The other day, I was on a drive across country when it was time for me to join a work meeting. My wife was at the wheel. I opened my laptop and, using the hotspot in my car, connected to my team’s chat session the same way I would if I was in the office. I didn’t miss a beat as we cruised down the highway.
It is that seamless experience Dell Technologies’ IT Team Member Experience organization (TMX) is working to provide for all 130,000 of our team members around the globe—secure access to any resources on any trusted device, anywhere, at any time.
TMX has been developing a remote-first approach to providing IT services to our users for several years. That effort became even more important as we shifted our employees around the world to working productively from home in a matter of weeks in early 2020.
From modernizing our network to improve access to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications, to deploying unified endpoint management and edge security for all our devices, by leveraging our strong collaboration with VMware, we’re achieving our work-from-anywhere goals.
Adapting to shifting network challenges
Inside Dell, we’ve been using apps like Zoom, Microsoft 365 and Teams to support employee productivity for several years. As more team members used SaaS apps—and the internet in general—while within Dell facilities, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) traffic has increased dramatically, leading to escalating costs and strained capacity of our Wide Area Network (WAN).
As a result, in 2019 we began rolling out a Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) to create a control layer in the cloud, virtualizing and centralizing how the network managed a mix of traffic using internet-based transport and MPLS depending on the needs of each location and demands. We used VMware SD-WAN by VeloCloud—a solution that provides a WAN software overlay—to modernize our network.
That enabled team members to access SaaS apps without using a virtual private network (VPN) while remote.
As our workforce shifted to primarily working from home and team members continued to use SaaS without a VPN connection, we faced a new problem. Because employees weren’t in the office or connected to VPN, we couldn’t manage and secure their devices with our traditional on-prem management tools and security tools.
To solve this problem, we needed to migrate users to a modern cloud security stack that would provide endpoint security and management. We chose VMware Carbon Black Endpoint and VMware Workspace ONE.
Carbon Black is cloud-native endpoint security software that is designed to detect malicious behavior and to help prevent malicious files from attacking an organization.
Because Carbon Black is a cloud solution, as soon as users turn on their notebooks and they’re on the internet, Carbon Black sees them and provides protection. No VPN needed. We have now fully deployed Carbon Black across our remote ecosystem for virus protection at the edge without reliance on our network.
Secure app delivery to any device
We are also in the process of deploying VMware Workspace ONE, an intelligence-driven digital workspace platform that helps us more securely deliver and manage any app on any device. Workspace ONE provides patching and security upgrades for software. My team can manage devices, patch and secure the environment without the need for a VPN connection.
Workspace ONE can also give users seamless, uniform access to our applications from anywhere via a single interface. Let’s say you use a certain SaaS app on a daily basis. You go into the Workspace ONE catalog, click on that app, and get access. You can see the same catalog on a mobile device, on the VDI, on your Windows, or Linux system. You have the same user experience.
An application could be browser-based, or you could download it by going into the catalog and clicking install.
Workspace ONE also provides users with seamless access to resources within Dell’s network without going through the multi-step authentication process of traditional VPN access. It connects users seamlessly to inside resources without requiring codes or passwords.
Because your device is managed and secure, Workspace ONE will open a tunnel for you automatically for access inside Dell. That mean you get the same experience connecting to Dell resources whether you are working at home, in the office or on the road.
We have currently deployed Workforce ONE to about 30% of our workforce and expect to complete the roll out by the end of January.
Going forward, as Dell Technologies looks to have team members return to the office, Dell TMX will be working to create dashboards and gather telemetry about how we are serving our workforce across all devices wherever they are used. We are also working to tackle some new workforce challenges that have arisen as we worked from home over these many months.
One is meeting fatigue—the fact that home-based workers who can’t confer with colleagues in person are now engaged in a steady stream of online meetings that can weigh on participants. As meetings return to the conference room, we are looking at new technology to increase connection among participants, both in person and virtually. One possibility is enhancing teleconferencing features to make remote and in-person participants equally visible. Among technologies we are exploring is virtual reality capabilities. Maybe, for example, using such technology, avatars of participants can be virtually in the same room collaborating and sharing virtual tools such as whiteboard and others.
One thing we’ve noticed with having so many team members meeting via conferring tools such as Zoom or Teams is that it’s actually shifted the equity level of meeting participants. Previously, meeting attendees in the physical conference room had better access and were more visible than those tapping into the meeting remotely. Remote conferencing has actually leveled the playing field in meetings, since participants are all joining with the same tool and are heard and seen equally. With everybody on the call, anybody can talk, anybody can see each other, everybody can interact.
We hope that by improving the meeting experience overall we will help alleviate meeting fatigue and increase participation and visibility as we return to office.
Like seamless application and resource access, we are committed to giving team members the same meeting experience no matter where they are or what device they are using. It is all part of our strategy to create a work-from-anywhere experience for our 130K strong global workforce.
To learn more, check out Empower the Future of Work for a 130,000 Distributed Workforce, a session I recently conducted at VMworld with JP Glick, Dell Digital’s VP of Team Member Experience.