Priyank Desai: Technology That Puts Employees First
Collaboration is what makes product marketing fulfilling for Priyank Desai, VMware’s senior director of product marketing in end user computing. “In the enterprise world it takes a lot to make a sale. You have to go across product management, finance, legal, sales and many other teams. I enjoy how we sit across all these different business functions to orchestrate a sale.”
Before moving into senior leadership and product management, Desai spent more than seven years as a software engineer. “It’s fascinating that some people know exactly what they want to do 20 years from now, because that wasn’t my experience. I came here to get my masters from USC and that’s where my journey started as a software engineer. There was a pivotal moment when I had to decide whether to continue in software development or work more in the business, and I found my way forward into product management and ultimately into product marketing.”
VMware is a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s Digital Workplace Experience Spring Event, taking place online on May 13. Desai's colleague, Brian Madden will present the afternoon keynote titled, "5 Ways to Modernize IT to Make Your Workforce Successful in 2021 and Beyond." We spoke with Desai to hear his thoughts on IT as an employee experience driver.
The 3 Pillars of Tech Valuation
Simpler Media Group: What shaped your perspective on IT as an employee experience driver?
Priyank Desai: Historically IT wasn’t measured for employee productivity, satisfaction and experience; they were measured as the enablers of technology. They were supposed to turn on the application or tool, and the expectation was that the users be able to use it at scale. But there has been a shift, and now one of the most important KPIs for IT is employee experience.
Over the last 10 years legacy applications turned into apps — tens of thousands of them. And the generation that grew up in this era is using modern apps and running the business, and they know you are only able to achieve business success if employees are happy. Really, these changes are not new, but the pandemic propelled things forward for IT. The core message that any device or application should be usable from where you are has been taken to a whole new level.
SMG: Has the pandemic led to a shift in vision or a re-prioritization of goals for you and your team? What transformations have you seen or initiated?
Desai: Every business had to start fresh in some way, as our customers are finding. With the remote-first organization, IT is making investments in technology, and as they do, the technology valuation has to look at three pillars:
First, an employee-first mindset. The bottom line for prioritizing projects needs to be how this technology is going to impact the way employees work and what it will do to make them productive. For us as a product marketing organization, we need to help IT and HR understand how the technology will help with their main customers, their employees.
Second, time to implement. Any technology purchase needs to make an impact and deliver value almost immediately, with workflows and automation that improve the employee experience. For us within marketing, it means we must have a SaaS-first mindset. We need to enable our customers to try before they buy, so they can experience how quickly IT can adopt and expand the solution.
Third, security. From the very beginning, IT must partner with their security teams, not just a handshake, but working through details and understanding the long-term impact of security and compliance technology will bring. Security cannot be an afterthought. In product marketing, we must explain the value of technology through a security lens and help IT make the right choice.
So the pandemic has not only changed our customers priorities, but has caused a rethinking within product marketing on how we focus on selling value to our customers.
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SMG: In working with customers, what elements of culture and strategy have you identified that are setting organizations up for success in this new way of work?
Desai: For most customers, best of breed took precedence a few years ago, but that approach doesn’t work anymore. The crucial change, what we’re hearing from our customers, and what we’re emphasizing as well, is to move to a platform approach. Most enterprises still have a large number of business-critical apps that are legacy along with a whole lot of new-age SaaS applications; and on the device front, employees demanded choice and flexibility, and many businesses were forced to relax their BYOD policies. On top of it you have these specialized rugged devices and IoTs exploding everywhere, like kiosks and sensors. Businesses that want a unified way to support all these apps and devices must look at technology from a platform approach. Any business that can successfully bind all these things together in a unified and secure way, without negatively impacting employee experience, is going to succeed.
'Expect the Unexpected'
SMG: What are some unexpected takeaways from the lessons of this last year?
Desai: What we hear from our customers and what I personally feel is that while everyone figured out a way to work remotely in some shape or form, there are some instances where employees do want to go back to work. They want face-to-face discussion, they want to get away from Zoom fatigue and they want social interaction. And in some cases they don’t have a quiet place to work at home. Whatever the reason, there’s a need or an urge in some portion of the workforce to go back to work for at least some portion of the time. Technology that allows management of the onsite workforce and be able to focus on workplace safety and employee well-being will help return back to work safely.
And for me personally the takeaways are, expect the unexpected. That means, spend quality time with your family, kids and friends. Self-reflect and find your personal priorities. If you postpone what is most important to you right now, you may postpone it forever. So pause and reflect.
SMG: What do you most look forward to doing when pandemic restrictions are lifted?
Desai: While I’m definitely not looking forward to the daily commute, I miss seeing my colleagues and I miss meeting with the customers in person. The perspective you get when you understand the challenges that your customers are facing, allows you to do your job much more effectively. And lastly, I love traveling and I look forward to doing some of that soon.
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