The DEX Show | Podcast #12 – Data killed the IT repair shop w/ Matt Roberts (Dell)

The DEX Show | Podcast #12 – Data killed the IT repair shop w/ Matt Roberts (Dell)
July 9, 2021

The role of IT in businesses is changing; it can no longer be viewed as just a repair shop. Using a combination of more data and integrating new data-driven roles, IT is becoming more proactive with their customers—solving problems before they have a chance to disrupt business.

Matt Roberts, Global Consulting Lead, Workforce Transformation at Dell Technologies, joins the podcast to discuss the evolution of IT.

What we talked about:

  • How Customers are Changing the Role of IT in the Business
  • Expanding the Level of Data to Improve IT
  • Aligning the Hardware and Business Persona
  • Preemptively Diagnosing IT Issues for the Customer
  • Adopting Different Attitudes Within IT
  • Correlating IT With the Business

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Speaker 1 (00:01):

You’re listening to Digital Employee Experience, a show for IT change-makers. Let’s get into the show.

Tom McGrath (00:07):

Hello change-makers. Welcome to the Digital Employee Experience Show. I’m Tom McGrath joined as ever by Tim Flower. Tim, we haven’t recorded in a minute. How have you been?

Tim Flower (00:18):

Yeah, Tom. It’s been a little while, right? Maybe two, three, four weeks. I’ve been good. As I was telling you a bit earlier, I’m fully vaccinated-

Tom McGrath (00:27):


Tim Flower (00:27):

… got on an airplane finally after 15 months and it’s great to be back out in civilization. So I hope you’re doing well too.

Tom McGrath (00:33):

What have you done with your freedom? Where have you gone?

Tim Flower (00:37):

So I headed west. I’m an east coaster. I headed west out to Arizona to see my parents after quite a long time. And it’s really good to be out in the sunshine.

Tom McGrath (00:48):

I’m a desert well. On that note, I’m looking forward to getting back into the podcasting saddle and we’ve got a fantastic guest to ride alongside today. And with that, I’d like to welcome Matt Roberts to the show, Global Consulting Lead for Workforce Transformation at Dell Technologies. Matt, welcome to the show. It’s great to have you on board.

Matt Roberts (01:08):

Hey, guys. Thrilled to be here, Thomas, Tim. Good to hear your voices and jealous, Tim, of your trip, vaccinated as well. I guess I got to get out on the road and start exploring as you’re doing.

Tim Flower (01:20):


Tom McGrath (01:21):

Matt, I know we’ve been working closely together on really articulating a kind of viable future of work model for businesses. And I’d be really interested to just kick things off by hearing your thoughts on what that looks like.

Matt Roberts (01:37):

Yeah. I’d be happy to, guys. I mean, first I would say, what I see is customers, re-evaluating the role of IT in the business. And in that future of work model, it’s what I would call more of an experience centric operating model for IT, as opposed to a cost and efficiency and IT is the repair shop type of model, if that’s such a thing. And in that experience centric model, you start to look at success criteria as being things like employee satisfaction and reduction of issues and net promoter score related to IT and a wider variety of metrics essentially that go to the heart of, are we doing a good job or not? Are people productive? Are they able to get their jobs done effectively? Which frankly is a huge change for a lot of these customers. They’re so used to just measuring themselves on a budget and a cost and an uptime, but that’s the old way. I think the new way is absolutely this experience centric operating model.

Tim Flower (02:43):

Yeah, man, it’s interesting. Let’s talk about metrics, right? Because as a techie, when we say the word metric, we think about things like CPU and memory and hard drive and network statistics and, as an IT guy, you quickly become overloaded with data. And I’m wondering as you talk about expanding the metrics that we’re looking at, what role does data play in that realization of the wider workplace vision, right? How important is it to take all that data and talk about expanding the level of data and change that and convert that into information?

Matt Roberts (03:22):

Yeah, it’s absolutely critical. And we’re seeing new roles spring up within these organizations as a result. I mean, we all know about the role of data scientists and big data these days. But if you think about it through the experience lens, it’s the idea of an experienced analyst or experienced data analyst, because you’ve got all of these platforms that are creating tons and tons of data and you have top level leadership saying, we need to care more and focus more on measuring experience-based outcomes, but there’s a big gap there between your ability to say, yeah, we care about experience and you have all this data, but you need a team, right? And effectively the right tool sets to really be able to analyze that stuff and make any sense of it.

Matt Roberts (04:09):

What I go to in particular, Tim, I mean, you made the example of CPU and memory and those types of end-user computing metrics, that’s a good example, one that I’m pretty familiar with. I would just say, a lot of times our customers have been focused on, well, did we give people the right thing or not, which is important, right? If you’re an end-user computing owner, make sure you’re giving people the right devices and peripherals that you think that they need, but it’s another thing to go prove that that decision you made was right by using the data and the analytics and the insights to show you, yeah, actually we got it right for that group of people, but boy, we got it really wrong for these salespeople out in Germany. They’re having an awful experience based upon the telemetry that we see. So what are we going to do about it? How are we going to fix it and ultimately raise their experience scores and the feedback that come in to you.

Tim Flower (05:01):

That’s a great point. And it’s a good kind of a segue to that alignment of hardware and the persona, right? As enterprises become more focused on right-sizing and personas for the workload, there’s this concept now that the persona is bigger than just the hardware spec and the core apps, where do you see that convergence coming around hardware and the business persona? How do they blend?

Matt Roberts (05:29):

I mean, this is such a… It can get pretty wonky on this topic of personas, I would say.

Tim Flower (05:35):


Matt Roberts (05:36):

For years and years, we’ve used personas in lots of different ways, right? It’s kind of a Swiss Army knife of techniques to go research a problem, analyze what’s working, what’s not, and then optimize for this large group of people at the end of the rainbow. For customers who have used them only for hardware and device stuff, they’re kind of missing the bigger picture. Right? And in a lot of ways, what we see in the past year is those decisions they made were based upon things like how mobile people were, or are they in the office or working remotely or on the go? And what we’ve seen is that the future of work means flexible, digital work styles. And so you can’t pigeonhole people into this one work-style, because I might look like a remote worker three days of the week, but two days of the week, I’m going to an office and I’m highly collaborative and going from conference room to conference room.

Matt Roberts (06:33):

So even just the idea of trying to use personas for something, what used to be as simple as just a hardware device profile, it’s much more complicated and much more dynamic these days. So we see the better practice to be more data-driven in how you approach personas, more use case driven, and oftentimes the way you operationalize those insights is through a role-based approach because like it or not, that’s how most organizations manage. They manage by department, by geography, by job family, right? That’s how they push out change to the organization. And so we’ve certainly moved what we do into that more role-based model, because it’s the easiest thing to operationalize.

Tim Flower (07:19):

Yeah. So we’ve got this concept of dynamic personas, right? That each persona is not static. It is dynamic and it has its own traits. Like you said, you may be home three days. And especially now, when there’s all this talk about hybrid work and return to the office, some of your traits and characteristics may be a variable on your primary persona. So understanding the behavior of an employee is real important. And that behavior, a lot of it is driven by the technology or is dependent on the technology we give them, right? You’ve got the VPN clients that have to go out. You’ve got potentially new client agents, new collaboration tools.

Tim Flower (07:58):

And this is where the hardware and software and experience all come together and user compute teams in the past have really only been able to measure one thing, right? It either works or it doesn’t. It’s a binary. It’s a one or a zero. I deployed it or it failed. They don’t have the missing pieces. I’m curious what your thoughts are on a solution. Obviously, Tom and I, as Nexthinkers, we have our thoughts on where the solution lies, but what are you seeing out in the marketplace and in the industry of how people are tackling this?

Matt Roberts (08:30):

I think even here where I work, we’re investing in more advanced telemetry to help customers get more predictive and proactive. But I think generally that’s where the industry’s going, right? I mean, regardless of the platform, it’s having more actionable insights available to you so you can see not just what’s working well and what’s not, when people go that last step and say, okay, IT, it’s broken. I can’t fix it. Please help me. Right? But how do you help people way before that and even diagnose when things might be going wrong before the user even knows it?

Matt Roberts (09:06):

And I always love that analogy or example where you use platforms like yours to find problems before people know that they exist. You automatically deploy the fix. You verify that the fix is working and then you send a little micro sentiment message to them saying, hey, by the way, we just noticed that you and your peers were potentially going to have this problem. We’ve deployed a fix. Let us know if you see this behavior, but otherwise you’re good to go. As an employee, I love the idea of IT being proactive on my behalf, kind of looking out for me and, and keeping me going day in and day out.

Tim Flower (09:43):

Yeah, just anecdotally, when we rolled out Nexthink at the Hartford, we made a point to tell all our employees it’s coming and the overwhelming response was, thank God. Thank God you’re going to see my problems and try to prevent them without me having to call the help desk. So that’s right on there.

Matt Roberts (10:01):

Well, I do sometimes see the opposite. I mean, we’ve had customers who have said that, that might freak out their users, right? To have this idea of Big Brother watching or whatever analogy you want to use, but overwhelmingly what we see is the customers who do what you just said to, Tim, where they’re sending out proactive communications, people saying, hey, we care. We’re listening. We’re trying to improve your experience, but as part of doing that, here’s why you may start to see X, Y, Z platform installed on your device. And here’s the type of interactions you might expect to happen as a result. As long as people are aware of it and you remind them of it a few times, it can be smoothed over pretty well.

Tom McGrath (10:43):

I mean, Matt, it almost sounds like your IT has to adopt a completely different attitude or bedside manner towards its customers, right? I mean, do you think this is warranted to take some inspiration potentially from different industries, such as hospitality or whatnot, because it’s such a new terrain?

Matt Roberts (11:03):

I mean, this is something that we’ve talked about publicly, and I’ll just say, even here at Dell, a few years ago, we rebranded our IT organization and called it Dell Digital. And that was purposefully done so that we could communicate and set the expectation with our lines of business that it’s not IT. It’s a new IT, right? It’s a digital business partner helping each business unit be more productive and have greater experiences.

Matt Roberts (11:30):

Back to what I was saying earlier about this idea of experience centric operating model, having the telemetry available is a key part of it, but one of the other kind of spokes in the wheel of that is what we call adoption and change management, which is essentially a whole new attitude, as you were just saying, Thomas, that IT provides where they really rethink the role instead of IT being a, okay, we’re going to do change management when we’re about to disrupt users’ day-to-day work. It’s more of a proactive, no, no, no, our job is to make you have as a workforce, better digital dexterity. And so we’re going to over communicate and over engage in things that teach you new ways to work, teach you modern behaviors, move you away from old ways of doing things.

Matt Roberts (12:15):

The most common example we all talk about is you’re going to move to something like Microsoft 365. Man, stop sending email attachments. Start using co-authoring and sharing features and modern ways to work. And that’s something that IT can help their employees do, but it takes that sustained engagement, that sustained mentality, that that’s a new responsibility of their organization. And not just to fix things when that stuff breaks.

Tom McGrath (12:42):

Okay. I know we wanted to talk about baselines, right? Because from everything we’ve said so far, in order to measure experience in any consistent way, IT needs some kind of baseline to refer to. I mean, how big a feature is that of what you’re implementing and recommending, Matt?

Matt Roberts (13:03):

Yeah. I mean, I’ll start by just saying not enough of our customers are actually trying to measure. And the most common pattern that I see is there’s a corporate or HR driven or corp comm driven employee net promoter score, kind of the annual company survey. Right? And in that, there’s one question about technology, do you have the tools you need to get your job done? I mean, I’m oversimplifying, but the vast majority of those corporate surveys don’t come anywhere close to telling IT what it needs to do, what its priorities should be, where there are the biggest problems. And it certainly doesn’t give them anything more than just a gut check of how are we doing?

Matt Roberts (13:47):

We think obviously there’s a much better way to do it. And it involves a combination of things. You do need that sentiment level at the macro level, but you need it to be IT specific. We also think micro sentiment is an important concept where you can do event-based, hey, we just deployed OneDrive to you two weeks ago. How’s it working? Sort of that one or two question contextual engagement with users. Secondarily we think customers need to deploy telemetry at their end points. I mean, no surprise there we’re having this conversation today. But this idea of having this actionable telemetry data that gives you insights, allows you to take action proactively, predictively, it’s incredibly important. Every customer that cares about experience needs to have it.

Matt Roberts (14:37):

Two other quick things I’ll say though, is most of our customers are moving to these SaaS-based productivity platforms, M365, Google Workspace, Workday, Salesforce, name your platform that’s SaaS-based, ServiceNow, all of these things have built-in usage analytics and data to show you how people are using their tools, but most of our customers aren’t really harvesting that and taking advantage of it. And then the last thing I’ll say is just on tickets, whether it’s ServiceNow or Remedy, et cetera, every customer is looking to reduce those tickets. A lot of them are paying by the ticket to some service provider. And they’re also looking to close and reduced mean time to resolution. Those are all worthy goals, but we would say that that’s not enough. They need to be mining those for the trends and what are people asking for, where are the problems arising so that you can then correlate it back to the rest of your data sources and see if you can get some additional contextual insights.

Matt Roberts (15:42):

I notice that a lot, but that really is the new job of IT is not just to fix stuff when it breaks. It’s not the repair shop anymore. It needs to be more of this weeding people towards better experiences type of function.

Tim Flower (15:55):

Yeah. Without a doubt. So telemetry, not only of the device, it sounds strange to say telemetry of the employee, but it’s kind of what it is, right? Is getting to a source of truth that’s accurate. The ticket side of the shop is all IT has had to measure for decades, right? We know how many tickets we got on a month. We know the average handle time. We know MTTR. We’ve mined that data to death, but the problem is it’s only 50% accurate because half the employees aren’t calling. So you don’t have an accurate baseline, right? It’s real important to get that. You talked a little bit about some of the things on the peripheral. One of the things that IT typically doesn’t have front of mind are things like employee attraction and retention and attrition, right? How do you see employers now leveraging technology to help influence not just keeping existing employees, but attracting new ones?

Matt Roberts (16:56):

It’s a great question, near and dear to my heart. I’ll try to be brief. I mean, I think we certainly for a long time, even internally in the way we function, we’ve been advocating for our IT customers to not stay in their silo. Right? They need to go work with facilities and corp communications and HR, because that’s the more well-rounded view of an employee’s experience. I think I saw some stats from one of the analyst sayings, the IT portion or the technology portion of experience is somewhere between 30 and 50%, depending on the industry and the type of role, but all this other stuff matters just as much to employees. And so the more IT can correlate what they’re doing with the broader HR facilities, corp comm, et cetera, the better chance you have as an overall organization of making a holistic approach towards improving experience.

Tim Flower (17:52):

Without a doubt. Yeah, Matt, I’m sure we could talk for another hour on this stuff. It’s always great to pick people’s brains and compare notes. And really appreciate you being on the show. Tell our listeners where they can find you and follow you, right? And certainly also where they can get more information on Dell’s Workforce Transformation?

Matt Roberts (18:13):

Yeah. And I appreciate it, guys. You can find us and our consulting services for what we call Workforce Transformation, which is a lot of the employee experience centric stuff at our website, You can find me, @matthewtroberts on Twitter, and you can find me on LinkedIn as well. But again, engage with your Dell account teams if you want to talk about these topics in more detail in your organization. I appreciate you guys having me. It’s been great.

Tim Flower (18:41):

Yeah, outstanding. And you can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter at the ProactiveITGuy. Tom, it’s always great to talk with you. Matt, thanks so much for joining us and sharing some really great insights.

Tom McGrath (18:53):

Thank you, guys.

Matt Roberts (18:54):

Cheers guys.

Speaker 1 (18:55):

To make sure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. And if you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, make sure to leave a rating of the show. Just tap the number of stars you think the podcast deserves. If you’d like to learn more about how Nexthink can help you improve your digital employee experience, head over to Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

Thomas McGrath is a writer, filmmaker, and podcaster. He has been published everywhere from VICE to Computer Weekly, and is the producer and co-host of the Digital Employee Experience Show. Learn More

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