However, some legacy solutions may have prevented organizations from growing at a time when modern
technology has become the center of business life more than ever before, Johnson says.
“If you were not set up at all for people to be working remotely, you would have had a problem,” he says. “If you hadn’t invested in laptops, and if remote desktop was your idea of allowing people to work remotely, and if you hadn’t invested heavily in cloud-based applications, you were at a disadvantage.”
Tech Powers New Capabilities for Businesses
Shah says that his firm’s aging three-tier data center infrastructure wasn’t up to the task of facilitating video collaboration sessions through technologies like Zoom on virtual desktop infrastructure.
“As we were moving to Windows 10, our VDI platform just bogged down more and more the more instances we created,” he says. “Everything was technically working, but not in a modern sense. If we still had our old infrastructure in place now, I don’t know how any of the teleconferencing we’re doing would even work. It would be almost impossible to get everyone on that old platform to be able to run all of the Zoom and Webex and Teams meetings that have come up.”
An existing investment in Cisco Webex was invaluable for Citizens Financial Group as the organization continued to onboard employees during the COVID-19 crisis, says company CIO Michael Ruttledge. Within its tech group alone, the company added 150 new employees in 2020.
In April, Citizens, a Providence, R.I.-based bank with branches in 11 states, invested in enough network bandwidth to accommodate 100 percent of its employee base using Webex, if necessary. By the end of 2020, meeting technology use across the company was up by more than 30 percent, video use was up by 50 percent and total users for the company’s conferencing technologies shot up 45 percent, compared with the beginning of the year. The technology has been essential to hiring new employees at a time when the company is shifting its focus and seeking to bring on workers who can help with that transition.
“In the past two years, we’ve really transformed the bank from a technology perspective — moving to the cloud, moving to application programming interfaces and moving to more of a Platform as a Service environment,” Ruttledge says. “During this past year, we’ve continued to onboard external hires. We’ve picked up quite a few people from fintech companies and nontraditional banks. We’ve used a lot of virtual collaboration tools to enable that.”
Joel Weight, CTO for the e-commerce company Overstock.com, notes that technology has always been key to the company’s operations. However, he says, tech tools were thrust to the forefront as the demand for online shopping spiked during the pandemic. “Before the pandemic, we used collaboration tools like Zoom, but not to the extent that we do now,” he says. “Virtualization has also been key to our growth. Whether it’s VMware and virtual desktops or Kubernetes and Docker for virtual servers, we’ve been able to scale and shrink where needed without having to add a bunch of hardware.”
What Comes Next for Remote Work?
Businesses were forced by the pandemic to expand their capacity for collaboration technologies while also implementing new processes to onboard employees and get them up and running with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.
“For new colleagues, we found a way to mail all of their systems to their door so that they have everything they need on day one without entering the building,” he says. “Although some challenges have come up along the way, technologies like Zoom have helped facilitate those connections and allowed for virtual troubleshooting. Currently, we are focusing on internal trainings to help current and new colleagues learn how to navigate these new solutions.”