Monday, August 30, 2021

How to migrate your organization to a more security-minded culture

Bringing broader awareness of security risks and building a security-minded culture within any public or private organization has been a top priority for years.

Yet halfway through 2021, IT security remains as much a threat as ever -- with multiple major breaches and attacks costing tens of millions of dollars occurring nearly weekly.

Why are the threat vectors not declining? Why, with all the tools and investment, are businesses still regularly being held up for ransom or having their data breached? To what degree are behavior, culture, attitude, and organizational dissonance to blame?

Join us here as BriefingsDirect probes into these more human elements of IT security with a leading chief information security officer (CISO).

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn more about adjusting the culture of security to make organizations more resilient, please welcome Adrian Ludwig, CISO at Atlassian. The interview is conducted by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Adrian, we are constantly bombarded with headlines showing how IT security is failing. Yet, for many people, they continue on their merry way -- business as usual.

Are we now living in a world where such breaches amount to acceptable losses? Are people not concerned because the attacks are perceived as someone else’s problem?


Ludwig: A lot of that is probably true, depending on whom you ask and what their state of mind is on a given day. We’re definitely seeing a lot more than we’ve seen in the past. And there’s some interesting twists to the language. What we’re seeing does not necessarily imply that there is more exploitation going on or that there are more problems -- but it’s definitely the case that we’re getting a lot more visibility.

I think it’s a little bit of both. There probably are more attacks going on, and we also have better visibility.

Gardner: Isn’t security something we should all be thinking about, not just the CISOs?

Ludwig: It’s interesting how people don’t want to think about it. They appoint somebody, give them a title, and then say that person is now responsible for making security happen.

But the reality is, within any organization, doing the right thing -- whether that be security, keeping track of the money, or making sure that things are going the way you’re expecting -- is a responsibility that’s shared across the entire organization. That’s something that we are now becoming more accustomed to. The security space is realizing it’s not just about the security folks doing a good job. It’s about enabling the entire organization to understand what’s important to be more secure and making that as easy as possible. So, there’s an element of culture change and of improving the entire organization.

Gardner: What’s making these softer approaches -- behavior, culture, management, and attitude – more important now? Is there something about security technology that has changed that makes us now need to look at how people think?

Ludwig: We’re beginning to realize that technology is not going to solve all our problems. When I first went into the security business, the company I worked for, a government agency, still had posters on the wall from World War II: Loose lips sink ships.

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The idea of security culture is not new, but the awareness is, across organizations that any person could be subject to phishing, or any person could have their credentials taken -- those mistakes could be originating at any place in the organization. That broad-based awareness is relatively new. It probably helps that we’ve all been locked in our houses for the last year, paying a lot more attention to the media, and hearing about attacks that have been going on at governments, the hacking, and all those things. That has raised awareness as well.

Gardner:  It’s confounding that people authenticate better in their personal lives. They don’t want their credit cards or bank accounts pillaged. They have a double standard when it comes to what they think about protecting themselves versus protecting the company they work for.

Data safer at home or work?

Ludwig: Yes, it’s interesting. We used to think enterprise security could be more difficult from the user experience standpoint because people would put up with it because it was work.

But the opposite might be true, that people are more self-motivated in the consumer space and they’re willing to put up with something more challenging than they would in an enterprise. There might be some truth to that, Dana.

Gardner: The passwords I use for my bank account are long and complex, and the passwords I use when I’m in the business environment … maybe not so much. It gets us back to how you think and your attitude for improved security. How do we get people to think differently?

Ludwig: There’s a few different things to consider. One is that the security people need to think differently. It’s not necessarily about changing the behavior of every employee in the company. Some of it is about figuring out how to implement critical solutions that provide security without changing behavior.

Security people need to think differently. It's not necessarily about changing the behavior of every employee in the company. It's about implementing solutions that provide security without changing behavior.

There is a phrase, the paved path or road; so, making the secure way the easy way to do something. When people started using YubiKey U2F [an open authentication standard that enables internet users to securely access any number of online services with a single security key] as a second-factor authentication, it was actually a lot easier than having to input your password all over the place -- and it’s more secure.

That’s the kind of thing we’re looking for. How do we enable enhanced security while also having a better user experience? What’s true in authentication could be true in any number of other places as well.

Second, we need to focus on developers. We need to make the developer experience more secure and build more confidence and trustworthiness in the software we’re building, as well as  in the types of tools used to build.

Developers find strength

Gardner: You brought up another point of interest to me. There’s a mindset that when you hand something off in an organization -- it could be from app development into production, or from product design into manufacturing -- people like to move on. But with security, that type of hand-off can be a risk factor.

Beginning with developers, how would you change that hand-off? Should developers be thinking about security in the same way that the IT production people do?

Ludwig: It’s tricky. Security is about having the whole system work the way that everybody expects it to. If there’s a breakdown anywhere in that system, and it doesn’t work the way you’re expecting, then you say, “Oh, it’s insecure.” But no one has figured out what those hidden expectations are.

A developer expects the code they write isn’t going to have vulnerabilities. Even if they make a mistake, even if there’s a performance bug, that shouldn’t introduce a security problem. And there are improvements being made in programming languages to help with that.

Certain languages are highly prone to security being a common failure. I grew up using C and C++. Security wasn’t something that was even thought of in the design of those languages. Java, a lot more security was thought of in the design of that language, so it’s intrinsically safer. Does that mean there are no security issues that can happen if you’re using Java? No.

Similar types of expectations exist at other places in the development pipeline as well.

Gardner: I suppose another shift has been from applications developed to reside in a data center, behind firewalls and security perimeters. But now -- with microservices, cloud-native applications, and multiple application programming interfaces (APIs) being brought together interdependently -- we’re no longer aware of where the code is running.

Don’t you have to think differently as a developer because of the way applications in production have shifted?

Ludwig: Yes, it’s definitely made a big difference. We used to describe applications as being monoliths. There were very few parts of the application that were exposed.

At this point, most applications are microservices. And that means across an application, there might be 1,000 different parts of the application that are publicly exposed. They all must have some level of security checks being done on them to make sure that if they’re handling an input that might be coming from the other side of the world that it’s being handled correctly.

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So, yes, the design and the architecture have definitely exposed a lot more of the app’s surface. There’s been a bit of a race to make the tools better, but the architectures are getting more complicated. And I don’t know, it’s neck and neck on whether things are getting more secure or they’re getting less secure as these architectures get bigger and more exposed.

We have to think about that. How do we design processes to deal with that? How do you design technology, and what’s the culture that needs to be in place? I think part of it is having a culture of every single developer being conscious of the fact that the decisions they’re making have security implications. So that’s a lot of work to do.

Gardner: Another attitude adjustment that’s necessary is assuming that breaches are going to happen and to stifle them as quickly as possible. It’s a little different mindset, but the more people involved with looking for anomalies, who are willing to have their data or behaviors examined for anomalies makes sense.

Is there a needed cultural shift that goes with assuming you’re going to be breached and making sure the damage is limited?

Assume the worst to limit damage

Ludwig: Yes. A big part of the cultural shift is being comfortable taking feedback from anybody that you have a problem and that there’s something that you need to fix. That’s the first step.

Companies should let anybody identify a security problem -- and that could be anybody inside or outside of the company. Bug bounties. We’re in a bit of a revolution in terms of enabling better visibility into potential security problems.

But once you have that sort of culture, you start thinking, “Okay. How do I actually monitor what’s going on in each of the different areas?” With that visibility, exposure, and understanding what’s going in and out of specific applications, you can detect when there’s something you’re not expecting. That turns out to be really difficult, if what you’re looking at is very big and very, very complicated.

Decomposing an application down into smaller pieces, being able to trace the behaviors within those pieces, and understanding which APIs each of those different microservices is exposing turns out to be really important.

If you combine decomposing applications into smaller pieces with monitoring what’s going on in them and creating a culture where anybody can find a potential security flaw, surface it, and react to it -- those are good building blocks for having an environment where you have a lot more security than you would have otherwise.

Gardner: Another shift we’ve seen in the past several years is the advent of big data. Not only can we manage big data quickly, but we can also do it at a reasonable cost. That has brought about machine learning (ML) and movement to artificial intelligence (AI). So, now there’s an opportunity to put another arrow in our quiver of tools and use big data ML to buttress our security and provide a new culture of awareness as a result.

Most applications are so complicated -- and have been developed in such a chaotic manner -- it's impossible to understand what's going on inside of them.Give the robots a shot and see if we can figure it out by turning the machines on themselves.

Ludwig: I think so. There are a bunch of companies trying to do that, to look at the patterns that exist within applications, and understand what those patterns look like. In some instances, they can alert you when there’s something not operating the way that is expected and maybe guide you to rearchitecting and make your applications more efficient and secure.

There are a few different approaches being explored. Ultimately, at this point, most applications are so complicated -- and have been developed in such a chaotic manner -- it’s impossible to understand what’s going on inside of them. That’s the right time that the robots give it a shot and see if we can figure it out by turning the machines on themselves.

Gardner: Yes. Fight fire with fire.

Let’s get back to the culture of security. If you ask the people in the company to think differently about security, they all nod their heads and say they’ll try. But there has to be a leadership shift, too. Who is in charge of such security messaging? Who has the best voice for having the whole company think differently and better about security? Who’s in charge of security?

C-suite must take the lead

Ludwig: Not the security people. That will be a surprise for a lot of people to hear me say that. The reality is if you’re in security, you’re not normal. And the normal people don’t want to hear from the not-normal person who’s paranoid that they need to be more paranoid.

That’s a realization it took me several years to realize. If the security person keeps saying, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling,” people aren’t going to listen. They say, “Security is important.” And the others reply, “Yes, of course, security is important to you, you’re the security guy.”

If the head of the business, or the CEO, consistently says, “We need to make this a priority. Security is really important, and these are the people who are going to help us understand what that means and how to execute on it,” then that ends up being a really healthy relationship.

The companies I’ve seen turn themselves around to become good at security are the ones such as Microsoft, Google, or others where the CEO made it personal, and said, “We’re going to fix this, and it’s my number-one priority. We’re going to invest in it, and I’m going to hire a great team of security professionals to help us make that happen. I’m going to work with them and enable them to be successful.”

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Alternatively, there are companies where the CEO says, “Oh, the board has asked us to get a good security person, so I’ve hired this person and you should do what he says.” That’s the path to a disgruntled bunch of folks across the entire organization. They will conclude that security is just lip service, it’s not that important. “We’re just doing it because we have to,” they will say. And that is not where you want to end up.

Gardner: You can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk and do it all the time, over and over again, with a loud voice, right?

Ludwig: Yes. And eventually it gets quieter. Eventually, you don’t need to have the top level saying this is the most important thing. It becomes part of the culture. People realize that’s just the way – and it’s not that it’s just the way we do things, but it is a number-one value for us. It’s the number-one thing for our customers, too, and so culture shift ends up happening.

Gardner: Security mindfulness becomes the fabric within the organization. But to get there requires change and changing behaviors has always been hard.

Are there carrots? Are there sticks? When the top echelon of the organization, public or private, commits to security, how do you then execute on that? Are there some steps that you’ve learned or seen that help people get incentivized -- or whacked upside the head, so to speak, when necessary?

Talk the security talk and listen up

Ludwig: We definitely haven’t gone for “whacked upside the head.” I’m not sure that works for anybody at this point, but maybe I’m just a progressive when it comes to how to properly train employees.

What we have seen work is just talking about it on a regular basis, asking about the things that we’re doing from a security standpoint. Are they working? Are they getting in your way? Honestly, showing that there’s thoughtfulness and concern going into the development of those security improvements goes a long way toward making people more comfortable with following through on them.

A great example is … You roll out two-factor authentication, and then you ask, “Is it getting in the way? Is there anything that we can do to make this better? This is not the be-all and end-all. We want to improve this over time.”

That type of introspection by the security organization is surprising to some people. The idea that the security team doesn’t want it to be disruptive, that they don’t want to get in the way, can go a long way toward it feeling as though these new protections are less disruptive and less problematic than they might otherwise feel.

Gardner: And when the organization is focused on developers? Developers can be, you know …

Ludwig: Ornery?

Gardner: “Ornery” works. If you can make developers work toward a fabric of security mindedness and culture, you can probably do it to anyone. What have you learned on injecting a better security culture within the developer corps?

Ludwig: A lot of it starts, again, at the top. You know, we have core values that invoke vulgarity to both emphasize how important they are, but also how simple they are.

One of Atlassian’s values is, “Don’t fuck the customer.” And as a result of that, it’s very easy to remember, and it’s very easy to invoke. “Hey, if we don’t do this correctly, that’s going to hurt the customer.” We can’t let that happen as a top-level value.

We also have “Open company, no-bullshit”. If somebody says, “I see a problem over here,” then we need to follow up on it, right? There’s not a temptation to cover it up, to hide it, to pretend it’s not an issue. It’s about driving change and making sure that we’re implementing solutions that actually fix things.

There are countless examples of a feature that was built, and we really want to ship it, but it turns out it’s got a problem and we can’t do it because that would actually be a problem for the customer. So, we back off and go from there.

How to talk about security

Gardner: Words are powerful. Brands are powerful. Messaging is powerful. What you just said made me think, “Maybe the word security isn’t the right word.” If we use the words “customer experience,” maybe that’s better. Have you found that? Is “security” the wrong word nowadays? Maybe we should be thinking about creating an experience at a larger level that connotes success and progress.

Ludwig: Super interesting. Apple doesn’t use the word “security” very much at all. As a consumer brand, what they focus on is privacy, right? The idea that they’ve built highly secure products is motivated by the users’ right to privacy and the users’ desire to have their information remain private. But they don’t talk about security.

Apple doesn't use the word security very much at all. The idea that they've built highly secure products is motivated by the users' right to privacy and  the users' desire to have their information remain private. But they don't talk about security.

I always thought that was a really an interesting decision on their part. When I was at Google, we did some branding analysis, and we also came up with insights about how we talked about security. It’s a negative from a customer’s standpoint. And so, most of the references that you’ll see coming out of Google are security and privacy. They always attach those two things together. It’s not a coincidence. I think you’re right that the branding is problematic.

Microsoft uses trustworthy, as in trustworthy computing. So, I guess the rest of us are a little bit slow to pick up on that, but ultimately, it’s a combination of security and a bunch of other things that we’re trying to enable to make sure that the products do what we’re expecting them to do.

Gardner: I like resilience. I think that cuts across these terms because it’s not just the security, it’s how well the product is architected, how well it performs. Is it hardened, in a sense, so that it performs in trying circumstances – even when there are issues of scale or outside threats, and so forth. How do you like “resilience,” and how does that notion of business continuity come into play when we are trying to improve the culture?

Ludwig: Yes, “resilience” is a pretty good term. It comes up in the pop psychology space as well. You can try to make your children more resilient. Those are the ones that end up being the most successful, right? It certainly is an element of what you’re trying to build.

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A “resilient” system is one in which there’s an understanding that it’s not going to be perfect. It’s going to have some setbacks, and you need to have it recoverable when there are setbacks. You need to design with an expectation that there are going to be problems. I still remember the first time I heard about a squirrel shorting out a data center and taking down the whole data center. It can happen, right? It does happen. Or, you know, you get a solar event and that takes down computers.

There are lots of different things that you need to build to recover from accidental threats, and there are ones that are more intentional -- like when somebody deploys ransomware and tries to take your pipeline offline.

Gardner: To be more resilient in our organizations, one of the things that we’ve seen with developers and IT operations is DevOps. Has DevOps been a good lesson for broader resilience? Is there something we can do with other silos in organization to make them more resilient?

DevOps derives from experience

Ludwig: I think so. Ultimately, there are lots of different ways people describe DevOps, but I think about taking what used to be a very big thing and acknowledging that you can’t comprehend the complexity of that big thing. Choosing instead to embrace the idea that you should do lots of little things, in aggregate, and that they’re going to end up being a big thing.

And that is a core ethos of DevOps, that each individual developer is going to write a little bit of code and then they’re going to ship it. You’re going to do that over and over and over. You are going to do that very, very, very quickly. And they’re going to be responsible for running their own thing. That’s the operations part of the development. But the result is, over time, you get closer to a good product because you can gain feedback from customers, you’re able to see how it’s working in reality, and you’ll be able to get testing that takes place with real data. There are lots of advantages to that. But the critical part of it, from a security standpoint, is it makes it possible to respond to security flaws in near real-time.

Often, organizations just aren’t pushing code frequently enough to be able to know how to fix a security problem. They are like, “Oh, our next release window is 90 days from now. I can’t possibly do anything between now and then.” Getting to a point where you have an improvement process that’s really flexible and that’s being exercised every single day is what you get by having DevOps.

And so, if you think about that same mentality for other parts of your organization, it definitely makes them able to react when something unexpected happens.

Gardner: Perhaps we should be looking to our software development organizations for lessons on cultural methods that we can apply elsewhere. They’re on the bleeding edge of being more secure, more productive, and they’re doing it through better communications and culture.

Ludwig: It’s interesting to phrase it that way because that sounds highfalutin, and that they achieved it out of expertise and brilliance. What it really is, is the humbleness of realizing that the compiler tells you your code is wrong every single day. There’s a new user bug every single day. And eventually you get beaten down by all those, and you decide you’re just going to react every single day instead of having this big thing build up.

So, yes, I think DevOps is a good example but it’s a result of realizing how many flaws there are more than anything highfalutin, that’s for sure.

Gardner: The software doesn’t just eat the world; the software can show the world the new, better way.

Ludwig: Yes, hopefully so.

Future best security practices

Gardner: Adrian, any thoughts about the future of better security, privacy, and resilience? How will ML and AI provide more analysis and improvements to come?

Ludwig: Probably the most important thing going on right now in the context of security is the realization by the senior executives and boards that security is something they need to be proponents for. They are pushing to make it possible for organizations to be more secure. That has fascinating ramifications all the way down the line.

If you look at the best security organizations, they know the best way to enable security within their companies and for their customers is to make security as easy as possible. You get a combination of the non-security executive saying, “Security is the number-one thing,” and at the same time, the security executive realizes the number-one thing to implement security is to make it as easy as possible to embrace and to not be disruptive.

And so, we are seeing faster investment in security that works because it’s easier. And I think that’s going to make a huge difference.

There are also several foundational technology shifts that have turned out to be very pro-security, which wasn’t why they were built -- but it’s turning out to be the case. For example, in the consumer space the move toward the web rather than desktop applications has enabled greater security. We saw a movement toward mobile operating systems as a primary mechanism for interacting with the web versus desktop operating systems. It turns out that those had a fundamentally more secure design, and so the risks there have gone down.

The enterprise has been a little slow, but I see the shift away from behind-the-firewall software toward cloud-based and software as a service (SaaS) software as enabling a lot better security for most organizations. Eventually, I think it will be for all organizations.

Those shifts are happening at the same time as we have cultural shifts. I’m really optimistic that over the next decade or two we’re going to get to a point where security is not something we talk about. It’s just something built-in and expected in much the same way as we don’t spend too much time now talking about having access to the Internet. That used to be a critical stumbling block. It’s hard to find a place now that doesn’t or won’t soon have access.

These security practices and capabilities become part-and-parcel of good business conduct. We’ll just think of it as doing a good job, and those companies that don’t do a good job will suffer the consequences and the Darwinian nature of capitalism will take over.

Ludwig: I think it will.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: TraceableAI.

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      TraceAI : Machine Learning Driven Application and API Security


Thursday, June 24, 2021

Citrix research shows those ‘Born Digital’ can deliver superlative results — if leaders know what makes them tick

elf-awareness as an individual attribute provides the context to better understand others and to find common ground. But what about self-awareness of entire generations?

Are those born before the mass appeal and distribution of digital technology able to make the leap in their awareness of those who have essentially been Born Digital? Does the awareness gap extend to an even more profound disconnect between how today’s younger generations think and those more likely to be in the leadership positions in businesses?

Do the bosses really get their entry-level cohorts? And what, if any, impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had in amplifying these perception and cognition gaps?

Stay with us as
BriefingsDirect explores new research into what makes the Born Digital generation tick. And we’ll also unpack ways that the gap between those born analog and more recently can be closed.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn more about the paybacks and advantages of understanding and embracing the Born Digital Effect, please welcome Tim Minahan, Executive Vice President of Business Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer at Citrix, and Amy Haworth, Senior Director of Employee Experience at Citrix. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Tim, your latest research into what makes those Born Digital tick bucks conventional wisdom. Why did Citrix undertake this research in the first place?

Minahan: This is the first generation to grow up in an entirely digital world. In another decade or so, the success or failure of businesses – the entire global economy -- will be in the hands of this Born Digital generation. 


We wanted to get inside their heads to see what makes them tick. That helps us to help our customers design their post-pandemic work environments and work models to best support the needs of this emerging group of leaders.

The good news is that the Born Digital generation -- those born after 1997 – is primed to deliver significant economic gains -- some $1.9 trillion in corporate profits. But there certainly were some divergences in what they need to do that and how they view work.

Certainly, the pandemic has forever changed the way we all work, but it had a particularly profound impact on the Born Digital generation. Many of them began or had their early careers during the crisis. Remote and technology-driven work is all that they have ever known. Organizations need to be aware of these scenarios as they plan for the future so as to not leave out or disengage from this future generation of leaders.

The Born Digital difference

Gardner: Tim, like me, you were born analog. What surprised you most about this generation?

Minahan: Certain key findings debunked a lot of the myths around what motivates these workers. Our research reveals a fundamental disconnect. First, job stability and work-life balance are what matter most to these employees.

Citrix Research Shows Leaders Disconnected From Younger Employees.

Largely faced with an uncertain job environment, these younger workers are most focused on fundamental work factors like career stability and security. They also want to work in their own way. So, they are looking for a good work-life balance and more flexible work models.

And this is poorly understood by leaders, who -- in the same research – showed that they think, behind access to technology, the Born Digital generation values opportunities for training and meaningful, impactful work. And, while those are important, they’re further down the list.

It turns out that job satisfaction, career stability and security, and a good work-life balance ranks above compensation and the manager they work with.

And it’s become very clear -- business leaders overestimate the appeal of the office. Ninety percent of Born Digital generation employees do not want to return to the office full-time post-pandemic. They prefer a more flexible or hybrid model, which is in stark contrast to the leadership where 58 percent believe that young workers will want to spend most or all their time working in an office. And this is a real Catch-22 that we’re all going to need to grapple with not years from now but in the next few months.

Gardner: Amy, does the way companies misinterpret their employees mean we need an employee experience reboot?

Haworth: After reading this research, I felt an overwhelming sense of the importance of listening. That means getting really curious, and not only curious at big moments, like returning to the office or moving a vast number of employees out of offices -- but getting curious all the time.

If we design employee experience strategies around old assumptions, we're missing each other in the workplace. Experiences are built in the day-to-day moments. We need to build the hybrid workplace around trust and inclusivity.

It was so clear to me that if we are designing employee experience strategies around old assumptions, we’re missing each other in the workplace. One of the frameworks for employee experience we use heavily at Citrix is the idea that experiences are built in the day-to-day moments. The touchpoints that employees have in the human space, the physical space, and the digital space. At Citrix, we have rethought and rebooted our own experience, coming back into a hybrid workplace, and built around the idea of trust and inclusivity.

And it’s interesting in this research how much trust in autonomy and in inclusivity emerged as critical components for the Born Digitals. Interestingly, that seems to extend into other generations as well. It became the framework for us and our approach to hybrid work -- a philosophy -- and a way to build the infrastructure for that. We wanted to record and cultivate trust in our own culture.

Work together, even when apart

Minahan: Visionary leaders are using this moment in time to rethink future of work models and turn their work environments to competitive advantage. A growing number of our customers are now trying to navigate through these situations in their post-pandemic work model planning.

One of the big topics is not just about where people work. I think there’s a false-positive that some executives are doing with the belief that everyone wants to get back to the office full-time. Because the initial burst of productivity has declined, they’re using the last 15 months as a proxy for what remote work is.

Let’s be clear. The last year and a half has not been remote work, it’s been remote isolation. There needs to be a deeper level of understanding, as Amy said, as you move into your planning of what truly motivates people. You need to truly understand what’s going to attract the right talent and importantly what’s going to engage them and allow them to be successful in driving the business outcomes that you’re hoping for them to achieve.

Gardner: I find it not just a little ironic that we’re going to be seeking to better listen and better communicate when we’re not together in an office. There may be an inability to see the trees for the forest when you’re in the same office going through the same work patterns. Maybe breaking that pattern leads to even better communication. Amy?

Haworth: I think you are spot-on, Dana. One of the metaphors I’ve come to love is the idea of being at the ocean. If you’ve ever been anywhere where the tide comes in, at first you can’t see certain things. Then as the tide goes back out, there are tide pools full of life and vibrancy. They have been there all along, but you just couldn’t see them.


And that clearly emulates what is happening in organizations. These opportunities around hybrid work give us another chance to break the script. It helps us discover pieces in our organizations that may not have been working that great to start with and were causing friction all along.

Distributed work is happening. We’re having to be more explicit about the conversations around communication, collaboration, the expectations of each other, and what it means to help each other. Raising up those things anew is so important no matter the setting, no matter the workplace.

We’re now in a unique environment where we have this window of time to get very specific and not take it for granted – but to rebuild with intention. I truly hope that organizations are smart and do that with a concerted effort, with concerted energy, and then reap the rewards.

Distributed and dynamic workplaces

Minahan: Amy hits on two great points. One is there’s a real risk, as we move to hybrid work, that we create a culture of unintentional biases for those office-first-focused folks who may be conducting meetings or collaboration styles that preclude, or don’t include, folks working remotely.

It isn’t just about having the right technology in place, it’s also about having the right policies in place. The cultural aspects and expectations need to create a workplace that has inclusivity and equality -- no matter where work is done. The reality is we are going to continue to work in a very distributed mode, where certain team members won't all be in the same room.

Those Born Digital Will Soon Determine Your Business's Success.

You must harness technology, institute policies, and set the expectations that remote workers are still active participants in the process and that information flows freely. That means investing in collaborative work management solutions that create a secure digital collaboration environment. These solutions align people around similar goals and objectives and key results (OKRs) that have visibility into the status and into how projects are progressing, whether you’re in the office or somewhere else.

By understanding the dependencies between the dispersed teams and other actions that need to be done, you create the business outcomes you want. These are the types of tools and policies that support the hybrid work environments that people are so desperately trying to create right now.

Gardner: The last year and a half has given us an opportunity to change the playbook. What we’re hearing from the younger generations is they’re not opposed to that. As we seek to best change the playbook, what has the Citrix research told you?

Born free to choose how to work

Minahan: We engaged with two external research partners on this, Coleman Parkes Research and Oxford Analytica. They surveyed and did qualitative interviews with more than 1,000 business leaders and more than 2,000 knowledge workers across 10 countries. To prepare for the future, it was very clear that leaders need to get a grip on the expectations and motivations of this Born Digital generation and adapt their work models, workplaces, and work practices to better cultivate them.

There were three primary findings. You should focus on where this generation wants to work. Prepare them for success in distributed work environments. Companies need to give employees freedom to choose where they work best.

You should focus on where this generation wants to work. Prepare them for success in distributed work environments. Companies need to give employees freedom to choose where they work best.

To Amy’s point, it’s about fit and function. Sometimes it is important to come together in offices for collaboration and social and cultural connections. For other forms of work, it is optimal for individuals to have the space they need to think, be creative, and succeed. The Born Digital cohort wants and needs that flexibility -- to have both work environments purpose-fit for the work they need to get done.

Secondly, beyond where they work, the five-day work week that has vestiges of the industrial revolution is probably not appropriate. Same for the 9 am to 5 pm workday. We’re finding that a lot of folks need to take a break mid-day to recharge. So instead of thinking about one big block of time, think about sub-blocks that allow workers to optimize the work-life balance and to recharge. That drives the best energy to do your best work. And this is a very clear finding from the study on how the Born Digital want to work.

The last part is about how they work. They want autonomy and the opportunity to work in a high-trust environment. They want to have the right tools to have transparency, collaborate, and drive connectivity with their co-workers and peers -- even if they’re not physically in the room together. They want compensation that recognizes and rewards performance, as well as strong and visible leadership.

And so those are some of the key attributes that are important as companies design their new work models.

Gardner: Amy, we’re now talking about things like trust and motivation. It seems to me that those are universally important, whether you’re born with digital technology or not.

Why does the digital technology generation have a stronger concept around trust and motivation? Is there a connection between being Born Digital and those intrinsic-but-profound values?

Haworth: Think about how these Born Digital knowledge workers have come into the workforce. Most have had some level of college education. They were used to being very autonomous university students as they figured out their activity-based work habits. How do they get the most done? Where does work happen best -- in the library, or in their dorm rooms, or apartments?

The Future of Work Demands Flexibility,

Choice, and Autonomy.

The transition into an office is simply another step in developing a capability that they’ve been building for years. And so, if organizations are not leading with trust, transparency, autonomy, and allowing the digital tools they’ve come to expect and leverage in their educational path, that feels like there’s a massive disconnect. They’re not only undoing some of the amazing self-leadership that these Born Digitals have grown within themselves, but organizations are also depriving themselves of rethinking the ideas that the Born Digital generation is coming up with.

They are more accustomed than some of their predecessor generations to having seniority when it comes to using digital tools. And as we take an opportunity to flip our mindset, most of the time business leaders with more seniority are thinking, “Well, we have to groom this next generation of leaders.”

We may want to flip that mindset. Instead, think about how this new generation of leaders can groom the current leadership through things like reverse-mentorships or by sharing their voices. A manager with a team that includes Born Digitals can ask for their input and give permission for them to help shape the future of work together.

The organizations that do so are going to be much more well-suited to the economic benefits of this talent, as Tim highlighted at the beginning. It’s latent talent until we unlock it. It will take a conscious decision of leadership to think about how they can we best learn from this generation. They have a whole lot of things to teach us from what they envision as the future of work.

Increase your app-titude

Minahan: Amy brings up a good point that showed up in the research. That is dissonance between what older workers and leaders perceive as their experience and that of the Born Digital generation. That gap extends to both in the tools they use to do their work, as well as on how they communicate.

On the technology side, for example, young workers and leaders inhabit very different digital worlds. The research found that only 21 percent of business leaders use instant messaging apps such as Slack or WhatsApp for work, as compared with 81 percent of Born Digital employees.

If you want to build trust and communication, it’s very hard if you are not hanging out in the same places. Similarly, only 26 percent of business leaders like using these apps for work compared to 82 percent of the Born Digitals. Clearly, there are very different work habits and work tools that the Born Digitals prefer. As leaders look to cultivate, engage with, and recruit these Born Digital workers, they are going to need to understand what tools to use to communicate to foster the next generation of leaders.

Haworth: That statistic also caught my eye; that 26 percent of business leaders like using these apps for work compared with 82 percent of Born Digital workers. Every organization that I have spoken with in my career, honestly, but especially in the last 36 months, has talked about how hard it is to get messages out into the organization. And when you step back and say, “Well, how are you trying to communicate that message?” Oftentimes what I hear is a company intranet or email.

Citrix Research Shows Leaders Disconnected From Younger Employees.

If we take something as incredibly important as communication and think about what could be applied from this data to specific segments -- to communication, to leadership, to recruiting -- this becomes a really salient point and very relevant for the planning and strategy of how to best reach these workers.

In the employee experience space, one of the key ideas is not everybody is the same. Employee experience is built around personalization. Much of this research data is rich with aligning a strategy to personalize the experience for the Born Digitals for both their own benefit as well as the benefit of the organization. If people only take one thing from this report, to me that could be it right there.

Minahan: Yes, we could fill up a whole list of Slack conversations with that topic, absolutely!

Gardner: It strikes me that there is a propensity for these younger workers to naturally innovate. If you give them a task, they are ready and willing to figure out how to do it on their own. Older workers wait around to be told how to do things.

I wonder if this innovation propensity in the younger workers is an untapped, productivity boom, and that allowing people to do things their own way -- as long as the job gets done -- is a huge benefit to all.

Innovation generation integrates AI

Minahan: I think you are onto something there. With the do-it-yourself or YouTube generation, you see it in your own children, they teach themselves or find ways to figure things out -- whether it’s a math problem or a hobby.

Best practice sharing mentoring as a benefit applies to solving problems, of how to adapt and learn. Reverse mentoring, formal or informal, has a big opportunity to raise all boats.

Amy mentioned earlier the importance of reverse-mentoring, and that’s no joke. We first talked about it as teaching the older generation how to use technology. But there is a best-practice-sharing benefit as applies to solving problems, of how to constantly adapt, and continue to learn. That reverse mentoring, whether it’s formal or informal, has a real big opportunity to lift all boats.

Gardner: As these folks innovate, we also now have the means to digitally track what they are doing. We can learn, on a process basis through the data, what works better, which allows us to improve our processes constantly and iteratively. Before, we were all told how to do things. We did it, and then we redid it, and not much changed.

Is there an opportunity here to create a new business style combining the data-driven capability to measure what people are doing as well as having them continue to do it in an experimental fashion?

Haworth: Yes, there is now an amazing opportunity to think about how machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) can become a guide. As the data fuels insights, those insights can help make workers more effective and potentially far more productive.

When I think of reverse-mentoring, I not only would love to have a Born Digital mentor me on technology, but I also wouldn’t mind having an AI coach tap into places where I’m missing things. They could intervene and help me find a better way, to guide my work, or to think about who else might be interested in this topic. That could fuel an interesting discussion and help me make connections within my organization.

Those Born Digital Will Soon Determine Your Business's Success.

The Born Digital generation also specified in the Citrix report how distinct their experiences are when it comes to building new connections within organizations. Technology can play a role in that, not only by removing friction to give us time to connect with other human beings, but to also guide us to where those connections might be productive ones. And by productive, I don’t necessarily mean only output, but where it leads to idea generation, further innovation, scaling, and to creating coalitions and influence that lead to desirable outcomes.

Minahan: The world is moving so quickly today. Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace; it’s changing how we engage and do business. The growth-hack skillset for the individual career right now is those who can continuously learn and quickly adapt. That’s going to be critical.

We think the Born Digital generation has a lot to offer on that front, and they can teach the entire culture to support that. As Amy said, then augmenting that culture with AI or ML and other tools so that it becomes an institutional upgrade in skills, knowledge, and best-practice-sharing -- so that everyone is absolutely performing at their best and everyone can begin to see around corners and adapt much quicker -- that’s what’s going to create the high-performing, curious, and growth-oriented organizations of the future.

Gardner: How do we now take this research into action? How do we move from the observation that there is an awareness and perceptions gap -- and maybe $1.9 trillion at stake -- and go about self-evaluating and changing?

Listen fully to learn and lead

Haworth: Number one for me is to listen. And listening is hard for some. It requires time, but I will advocate that it doesn’t take a lot of time.

I have a little game to offer everyone. It’s called 5 for 5, which means talk to five people with five questions, and ask those five questions to all of them. Don’t defend. Don’t explain. Just get genuinely curious -- and start with your Born Digitals. Most organizations have an easy way for leaders to find them. They might be on your team. They might be your kids, your nieces, your nephews, or a neighbor down the street. But spend a little bit of time just listening.

And from those five people, we know you are likely to find some themes, just those five conversations. And then put it on your calendar to do that at least once a quarter. These are the most interesting opportunities leaders have to inform strategy, to think about what’s next, and to learn something about a person that they may never have known before.

Talk to five people and ask five questions of all of them. Start with your Born Digitals. You are likely to find themes that will inform strategy for leaders.

We recently went through a cycle of this internally at Citrix as part of our hybrid philosophy building and to help develop the capabilities and tools we need in the organization for teams to be effective. I happened to be aligned to interview our Born Digital segment. Most of them were fairly new in their careers, and some had started during COVID.

My favorite question was, “If you were a manager right now, what would you be focused on?” Across the board, each of these interviewees, employees at our organization, said, “I would be very clear on what’s expected as far as working hours and when it’s okay to log off.”

That insight alone was validated in the research. Not only is this generation looking for job stability and security, but they are also very likely to not be the ones to ask for permission. They are looking around to figure out what’s okay and not okay.

We need to be clear about helping them define boundaries and to model those boundaries because Born Digital doesn’t mean born burnt out. We want to be sure that we keep the engagement, curiosity, innovation, creativity, and energy that the Born Digital population brings into organizations. We need to help them be successful by developing a sustainable pattern for work. 

Gardner: Tim, how do you see us closing the gap in the near term?

Keep it simple to reduce daily din

Minahan: The convergence of the digital workspace demands tools that facilitate open and equitable collaboration and transparency across teams, whether they are in the office or working remotely. That includes driving continuous learning and best-practice-sharing and achieving better business outcomes together. The physical workplace needs to be fitted for purpose when is it important to come together, when we do benefit from that, whether it’s for collaborative projects or the social aspects, such as for creating that water-cooler dynamic.

The Future of Work Demands Flexibility,

Choice, and Autonomy.

As Amy just mentioned, which I think is so critically important, the ultimate success in this is going to require how you transition your culture. How do you make it okay for people to turn off in this always-connected world? How do you set norms on how we create an equitable, inclusive workplace for those that work in the office and those who work remotely?

Amy has put in place here at Citrix a very good framework. Similar to that, we are advising our customers to triangulate between a Venn diagram of creating the right digital workplace, coupling it with the right purpose-built workspace, and then enabling it all with common policies and culture that foster equality, inclusiveness and focus on business outcomes. 

Gardner: Is there something about the way technology itself has been delivered into the marketplace by vendors, including Citrix, that also needs to change? When we talk about culture, behavior, and motivations, that’s not the way that technology has been shaped and delivered. Is there a lesson from this research?

Haworth: Great employee experiences are shaped by empowerment of employees at a very personal level. When technology guides and automates work experiences to free the person up from the noise, the friction, of having to log-in to multiple tools, to context switch -- all of that creates a draining effect on a human. The technology is now positioned to remove that friction by letting technology do what technology does best, which is to automate, guide, and organize based on personal preferences.

New innovations from platforms such as Citrix help unite work all in one place to simplify tasks for the employee. It means there is more that the employee doesn’t have to think about. It’s seamless. That quality of interaction is a key lever in creating positive employee experiences, which lead to engagement and commitment to an organization in a world that is fraught right now with finding talent, with fighting attrition, and cultivating the right talent to innovate into the future. All of these elements really matter, and technology has a big role to play. 

Gardner: It sounds like automation is another word we should be using. We talked about using ML and AI to help, but the more you can automate, even though that sounds in conflict with allowing people to be flexible, is important. 

Minahan: Amy hit the nail on the head. It is about automating and guiding employees, but it’s also removing the noise from their day. The dirty little secret in business is each of these individual tools that we have introduced into our workday on their own added productivity, helping us do our jobs, but collectively they have created such a cacophony of noise and distraction in our day, it’s actually frustrating employees.

If you think back to pre-pandemic, one of the dynamics was a Gallup study that showed employees were more disengaged than at any other time in history. Some 86 percent of employees felt they were disengaged at work because they were frustrated with the complexity of the work environment, all the tools, the apps, and chat channels that were interrupting them from doing their jobs. And that’s only been exacerbated throughout the pandemic as people don’t even have a clearly defined beginning and end to their days. And so it continues.

As we introduce technology, we need to mute the noise. We need to automate mundane tasks so employees don't change context every two seconds. Create a unifying workspace that allows access to all tools and content in the right context.

One of the things we need to be thinking about as technologists, as we introduce technology or we build solutions, is how do you mute this noise? How do you automate some of the mundane tasks so that employees don’t need to switch context every two seconds? How do you create a unifying workspace that allows them to have access to all the tools, all the apps, all the content, all the business services they need to get their job done without needing to remember multiple passwords and go everywhere else?

And how do you begin to literally use things like AI and ML to guide them through their day, presenting them with the right information at the right time, not all the information, allowing them to execute tasks without needing to navigate multiple different environments? Then, how do you create a collaborative workspace that is equitable and provides transparency and a common place for folks to align around common goals, execute against projects, understand the status, no matter whether they are working in an office in a conference room together or are distributed to all corners of the globe?

Gardner: For those older leaders or younger entrants into the workspace who want to learn more about this research, how can they? And what comes next for Citrix research?

Design the future of work

Minahan: Anyone can find this research available on This research effort, as well as future research efforts, are part of an initiative we took together with academia, research organizations, and governments starting well over a year ago called the Work 2035 Project to try to understand the skills, organizational structures, and role technology plays in shaping the future of work. The only difference is the future of work is arriving a heck of a lot faster than any of us ever expected.

The next big event is that we are hosting a thought leadership event that will be based in part on the latest research effort in October, a virtual summit we are calling Fieldwork, where we are going to bring together some of the industry thought leaders around the topic of how the future of work is evolving and have an open dialogue, and we will be providing more information on that as we get closer. 

Gardner: Amy, for those organizations that may have learned more about the employee experience function of governance, leadership, and management, what advice do you have for organizations should they be interested in setting up an employee experience organization?

Haworth: First, I say congratulations to those organizations for investing and taking the time to invest in understanding what employee experience means in the context of their particular desire for business outcomes and in their particular culture.

Citrix published this year some very helpful research around the employee experience operating model. It can be found on in the Fieldwork section. I personally have leveraged this in setting up some of the key pillars of our own philosophy and approach to employee experience. It is deep and it will also be a great springboard for moving forward with establishing both a mindset and some practices and programs leading to exceptional stronger employee experiences.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Citrix.

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