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Enterprise hits and misses - is Return to Office a leadership crisis? Cyber threat talk heats up as event season rolls on

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed June 10, 2024
This week - is Return to Office part of a broader leadership crisis, or is it a passive-aggressive layoff tactic? Cybersecurity threats sharpen the security discussion, but as our event roundups show, AI is still the hype magnet. Plus: your weekly whiffs.

Financial pitfall, mistake or failure, risk management, businessman looking into deep hole of banking percentage sign pit © eamesBot - Shutterstock
(© eamesBot - Shutterstock)

Lead story - Leadership in crisis - why Return to Office mandates are just a symptom of a much wider problem 

Cath issued a provocative post this week, identifying a broad sense of burnout for enterprise executives. I was drawn to the Return to Office part of this conundrum. Cath writes: 

While HR colleagues are trying to help, Blakey also points out they are operating against the same backdrop as senior executives, feeling drained and uncertain over how the world of work is going to settle down.' This is particularly true in the context of the contentious debate over return to office (RTO) mandates.

Executives might have imposed Return to Office mandates, but that doesn't mean flexible work hasn't impacted their own preferences. Cath quotes Caitlin Duffy, Senior Director of Gartner’s HR practice:

For the past few years, we’ve seen that flexible work is a highly valued experience for all talent segments, and executives benefit from work-life balance as much as anyone else. But they’ve been working for longer, so many have had time to build confidence that they know the right mode for them to perform at their best. They don’t necessarily have a stronger preference for flexible working than other employees, but they do have more flexibility to pursue other options. It’s the same with high potential talent – they’re more likely to say they’d leave if given an RTO mandate too.

Is there the risk of a double standard here? Another twist from the news wires: is Return to Office an intentional downsizing strategy? 

Now, this study has a small sample size, but it's not the first time RTO as a layoff strategy has been floated. If so, it's pretty ill-conceived. Why initiate a passive-aggressive layoff strategy via return to office, and watch your high performers take you up on the dare? I'm a big advocate for flexible/remote work, but what I'd really like to see is: 

  1. An open rethink of office time (Zoom/Teams meetings at your cubicle aren't swell reasons for commuting, but team building sessions might be)
  2. An intentional culture informed by this rethink, and clearly articulated to employees. Instead, have a game of white collar chicken going on, amidst some type of crisis/burnout/survival mode, as per Cath's article - and that isn't advancing our thinking.

Cath points to another way forward: better listening.

[Blakey] believes RTO mandates are often “kneejerk responses” when, in reality, senior executives would benefit more from taking the time to listen to what their employees think and feel. That way they could design new ways of working that solve real problems 'rather than force-fitting people into situations that don’t work.

Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

  • Chatham House Cyber 2024 - who is responsible for securing critical infrastructure? Chris filed an important event report: is the threat landscape changing faster than our ability to protect? "In February, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) warned of hostile state actors “living off the land”, camouflaging themselves within legitimate network activity to gain persistent access to critical national systems – behavior observed by security specialists in both the UK and US." As Chris concludes: "Good questions, plus uneasy answers."
  • CDIO interview - Dr Zafar Chaudry has taken Seattle Children's on an epic journey - Mark Chillingworth with another notable CXO interview: "The journey of Chaudry and Seattle Children's reveals how the CIO role is maturing and evolving. Off the shelf technology provides the core of IT to an organization, so the CIO no longer operates technology, they have moved to a focus on how patients and staff experience technology, and the complexities of data protection and management that comes with that."

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my top choices from our vendor coverage:

  • Samsara continues to focus on large customer value as revenue grows 37% year-over-year - Derek on how Samsara is navigating macro-uncertainty: "The numbers come just a couple of weeks before Samsara’s annual user event - Beyond - which this year is taking place in Chicago, where customers will come together to understand how the vendor is building out its Connected Operations Cloud to establish itself as a system of record provider for companies with large physical operations." To be continued from Chicago...
  • For best results, treat your AI teammates the same as people, says Asana - Phil on how Asana integrates AI into the collaboration fray: "One early access customer in the advertising industry is using AI teammates to automate tasks in creative production, such as triaging incoming requests and proactively gathering missing information, assigning work to specific people based on context, assisting with initial client research, and improving reporting quality with more consistent data."
  • The next marketing frontier - personalization at scale - Is personalization at scale finally here? Barb shares Contentstack's position: "To overcome these challenges, Contentstack has unveiled several new premium features that support this push to deliver real personalization at scale, and it should be no surprise that AI plays an important role."

diginomica world tour, June 2024 - spring events roll into summer, and so do we; sleep can wait. Our latest commentary and use cases from locations near and far: 

SAP Sapphire 2024 coverage: I presented at two sessions at the ASUG Annual Conference, and learned a ton from customers. Some of that wound up in my podcasts, but SAP also had surprises in store: including the WalkMe acquisition. 

A few more vendor picks, without the quotables:

Best of the enterprise web

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

My top six

  • Staying ahead of emerging technologies and solutions (such as AI/generative AI, Quantum, AR/VR).

  • Embracing the full potential of data, analytics, AI, and machine learning.
  • Mitigating cyber risks and preventing cyber incidents and attacks.
  • Organizing, managing, and rationalizing technology strategy inside the organization.

Overworked businessman


I might be okay with an AI interview, but I'm gonna need a less goofy avatar: 

Call me crazy, but I'll take my AI gold rush predictions from someone who isn't selling the shovels: 

Robotics startups are the hill many startups have died on, but nevermind, this will decades-old problem will all be sorted within the year. I'm looking forward to my robot butler... See you next time.

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed.



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