The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the workforce as we know it and, as a result, there is a lasting impact on the way companies do business. IT leaders were tasked with evolving entire workforces to function online in the last year, and the evolution is continuing. As the vaccines roll out, employers will be faced with the task of this evolution becoming a constant process, with remote work here to stay as a permanent but fluctuating new normal. Many will shift to a hybrid workforce with employees having more flexibility to balance their in-office and at-home schedules. Just like the rapid adaptation to remote work, IT leaders will encounter new challenges to tackle in the hybrid workforce. It is critical to establish a technological and operational foundation that allows your organization to adapt and iterate quickly as the rate of change increases.
Undoubtedly, there are some difficult hurdles to take into consideration as the workforce continues to become more globally distributed and remote. IT leaders have to manage different time zones while balancing a drive for more real-time collaboration. They must manage technology spend as the appetite for digital tools skyrockets and trust in their employees’ abilities to manage this new way of working. The challenges can seem daunting.
One of the most obvious challenges is securing the company’s data regardless of where its workforce is located. Cybersecurity concerns include the inherent vulnerabilities of a distributed work environment, and IT leaders are figuring out the best way to protect employees and sensitive data as they access internal systems using a variety of different access points and networks. To stay ahead of this, IT leaders are at the forefront of conducting the appropriate due diligence to ensure associated risks pertaining to any software vendor’s access to the organization’s information assets, for example, establishing certifications like ISO27000 / SOC2 and GDPR/CCPA compliance as minimum requirements for any potential provider. Beyond this, encouraging your employees to keep all software up to date to avoid any issues is also important, which is to say companies must invest in the education and training that is necessary for their workforce to remain up-to-date on the latest threats and how to avoid falling victim to them.
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Additionally, with businesses operating digitally, there is an increased demand for stability in the systems. Systems are expected to be available at all times. Resilience by design for maintaining a 24/7 uptime is another mandate for IT leaders. Most IT leaders are either already migrating to or reviewing cloud services to provide them with the immediate scalability and reliability that their business now demands. This enables them to avoid investing in Capex in these uncertain circumstances and at the same time continue supporting business.
The most important task is keeping constant communication with employees to understand their needs and come up with solutions accordingly. IDC predicts that “over 50 percent of IT spending will be directly for digital transformation and innovation” by 2024. However, it’s important to note that implementing the right technology is crucial to successfully helping everyone adjust to the new normal. Quality versus quantity rings true in this case. Determining the right tools that you need for every category - whether it’s Slack for messaging, Salesforce for CRM - is crucial to the efficiency of your employees and organization. Another challenge that businesses face is getting their employees to adopt this kind of new enterprise software. Tools are only able to deliver productivity gains at scale if they’re used at scale. Implementing technology such as Digital Adoption Solutions (DAS) can help employees adjust and adapt these new digital tools.
As we have seen, even the most foundational business dynamics (and how to navigate them) always retain an element of uncertainty, therefore the workforce must keep upskilling themselves to handle evolving business requirements. IT leaders need to look for new training solutions that prepare organizations to meet both digital transformation challenges as well as remote workforce training challenges. Being on the pulse of DAS can support in-app learning, training, and support. Leaders want to provide their employees with training that is contextual, personalized, interactive, autonomous, and real-time - in other words, training and support that evolves with technology and business requirements while maximizing efficiency and efficacy by adapting to employees’ particular needs.
Looking into 2021, some of the challenges will be addressed by new technologies that IT leaders need to be tracking closely. For example, AI continues to affect multiple facets of businesses, including supply chain, customer support, and remote learning. Post pandemic, the consumer behavior is going to be different. They would be more accustomed to digital services and it is crucial to forecast consumer behavior. Additionally, ML and data analytics will be key to understanding the underlying patterns. By predicting the consumer sentiments or needs thus allowing organizations to preempt the market dynamics.
We have also seen a rise in cloud computing. Microsoft reports a 775 percent spike in cloud-services demand from the advent of Covid-19. With more and more businesses moving to an online model, companies are readily investing in cloud computing to support the digital supply chain. The demand for cloud-based video conferencing and teaching has skyrocketed as well to facilitate work from home initiatives. IT leaders have to adapt to the data storage and security challenges that come with cloud computing at this scale. A multi-cloud architecture is one of the indisputable tech trends which needs to be adopted at an accelerated pace to realize the following benefits: location independence, innovation, economic efficiency, and rapid deployment of services leading to faster time to market.
Looking into 2021 and beyond, IT leaders will continue to be at the forefront of the workplace evolution, as they build the systems that support it. Understanding the need for real-time communication, adaptable tools, constant training, and the knowledge of key tech trends as they become integrated into the workplace will separate those that achieve success in this environment of constant and accelerating change from those that fall behind.
Khadim Batti, Co-founder and CEO, Whatfix