Businesses investing in flexibility for the long term - The EE

Businesses investing in flexibility for the long term

Simon Wilson of Aruba UK&I

The new state of work will be incredibly different from office life prior to the coronavirus pandemic. But while addressing the needs of supporting employees throughout the ongoing remote work period, it’s equally important for organisations to think about their long-term strategies to help their business and people thrive.

This next generation world of work poses significant challenges to traditional network and security infrastructure, previously intended for a static work environment. For some, says Simon Wilson, chief technology officerAruba UK&Ithis meant purchasing technology to support staff and enable business continuity in the short term. But, as businesses look to a future where remote work is the new normal, they must reconsider what used to be held sacred.

Virtual networks must be expanded past office walls and new technology investments are needed to support this new business model, alongside the added security concerns of today’s world. With smaller budgets, and in an increasingly competitive market, many companies are turning to ‘as a service’ plug and play solutions to ramp up their network solutions and defer costs and, so far, it’s working.

What once was, has changed forever

Considering what’s been achieved over the past months, it’s incredible to see how quickly businesses were able to adapt to new norms. Things that were accepted as the ‘way things were done’ have been transformed for the better with added flexibility and simplicity.

This has changed the way organisations perceive Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) as there was suddenly less control over the assets linked to internal networks. Now this isn’t such a bad thing and can, in fact, lead to cost savings and employee retention in the long-term. There are significant benefits coming to light, and new opportunities formed out of what businesses had to do to adapt, that now don’t want to be relinquished.

Moving with AI and agility

Shutting down non-essential offices across the nation tested the effectiveness of the virtual workforce to the extreme. Fortunately, this has mostly proven successful when the right networking technologies and tools are in place. But now businesses must also show geographical resilience and it will become essential for employees to move seamlessly throughout networks, without retraining or compromise.

This requires situational awareness and adaptability at a global scale, all without security gaps. More so, traditional offices are relying on Artificial Intelligence or AI-powered contact and location tracing tools to enable social and physical distancing monitoring solutions that make the workplace safer. These solutions use Internet of Things (IoT) and Bluetooth radios that are pre-built into access points and can simply be managed from a single pane of glass.

Unlike solutions that use repurposed consumer network equipment, an AI-powered network can provide enterprise-class tele-hardware coupled with plug-and-play installation, identity-based security, and cloud native management for rapid, simple and scalable deployment. This provides businesses with an opportunity to re-imagine a new flexible workplace reality that experienced designers and technologists alike will need to account for in the future. A comfortable, secure, and reliable work-from-home setting will be a key requirement for this new era.

The new office requires new network solutions

A vast majority of companies have so far noted that this work-from-home period has gone much better than initially expected. The challenge they now face is how to reopen the physical workplace and how to account for those who prefer to work from home on a permanent basis. In this instance, they must focus on both smart near-term tactics and holistic long-term solutions to create a safe and efficient return to the office strategy.

The remote workforce presents an immediate challenge for businesses in that they must move from physical security systems to virtual ones. With more than 65% of network operations activities in enterprises still run manually, and the volume of devices, things, and locations connecting to the network only amplified by remote working, IT teams and the businesses behind them are quickly realising this level of manual activity isn’t sustainable particularly as business continuity moves to business recovery.

They’ll need to reassess the security of their network and ensure that these allow IT teams to access systems from a remote location and solve any issues, all via a secure connection.

In the long-term, the office of the future should be increasingly smart using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, IoT sensors, and other capabilities that are currently being invested in. But these should further be repurposed to provide employee experience enhancing applications, as well as security and crisis capabilities, should any type of health or other emergency resurface.

In realising what permanent working from home is going to be, businesses need to allow people to remain flexible in their working practices, and on different devices. They should see this new environment as a catalyst for changing behaviour and consider keeping certain practices that have since proved successful.

The author is Simon Wilson, chief technology officer, Aruba UK&I

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