However we may have defined the “future of work” before 2020, our new reality has advanced technology investments, inspired new operational models, and changed how we work. While the rapid shift to a digital-first world powered by remote work proved mostly successful, some organizations are vying to put the genie back in the bottle by bringing employees back to the office. This is resetting the future of work, placing leaders at an inflection point. While the specifics of the future are hard to predict, what is clear is that the future of work isn’t what it used to be. Work is splintering toward a new trajectory, one without a playbook, proven case studies, or even consensus. Where we go from here, is the conversation we need to have right now. 

Despite the prominence of the topic, expert hypotheses, and an abundance of research, most chief experience officers and organizations still struggle to understand and tackle the topic. For many, the future of work is about hybrid and remote work. To some, it’s about HR and employee experience. To others, the topic is focused on automation and emerging technology. This lack of definition has forced many CXOs to retreat to existing ways of working, while also highlighting a lack of ownership within many organizations. 

The future of work is already here 

Think about how far we’ve come and how quickly what was once a “future” of work is now our new status quo. Collaboration tools enabled synchronous work, meetings moved to virtual environments, email shifted to real-time messaging, and mobile devices have finally brought to life work-from-anywhere models. Once on the “way out list” of technology investments, AI, RPA, machine learning, and other automation innovations are augmenting work itself. At the same time, traditional working hours stretched beyond 9-to-5 and the idea of work/life balance suddenly morphed into work/life blending. Wellness, self-care, and employee experience are front and center in leading organizations. 

The present of work needs to be reimagined to inspire a new and better future of work. We can’t just return to normal and expect to thrive. This is a time to savor the lessons learned during this great experiment to redefine our notions of and aspirations for work – including everything from how we will work to where we will work to what kind of work we will be doing and how that work will be valued. 

So, what is the “future of work” and how should CXOs approach it? 

Not everything about the future is directly related to technology. Much of it starts with perspective and curiosity and how fixed mindsets vs. growth mindsets influence the future of work differently. 

Reimagining the paradigm of work 

Living this new future of work hasn’t yet elasticized or opened fixed mindsets. Legacy processes, tools, and management practices have not kept pace with the rapid rate of tech disruption, behavioral expectations of employees, and emerging operating models. The work itself (tasks, activities, roles) has remained relatively the same over time, except it’s now remote and moving at a faster pace. This prevents organizations from thinking outside the norms and structures of today – stifling innovation and reinforcing legacy practices, measures, and management techniques. If these mindsets were to persist, the future of work would look a lot like yesterday’s normal, just operating under the guise of a new normal. 

Reimagining work begins with understanding the work that needs to get done in context of where an organization aims to be in the future and how that vision aligns with the evolution of behaviors, expectations, and preferences of customers and employees. Just because some leaders are striving for normalcy, people can’t unsee the freedoms, conveniences, and empowerment that come with connectedness. In fact, Salesforce research found that not only is the world forever changed, 76% of workers do not feel prepared for working in a digital-first world.  

In a separate Salesforce study, 54% of workers believe technology will advance faster than the skills of the workforce. The only way to bridge the gap is to assess the existing divide within the organization between current skills, skills in development, and skills needed in the next five-to-ten years. 

The future of work is now about balance and inspired by empathy outside of the mindsets still holding onto pre-2020 ideologies.  

Instead, the new future of work is about enabling experience, value, and productivity by working faster, smarter, and anywhere. It’s about leveling-up skills to collaborate with emerging technology and deliver more meaningful outputs and outcomes externally. This new paradigm for work puts more focus on employee experience, the organization, and how transformation is approached.  

Whereas in the past redesign of work has been focused on process and technology, this new paradigm of work addresses the human component of design and change. 

Working faster – Improving workflow, delivery, and service through automation. Redirecting focus on value-add activities. Simplifying and unifying tooling. Working smarter – Enabling leaders and teams to make better decisions with embedded analytics and predictive insights. Leveraging AI and shared digital capabilities across teams. Working anywhere – Powering asynchronous collaboration and digital collaboration. Powering external connectivity. 

By fundamentally reinventing ways of working, organizations can drive greater customer-centricity & organizational change – resulting in greater agility, operational excellence, revenue growth and lifetime value (for both customers and employees). 

Changing how we change: A new approach to transformation 

The need to adapt has resulted in organizations taking on a myriad of transformation initiatives. However, many organizations are struggling to implement these changes successfully and expediently. Why? Because transforming an organization isn’t as simple as changing an IT system or adopting new software; it’s about rethinking the very foundations on which your company operates. 

To design and prepare for the future of work, CXOs need to change how they transform. This requires challenging the status quo of what work is, how it gets done, and to transform with purpose and forward intention (transforming from doing things differently to doing different things). Rather than focusing transformation on specific use cases, process improvement and technology to do the same things, transforming for the future of work is intentional about designing for experience, workflow, and scale – driving greater agility and value by transforming the organization itself. This transformational goal helps push from incremental transformation to continuous innovation. Designing the future of work also means a focus on human centricity.  

Putting the human at center means focusing on employee experience and transforming holistically, including transforming roles, management, and the organization itself.  

Enabling scalable, integrated, end-to-end transformation also requires a new approach to technology strategy.  

An integrated platform approach enables work to be designed ‘front-to-back’ maximizing interactions, efficiency, and effectiveness. A platform-led approach also allows for greater alignment and connectivity across efforts, at scale. Platform thinking allows CXOs to both transform for operational excellence (efficiency and effectiveness), while also better enabling experience design through shared capabilities (for both customers and employees). 

The future opportunity for CXO’s is here, now 

Designing work for the future will require a fresh approach to how we transform, prioritize connection, and reshape mindsets. CXO’s sit at the center of this revolution. CXO’s today are the trailblazers for tomorrow. Their ability to create, lead and manage change will dictate survival. CXOs need to work together to understand what changes will mean for their business, their employees, and their customers (regardless of their role or title). This means that leaders need to be prepared to embrace change and take an active role in shaping their company’s future. They need to define their organization’s future ways of working and how they will get there.  

So, what’s next?  

CXOs need to prioritize three key shifts that will dictate the design of future work in their transformation programs today: 

Rise of human-centered design and employee experience – Employees are the new customers. Leading CXOs understand the connection between employee experience and customer centricity. By approaching EX like CX, leaders will be able to improve sentiment, satisfaction, and drive revenue growth. Reshaping of the workforce and leadership – Reinventing work has major implications on the people doing the work, and the skills they need to be successful. Operating in a new digital-first environment requires new skills, mindsets, teams, and managers. Connected design – Ecosystem thinking will revolutionize the future organization and operating model. Connected organizations will break down their four walls to better leverage external capabilities, scale, and innovation. By better connecting employees, teams and partners, leaders will be able to design work in a way that leverages key drivers for strategic growth, business optimization, community impact, and highly scalable value creation. 

The future of work starts with you 

The future of work is a growth mindset. It’s an attitude. It’s an experience-led, human-first approach to digital transformation and work itself, rooted in the thoughtful relationship between people, technology, and processes.  

The future of work represents a shift in how we design, prioritize, and engage in work – one that prioritizes value add activities and focuses transformation on future tasks, activities, and roles. It puts a new focus on enabling the employee, leader, organization, and ecosystem. In the future of work, success is defined by your outcomes, not how you get them done. It’s also digital-first, so employees have the flexibility and freedom to succeed from anywhere — however they like. 

What’s also true, is that the new future of work will be shaped by those who choose to see and build a better future for all stakeholders. 

This article was co-authored by Niema Alimohammadi. Niema is an experienced strategist and thought leader who focuses on the future of work, digital transformation, and experience design. He works with leading executives on enabling value creation and innovation through new ways of working, platform thinking, and adaptive operating structures. 

Artificial Intelligence, Employee Experience

Work has changed dramatically thanks to the global COVID pandemic. Workers across every market sector in Australia are now spending their workdays alternating between offices and other locations such as their homes. It’s a hybrid work model that is certainly here to stay.

But moving workers outside the network perimeter presents cyber security challenges for every organisation. It provides an expanded attack surface as enterprises ramp up their use of cloud services and enable staff to access key systems and applications from just about anywhere.  

Senior technology leaders gathered in Melbourne recently to discuss the cyber security implications of a more permanently distributed workforce as their organisations move more services to the cloud. The conversation was sponsored by Palo Alto Networks.

Sean Duca, vice-president, regional chief security officer, Asia-Pacific & Japan at Palo Alto Networks, says with the primary focus now on safety and securely delivering work to staff, irrespective of where they are, organisations need to think about where data resides, how it is protected, who has access to it and how it is accessed.

“With many applications consumed ‘as a service’ or running outside the traditional network perimeter, the need to do access, authorisation and inspection is paramount,” Duca says.

“Attackers target the employee’s laptops and applications they use, which means we need to inspect the traffic for each application. The attack surface will continue to grow and also be a target for cybercriminals. This means that we must stay vigilant and have the ability to continuously identify when changes to our workforce happen, while watching our cloud estates at all times,” he says.

Brenden Smyth from Palo Alto Networks adds the main impact of this more flexible workforce on organisations is that they no longer have one or two points of entry that are well controlled and managed.

“Since 2020, organisations have created many hundreds if not tens of thousands of points of entry with the forced introduction of remote working,” he says.

“On top of that, company boards need to consider the personal and financial impacts [of a breach] that they are responsible for in the business they run. They need to make sure users are protected within the office, as well as those users connecting from any location,” he says.

Gus D’Onofrio, chief information technology officer at the United Workers Union, believes that there will come a time when physical devices will be distributed among the workforce to ensure their secure connectivity.

“This will be the new standard,” he says.

Iain Lyon, executive director, information technology at IFM Investors, says the key to securing distributed workforces is to ensure the home environment is suitably secure so the employee can do the work they need to do.

“It may be that for certain classifications of data or user activity, we will need to set up additional technology in the home to ensure compliance with security policy. That challenge is both technical and requires careful human resource thought,” he says.

Meeting the demands of remote workers

During the discussion, attendees were asked if security capabilities are adequate to meet the new demands of connecting remote workers to onsite premises, infrastructure-as-a-service and software-as-a-service applications.

Palo Alto Networks’ Duca says existing cyber capabilities are only adequate if they do more than connectivity (access and authorisation).

“It’s analogous to an airport; we check where passengers go based on their ID and boarding pass and inspect their person and belongings. If the crown jewel in an airport is the planes, we do everything to protect what and who gets on.

“Why should organisations do anything less?” he asks. “If you can’t do continuous validation and enforcement, what is the security efficacy of the security capability?”

Meanwhile, Suhel Khan, data practice manager at superannuation organisation, Cbus, adds that distributed workforces need stronger perimeter security and edge security systems, fine-grained ‘joiner-mover-leaver’ access control and entitlements, as well as geography-sensitive content management and distribution paradigms.

“We have reached a certain baseline in regard to the cyber security capabilities that are available in the market. The bigger challenge is procuring and integrating the right suite of applications that work across respective ecosystems,” he says.

Held back by legacy systems

Many enterprises are still running legacy systems and applications that can’t meet the demands of a borderless workforce.

Palo Alto Networks’ Smyth says cyber impacts of sticking with older systems and applications are endless.

“Directly connected to SaaS and IaaS apps without security, patch management, vendor support – the list goes on – means organisations will not have full control of their environment,” he says.

Duca adds that organisations running legacy platforms could see an impact on productivity from their employees, and the solution may not be able to deal with modern-day threats.

“Every organisation should use this as a point in time to reassess and rearchitect what the world looks like today and what it may look like tomorrow. In a dynamic and ever-changing world, businesses should look to a software-driven model as it will allow them to pivot and change according to their needs,” he says.

Cbus has challenges around optimally integrating software suites for end-to-end seamless process flow, like most enterprises that have built technical systems for core business functions over the past 10 years, says Cbus’ Khan.

“There are several app modernisation transformation programs to help us move forward. I believe that there will always be ‘heritage systems’ to take care of and transition away from.

“The only difference is that in the near future, these older systems will be built on the cloud rather than [run] on-premise and we would be replacing such cloud-native legacy applications with autonomous intelligent apps,” Khan says.

Meanwhile, IFM Investor’s Lyon says that like very firm, IFM has several key applications that are mature and do an excellent job.

“We are not being held back. Our use of the Citrix platform to encapsulate the stable and resilient core applications has allowed us to be agnostic to the borderless nature of work,” he says.

Centralising security in the cloud

The advent of secure access service edge (SASE) and SD-WAN technologies has seen many organisations centralise security services in the cloud rather than keep them at remote sites.

Palo Alto Networks’ Duca says that for many years, gaps will continue to appear from inconsistent policies and enforcement. With the majority of apps and data that sit in the cloud, centralising cyber services allows for consistent security close to the crown jewels.

“There’s no point sending the traffic back to the corporate HQ to send it back out again,” he says.

The decision about whether or not to centralise security services in the cloud or keep them at remote sites is based on the risk appetite of the organisation.

“In superannuation, a good proportion of cyber security programs are geared towards being compliant and dealing with threats due to an uncertain global political outlook. Organisations that can afford to run their own backup/failsafe system on premise should consider [moving this function] to the cloud. Cloud-first is the dominant approach in a very dynamic market,” he says.

United Workers Union’s D’Onofrio, adds that the pros of centralising security services at remote sites are faster access and response times, which is ideal for geographically distributed workforces and customer bases. A con, he says, is that a distributed footprint implies stretched security domains.

On the flipside, security domains are easier to manage if they are centralised in the cloud but will deliver slower response times for customers and staff who are based geographically afar, he says.

Cyberattacks

The past two years have been stressful for many senior technology executives. When the pandemic first struck in early 2020, CIOs and their teams rushed to deploy technologies that would support people working remotely as governments locked down their citizens.

Now, hybrid work is here to stay as people realise that more flexible working environments, where they alternate between their offices and homes, provide a better work/life balance.

But for CIOs, this presents a number of challenges around deciding which technology infrastructure will best support these environments for years to come and importantly, how data will be effectively secured with so many people operating outside the network perimeter.

Senior tech execs gathered for a luncheon in Sydney recently to discuss the IT infrastructure challenges they have faced over the past two years as their organisations moved to hybrid work environments. The conversation was hosted by CIO Australia and sponsored by GoTo.

Lindsay Brown, vice president and general manager, Asia-Pacific and Japan at GoTo, says organisations have had to learn to adapt their work environments to function remotely. This has resulted in a substantial increase in collaboration and remote working technology.

“When this is combined with pre-existing challenges, putting the right structures and solutions in place becomes essential to maintain business success,” he says.

As an example, one of GoTo’s partners, sporting club Sydney FC, was moving out of an old stadium when the pandemic hit and needed a platform that allowed the club to manage its call centre to support members and partners regardless of their location or operation, he says.

At the start of the pandemic, says Brown, many customers had to rely on technology and tools to stay connected with their clients and maintain the same levels of service they provided pre-pandemic.

“The transition had to be quick to mitigate loss, which led to a lot of businesses implementing a variety of tools without properly evaluating all solutions in the market.

“This created many challenges for customers as the short-term gain many saw in implementing quick solutions eventually created more problems with operations,” he says.

A recent survey published by GoTo and Frost and Sullivan found that 31 per cent of challenges related to flexible work were attributed to software that isn’t always up to the job or necessarily the right fit.

GoTo’s customers reported challenges such as user errors, problems with navigating complicated interfaces, as well as not being able to access ‘off-network’ devices.

“Underperforming technology not only made life difficult for employees of any business, but if they are not able to maximise their productivity using it, the business is also likely to be losing out on revenue,” he says.

Francoise Gelbard, director, business development and strategy at HumanableCX, says that the organisation has been a cloud-based SaaS business from day one, so there was minimal impact in moving to more flexible work models.

“We have always catered to flexible working environments and highly skilled workers who are able to work autonomously, Gelbard says.

However, what is missing in hybrid models – or purely working virtually – is the ‘water cooler’ moments of organic interaction and conversation, she says.

Gelbard says that this cannot be replicated in an online environment although there is online HR and employee software that can assist in the on-boarding and induction of new hires.

“We are also developing employee engagement programs around virtual and highly personalised reward and recognition of internal net promoter scores with our clients.

“This level of investment in these virtual tools will see them remain a pivotal part of the hybrid model, which looks set to stay for a foreseeable future. To the millennial and alpha workforce of the future, this will be part of the ‘norm’ as it has been with schools and universities since 2020,” she says.

Fei Teng, chief technology officer at MediRecords, says the software organisation has moved to a flexible work environment where staff are using a mix of personal and corporate devices for different purposes.

“We are holding more recorded meetings that can be watched later by people who were absent, conducting more online social activities, and mental health is also being discussed more often,” says Teng.

Teng adds that there are also IT infrastructure challenges. New employees can be onboarded without proper security awareness training, and a business continuity plan can depend on a personal home set up, he says.

Auditing company policies that depend on individual behaviours such as a ‘clean desk policy’, and giving the IT team only a few days to support people working remotely across the entire organisation have also been challenging, he adds.

Hybrid work’s real impact

Hybrid working, when done effectively, has an array of advantages, says Elissa Pietrasanta, sales manager, A/NZ and ASEAN at GoTo.

“It opens the door to boundaryless collaboration. Offices are no longer a necessity, which means employees can still be productive and connected while working remotely, enabling more successful business practice,” says Pietrasanta.

Argubly, and more importantly, hybrid work creates many advantages for employee wellbeing. In an age of employee empowerment, creating a workplace that allows employees to work more flexibly is imperative, she says.

“When executed correctly, a hybrid working environment allows employees to achieve a healthier work-life balance.”

However, if not utlised well by businesses, hybrid working can have an adverse effect on employee wellbeing. Without the right collaboration solutions and business initiatives, employees can feel disconnected, and always being close to workstations can result in a slanted work-life balance as workloads increase, she says.

“Furthermore, if a business’s technology stack is subpar, then they will be underprepared against the likes of cyber-attacks, which grew exponentially with the growth of hybrid work.”

GoTo’s Brown adds that busineses that show a willingness to adapt to new demands and ways of working will be attractive to employees. The mood has shifted regarding the types of workplaces people want to operate in, and businesses that embrace hybrid working will see great success in retaining and attracting staff, he says.

“Our survey found that nearly half (44 per cent) of respondents operating on a work-from-office model reported significantly higher turnover in 2021 than in 2020, compared to only 22 per cent of hybrid work organisations that reported a higher turnover,” he says.

Improving your cyber security posture

Meanwhile, organisations should look closely at their cyber security postures as the economy enters a new phase of work. Cyber threats are continuing to grow with 80 per cent of organisations hit by ransomware last year.

HumanableCX’s Gelbard says her organisation has had ISO27001 certification since 2016 when it started working with banks, insurers and other financial services companies.

“We are handling customer data and connecting our APIs to their CRMs etc, so we have always had to meet the highest standards and very strict information security compliance requirements and protocols around user access and authentication, encryption, and workforce security awareness training.

“We were well prepared in advance,” she says.

GoTo’s Brown says cybersecurity can be daunting and he suggests that businesses should implement solutions that secure all remote working endpoints and quickly respond to and mitigate issues. Organisations also need a platform that is easy to use and simplifies cybersecurity operations such as zero trust and multi-factor authentication.

“Businesses shoulder a heavy burden when expected to appropriately protect their employees from a cybersecurity standpoint and third-party support can be incredibly valuable, especially for SMBs. It is much safer to ask for help, than incorrectly prepare your business,” he says.

Remote Access Security

If you’ve been struggling to adapt to our new era of work, you’re not alone. The strategic and practical challenges of our new era of work – from inflation and supply chain headaches to finding and retaining talent, and more – have required much of information technology leaders.

Here’s your chance to get up to speed.

At CIO’s Future of Work Summit North America, taking place virtually September 28, leading technology thinkers and practitioners will offer insights and strategies for leading through disruptive times.

Kicking off the event will be the futurist and innovation expert Kian Gohar, who wrote the bestselling book Competing in the New World of Work. He will share research-based strategies on retaining talent, giving purpose to work, and rethinking assumptions about how and where work should take place. He will also answer questions in a live discussion.

“We know that the future of work is going to require having teams that are able to work really well together regardless of what disruption or what opportunity brings,” Gohar says.

The summit will examine what innovation looks like at various high-performing companies. Jeanine Charlton, chief technology and digital officer at Merchants Fleet, will discuss IT’s role in co-creating key digital business initiatives. Kathy Kay, executive vice president and CIO of Principal Financial Group, will talk about how she established herself as a leader during a remote era and has executed a strategy to modernize and simplify technology throughout the organization.

Innovation incubators are another strategy for purposeful ideation. Katie Webb, director of U.S. Innovation at Aflac, will share how she built the insurance giant’s internal incubator and how to organize, structure and approach teams and projects, create momentum and build trust.

Carrie Rasmussen, CIO at Ceridian, will talk about the CIO’s role in the next generation of work. And Brad Stone, CIO at Booz Allen Hamilton, will explain the firm’s five organizational principles that serve to inspire and retain talent but also accelerate growth.

Giving an inside look at the latest global research, Amy Loomis, IDC’s research vice president for the future of work, will explore key technology deployments as well as empathic leadership and governance strategies.

One model of leadership that is servant leadership. Discussing how they implement servant leadership – with results – will be Lisa Davis, senior vice president and CIO at Blue Shield of California; Nicole Raimundo Coughlin, CIO of the Town of Cary, North Carolina; and Dr. David Reis, CIO of the University of Miami Health System.

Looking to get ahead in your own career? Myrna Soto, a longtime IT leader and corporate director or board member of CMS Energy, Spirit Airlines, Popular Inc., and Trinet, will share tips and other best practices for how to prepare for board meetings and build relationships with board members. She will also offer advice for how to join corporate boards yourself.

Throughout the summit, sponsors including Freshworks will share innovative solutions for the hybrid workplace.

Check out the full summit agenda here. The event is free to attend for qualified attendees. Anything you miss will be available on demand for a period after the event. Don’t miss out – register today.

Human Resources, Innovation, IT Leadership, IT Strategy, IT Training 

Hybrid work has gone from a safety measure during a global crisis to the top preferred way of working. Companies across every industry are embracing it, but some don’t know how to prepare for this new work environment. What kinds of tools should they use? How can they ensure purposeful and consistent employee experiences? Here are a few ways: 

If we learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that organizations must be prepared for every possible work scenario: everyone in the office, no one in the office, and combinations in-between. It’s not just about output; it’s about creating a better total experience for employees. How easy is it for hybrid workers to access information? Are they easily distracted or disrupted? Companies need to honestly assess their employees’ frustration and consider how they can serve them just as effectively as their customers. Start coloring outside the lines. Consider the unique ways you can optimize workflows and personalize collaboration to help your hybrid teams work smarter. 

This creates some important considerations from a technology perspective:

Moving to the cloud is no longer enough. Companies need to use the cloud as a toolkit to deliver personalized communication experiences on a case-by-case basis.

In a world of hybrid work, composable innovation – enabled through Cloud 3.0. – is needed for creating flexible, fit-for-purpose communications. The concept of composability allows companies to use application components through low-code, no-code interfaces to create their own personalized experiences within minutes. They can give their hybrid workers exactly what they need at their fingertips (ex: adding chat or video on top of their collaboration apps to make information-sharing faster and easier regardless of where they’re located).

Composability also allows you to reimagine what’s possible in terms of business communications (as we say at Avaya: if you can dream it, you can build it). Start with the problem you’re trying to solve for or the outcome you want to achieve and ask yourself, “How can we build for that?” 

The requirements of a hybrid work model cannot be met by a single, generic cloud application. A composable, Cloud 3.0.-enabled platform gives companies what they need to support hybrid work today and into the future. 

It’s no longer about customer service workers (ex: contact center agents) and office workers (ex: knowledge workers). Hybrid work is about organic, persistent communication regardless of persona.

Someone’s persona shouldn’t dictate their access to information or the ability to seamlessly communicate and collaborate. Workstream Collaboration is a cloud-based application that converges siloed UC and contact center technology into one tool with one single application. 

Calling, messaging, meetings, file sharing, and task management is all in one place in the Workstream Collaboration platform, available to all workers whether they’re in-office, at home, hot desking (when desks are used by different people at different times, on an ad hoc basis), or on the road. 

You can search contacts, call anyone inside or outside the organization, hold, transfer, merge, and handle multiple calls with enterprise quality. Avaya helps customers protect business investments by using their existing on-premises calling capabilities within the Avaya Spaces Workstream Collaboration platform. Unlike traditional PBX environments, Workstream Collaboration is specially designed for today’s world of hybrid work.

We’re only scratching the surface of how AI and automation can help improve hybrid work.

Here are some of the ways AI and automation can be used as part of a hybrid work model: 

AI-powered speech analytics help management improve team and individual employee experiences regardless of where people are working. Managers can better understand team dynamics (who speaks most, who speaks least, tone of voice) to take necessary action. Contact center supervisors can improve agent coaching and training with better insight into the challenges they’re facing. Corporate DEI Officers can assess workplace culture and coordinate with HR. The opportunities for improvement are endless. Many AI-powered capabilities can be used to dramatically improve work-from-anywhere productivity. For example, AI-powered noise cancellation can eliminate all background noise in your environment with the click of a button, so all the other person hears is your voice with crystal clear audio quality (excellent for hybrid contact center agents). 

Hybrid work has changed how we work

The ways in which people work, communicate, and collaborate has not only changed but has been significantly disrupted. Avaya sees these disruptions as opportunities for growth. The agility and cloud-based composable innovation of the Avaya OneCloud Experience Platform enables businesses to create, experiment, and succeed regardless of how work changes or what communication and collaborations challenges might arise.

Speak to an Avaya Cloud expert today to get started on your enterprise’s Workstream Collaboration journey. 

IT Leadership

By: Stephanie Crawford, Solutions Marketing Manager at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

Recent discussion about hybrid work has centered around enabling employees to work remotely, but remote work is only half of the hybrid equation. Equally important is ensuring that the corporate office environment provides the workspace and the technology to support this new way of working. Naturally, the network infrastructure plays a big role in this.

As a key business tool and an enabler of a successful hybrid workplace, a modern, flexible network should provide: 

Robust campus Wi-Fi that supports the traffic demands of bandwidth-hungry applications at scaleA platform for the increasing number of IoT devices used to support a fluctuating population of on-campus workers and a smart office setup A consistent experience for workers, regardless of where they are when they log in A unified infrastructure that simplifies network management and security for wireless, wired, and WAN infrastructure across campus, branch, remote, and data center locations—with acquisition, deployment, and management options to suit business needs 

The evolution of the office 

The way people work has changed and the office has to adapt to meet their new needs. This means that although workers are “returning to the office,” it may no longer be the familiar place they remember. For example, the corporate campus may only be a part-time location for many full-time employees.

While knowledge workers have become adept at using home offices for independent work, the campus provides a better environment for face-to-face meetings and collaborative efforts. This subtle shift changes the requirements for both the office space and the corporate network.

Creating a collaborative campus with Wi-Fi 6

To support the campus as a collaborative space, companies are reworking floorplans to create more shared spaces in a variety of configurations. There are new video-enabled conference rooms, and cubicles are being cleared out in favor of wide-open spaces—both indoors and out—that are more conducive to conversation and impromptu collaboration. These common areas require robust, ubiquitous Wi-Fi to support an increased appetite for bandwidth-hungry, low-latency business applications such as video conferencing and Wi-Fi calling.

After all, these apps aren’t going away just because people are back in the office. A distributed work force, differing in-office schedules, and a reduced need for travel all mean meetings are going hybrid too, with a mix of in-person and remote participants. Hybrid employees are bringing their bandwidth-intense apps to the office with them, and if the infrastructure can’t handle all that network traffic, it can negatively impact the business. 

Fortunately, Aruba’s portfolio of AI-powered Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E access points offers a perfect fit for these new demands, providing prioritized, high-bandwidth access in high density areas. These APs are equipped with Air Slice, application assurance that goes beyond device-based airtime fairness to identify and prioritize mission-critical applications, ensuring an excellent user experience. This is just one example of how the modern network, an essential enabler of hybrid work, delivers business—not just technology—outcomes.

APs as IoT platforms

With a more transient workforce comes even more opportunity to create smart spaces with IoT devices. Already in use within smart buildings, environmental sensors to control things like lighting, heating, and cooling can deliver even more savings—without compromising safety or comfort—in a hybrid setting where occupancy can vary significantly from one day to another. Today’s offices may also take advantage of IoT devices to enable air quality monitoring, wayfinding, access, and door-locking systems, or even hot-desking or hoteling solutions used to book in-office workspaces. 

Since Aruba’s Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E APs can be used as IoT platforms, those IoT devices can become part of the corporate network—no need for a separate IoT overlay network. While IoT devices have earned a reputation for lackluster security and for joining networks without the knowledge of or permission from IT, Aruba ESP’s identity-based access control supports Zero Trust and SASE frameworks to ensure only authorized devices join the network. Meanwhile, AI-powered Client Insights, part of Aruba Central’s cloud-native network management, ensures those devices are all identified and governed by established policy enforcement rules to ensure traffic is segmented and each respective device can only access IT resources it’s entitled to access.

A consistent experience, wherever you’re working

There are clearly differences between working on campus and working remotely, but the network experience shouldn’t be among them. Although employees may work in multiple locations, they expect a consistent experience whether they’re logging on from their remote office or a corporate campus—and Aruba EdgeConnect Microbranch delivers it. Role- and device-based security provide a consistent level of access, while policy-based routing intelligently routes cloud traffic, eliminating the need to direct all traffic through the data center for inspection. This improves performance while ensuring policies are applied universally, regardless of location.

Similarly, Aruba Central provides network administrators visibility and management for the whole network—wired, wireless, WAN, branch, and remote offices—all from an AI-powered single pane of glass with deep visibility into total network and client health.

Network as a service for greater flexibility

Just as Aruba ESP provides a flexible, modern networkHPE GreenLake for Aruba provides a wide variety of flexible network as a service (NaaS) options to suit unique business needs. OpEx options allow customers to upgrade to the latest hardware when it’s available, rather than waiting for capital depreciation on existing hardware. Organizations can also opt for the flexibility to scale the network up or down according to business needs, and they can choose to manage the network in-house, outsource the management, or a combination of the two—all either ongoing or on a project basis. This allows businesses to get the network they need without the constraints of traditional acquisition, deployment, and management approaches.

Going back to something better

The way the work force works continues to evolve and workplaces need to keep up. In order for a hybrid workforce to take full advantage of the benefits the on-campus experience can offer for better business outcomes, the network they’re going back to will likely need to be better than the one they left. Additional information can be found in these resources: 

Home Office vs Workplace: How Does Your Network Measure Up? (webinar)[CS1] The Hybrid Workplace Solution Overview (PDF)Unify IT, IoT, and Operational Technology (OT) networks (web page)Extend the WAN to remote workers with EdgeConnect Microbranch (tech brief)

 [CS1]The “(webinar)” part should not be hyperlinked.

IT Leadership

Even as many business leaders debate the boundaries of remote work styles and schedules, there is little doubt that hybrid work will persist for most enterprises.

Yet, how hybrid work takes shape for any given business will likely evolve as business needs and employee expectations change over time. For IT and network security teams, the challenge is to secure their environments, regardless of where people are working.

The disruptions of the pandemic has caused more businesses to explore remote and hybrid work. “COVID-19 has accelerated a trend toward a massively distributed enterprise moving network functionality to the edge of the network,” IDC analysts advise. “The WAN architecture must cater to the needs of office and remote workers with parity in terms of routing policies, security profile, and management of the WAN.”  

Certainly, worker expectations have shifted dramatically. The Gallup organization studied experiences, needs, and future plans of more than 140,000 U.S. employees since the onset of the pandemic and concludes the workplace will never be the same as it was. Just 23% of surveyed workers expect to work fully on-site in 2022 and beyond, compared to a pre-pandemic number of 60%, Gallup reports. More than half expect to participate in hybrid work, while 24% expect to be fully remote.

That’s causing a rapid reevaluation of wide-area network (WAN) infrastructure and accelerating deployment of new security technology and policies, such as zero trust network access and secure access service edge (SASE).

CISOs are “revisiting the stopgap security tools and the temporary policies they enacted to quickly enable remote work to replace them with stronger permanent solutions,” declares CSO. Now those leaders are “laying out roadmaps for the future, with plans that feature investments in new technologies and processes to better secure the work-from-anywhere environment that is the norm today and moving forward.”

Shifting locations and network connections

IT leaders must strive to adapt their infrastructure and services to run as efficiently as when everyone mostly worked in the office. They must be able to provide a flexible, seamless experience that fosters collaboration and productivity within a secure framework, all while handling hundreds or thousands of locations and network connections that can often shift depending on where individual users may be located.

“CIOs are challenged with securing an ever-more cloud-reliant, distributed, data-driven, and bandwidth-consuming enterprise with largely the same resources at their disposal,” writes Bob Victor, senior vice president Customer Solutions with Comcast Business. “Addressing the security needs of this new reality comes in part through a unified networking and security approach that not only covers networking from edge to cloud and back again, but better protects an ever-growing attack surface.”

Victor asserts that the “surprising success” of work-from-anywhere has spurred new levels of digital innovation as businesses securely bring together data, applications, and users across environments that are distributed, complex, and expanding. How that will all play out remains to be seen.

Learn more about evolving security frameworks in the on-demand webinar from Comcast Business: “Beyond the Buzzwords – Networks and Security Converge”

Network Security

By: Stephanie Crawford, Solutions Marketing Manager at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

Recent discussion about hybrid work has centered around enabling employees to work remotely, but remote work is only half of the hybrid equation. Equally important is ensuring that the corporate office environment provides the workspace and the technology to support this new way of working. Naturally, the network infrastructure plays a big role.

As a key business tool and an enabler of a successful hybrid workplace, a modern, flexible network should provide: 

Robust campus Wi-Fi that supports the traffic demands of bandwidth-hungry applications at scaleA platform for the increasing number of IoT devices used to support a fluctuating population of on-campus workers and a smart office setup A consistent experience for workers, regardless of where they are when they log in A unified infrastructure that simplifies network management and security for wireless, wired, and WAN infrastructure across campus, branch, remote, and data center locations—with acquisition, deployment, and management options to suit business needs 

The evolution of the office 

The way people work has changed, and the office has to adapt to meet their new needs. This means that although workers are “returning to the office,” it may no longer be the familiar place they remember. For example, the corporate campus may only be a part-time location for many full-time employees.

While knowledge workers have become adept at using home offices for independent work, the campus provides a better environment for face-to-face meetings and collaborative efforts. This subtle shift changes the requirements for both the office space and the corporate network.

Creating a collaborative campus with Wi-Fi 6

To support the campus as a collaborative space, companies are reworking floorplans to create more shared spaces in a variety of configurations. There are new video-enabled conference rooms, and cubicles are being cleared out in favor of wide-open spaces—both indoors and out—that are more conducive to conversation and impromptu collaboration. These common areas require robust, ubiquitous Wi-Fi to support an increased appetite for bandwidth-hungry, low-latency business applications such as video conferencing and Wi-Fi calling.

After all, these apps aren’t going away just because people are back in the office. A distributed work force, differing in-office schedules, and a reduced need for travel all mean meetings are going hybrid too, with a mix of in-person and remote participants. Hybrid employees are bringing their bandwidth-intense apps to the office with them, and if the infrastructure can’t manage all that network traffic, it can negatively impact the business. 

Fortunately, Aruba’s portfolio of AI-powered Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E access points offers a perfect fit for these new demands, providing prioritized, high-bandwidth access in high density areas. These APs are equipped with Air Slice, application assurance that goes beyond device-based airtime fairness to identify and prioritize mission-critical applications, ensuring an excellent user experience. This is just one example of how the modern network, an essential enabler of hybrid work, delivers business (not just technology) outcomes.

APs as IoT platforms

With a more transient workforce comes even more opportunity to create smart spaces with IoT devices. Already in use within smart buildings, environmental sensors to control things like lighting, heating, and cooling can deliver even more savings—without compromising safety or comfort—in a hybrid setting where occupancy can vary significantly from one day to another. Today’s offices may also take advantage of IoT devices to enable air quality monitoring, wayfinding, access, and door-locking systems, or even hot-desking or hoteling solutions used to book in-office workspaces. 

Since Aruba’s Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E APs can be used as IoT platforms, those IoT devices can become part of the corporate network—no need for a separate IoT overlay network. While IoT devices have earned a reputation for lackluster security and for joining networks without the knowledge of or permission from IT, Aruba ESP’s identity-based access control supports Zero Trust and SASE frameworks to ensure only authorized devices join the network. Meanwhile, AI-powered Client Insights, part of Aruba Central’s cloud-native network management, ensures those devices are all identified and governed by established policy enforcement rules to ensure traffic is segmented and each respective device can only access IT resources it’s entitled to access.

A consistent experience, wherever you’re working

There are clearly differences between working on campus and working remotely, but the network experience shouldn’t be among them. Although employees may work in multiple locations, they expect a consistent experience whether they’re logging on from their remote office or a corporate campus—and Aruba EdgeConnect Microbranch delivers it. Role- and device-based security provide a consistent level of access, while policy-based routing intelligently routes cloud traffic, eliminating the need to direct all traffic through the data center for inspection. This improves performance while ensuring policies are applied universally, regardless of location.

Similarly, Aruba Central provides network administrators visibility and management for the whole network—wired, wireless, WAN, branch, and remote offices—all from an AI-powered single pane of glass with deep visibility into total network and client health.

Network as a service for greater flexibility

Just as Aruba ESP provides a flexible, modern networkHPE GreenLake for Aruba provides a wide variety of flexible network as a service (NaaS) options to suit unique business needs. OpEx options allow customers to upgrade to the latest hardware when it’s available, rather than waiting for capital depreciation on existing hardware. Organizations can also opt for the flexibility to scale the network up or down according to business needs, and they can choose to manage the network in-house, outsource the management, or a combination of the two—all either ongoing or on a project basis. This allows businesses to get the network they need without the constraints of traditional acquisition, deployment, and management approaches.

Going back to something better

The way the work force works continues to evolve, and workplaces need to keep up. In order for a hybrid workforce to take full advantage of the benefits the on-campus experience can offer for better business outcomes, the network they’re going back to will likely need to be better than the one they left. Additional information can be found in these resources: 

Home Office vs Workplace: How Does Your Network Measure Up? (webinar)The Hybrid Workplace Solution Overview (PDF)Unify IT, IoT, and Operational Technology (OT) networks (web page)Extend the WAN to remote workers with EdgeConnect Microbranch (tech brief)IT Leadership

Over the past decade, an ever-growing number of organisations have taken their infrastructure and applications to the cloud, delivering noticeable results impacting the bottom line and several other business metrics. This is why today, a cloud-first strategy is rightly recognised even by many non-IT corporate leaders as the catalyst for rapid digital transformation and a key enabler for businesses to respond to constantly evolving customer and employee needs.

By re-thinking their approach to applications – in either cloud-only or hybrid environments – organisations can introduce greater flexibility and freedom to their application development processes, unleashing innovation on a grander scale and speed. However, as anybody who has worked in an IT department over the past year or two knows, managing availability and performance across cloud-native applications and technology stacks is a huge challenge.

Traditional approaches to availability and performance were often based on long-lived physical or virtualised infrastructures. Ten years ago, IT departments operated a fixed number of servers and network wires; they were dealing with constant and static dashboards for each layer of the IT stack. The introduction of cloud computing has added a new level of complexity, and organisations found themselves continually scaling up and down their use of IT resources based on real-time business needs. Monitoring solutions have adapted to accommodate deployments of cloud-based applications alongside traditional on-premises environments. The reality, however, is that most of these solutions are not passing the stress tests as they were not designed to efficiently handle the dynamic and highly volatile cloud-native environments that we increasingly see today. 

These highly distributed cloud and hybrid systems rely on thousands of containers and spawn a massive volume of metrics, logs and traces (MLT) telemetry every second. And currently, most IT departments don’t have a monitoring solution to cut through this crippling volume of data and noise when troubleshooting application availability and performance problems caused by infrastructure-related issues that span across cloud and hybrid environments. 

Cloud-native observability solutions are necessary

In response to this spiralling complexity, IT departments need visibility across the application level, down into the supporting digital services (such as Kubernetes), and into the underlying infrastructure-as-code (IaC) services (such as compute, server, database, and network) that they’re leveraging from all their cloud providers. They also need visibility into the user and business impact of each resource to prioritise their actions. This is essential for IT teams to truly understand how their applications are performing and where they need to focus their time.

Technologists are increasingly recognising the need for full-stack insights and to map relationships and dependencies across siloed domains and teams. This explains why, according to an AppDynamics report, The Journey to Observability, more than half of global businesses (54%) have now started the transition to full-stack observability, and a further 36% plan to do so during 2022.

IT teams need new cloud-native observability solutions to manage the complexity of cloud-native applications and IT environments. They require a way to get visibility into applications and underlying infrastructure for large, managed Kubernetes environments running on one or several public clouds. 

From a technology perspective, there are numerous key criteria that IT leaders and their teams should be considering when looking at cloud-native observability solutions to ensure they are future-proofed. They should be seeking out a solution that is able to observe distributed and dynamic cloud-native applications at scale; a solution that embraces open standards, particularly Open Telemetry; and that leverages AIOps and business intelligence to speed up identification and resolution of issues and enable technologists to prioritise actions based on business outcomes.

Organisations must have a new cloud-native mindset

Besides choosing the best cloud observability solution for the enterprise overall, IT managers must also make sure their solution delivers value to the emerging cloud specialists in their team, such as Site Reliability Engineers (SRE), DevOps and CloudOps. And not only do these technologists have new and highly specialised skill sets, but they also have very different needs, priorities, mindsets, and ways of working.

Traditionally, ITOps teams have always been focused on minimising the risks brought about by change. Their mission has been to maximise up-time and unify technology choices, and they tend to take a rigid, centralised approach to digital transformation. 

But when it comes to SREs, DevOps or CloudOps teams, it’s a very different story. These new teams value agility over control and focus on giving each team the freedom to choose the best approach. They accept that there will always be massive complexity with cloud-native applications, but they see that giving up some level of control gives them speed and innovation. They can find peace in the chaos by adopting new solutions that allow them to cut through complexity and data noise and pinpoint what matters.

Similarly, when considering digital transformation initiatives, these teams aren’t unnerved by the scale and complexity involved in these programs. They don’t feel held back by legacy technology or scarred by previous attempts to innovate. They embrace change rather than resisting it and see transformation as an exciting and welcome part of business as usual. 

These new cloud-native technologists are unwilling to conform to vendor lock-ins; they believe they can deliver the most value within dynamic technology ecosystems, with all teams having the freedom to select and work with best-in-class solutions for each project. 

Finally, cloud-native technologists (be they SREs, DevOps or CloudOps) will evolve to have a very business-focused mindset. They will increasingly strive to view IT performance and availability through a business lens and to understand how their actions and decisions can have the most significant impact on the business. 

The important thing for business leaders is to recognise the new mindsets and drivers of their cloud-native teams and empower these technologists with the culture, support, and solutions they need to deliver value. That means developing a strategy that enables these teams to operate in entirely new ways, while also ensuring their existing teams can continue doing the vital work they’re doing by monitoring large parts of their IT infrastructure.

IT leaders should consider these cultural factors when selecting a cloud-native observability solution to ensure their SREs, DevOps and CloudOps teams have a solution that offers them the scalability, flexibility and business metrics they need to perform to their full potential. 

By taking a holistic approach, considering both the technical and cultural needs of their IT teams, organisations can empower their technologists to cut through the complexity of cloud-native environments and deliver on the promise of this exciting new approach to application development.

Cloud Native