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How cloud can help create the ‘anywhere office’ for the millennial workforce

(Image credit: Image Credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock)

2020 has been a year that has fundamentally changed how we define work, and this isn’t going away. Business leaders need to focus on how to make the workforce as productive and efficient as possible. For many, this will mean they need to take steps to make sure that IT Infrastructure is fit for the modern workforce.

After all, nearly 75 percent of the workforce will be millennials in less than five years meaning businesses need to start making changes to their IT infrastructure now to attract and retain the best talent from that generation.

Thanks to the rise of mobile, cloud and social, millennials are used to flexibility, openness and instantly connecting with people regardless of their location. And what’s more, they expect to be able to access work platforms and programs on the go – with technology enabling an ‘anywhere’ office.

For most businesses, that means moving many of their applications and processes to the cloud. Many IT leaders have already transferred various applications and segments of infrastructure to the cloud and most are planning to move more. But many have often neglected to look at the bigger picture to provide the workforce with a high performance experience – how can we ensure we connect to the cloud quickly, securely and consistently; and quickly ramp-up and ramp-down in line with demand.

Remote working has shown the benefits, now to make the most of the cloud

Mass remote working across the globe has helped to show business leaders the benefit of cloud technology. But now is not a time to rest on those laurels, it is a time to embrace it even more and to make sure you are getting the most from the cloud – by providing the millennial workforce with the tools and technology they expect and equipping the business to scale this technology quickly.

Gartner, in fact, described this ability to work remotely as one of its Top Nine Strategic Tech Trends For 2021, at the Gartner IT Symposium, referring to this trend as ‘Anywhere Operations.’ According to Forbes, Gartner notes that this is a ‘digital first, remote first’ model. The report suggests that digital should be the default for business at all times. Even the physical spaces that remain should be digitally enhanced. The report compares it to contactless check-out at a physical store. It is a model, Gartner suggests, that facilitates “business being done anywhere” – something that is of growing importance due to the rapidly evolving workplace.

However, for this type of model to be effective, CIOs will need a total rethink of their cloud strategy. Many business leaders have likely focused on the types of cloud applications and vendors they want to use but have neglected to strategize how they actually get to the cloud and, in the world of hybrid and multi cloud, how to connect disparate cloud systems.

Ensuring cloud systems work consistently and in harmony is key to keeping a workforce happy, particularly when the millennial workforce is more tech-savvy and, therefore, more demanding when it comes to technology in the workplace.

Putting connectivity at the heart of cloud strategy

Digital transformation and the cloud revolution have caused a transformation of connectivity models. Today’s IT environment consists of an ever-changing footprint of locations where businesses must support end users and provide services to customers. At the same time, there have never been more cloud-based service offerings available to power and scale out new capabilities. When also factoring private infrastructure into this mix, IT stakeholders are left with an incredibly complex architecture that spans wide geographies.

Ultimately, businesses must be able to exchange data fast and securely, not just with data centers and cloud onramps, but with their widespread offices, remote workers, partners, and customers. In the modern workplace, this means businesses must put connectivity at the heart of their cloud strategy and at the edge of their network.

The problem with conventional approaches to networking

The issue with conventional networking approaches is that it treats a business’ infrastructure as the center-point of its data universe. So, data needs to stop off at a company’s data center before it can be routed anywhere else it needs to go.

That’s fine if a business only uses a single cloud provider and their workforce are highly centralized. But many use multiple cloud providers and have highly distributed workforces. A survey from Flexera has shown that the average enterprise uses just shy of five clouds. For businesses that rely on multiple cloud services, the constant stopping off back at on-premises infrastructure will add unnecessary latency and hog network bandwidth.

The solution is to build in a dedicated connection between cloud services. However, that can be costly, and it may not be possible to install a cross-connect between certain vendors’ infrastructure. Direct cabling between multiple cloud systems is a costly long-term commitment that requires networking expertise to support cloud-to-cloud connections. Businesses, therefore, should consider using a software-defined solution that virtually routes connections to the cloud, and between clouds. It all adds up to a faster, more flexible network that helps businesses finally fulfil the promise of multi-cloud.

Meeting expectations of the millennial workforce

Fulfilling the promise of the cloud will be vital in keeping the millennial workforce happy in the coming years. After all, The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) reports that younger workers’ technology expectations are shaped by their consumer experiences. Millennial and Gen Z workers—who connected with mobile devices at an early age and used online tools to work and collaborate in school—now expect similar types of interaction with technology as they enter the workforce.

To create more efficiencies at work, younger workers seek increased use of cloud-based software, online collaboration tools, and custom workplace apps, CompTIA suggests. More than half of millennials now use cloud-based tools for word processing and spreadsheets, compared to just a third of Boomers. A quarter of younger workers also use both online collaboration tools and custom mobile apps for work purposes, the report states.

With so many millennial staff members already demanding the use of cloud technology in the workplace, businesses must act now to make the most of it. That means fundamentally shifting IT strategy in the workplace and placing the cloud, and more importantly connectivity, at the heart of it.

Eric Troyer, Chief Marketing Officer, Megaport

Eric Troyer is Chief Marketing Officer at Megaport, a leading Network as a Service company. He has over 20 years of internet infrastructure experience working in marketing strategy, business development, product management, and engineering. Previously, Eric held management roles at Microsoft, Equinix, and Cablevision.