Nexthink builds bridges between IT and what users want

Pedro Bados oversees a company that wants to help IT shops understand the needs of users

The founder of a service that is aimed at improving employees' experience of information technology has some good news for IT departments: your users don't really hate you.

For decades now, corporate IT has laboured under the (perhaps clichéd and mythical) perception that it is staffed by individuals who communicate in obscure jargon and still fail to satisfy the needs of staff. But things might not be that bad.

"Companies exaggerate complaints about IT and there a huge number of people happy with IT," says Pedro Bados, the Spanish CEO of Switzerland-headquartered Nexthink.

He should know. In the early 2000s, Bados, a computer science grad, was in Lausanne at the EPFL scientific research facility, working on an AI-related research project in the field of identity theft, when he pondered the contradiction that although IT is front and centre of the way many of us perform our jobs, IT didn't know a lot about its customers. Out of that conundrum came the roots of Nexthink (the name suggests forward thinking), founded in 2004.

That point about the IT/employee disconnect is surely true though. The IT department, in part for security reasons, is often physically separated from where most employees sit and the complex nature of technology means that there can be yawning chasms between what users think and what IT knows, unless CIOs are proactive in collecting feedback. Bados's answer was to start developing software that would help IT to make its customers happier with more visibility into issues, by collecting user feedback, creating a connection between IT and employee and even holding out the possibility of resolving issues automatically. Today, the company monitors millions of endpoints for over 1,000 customers worldwide in a field it calls "digital employee experience".


The value of experience

In a way, Nexthink is an example of the wider Customer Experience or Experience Management phenomenon whereby companies are attempting to understand what's making customers and staff happy or unhappy. SAP recently highlighted the scale of that market by agreeing to pay $8bn for Qualtrics so is Nexthink a Qualtrics for employees and IT shops?

Bados says we can think of Nexthink as existing somewhere between a Qualtrics and ServiceNow, the company that has built a big business on automating employee, IT and customer workflows. With Nexthink, IT can unravel knotty issues where users who can't get a reliable service blame the application but in reality most problems happen at the endpoint. By having software agents at the endpoints, IT can analyse usability, provide advice through chatbots or send a pop-up note. The results are fewer incidents, faster incident resolution, slicker IT projects and greater productivity. (With user privacy and GDPR in mind, Nexthink doesn't, however, monitor private information or content inputted by users.)

One possible extension to Nexthink's value proposition could be to edge into adjacent opportunities: you can imagine a scenario where HR would receive feedback from users in the same way, for example. Bados says the idea has been floated but he doesn't sound as if it's a short-term proposition.

That's fair enough as he's likely to have his hands full serving the huge number of companies that have IT shops and want to improve the way they accommodate users. So instead he says the company is doubling its investment in machine learning. When the company announced in 2016 that it had raised a $40m venture round to take its total to $65m it issued a press release suggesting it was "gearing up" for an IPO. Late last year it added another $85m but Bados plays down suggestions of anything imminent. "We're just scratching the surface," he says.