Aug 18 2020

CDW Tech Talk: How IT Teams Adapt to Workforce Shifts

Employees are less likely than ever to work out of an office, so building a digital infrastructure across environments is critical.

The workplace of just six months ago looks nothing like the workplace of today. And that creates opportunities and pitfalls alike.

As highlighted in a panel discussion during the CDW Tech Talk “Optimizing the New Workforce Dynamic,” IT teams need to adapt to this shifting reality within their organizations to properly keep pace with business priorities and the changing needs of employees.

“We believe the workplace has fundamentally changed, and in the future, it's going to be more durable and more flexible, not less,” said Conor Waddell, CDW’s vice president of data center solutions. “And that will ultimately be in an environment where we’ll look at a moment’s notice.”

Top officials from CDW discussed how this shift will play out across workplaces that continue to maintain an in-person element, those that prioritize remote environments and offices that are looking to potentially reopen.

The new tactics deployed are different for every organization. One healthcare firm automated messages to patients that had tested negative for COVID-19, saving staff hours of time every day. Others have taken different approaches that work within their own infrastructures.

“We have customers that are leveraging their strong cash position to take advantage of a buyer’s market by other companies and acquire top talent,” said Tom DeCoster, CDW’s vice president of integrated services sales and engagement. “You’ve got other companies who have invested in digital to relate to new ways of dealing with customers. You have other boats out there that are unfortunately taking on water, and you have companies that are really trying to balance employee safety and help with the economic reality of things.”

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How Technology Can Enable the New Workplace

Many organizations have found themselves investing in technology tools for collaboration and security on the fly over the past few months, and not just because the work environment changed. Employee expectations for work have also changed.

Bob Rossi, the vice president of networking, digital workspace and security solutions at CDW, said that one example is the newfound emphasis on having strong, quality video communication.

“If you look at today, there’s a really heavy focus on video versus traditional audio communication,” he said. “The mobile workforce really expects video now, as opposed to just being able to provide access to video. Now we’re going to have to look at measuring the quality of that experience.”

Later, responding to a question about shifts in security, Rossi noted the importance of shifting security strategies to defend against “bad actors” taking advantage of the climate to attack increasingly remote workers.

“Organizations who have cybersecurity operations and monitoring capabilities not only cover a portion of their standard operating environment, which is going to be further impacted as more and more of their workers relocate to different areas, just in a purely remote model that changes that scope and complexity of the environment,” he said.

Where IT Departments Should Make Technology Investments

To adapt to the situation created by the pandemic, many organizations have had to turn to their business continuity strategies to ensure a path forward. Waddell said that these plans were likely to evolve from rainy day disaster plans to future IT investments.

“One of the things that’s going to change is that we’re going to build that planning into how we make investments moving forward,” he said, “like the need to be remote and have a flexible architecture that can deliver applications and collaboration experiences, or even your general work environment in a home or remote setting.”

As workplaces reopen, Rossi said, it will be important to look at different possible outcomes for staffing and to have solutions that would work for each situation.

“We’ve been working through a lot of different scenario planning efforts with our customers on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

On technology investment, DeCoster said that now was not the time to lean too hard on cost-cutting in technology services. Instead, he suggested looking at the current moment as a time to modernize, especially on the managed services front.

“Use some of those funds to make high-return investments in modernizing your customer-facing network applications to interact with your customers more and more actively and digitally,” he said.

‌Follow BizTech’s coverage of CDW’s Tech Talk series here. Insiders can register for it here.

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