Innovate now and in the future

In technology-led businesses, which means most large organizations today, the need to innovate now and into the future is paramount. From marketing, to finance, to human resources, the pressure is on to meet today’s needs in a more agile, digitally-savvy way, while also means ensuring that the groundwork is laid to adapt to tomorrow’s market shifts and technology trends.

This has made predicting the future of technology a core competency for many who work outside of IT. Technology teams must enable the business at large to do so – and none more so than IT infrastructure teams. Accurately forecasting needs while responding to immediate, time-sensitive challenges is now an essential factor to maintain day-to-day operations.

Disruption to opportunity

This tension between short- and longer-term thinking was heightened by the pandemic. The expectations placed on businesses’ technology infrastructure shifted dramatically, as both employees and customers suddenly needed to access services, information and products through different routes and from different devices. Indeed, businesses that invested more in remote and hybrid working models had an easier time riding the wave.

Nonetheless, even businesses which were well-prepared are now likely to be uncertain about network structures and resource allocation. In the most recent Global Workplace Report, we found that just 54% say their future workplace strategy is defined and agreed. Likewise, just 53% strongly agree that their technology solutions support high employee performance. But while there’s a gap between where businesses are and where they need to be, I believe that this uncertainty is also an opportunity. It offers a chance to introduce a new mindset around how business infrastructure is built and run.

A more hybrid workplace brings complexity

The reality of hybrid work is not a temporary stage in how we do business. The consequences of a distributed workforce will continue many years, as technology vendors implement new and better solutions which departments implement in diverse ways to empower their staff to do better, smarter work. Those additional ways of working will add to an already complex networking dynamic, leading to both friction in the employee experience and potential security issues as more software and more types of connection come into play.

Colleagues working at a cafeteria

The reality of hybrid work is not a temporary stage in how we do business.

An old-school mindset which assumes that there will be a static, office-based network model with specific exceptions will not be fit for purpose today, never mind tomorrow. Instead, we need to start strategizing with the assumption that the network will be flexible and dynamic – and so make managing that fact easier.

While this might seem like a grand goal, major and immediate change is not the best path for delicate systems; instead, there are specific, granular steps which organizations can start taking today which will progress them towards this model of infrastructure.

Steps to success

  • First, all businesses need to test infrastructure in collaboration with its users, not taking an outside-in view which hands down policy from up on high. For instance, as network security demands become more complex, interacting with different clients usually requires employees to use multiple platforms and VPN services. These usability roadblocks which lead to security non-compliance, can be identified and solved with active user testing.
  • Second, managing mutable networking environments will require automation. In terms of security, this might mean that safety measures are provisioned when users need them, rather than having to wait for IT teams to proactively enable them – because anything else won’t keep up with the pace of change.
  • Third, while the skills needed to create a flexible approach to infrastructure from scratch are scarce, the insights needed to enable future-proof systems are relatively portable across different businesses. While businesses will still need to prioritize outcomes – like supporting employee experience while maximising security – working with third parties will be important in bringing those into effect.

Perhaps one of the biggest findings in the latest Global Workplace Report is that, across the areas we asked about, businesses are in a state of significant change and reprioritization. The need to innovate isn’t going away, any more than hybrid working will.

Now is the moment for infrastructure leaders to learn how to move with that change more effectively.