Workplace 2.0: How digital transformation will drive a hybrid era
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Workplace 2.0: How digital transformation will drive a hybrid era

Workplace 2.0: How digital transformation will drive a hybrid era

Digital transformation saved multiple businesses from untimely demise; it will also drive in the new era of the hybrid workplace

The initial foray into work-from-home in 2020 was forced – its permanence will be the result of more deliberate efforts.

As the Covid-19 fog dissipates, the benefits of flexible work models are becoming all too apparent. Global companies such as Microsoft have said most roles will remain remote, while Twitter and Square have said more of their workforce can work from home permanently.

In May 2020, Facebook said it would eventually begin allowing most of its employees to request a permanent change in their jobs to let them work remotely. The change of heart is because businesses soon realised they can attain even better productivity from a remote workforce, observes Aongus Hegarty, president, International Markets, Dell Technologies.

Employees too are expressing their feelings, making it well known they prefer this hybrid mode of working. Although most employees do not necessarily want to work 100 per cent remotely, many prefer to be in the office a few days a week and work the rest of the week from home, he adds.

Businesses are simply looking at doing things differently, says Chris Cooper, director and general manager, Lenovo Data Centre Group MEA.

“Businesses are not expecting to go back to as it was. As they continue down their digital transformation, there’s an acceptance that there will be a higher degree of mobile working.”

That is all well and good, but the permanence of hybrid work models will require businesses to re-evaluate their technology stack. IT systems in existence were largely designed for a predominantly office-bound workforce. Although the technology for the remote workforce such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has been in existence for a while, few organisations took an interest. There’s no fast rule for how to enable a remote workforce. A good place to start is to identify the job profile of your employees, says Hegarty.

“Some employees are involved in transactional tasks so a VDI solution favours them. Some require mobility solutions as they will be required to operate from multiple locations. Others work with a lot of data, so they’ll need a powerful desktop or laptop.”

The second consideration is the IT management angle – how to deploy IT systems, how to maintain them, patch them, migrate them when shifting, install remote working tools, etc. Lastly is how to keep these systems secure within an expanded exposure landscape, says Hegarty.

Hegarty: As work-from-home models mature, businesses are pivoting towards infrastructure and cloud to empower their remote workforce.
Digital transformation

Many organisations had committed to some form of digital transformation, albeit at a much more leisurely pace. The coronavirus put those plans in the fast lane.

Digital was always important, but nobody understood how crucial until Covid-19 showed them, observes Mohamed Al Qubaisi, chief technology officer at Injazat Data Systems.

“There were a lot of things that were not in place from a digital perspective to help with the sudden shift. So digital platforms had to be created on the fly.”

Injazat for instance released the Abu Dhabi Department of Health RemoteCare app for non-Covid patients to have access to physicians and medicine subscriptions during lockdowns.

“The need was there even before Covid19 for such platforms but there was no urgency. Covid-19 changed all that. This shows people that they need to be ready for disruptions in the future,” says Qubaisi.

He highlights the risk to other businesses with no digital plans in place.

According to some statistics, 70 per cent of restaurants that closed or were affected by Covid-19 may never open again. They are instead being replaced by digital-first cloud kitchen concepts. There was a risk businesses would hunker down and try to ride out the Covid mayhem. The opposite happened as organisations accelerate their digitalisation efforts.

“As people realised that they have to move to mobile working, tools such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom soon became mainstream,” says Cooper.

Qubaisi: Transitioning from a reactive to proactive care strategy requires healthcare systems to embrace digital transformation and roll out new capabilities that tailor patient care to the individual.

Cloud
The initial demand when the pandemic struck was for computing devices such as laptops, as well as the applications and security tools that go with that. But as WFH models mature, businesses are pivoting towards infrastructure and cloud to empower their remote workforce says, Hegarty.

The major cloud providers have been winners in the Covid-19 era, as seen in their exploding customer base and stock valuations. “There’s a huge growth in new data outside of traditional data centres and cloud around edge computing, and the requirement there for new infrastructures and new ways of doing things,” says Cooper.

As new data is being generated outside of traditional data centres, it has to be computed outside that as well, or on the edge. And then there’s the explosion of the number of devices that are getting connected to the internet, estimated to be around 80 billion by 2025.

The pandemic has accelerated the gap between edge and cloud. “The edge computing environment, which has a degree of artificial intelligence and analytics is now being connected to existing data centres and cloud infrastructures,” says Cooper.

The shift to remote workplaces and the financial pressure emanating from Covid-19 is accelerating previous shifts towards as-a-service or pay-as-you-go delivery models.

Hegarty says Dell is shifting its technology stack towards an as-a-service model which will eventually be rolled out across its markets. Dell launched its financial services arm in the Gulf as a step towards enabling this model, he adds. Related to this is the shift from CAPEX to OPEX models.

“Technology is now a major part of investments companies make. Providing technology as a variable cost OPEX model means organisations do not need to tie up significant working capital in technology-related outlay,” says Hegarty.

Organisations initially struggled with cybersecurity as many lacked the tools to secure remote work environments. Technology companies like Dell have
responded with more aggressive cybersecurity architectures.

“Today, data and protection of that data are built into the infrastructure solutions now. Security is now built into the workforce transformation solutions as well,” Hegarty says. Injazat recently launched its Cyber Fusion Centre (CFC) cybersecurity offering which combines forensics, threat detection and response, vulnerability management, vendor and malware analysis, intelligence sharing and analysis, and APD Hunt.

“We handle citizen data, so we need to make sure that is protected and managed in the right way,” says Qubaisi.

Cooper: Businesses are not expecting to go back to as it was-as they continue down their digital transformation, there’s an acceptance that there will be a higher degree of mobile working.

Business strategy
Businesses are still figuring out how to evolve their operations in this new era.

Qubaisi of Injazat says business models have to change in this new reality. He cites healthcare that continues to be reactive, i.e., you need to wait for someone to get sick then they need to report it. Transitioning from a reactive to proactive care strategy requires healthcare systems to embrace digital transformation and roll out new capabilities that tailor patient care to the individual.

“So, you’re now changing the business model and the impact becomes significant. And this is what digital transformation will do for healthcare as an example to disrupt the status quo, and to do things very differently in a modern way,” says Qubaisi.

Hindsight is indeed 20/20. While many business leaders wish they had paid heed to calls for digitisation, the pandemic has proven why transforming business processes through the latest digital technology is important. When the next disruption hits, and it will, sooner or later, most will be more
prepared next time around.

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