How adaptive IT infrastructure can enable a post-COVID workforce

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More than six months has passed since the global COVID-19 outbreak came to light – and what very different times we now find ourselves in. With working from home now the norm for many organisations, businesses are under significant pressure to better support their remote workforces. That’s important because these changes are very likely to be permanent. New research from GlobalData and Telstra found that nearly two-thirds of IT and business leaders say the pandemic has changed their organisations forever, in terms of the impact on their IT budgets, strategies and overall priorities.

The challenges of remote working

As organisations prepare for the majority of their employees to work remotely for the foreseeable future, they face a new set of challenges. For instance, when employees circumvent official IT policy by installing unauthorised applications, hardware or software on their work-issued equipment, this gives rise to ‘Shadow IT’.

The GlobalData research found that nearly 70 per cent of businesses and IT leaders believe COVID-19 has increased the incidence of Shadow IT. While in most cases the motivations are benign, there are risks around security and compliance. This can have profound implications for organisations, in the wake of reports warning of increased cyber attacks during the pandemic.

A mass move towards remote working also impacts on the management of the network. While this is often not directly visible to the end user, there are a number of common issues when connecting large numbers of remote workers at once. Access and control, quality of service, security and network management are more complex to implement, and harder to manage with a large dispersed workforce.

How can organisations address these challenges to keep their operations running securely and smoothly? Adaptive technology infrastructure – comprising flexible, scalable IT architecture that can quickly shift and adjust as the needs of the business change – may well prove to be the answer.

GlobalData found more than half (52 per cent) of respondents identifying digital transformation as a strategy to increase the adaptability and speed of change within an organisation. Amid a fast-evolving environment, the ability to adapt to new scenarios should therefore be top of mind, as organisations review and renew their entire technology architecture. 

Adaptive infrastructure starts with the network

Transforming to adaptive digital infrastructure is only made possible with the support of the network, the latter being the backbone that supports accelerated digital transformation and connects remote and mobile workers. This used to be MPLS for many enterprises, but has since broadened to even include public Internet with the advent of business grade plans offered by ISPs.

In the future, intelligent managed networks that offer high bandwidth and low latency will be critical to businesses that demand a high level of performance. To support distributed IT systems and a nomadic workforce, networks need to be software-defined and cloud-ready, as well as offer a greater degree of automation and flexibility.

Software-defined networks can adapt quickly to an organisation’s activity, learn to improve their own performance, and evolve with the organisation. In turn, this improves the efficiency, flexibility, and speed with which organisations provision and manage their network services and infrastructure. 

Consider cloud as the only option

GlobalData’s research found that the impetus to move to cloud is the strongest in the past decade, with 93 per cent of respondents now accelerating the adoption of cloud services.

Cloud services promise greater flexibility and speed to market – and as a platform can drive top-line revenue and improve operational efficiencies. Cloud can also act as an alternative sourcing method if IT departments are not available or physical access to infrastructure is difficult – which is of particular importance right now.

Indeed, as many businesses contemplate reducing their office footprint and shifting to a largely remote workforce in the long term, they may no longer have any physical data hosted on premise. This marks a departure from the convention practice of keeping some data onsite, and underscores how cloud has become critical to business continuity.

A new era of self-service

Due to the global pandemic, organisations around the world may have experienced as much digital transformation in a few months as they had planned for years. As a result, it has also provided an opportunity to accelerate digitisation programs and introduce emergent capabilities like self-service.

According to the research, digital tooling will continue to be central for provisioning and managing remote users at scale well past the COVID-19 era. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) infused technology will also become more critical tools with companies adopting digital strategies to drive operational efficiencies, build self-service capabilities and remove manual processes. To illustrate the difference it makes in cost management, a simple password reset for one employee can cost a company up to US$50, if there is poor tooling! 

As a global community, we have quickly adapted to our changed circumstances through the increased use of digital technology. In a world of uncertainties, one thing is for sure – the demand for data, connectivity and digital services won’t go down any time soon. As organisations deal with the multitude of changes brought by the global pandemic, adaptive infrastructure is a way for them to stay nimble as they prepare to thrive in a post-COVID world.