Employee Experience & Human Bandwidth

Information is my drug of choice. I absorb it from multiple different sources: Wikipedia, BBC News, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google and others. To be honest, I don’t remember a great deal of it, but I hope that it helps to shape my world view and along with critical thinking, enables me to make the right choices in my personal and professional life.

I hate anything that gets in the way of absorbing information. A flaky internet connection, Windows updates, a faulty or poorly formatted website. Even worse, a badly written piece that makes the easy absorption of information more difficult than it needs to be (oh the irony).

This is why I’ve been looking into technology that will help me to ‘mainline’ all that lovely information straight into my brain. Surely, there’s a more efficient way to consume info?

Me eldest son has inattentive-type ADHD, which means that he is very easily distracted. I have many of the same traits. So, if my information source isn’t engaging and frictionless, I’ll abandon it quickly.

Information Theory applied to humans

Turns out that technology is not really the issue here. In a world of multiple petabytes of data, with internet connections in excess of multiple Gbps, we’ve simply started to run up against a much more fundamental limit, out own human bandwidth.

Our brains have evolved to provide us just enough information to survive. This includes evading predators and finding foods and viable mates. A lot of the decisions we make are based on small amounts of key information from our senses, with the rest supplied by a ‘model’ of the world generated completely within our own heads. In fact, evidence suggests that our brain has already created this model of the world, and just updates this model based on limited information from the senses.

So, how much information are our senses sending to our brain at any given moment? We actually know the answer to this. All in, it’s roughly 11Mbps. That’s not a lot, when we consider the rich, detailed world most of us appear to live in.

Even more surprisingly, our brain also seems to be further compressing and reducing the already limited amount of data from our senses. In fact, tests based on average reading speed suggest that the actual amount of information we register consciously could be as low as 50bps. That’s right, 50bps!

If the above really is the case, then we need to be protecting this most precious resource – our attention – by any means possible.

Digital Employee Experience / DEX / EUEM

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Our main job in IT is to get information into the hands of humans, wherever they are, in the quickest, most reliable and most secure way possible. To do this, we need to remove as much technological distraction from a user’s line of sight as possible.

In fact, when we’re distracted from a task, it can take an average of 23 minutes to recover our attention and get back to our previous level of focus.

What are our options here for keeping our busy bees… busy with work, and not distractions?

In IT, we should probably start with eliminating any annoying tech problems. At the moment, probably chief among them is how frustrating it can be to have a slow or laggy Zoom or Teams call. Imagine IT could pull back realtime performance data from every device, even home workers, and understand network latency, CPU utilisation and application patch status.

Then imagine that IT could proactively update a network driver, or roll out a patch to Teams, or change a Zoom setting to make better use of the available network.

Finally, imagine all of this happening in the background, without the user having to report a problem to IT.

THIS is Digital Employee Experience Management, and it is the future of EUC. This is also something key vendors have available now, from VMware to ControlUP and specialists such as Nexthink, Lakeside and Qualtrics. Even Microsoft have recently got in on the act.

I used to be an IT Manager, and I was pretty bad at it. My usual excuse is that I’m a visionary, not a manager. These sorts of statements are why I’ve turned off comments on my blog…

Anyway, one of the things I noticed as an IT Manager was that I very rarely got a call from users saying: “Hey Ben, you’re doing a great job!”. This may have been because I was doing a crappy job. Or it may have been that human nature is not to notice when things work, only when they don’t. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

Our users may not notice a lack of distractions and an improvement in performance and reliability, but businesses will love the productivity gains and general improvement in user sentiment.

Wrap Up

So, from a technology perspective, how can we ensure that users are maximising their productivity, minimising distractions and being their best version of themselves? Here are some suggestions:

  • Use a password-less toolset that makes sign on as invisible as possible
  • Use a Digital Workspace. Abstract the user’s productivity space from device, location and ecosystem
  • Consider an Enterprise App Store. Provide users with the bare minimum of apps they need, and then let them self select the rest
  • Make the endpoint invisible. Remove as many distractions, bells and whistles as possible. It shouldn’t matter what device the user is using, as long as they have access to the apps they need, when they need them. Yes, this is a shameless IGEL OS plug.
  • Pre-emptively fix experience problems before they become a productivity problem. Is your EUEM platform telling you that Teams isn’t performing as well as it could? Fix it before it impacts productivity.

While network bandwidth is increasing all the time, human bandwidth is something we can’t realistically change right now. Over the coming years, this is going to become one of the biggest issues in computing. Check out Brian Roemmele’s fascinating take on this.

In the meantime though, let’s do what we can to keep our users awesome! And productive. And not shouting in vain at their devices…