The Shift to Hybrid Work
Before COVID-19, most enterprises had a digital transformation in flight, but the pandemic threw those programs into hyperdrive. Scrambling to accommodate workforces that were suddenly working online and mostly from home, organizations invested heavily in cloud-based infrastructure, applications and rich collaboration tools. Those changes, made out of necessity, accelerated cloud migrations. They won’t go away, but will continue to evolve as offices gradually open back up and adopt a hybrid work environment that will have a dramatic impact on the digital workplace.
For many organizations, the transition may not be as simple as it seems and were forced to hire offshore developers. Hybrid work will be a challenge, as companies go from an environment they’ve come to know well to one that presents a few significant new wrinkles. During the pandemic, many companies expanded their cloud infrastructures and added collaboration tools to make sure employees working from home had the access and the tools they needed to do their jobs. IT teams had to tackle how to provide service to remote employees without the same visibility they had on the corporate network. Now, they have to adjust to employees working anywhere—in the office and on the road, from hotel rooms and coffee shops, as well as from home—with an emphasis on combining in-person collaboration with remote flexibility.
With the global rollout of COVID vaccines and organizations beginning to reopen their doors, the digital workplace will become the norm across the board, applying to employees working in the office as well as remotely. We will continue to see increased demand and reliance on collaboration tools in order for workers to be productive. Companies need to make sure the transition will be seamless for employees no matter where they are.
CIOs and IT teams need to think differently about how to create a unified experience in this dispersed environment. For starters, the office itself will have to be different, with fewer assigned cubicles and more space converted for collaboration sessions and meetings. Online collaboration tools and infrastructure changes also will have to be put in place.
The Right Collaboration Tool for the Job
The use of rich collaboration applications, which skyrocketed during the pandemic, will play a big part in the hybrid workplace. The Aternity Global Remote Work Productivity Tracker found that Microsoft Teams usage increased by nearly 3,900% since the beginning of the pandemic forced a shift to remote work, while Zoom usage grew by nearly 1,800%. But there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. For one thing, there are signs that people may be getting tired of video conferencing, which may not be necessary for every team function.
Slack, for instance, has proved to be an easy way for collaboration not just among employees but with customers, vendors, and partners. Before COVID-19, companies may have had one collaboration tool, but now they have several to choose from, depending on the preferred form of collaboration (chat, video, or voice). With a heightened reliance on collaboration tools in the hybrid workplace, companies need to assess all their options and be sure they have the right tools in place.
Virtual Desktops on the Rise
More companies also will likely increase their use of virtual desktops, which is a double-edged sword for IT teams. Because a virtual desktop is based in the cloud, it gives employees a seamless digital experience regardless of their location, while IT teams are freed from having to manage hardware such as laptops or desktops remotely. But it also takes away much of the visibility into and control over the underlying infrastructure, making it extremely difficult in troubleshooting poor performance, resolving help desk issues, and supporting the overall digital experience.
As companies move forward into the hybrid workplace, IT teams need to take a holistic view of their organizations. Will they, for example, be able to provide the same help desk support to an employee working on a network they don’t control as they do to an employee at company headquarters? If Salesforce is slow, can they determine if it’s because of an issue with the cloud provider or an employee’s device? Focusing on the holistic digital experience will be the next step in their digital transformation.
BYOD Will Be More Common
The blend of in-office and remote collaboration, with many employees likely shifting from one to the other, will lead to greater BYOD adoption, which will lower costs for the businesses since they won’t have to replace devices. With everything being managed in the cloud, this could raise some security concerns. But with appropriate identity and device management, it actually can increase security.
Having End to End Visibility is a must for the “new normal”
The new hybrid environments will continue to be a challenge for IT organizations. Having the ability to dynamically pinpoint trouble areas in a hybrid environment, will be a must have for IT managers.
The trend toward cloud migrations and the greater use of rich collaboration tools will continue post-pandemic, and organizations needs to be prepared for the changes in the digital workspace. Just as remote work during the pandemic involved more than people simply turning on their home computers, the transition to a hybrid workplace will involve more than a raw mix of people working in the office or remotely.
It will be important for organizations to reassess their cloud infrastructures and digital workplaces, including their collaboration app portfolios, within the context of the newly defined or updated flexible work policies. This can ensure employees will have the tools needed to work effectively regardless of location.
The further organizations were in their digital transformation efforts before the pandemic, the better positioned they probably are today in terms of their post-pandemic operations. But no organization should take their change management for granted. Businesses that are able to keep leveraging their newfound cloud infrastructure to operate more efficiently will continue to improve their productivity and differentiate themselves from competitors as we head into the post-pandemic world and all of the challenges and rewards that will bring.
By Fernando Castanheira