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Meeting the demands of the future workforce

Cloud computing will play a central role in enabling mobility and remote working
By Allan Macfarlane, Chief Technology Officer at Pivotal Data

Technological advancements, new employee preferences, and an evolving workplace environment are creating a diversity of expectations across the workforce. Employees are increasingly demanding consumer-like technology experiences in the office, with greater flexibility for where and how they work.

Additionally, a new generation of tech-native employees – the app generation – will soon enter the workforce, expecting to work as they want, when they want, using their preferred technologies.

These diverse expectations and attitudes about the role of technology are converging to create an increasingly complex company IT environment. CIOs today must therefore balance these demands, while also navigating the challenges of operational requirements, budget pressures, and customer expectations.

While workers and IT leaders embrace this generational diversity and view these challenges as an opportunity to reshape the future of work, it’s often at executive level where IT-led innovation can be stifled.

Concerns for C-suite executives about this new workplace paradigm include security, compliance, managing a more mobile workforce, the complexity of enabling mobility, accommodating the consumerisation of IT, and the cost implications.

Thankfully, many of these concerns can be addressed with the appropriate solution. It’s when executives confine IT to a cost-reduction function that the opportunity is lost to explore key areas of change that can benefit the business. Measuring the IT function on its ability to innovate and generate revenue, rather than on the costs it can eliminate, would be a more beneficial approach.

A more receptive attitude to young people entering the workforce is also warranted, as this represents an opportunity to rethink current practices and refresh the organisation’s approach to technology, to drive greater innovation.

For instance, as demand for flexible work arrangements grows, communication and collaboration will become central to an organisation’s IT capabilities. However, IT leaders must balance finding the right productivity tools, with weeding out redundant tools introduced into the business through the consumerisaton of IT. This is particularly pertinent as a productivity threat exists in the form of application sprawl, where workers shift between tools and devices at work.

IT leaders are also concerned about the complexity that mobility will create for legacy systems and networks. This can drain resources, with departments currently spending 83% of their time managing IT and communications platforms and resolving issues, according to findings from the Fuze Breaking Barriers 2020 report. This highlights a clear need to reduce application sprawl and simplify IT.

Inside the office environment, the future workforce will demand technologies that fit with how they want to work and collaborate. With expectation set by consumer technology, many workers will seek the same functionality at work that they experience on their personal devices.

Accordingly, IT leaders that start thinking of end users as technology consumers, rather than employees, and simplify IT with easy-to-use, single-app alternatives to reduce applications sprawl, can dramatically transition IT to meet these demands. This will shift IT from an operational function to a driver of innovation.

This, however, will require investing in technology. A lack thereof will result in a desire by staff to use the latest consumer technology at work, particularly if the app generation’s work hardware isn’t on par with their personal devices.

Outside the office environment, the demand for remote working will shape the future work paradigm. While it’s unlikely that the traditional office environment will disappear entirely, offices of the future will need to bring together teams and promote conversation and idea sharing, while gradually phasing out today’s open-concept workspaces due to the associated issues.

Considering these workplace dynamics, IT leaders have a significant job on their hands. To facilitate this shift smoothly and cost effectively, IT leaders require a technology roadmap that enables workforce mobility and supports remote working. In this regard, migrating IT systems and services to the cloud offers the ideal solution.

Already, two-thirds of IT leaders polled in the research have a formal cloud strategy implemented across all or part of the business, and 80% of companies have an internal champion driving cloud migration.

And rightly so, because cloud computing gives employees access to mission-critical applications and systems that are hosted in a centralised data centre. These services are available on demand, on a pay-per-use, scalable model, and the entire environment is maintained by expert managed services providers.

With IT hosted in a centralised, fully redundant data centre, and no complicated integration or new hardware requirements, workers can gain access from any Internet-enabled device. This makes cloud computing the key enabler of the mobility and remote working arrangements that will characterise the workplace of the future.

However, IT departments will only drive real innovation and gain a competitive advantage when they define how they make the move to the cloud, what they choose to strategically migrate, and whether they can successfully use savings from cloud initiatives to fund innovation.