Oct 15 2021

CDW Tech Talk: Spearhead a New Way of Working with Leadership and Tech

Organizations with more agile IT systems are better prepared to adapt when change is needed.

The past 20 months have shown us the need to be flexible in times of crisis. The pandemic brought on a sudden move to remote work that demanded innovative technology to keep organizations connected to their employees and customers.

Now that many organizations are moving into hybrid work arrangements, it’s time for another pivot. Hybrid work presents different challenges, including the need to ensure equity and inclusion among employees no matter where they’re working.

Mike Kennedy, vice president of technology enablement and strategy at CDW, joined CDW’s Tech Talk webcast to talk about agility and what it means to an organization in uncertain times.

Agility Allows Organizations to Pivot More Quickly and Successfully

Kennedy began by noting some questions that any organization can answer with an agile approach to technology: How do we ensure that we can operate in a decentralized model? How do we empower our teams to make the right decisions for the business? How do we keep our teams close to the customer, understanding the changing needs of the market and adjusting as necessary to keep collaborating and delivering for the business?

Kennedy said IT departments play a huge role in implementing agile methodologies. “We need to make sure that we’re aligned closely to the strategic themes of the business,” he said. “One of the key principles of agile is making sure that you understand the strategy and how you’re contributing to it. It’s no different today. Our decentralized teams are experiencing the need to make decisions more than ever, and they’re doing so on their own or in small cohorts — but they still need to understand how that contributes to the business and the business’s objectives.”

Clear and consistent communication is crucial to keeping technology decisions aligned with business strategies. Kennedy noted that, in an era of remote work, “we’re able to do that through some of the collaboration tools and some of the technology that we’re using today.”  He cited videoconferencing, instant messaging, digital whiteboards and other collaboration tools, which he said promote active communication in a “more scalable, more persistent” way.

Register below for an upcoming CDW Tech Talk, held Tuesdays at 1 p.m., to hear from IT experts live.

Technology Can Enable Better Communication for Hybrid Work

“The conditions of today have forced us to get out of the office, and we’ve lost a bit of that face-to-face communication,” Kennedy said. “But what we’ve been able to do is put in place some processes leveraging technology, thereby enabling our people to keep those communication channels open and make sure that they’re being effective so that we can continue to talk about the risks, continue to talk about the delivery as well as how to drive value consistently.”

However, Kennedy cautioned that technology alone can’t solve the communication problems presented by remote and hybrid work environments. “In the end, if you don’t have the strong process and you don’t have the people mapped to that process well, no technology is going to save you,” he said.

“The agile way of working has always called for the ability to be flexible,” he continued. “Today, we see that consistently, where people are asking technology teams and IT teams to take on new roles and offer new advice in areas they maybe haven’t contributed to before.”

WATCH: Learn more about how IT can assist with communication and collaboration.

With Employees Accustomed to Remote Work, Expectations Change

After nearly two years of working remotely, people are realizing they have different needs they might not have anticipated at the beginning of the pandemic. “People are looking for smarter ways to work. Everyone realizes some of the pitfalls that come along with virtual working, whether that’s consistent back-to-back meetings, extended working hours, constant availability. What they need to be able to see are the benefits to them,” Kennedy said.

He offered some recommendations based on CDW’s recent efforts to improve its own internal communications. “One of the things that we’ve been focused on is helping get a feedback loop with our employees on what’s working and what’s not. What are the needs that they have, and then how do we put in place the training and the change management to make sure they’re receiving the support they need, both today and in the future, for what we may want to roll out?”

“What I found most effective is starting with the outcomes and benefits first and then backing into why the process or technology is needed. It seems pretty straightforward, but I think a lot of times backbone and technology in particular tend to focus more on the tools than on the outcomes,” Kennedy said. He also emphasized recognizing how much time change can take.

Getting buy-in for those changes starts with leadership. “These are things that we try to communicate clearly to our management and that they were receptive to. They saw the benefits,” Kennedy stated. “They saw that it was going to be an investment in time, resources and training, and they were willing to invest in our people. I think that’s going to be the key for people who are successful in making some of these pivots is investing in the people they have today and giving them the opportunity to expand their skills through the technology.”

Equal Accommodation for All Employees Has Taken on Great Significance

While the pivot to remote work forced a lot of changes, hybrid work is proving to be a different beast. Andy Rhodes, general manager and global head of commercial systems and displays at HP, joined the conversation to examine the ways companies have had to adapt again with a move to hybrid work.

“When we were all remote, it was actually easier, believe it or not, because everyone was somewhat equal,” Rhodes said. “If I was on the conference call with 50 people, everyone had that little window in Zoom or Teams, and so there was a little bit of an equity. As we go back into this hybrid world, we must not fall into the trap we had before where people who are not in the room, so to speak, the physical room, are treated differently than people who are remote.”

Rhodes thinks the biggest theme for end users going forward will be about equity — being heard and seen, and knowing that contributions made remotely on conference calls will be acknowledged just as they would be in the office.

Creating Equity in a Hybrid Work Environment Will Take Some Adaptations

Rhodes noted several changes he thinks a successful hybrid workforce will need. “I truly believe that there has to be a discussion around designing for hybrid by default” rather than using pre-pandemic design principles, he said. “Are we adapting to people moving through these different states of home, on the road, on the go and at the office? I think the dialogue can start by saying, ‘Hey, we designed IT practices mainly for people in the office, and then we adapted them for people remote.’ We have to change that whole ideology and thinking, and we need to design by default for this new hybrid world.”

Rhodes said another important aspect of the pivot to remote work is the need to attract and retain talent. “There is a high connection between attracting, retaining and developing and the IT tools that you will put in place for them. It’s ensuring that everybody sees the world the same way. I can guarantee you, having a lot of interns, that if you don’t give people the right tools, they will leave and go somewhere else. I think that’s another great way to start the conversation.”

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