Posted on June 7, 2022

This article was originally published in Forbes.

There’s no doubt that we have arrived at a hybrid work zeitgeist where work-from-anywhere has permanently changed the business landscape technologically, culturally and practically. Today, companies flex a new acumen that has allowed us to come back stronger after the uncertainties of the past two years. We now have the confidence of having been acutely pressure-tested against the realities that:

  • Change will always be the only constant.
  • IT is the keyholder of digital transformation.
  • Shifting norms cannot distract from the prize—protecting business continuity, security and the “total experience” of accommodating every user in every circumstance.

However, we should not get too comfortable with our newfound confidence. The question now is: With hybrid work here to stay, how efficient and sustainable is your strategy?

Now that we are beyond the “keeping the lights on” phases of darker days, maintaining a dispersed workforce that is collaborative and cyber-secure is the long-term imperative. Nearly half of employees will work remotely at least some of the time, according to a Gartner, Inc. report. That’s up from 30% pre-pandemic. Just 12% of businesses plan to bring their workforces back to the office on a full-time basis, according to a Metrigy report.

This is why now is the time for every company to reassess its hybrid work model—from real estate to culture and IT—to understand the impacts of panic-stricken pandemic processes, remaining gaps and capitalizing on the opportunities of an always-on everywhere strategy.

Evaluating your hybrid-work IT model comes down to a three-part formula—connectivity, cybersecurity and collaboration—as these are the key disciplines. However, the unity of the framework is what separates leaders from laggards. Most companies find that all three function in separate workstreams. Herein lies the problem. It’s time to unite these disciplines into one transformation trifecta so that the core elements of hybrid work actually work together. This creates a more secure, resilient and efficient environment for the end game.

Harmonizing Connectivity, Cybersecurity and Collaboration

Each discipline must be evaluated individually but also brought into the fold as part of the required triple-play for hybrid work success.

Connectivity

  • A modernized network—defined by the cloud and software-defined infrastructure—is needed to deliver highly reliable digital services to the expanding edges of today’s IT environment (your users).
  • The key to delivering “total experience” at scale but also at cost is to take advantage of all access types, including high-speed broadband and 5G.
  • When the network performance is the user experience, AI for IT operations (AIOps) technologies can ensure positive outcomes by predicting performance problems, intelligently managing application policies, forecasting bandwidth and preventing outages.

Cybersecurity

  • Return-to-work efforts will not alleviate security risks; we cannot put the cat back in the bag. With 69% of workers using personal devices for work, endpoint security and user identity access management are of top concern.
  • Digital services have put a new emphasis on the cloud, which is another area of security focus. Multifactor authentication, cloud application security and shadow IT risks must be addressed.
  • Modern security architectures are a must, including zero trust implemented across all IT domains—identity, endpoints, data, applications and infrastructure both on-premise and cloud.

Collaboration

  • We may be “Zoomed out,” but don’t tune out the opportunities for better video collaboration. Ensure your team is consolidating toolsets with more advanced digital spaces.
  • As Gartner, Inc. notes: “By 2025, cloud-native platforms will serve as the foundation for more than 95% of new digital initiatives—up from less than 40% in 2021.” Communications are key among them, fostered by partners at the intersection of networking, SIP trunking and cloud interconnections.
  • When video is how business gets done, bandwidth is the new corporate real estate. It’s where we work, and it’s where investment is needed. Companies are increasingly being asked to deliver perfect user experiences over public network connections that are inherently unstable. In these cases, technologies like SD-WAN and SASE can help address quality, consistency and security.

Pulling it All Together

While the hybrid workplace has multiple disciplines, they should be approached holistically. Look across each area of opportunity to create a cohesive system with synchronization at key areas of overlap. The modern workplace is redefined by a new level of digital transformation strategy across people, processes and organizational structure. These guiding steps can help you get started.

  • Break down traditional silos. IT, security and procurement have traditionally worked in separate departments. Now more than ever, synchronicity across cloud-based business applications, devices and network entry points need to work in close tandem to share information. When interdependencies inherently link connectivity, cybersecurity and collaboration, one approach and one platform should address it all—especially as security threats grow.
  • Create a culture of collaborative change agents. Bring people from various departments together to determine how to unite multiple disciplines. IT will play a critical role in assessing technological steps, but HR and communications should also be part of shaping and sharing change management. Remember to answer these questions for employees: What’s in it for me? What are the benefits to the business? How will my performance be measured? Make sharing information, working together and progress reports easy for employees with modern tools and interfaces that integrate with mobile devices.
  • Put smarter support processes in place. With the trends of accelerated transformation, consider outsourcing expert functions to augment already stretched teams. HR, network and security management services can make a world of difference in today’s complex, 24/7 business environment.
  • Don’t forget about AI. It is far more difficult to reconcile data feeds across the multiple silos of connectivity, cybersecurity and collaboration than it is to have AI deeply embedded into your transformation trifecta platform, generating a wealth of overarching insights.

Today, the future is bright as companies recalibrate, making the work-from-anywhere revolution now sustainable for the future. In light of converging strategies and technologies, executives have a vast opportunity to rethink how their workforces and workflows can turn the disruption of the past two years into a competitive advantage for the next decade.

Chris MacFarland

Chris MacFarland joined Masergy in 2008 and was quickly promoted to CEO. Prior to joining Masergy, Chris served in executive positions at BroadSoft, McLeodUSA, Allegiance Telecom, Verio, OnRamp, CompuNet and Compu-Tek International. He currently serves on the board of directors for iTopia. Chris is passionate about community service and has championed numerous charitable and outreach programs. He attended the University of Texas at Arlington where he majored in Computer Science and Engineering.

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