. I remember how we worked then; it would have been much more difficult to effectively collaborate with each other at work, build new products, and stay in touch with customers. We have all leveraged the benefits of things like VPN, cloud computing, and video conferencing to operate our businesses and serve our customers during the COVID era.

I have gained a new appreciation for how far our technology has come and what exceptional things we can do with it. But technology is ever evolving, and the coming months and years are no exception. In the hybrid-working world, we will see infinite room to innovate and push for new and better ways to do our jobs. Someone will soon solve the remote “whiteboarding” issue, for example, and that will unlock yet another productivity opportunity.

In today’s environment, we as CIOs have to stay on top of innovations and continue to flex as the world around us evolves. Clearly, we have figured out how to do this given the new products our companies have all released, the customers everywhere we successfully served from everywhere, and at the crux of it all, supporting all of our employees as they balance.

We have to ride the never-ending wave of new technology and ensure our companies both embrace and prepare for this constant state of change. As business leaders with a technology lens, we are relied upon to be forward thinkers, facilitators, collaborators, communicators, and operational experts. We are in a unique position to truly see how the company operates across organizational boundaries. With that understanding, we have the knowledge to power a company’s future through innovation and automation all while in this state of evolutionary change.

To me, those are challenges worth solving, in a world of constant learning, and in the end, a job worth doing.


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