Dec 16 2021

CDW Tech Talk: How IT Leaders Can Implement New Priorities in 2022

As hybrid work becomes a dominant trend, IT leaders will need to re-examine their strategies to enable full participation for employees in remote locations.

IT leaders spent much of 2021 grappling with the adjustment to hybrid work and the technology that could enable it. And those solutions weren’t solely technological. A hybrid workforce necessitated some shifts in corporate culture as well.

Employee expectations have evolved throughout the pandemic, and organizations have found they need to meet these changing needs. Enhanced collaboration tools can help, but employees are demanding that companies shift their approach to work to allow for flexibility and equal participation.

CDW CTO Sanjay Sood joined CDW’s Tech Talk webcast to offer his suggestions on how IT leaders might shift their priorities to look at IT considerations from a more user-centric viewpoint.

Placing the User at the Center of IT Strategy

“This last year has been just a tremendous amount of change that has swept over the entire industry, really the entire globe,” Sood began. Considering the IT needs to enable large numbers of employees to work from home, Sood said there were huge implications in terms of the infrastructure, the types of tools that were deployed, and the way that people began to work. “And, you know, as we round out, coming into almost two years of what was a complete change in the way that people work today, it's pretty clear that we're not going back to anything that resembles pre-pandemic.”

Hybrid work has become the new normal, he said. “So, the way that we think about our capabilities and how we deploy IT has changed quite dramatically. Specifically, the ways that we think about users and how we develop IT systems for users.”

Sood explained that the notion of user-centric design started years ago, but it’s been catalyzed by the pandemic. “And for those of us who work within IT, this has tremendous implications in how we think about our investments, how we design these systems for coworkers moving forward.”

Click the banner below to learn what CDW CTO Sanjay Sood is looking out for in 2022.

Personal Experiences with Tech Inform the Professional

“Now, let's just think about what happened in the last few years with work from home for those people who could work from home. You had this this almost bleeding of what people did personally into what they did for work,” Sood continued.

People experienced new and innovative technology in their personal lives throughout the pandemic. Sood cited several examples of behaviors that shifted as a result of the pandemic. People were unable to go to the gym, so they switched to emerging companies like Peloton for their fitness needs. Companies like Instacart and Amazon changed the way that we shopped. And then, you had all the digital platforms for communication — Zoom, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams — which became primary ways that people connected with each other.

“So, you had millions and millions of workers at home interacting with these systems throughout the day, and then they would flip to their corporate systems, and it would be clunky and unusable. And you would have highly utilitarian designs, where you had tools that look like they were from a different age,” he explained.

“What we're seeing now is this shift of what employee sentiments are and what their expectations are for the systems that they interact with. Work, whether it's an HR system, whether it's an internal go-to-market system, a sales system, interacting with their IT departments, this notion of how do you make these systems focused around the user? How do you make it work for them? How do you make the design intuitive and beautiful and easy to use? It's something that we're going to see as a continuing trend, only accelerated within the IT environment,” he predicted.

Incorporating Emotional Design into IT Plans

When attempting to place the user at the center of IT strategy, Sood mentioned the concept of emotional design. As he explained it, “things that are well designed, that are beautiful, that have kind of an artistic touch but are highly functional, help people accomplish complex tasks much more efficiently than if you had just a utilitarian tool.”

“This notion of usability is really important,” he continued. He singled out Apple and Tesla as examples of companies that have been able to marry intelligent hardware and software with some more aesthetic design elements. “They have really intelligent engineers, but they also have very talented designers who can think about everything from the color of pixels that make up a button all the way to how buttons are placed and the ergonomics and the sounds and the messages.”

Ultimately, he said, if you have things that have real deliberate design in them, and people look at them and understand how they work, and it puts them in a good headspace, it will make them more able to accomplish complex tasks. Finding innovative ways to collaborate in hybrid work environments can enable more successful collaboration, which will be key in the coming year. Sood said he thinks technologies that enhance collaboration “are going to be really interesting in how they play out this whole notion of that return to work and what the new normal is. I think it’s going to be one of the biggest challenges we face, but one of the areas where there's going be quite a bit of innovation that's going to leverage what we've learned over the last two years. But we’re going to learn more as we see more people coming back to the office.”

Startups Face Some Different IT Challenges

CDW Startup Strategies Teague Goddard joined the conversation to share his thoughts on how startup companies encounter IT issues that differ from those faced by more established organizations.

“I think the most obvious difference between startups and established companies is that established businesses have just had more time to figure things out, and they're okay with manageable growth,” Goddard explained. “Whereas, on the other hand, startups haven't had the time to understand things like budgeting and hiring and constructing departments. They're just going through this deep learning.”

He detailed the three stages of maturity that startups go through: an emerging stage, growth stage and scaling stage. At each of these stages, Goddard said, many startups fail to align and integrate their company’s technology. His advice: “Stop thinking of IT as a cost center. Modern IT-driven strategy will constantly deliver new efficiencies. It also enables employees to do their best work or facilitate productive collaboration and will keep business data secure. So, we believe startups should be looking at an IT-driven strategy as a growth lever that can help them power their business and close more sales with confidence.”

Follow BizTech’s full coverage of the CDW Tech Talk series here.

Getty Images/ songsak chalardpongpun

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