[Column] Mandy Duncan: Financing the workplace of tomorrow, hybrid or otherwise
An unprecedented ability to connect, collaborate and work from anywhere. Enterprise-level connectivity and equipment at home. New work spaces, automated systems and cognizant buildings at the office. The hybrid workplace, with all its incredible features and possibilities, is undoubtedly something to look forward to.
But mixed with this excitement must also be apprehension. This new model cannot function without fast, reliable wireless connectivity and a unified, automated and secure network. And for most organizations, this will mean investing in their IT infrastructure. According to a new survey by PwC conducted in 19 countries with 32 500 workers only one in ten employees who started working remotely because of Covid-19 are willing to return to a traditional commute to work lifestyle full time. In South Africa 59% of respondents agree that traditional employment won’t be around in the future.
Given the current economic circumstances and ongoing unpredictability of what comes next, it’s understandable that organizations may feel that they will struggle to finance these investments, or that they are simply not in a position to consider any upgrades beyond what’s immediately necessary for the return to the office.
The good news, however, is that with a few smart, strategic moves, I firmly believe it is possible for organizations to leverage their current budgets and resources to create a network that delivers both short- and long-term value. Here’s what you need to think about to put these moves into motion.
Make data your top priority
The enterprise data that is available today has tremendous potential to deliver significant cost savings – but it must first be turned into actionable insights. That’s why organisations need to prioritise network investments that will improve their ability to analyze the data at their disposal.
This means investing in Edge technologies. Not only are organisations dealing with unprecedented amounts of data, that data is increasingly being generated outside of the traditional data centres. Instead, it is being created by user devices and IoT sensors at the Edge of the network – the place people, devices, and things connect to the digital world.
Processing data at the Edge is the only way to reduce latency, minimize transmission costs and unleash its full potential for optimization and innovation. The ability to unlock and leverage their data in real-time will enable organisations to take actions that deliver long-lasting benefits, such as improved operational efficiency and costs, opportunities for greater profitability, and new revenue streams.
Explore flexible consumption models and as-a-Service options
At a time when resources and budgets are tight and yet change is more pervasive than ever, organisations need to choose solutions that offer simple pay-as-you-go subscriptions, and financial and consumption flexibility across hardware, software, and management operations.
These solutions, which turn infrastructure expenses from CapEx investments into OpEx costs, represent benefits for both cost-efficiency and business agility. They ensure that payments can be aligned to budgets, revenue and cash flow – making them suitable for whatever the financial situation is at any given moment. They also provide the freedom to test, adapt, build and possibly rebuild without the fear of exhausting already strained budgets, as you’ll only ever pay for what you’re currently using.
Essentially, they are the foundations of a bespoke, flexible, and scalable network that can adapt rapidly to changing needs and circumstances. Despite the high levels of remote working anticipated in the future, the Willis Towers Watson Flexible Work and Rewards Survey found that many South African firms are poorly prepared. Only 15% said their current job architecture fully supports a flexible and agile workforce, while 20% said it did not support it at all.
Leverage the Circular Economy
Adopting more environmentally friendly practices and leveraging existing equipment and systems has the double benefit of helping organisations maximize their budgets while also meeting their sustainability goals – something that we know is becoming more and more important across all industries.
Through the Circular Economy, which aims to extend the utility and value of resources and eliminate waste, organisations can optimize and repurpose IT assets like network equipment, PCs, laptops, servers and storage devices.
Or they can convert them into capital that funds innovation and transformation initiatives. By remarketing and reselling any unneeded equipment, organisations can return significant amounts of money to their IT budgets.
They should also avoid buying new hardware unless absolutely necessary. When it comes to expanding infrastructure and making new investments, adapting pre-owned equipment or choosing functionally equivalent used hardware can have dramatic cost savings.
Additionally, organisations can increase the likelihood of further savings down the road by strategically choosing technology that is designed for energy efficiency, and easy recycling and removal of heavy metals for reuse.
Similarly, organisations can also rent new equipment instead of buying it outright. With vendors like Aruba offering a technology refresh as part of the monthly contract, this ensures organisations stay on the latest technology for the same price. And when upgrades happen, the vendor takes the existing equipment and uses it elsewhere – maintaining the circular economy.
Embracing the future
The reality is that a network that can support the hybrid workplace and business agility is becoming an increasingly urgent need. According to a new survey by PwC since the pandemic began, 37% of South African workers say they have adequate digital skills to enable them to cope in their current working environment and we have now seen that a hybrid workplace model is the answer to the changes in how we communicate, live and work – changes that have only been accelerated by COVID-19. The mission-critical role of IT within this model means that organisations cannot afford the consequences of a poor performing network.
Organisations must invest in their IT infrastructure or risk limiting productivity, creating security threats, frustrating employees and clients, and losing their competitive advantage. At scale and over time, these issues pose a severe threat to business continuity.
I hope that the strategies above will enable you to make these investments in a way that suits your organisation’s budget and resources. I also hope that they will help you see beyond the challenges and stay enthusiastic about hybrid workplaces. We are entering a brand new era of work and I, for one, cannot wait to see what it will bring.