The Past, Present and Future of DEX
April 24, 2024

Tim Flower

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Over the last 20 years Digital Employee Experience has become a necessity for companies committed to digital transformation and improving IT experiences. In fact, by 2025, more than 50% of IT organizations will use digital employee experience to prioritize and measure digital initiative success.

However, it is still often an unsung hero of IT with employees feeling its absence but not always appreciating its reach.

Let's take a look back at life before DEX, how we can define DEX and what the future of DEX looks like. A Look Back at the IT Horrors I started my career in technology in the late 80s — long before the idea of remote work or the availability of the internet right in your pocket. It was essentially the IT Dark Ages. Automation in EUC was in its infancy, and visibility into the technology being used was non-existent. This meant when something would break, IT wouldn't know, sometimes for weeks, until employees started calling into the helpdesk.

Technology projects would take months to complete out of fear of breaking machines. A product rolloutnwould be done in multiple, slow phases to ensure that there was built in time for the helpdesk to catch on to an issue. Of course, that also meant if a ticket wasn't created IT worked under the assumption thateverything was fine — something we know today is never the case.

Inevitably, there would be at least one wide scale outage that every team in IT would disavow knowledge of. Regardless, that team would be required to attend the lengthy escalation call while every service tower investigated "their stack" to verify that it wasn't their problem to solve. It was a time of trial-and-error troubleshooting, or looking at diagnostic tools that had no bearing on the problem. But more so, it was a period of wasted time — time that could have been used to push innovation forward, work on something to move business priorities forward or even just take a longer lunch. Before DEX, wespent so much time passing off blame to the network team, or server, Citrix, or SCCM teams. We did the best with what we had, but the world has changed so much since then. But think about your existing environment. If you don't have DEX capabilities, I could be describing your world TODAY, not 20 years ago!

Defining Digital Employee Experience

I've seen many definitions of DEX, but true Digital Employee Experience is the process and IT discipline that focuses on positive outcomes for employees rather than the mere success of provisioning technology. The best outcome of a DEX operation is that IT can finally disconnect the dependency on the employee to report issues, and can manage the environment based on facts, data, and reality — a more accurate portrayal of what is happening behind the scenes than what is received via ticketing system.

In addition, by focusing on improving speed and quality of services delivered with definitive measures and accuracy, costs can be controlled more precisely than just cutting line items from the budget.

DEX is still a fairly new discipline with different vendors taking liberties and infusing their own meaning into the definition to make sure their capabilities are part of the conversation, which can be very confusing to buyers.

For example, is the ability to manage the VDI environment to a deep technical level a requirement for DEX? The VDI management vendors believe so, but DEX is not a hypervisor platform management tool. From a technology consumer side, I also think there's a misunderstanding of the impact that employee sentiment can provide to augment IT's understanding of the business and employees they support. Many customers view employee feedback and sentiment as a nice-to-have and maybe something they'll look at "later", but those that have come to use it regularly see it as a must-have. 

The use of DEX, however, is up to the customer. I have seen many different case studies of how DEX was used to solve complex or elusive problems from improving collaboration with application teams to making acquisitions a bit easier.

The Next 20 Years of DEX

With AI more available than ever before, it is safe to say next gen AI models will propel DEX forward at a staggering rate. While AI has been in the background of some DEX solutions already, the innovations in the technology will bring in even deeper analysis and insights across even larger data sets faster than previously possible. This is a momentous time for technology as AI, linked with automation, is truly ready to change the game. Similar to the invention of the internet, the ubiquitousness of AI is both exciting and frightening. While some people fear it will take away jobs, others know it is about adapting not replacement. Of course, with any change to the way we work there is a learning curve and many enterprises today struggle to define how to adopt AI in a meaningful way.

Additionally, we can expect DEX to become more employee-facing, allowing employees to interact directly with technology to get information and insights that will likely even bypass the need for an application front end. And when you link it with augmented reality, the possibilities are endless.

We've come a long way since 2004. Work is what you do, not where you go. For many that work is now fully digital, and having a proactive IT organization no longer sets you apart. It isn't "a nice to have" but a must have, and if you haven't made the change yet you are falling behind. Coupled with AI, DEX's reach will only continue to grow with its impact being even more apparent. I've had the opportunity to witness these changes in real-time, experiencing the highs and lows of working in IT. And while as a customer I adopted DEX at a very early stage, it's something I wish I had been aware of even earlier. I often think of all the headaches and business impacting events we could have avoided. So, my advice to you is this: Embrace new technology and assess its viability for you as early as you can. Don't be afraid to push the limits of what is possible.

Tim Flower is VP of DEX Strategy at Nexthink
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