This article was originally published in Forbes.
Businesses of all sizes—from mom-and-pop shops to franchises to large enterprises—rely on technology to re-imagine how services are provided, data is delivered and customer transactions are conducted. For instance, technology-based experiences like telemedicine, speedy at-home delivery, mobile ordering and in-store kiosks are becoming mainstays of daily life.
Getting here was not easy, and if business leaders learned anything from these past couple of years, it’s how essential fast, reliable and secure connectivity is to everyday life. As organizations continue to evolve to stay relevant, innovative and competitive, the need to prepare for “big moments”—and whatever might come next—is more apparent than ever before.
When creating a technology-forward, future-ready enterprise, business leaders should do the following:
After years of talks about the need to combat cybercrime, recent events are stress-testing the system.
The world saw an alarming 105% surge in ransomware cyberattacks in 2021, and nations, schools and hotels all came under fire in September 2022 alone. Now more than ever, business leaders must continually reexamine their priorities with a focus on the long term—not just what is needed now but what would position their organization for the future. Thinking of security spending as a once-a-year commitment may not be agile enough for the complexity and dynamism of today’s environment.
To protect their systems and networks, organizations must first make security an agenda topic in each strategic business discussion—from the top down and back up again—and shift away from an “if it happens” to a “when it happens” mentality. This requires the inclusion of security considerations at the beginning of the planning phase rather than as an afterthought. Security risks, gaps and practices should be discussed and actively managed at each level of the business, especially with hybrid and remote work here to stay.
Second, business leaders must make having a well-documented and practiced security program a priority if one does not already exist. The program should include regular risks, vulnerability assessments and tabletop exercises to simulate what to do in the event of a cyberattack or data breach. This can prepare the business to act swiftly in the event of a compromise, which can limit potential impacts.
If cybersecurity is table stakes, empowering a remote and hybrid workforce can be a competitive differentiator for future-ready enterprises. According to a McKinsey report, 58% of surveyed U.S. workers—the equivalent of 92 million people—report having the option to work remotely at least part time, while 35% can work remotely all the time.
Yet many companies struggle to provide remote workers with the same level of network reliability as their on-site counterparts, hampering productivity and engagement among distributed teams. For example, competing for bandwidth with others in the household who may be streaming content or gaming can hinder connectivity and productivity for employees working from home.
The same McKinsey study found that a flexible work environment can be a deciding factor for candidates deciding between similar job offers. With retaining and attracting employees being a strategic imperative for many companies, business leaders must address the need for better digital interactions across a distributed workforce to drive productivity. For enterprises seeking to make hybrid work models sustainable for the future, this includes the following:
Simply put, future-ready enterprises cannot afford bottlenecks that hinder employees’ work.
Technology needs differ from business to business, but it is important to have secure and reliable technology that is easy to scale to support ever-evolving functions, departments and their specific requirements. For this reason, future-ready enterprises opt to include a mix of connectivity technology—from fiber, wireless, edge, cable and DSL—to prepare for what’s next.
For example, some enterprises may rely on high-capacity connectivity to the cloud and data centers to support bandwidth-intensive voice or video applications used by remote workers. Others may use high-density Wi-Fi to deliver connectivity in crowded environments.
Organizations are leveraging these technologies to drive business innovation, address competitive threats and prepare for the future state of the overall business ecosystem. As daunting as technology may seem, working with managed service providers that have a broad purview of the business landscape can help companies optimize network connections with little-to-no downtime.
When it comes to adopting advanced connectivity, aligning IT and business strategies is essential. This requires a change in mindset and a focus on long-term goals that will best position the organization for the future, not just cost-saving initiatives. Similarly, organizations need to think more strategically, remain agile and show a willingness to adjust technology investments and spending priorities as needs change.
The new business and technology environment that we are currently experiencing requires a change in mindset. Moving forward, business and technology leaders have an opportunity to rethink their technology in order to keep their organizations relevant, productive and ready for growth—whether remote or on-site. For business leaders, taking a digital-first approach means having networks with speed, security and agility to not only handle spikes in demand but the innovation that will power the future.
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