The pandemic isn't going away. We need to talk about the 'work from anywhere' enterprise

'These changes won’t come overnight, but over a 3 to 5-year period, there could be very significant savings to be had'

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Sponsored In the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, CIOs and IT directors worldwide went to heroic lengths to enable employees to work from home on a full-time basis. But while their efforts may have won them the gratitude of executive teams and end users, they can’t count on the goodwill lasting forever, warns Sumir Karayi, founder and CEO of endpoint management company 1E.

“It’s absolutely right that IT teams should be saluted for what they have accomplished, but it also needs to be recognised that the short-term solutions and approaches they used when the pandemic first hit simply won’t be sustainable in a world where far more employees work from home or remotely on a regular basis,” he says.

Since that is the future that many organisations now face, says Karayi, it’s time to take the lessons learnt from the world’s largest-ever experiment in remote working and use them to shape the future digital workplace. And in order to understand better what those lessons might be, 1E commissioned a survey of 300 US employees about the issues and challenges they experienced in the mass shift to remote working.

The results suggest there is still much work for IT teams to do. An overwhelming 98 per cent of respondents agree that device performance is important to their ability to work remotely, but over half (53 per cent) say their corporate-owned device runs more slowly when they’re working away from the office. In fact, device performance was the number one productivity killer experienced by remote-working employees, followed by network issues and slow-running apps and software.

And when things go wrong, end users complain that they just don’t get the prompt IT support they need. More than one in three (37 per cent) say they experience more IT issues while working remotely and a similar proportion (37 per cent) say that it takes longer to get them sorted. On top of that, 74 per cent say they have experienced the same issue more than once.

“What comes across loud and clear is that while IT teams may believe they are delivering remote working effectively, the experience that end users report is actually very different. What end users tell us is that the IT support they receive when working remotely is a second-class service, compared to the first-class service they receive in the office,” says Karayi.

“That’s not acceptable when you consider that, if you’re not visiting the office regularly, and you’re not having those watercooler chats and in-person get-togethers, then your laptop quickly comes to represent your job, your organisation and your employer – all in one device. And that’s why the performance of that device couldn’t be more important to them.”

Optimism and expectations

The good news is that employees are optimistic that the IT team wants to help them get the best from that device – and that it could, with the right tools at its disposal. Almost nine out of ten respondents (86 per cent) say they believe that IT genuinely cares about the experience they have with their endpoints when working remotely.

In order to meet their expectations, things have to change in terms of IT approaches and tools for endpoint management, says Karayi. “What’s apparent from our research is that more needs to be done to support employees anywhere they are working and invest in an IT infrastructure that is not predicated on office-centricity,” he says. “The digital workplace is now wherever the employee wants to work.”

For many IT teams, however, legacy endpoint management systems, security concerns and a lack of automation still stand in the way. With that in mind, 1E has developed a ‘Work From Anywhere’ (WFA) model, in order to provide a blueprint for how the collective definition of the digital workplace should be rewritten. This outlines three principles that should guide the IT strategy for delivering it.

The first of these is real-time remediation. “When an employee is sitting at home, experiencing a problem, they literally can’t get anything done, right? They just can’t. So, in the interests of their productivity and their engagement, it’s really important that whatever issue they’re experiencing is tackled immediately,” says Karayi. Almost seven out of ten respondents (68 per cent) say that their work is disrupted while IT fixes an issue, he points out, while a quarter of these say they can’t work at all. An endpoint management software that offers digital experience monitoring (DEM) can be a big help here, since it enables any degradation in endpoint performance to be quickly identified and remediated by the IT team. In some cases, they may be able to spot a problem proactively and take appropriate measures, before the employee using an affected device has even realised there’s a problem, let alone reported it.

The second principle is autonomic management. In effect, this means that much of the work of detecting problems and addressing them is carried out automatically by machines, rather than hard-pressed, error-prone IT support staff. Take, for example, a laptop that’s not behaving as expected.

“Here you have two options: you can wait for the employee to call the support desk to say that their laptop is behaving erratically and then have IT support staff rummage around to get to the bottom of why that might be. That could take some time,” says Karayi. “Or, you can use an autonomic endpoint management tool that’s tuned to spot performance irregularities and quickly run through a barrage of checks, far faster than a human ever could, get the problem fixed and then apply that fix to any other endpoints with the same issue.”

The goal of an autonomic tool like 1E’s Tachyon, he says, is to get endpoints fixed without human intervention, freeing up IT support staff to focus on more valuable work, and ensuring that issues are unlikely to recur in future. “Computers are just really good at fixing other computers – and they do it faster and more accurately than any human ever could,” he says.

The third principle of the WFA enterprise is commitment to an integration-first strategy. This means ensuring that endpoint management technology knits seamlessly with other software packages in which an organisation has already made substantial investments. These might include, for example, the personal productivity applications that employees use to get work done (from Microsoft, for example), along with the IT service management (ITSM) tools used to support critical systems and software (such as ServiceNow).

With tight integration in place, says Karayi, companies are equipped to build cross-enterprise workflows that span these systems. In this way, for example, end-user requests to change the configuration of a corporate laptop – installing a new application, say, or adding a new VPN – could be made by the employee using Microsoft Teams and delivered by the IT team using ServiceNow, without anyone involved needing to switch between systems. “Our message to IT leaders is to go deep with this integration, don’t just pay it lip service – because the benefits will be felt right across the organisation,” says Karayi.

Big benefits ahead

In fact, the far-reaching benefits of the WFA model may take several forms. First and foremost, both employees and IT staff will be more productive. “With fewer issues, faster resolution and proactive measures to prevent problems occurring in the first place, less time is wasted and productivity increases.” he says. “Employees are empowered to work how and where they want, confident that they’ll get a first-class IT service should they need it, regardless of their location. That, in turn, increases employee engagement and retention, as well as the employer’s ability to attract new talent.”

And it will also open the doors to executive teams to make smarter future decisions around commercial real estate, he adds. At a time when conserving cash is key, they’re likely to leap on the opportunity to optimise costly workplace footprints. In a recent IDC study, over 40 per cent of respondents from Western European organisations said they intend to reduce their office floorspace as a consequence of keeping in place newly implemented work-from-home policies.

Says Karayi: “These changes won’t come overnight, but over a three- to five-year period, there could be very significant savings to be had. What the Work from Anywhere model will allow is for executive teams to start identifying where costly real estate might be released and where it should be retained, to provide collaborative spaces for internal get-togethers and client meetings.”

It’s something he’s already discussing with his CFO. “And I know for a fact that many other company leaders are having similar conversations. But for all that to happen, you need to be providing a first-class remote working experience, otherwise you’ll simply find that employees drift back to offices where they already get that first-class experience today.”

Sponsored by 1E

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