BizTech Magazine - Technology Solutions That Drive Business en VMworld 2020: Partnering Up in Times of Crisis <p>When disaster strikes, those affected often come together to get through it. Communities rebuild themselves after one-time incidents such as hurricanes or tornadoes, and they continue to support each other during more prolonged periods of struggle, like a recession.</p> <p>That has also been true during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s businesses pivoting to make hand sanitizer and masks or customers making a point to shop at local small businesses, organizations across industries have been doing their part to help the public through challenging times. That often means partnering up.</p> <p>“Different customers across different industries, they’re all dealing with different pain points and business challenges right now,” said Tom Cahill, vice president for product and partner management at CDW. “During these challenging times, this economic environment, the circumstances surrounding things like COVID, the social unrest, all the different things that our customers are facing today, it’s more important than ever that we help our customers through those challenges.”</p> <p>During a session at <a href="" target="_blank">VMworld 2020</a>, Cahill and Todd King, a <a href="" target="_blank">VMware</a> software-defined data center architect at CDW, discussed how important it has been for customers to have a partner to guide them through today’s IT challenges. The pair highlighted CDW’s partnership with VMware as a golden example of what that teamwork can accomplish.</p> Keara Dowd Infrastructure as Code: A Developer-Minded Approach to Cloud Computing <p>Keeping cloud infrastructure manageable can be a challenging task, as complicated setups can topple over at scale without the right architecture. But of the many benefits offered by cloud computing and <a href="" target="_blank">virtualization tools</a>, one of the most important may be improvements in managing infrastructure in a consistent way that’s easy to replicate.</p> <p>One way to do this is through Infrastructure as Code (IaC), which creates an abstraction layer for building out cloud environments through automated scripts. For those working with complex cloud builds, it could make for simpler management in the long run.</p> <h2>What Is Infrastructure as Code?</h2> <p>IaC is not a particularly new trend. <a href=";gbpv=1&amp;pg=PT8&amp;printsec=frontcover" target="_blank">According to author and consultant Stephen Nelson-Smith</a>, the concept dates to the earliest days of Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud in 2006, as well as the release of version 1.0 of the Ruby on Rails application framework during the same period. Combined, these two events lowered the barrier of entry for scalable infrastructure, but they also added complexity that created a new need for configuration tools that could deploy new resources as needed.</p> Ernie Smith How Small Businesses Can Prepare to Return to the Office <p>After months of remote work, many organizations (and employees) are eager to return to the office. But reopening a physical workspace during a pandemic is not as simple as swiping a keycard and walking through the door.</p> <p>Variables that were once not of concern to businesses are now major considerations. How do your employees get to work? Do they take public transportation? That creates an additional point of contact that could expose other employees. Are there multiple tenants in your office building? That could mean more exposure as well.</p> <p>Those things may not be within your company’s control, but others are. How should you position desks around the office? Should you open the staff cafeteria? What about personal protective equipment and training people on safety precautions?</p> <p>Too often, IT stakeholders might be running behind on these kinds of discussions, with human resources teams and building management departments taking the lead. But IT departments need to be part of those early conversations because they often manage some of the most important parts of the safety equation — <a href="">including the testing technology</a> to be used onsite and off.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong><em>DISCOVER: </em></strong><em>Learn how to make your business ready for the future of work.</em></a></p> <h2>How IT Departments Can Help Small Businesses Reopen</h2> <p>Onsite tech and equipment can go a long way toward helping employees feel safe. Tech teams might be in charge of putting together tools such as thermal scanning kiosks, <a href="">sanitizing stations</a> and occupancy tracking programs. They may also have to worry about things they never had to before, like disinfecting computers.</p> <p>There are offsite considerations as well, such as symptom reporting apps for employees on their way to the office. Analyzing what other businesses, <a href="">such as retailers</a>, have done might offer inspiration.</p> <p>The ultimate goal is to do safety checks in real time, but it also comes down to making sure your employees are comfortable with returning. If they’re not, this might further complicate things by requiring <a href="">a hybrid office setup</a> or even delaying the reopening process.</p> <p>One idea that could help ease nerves: At CDW, we’ve been surveying our own employees to determine their comfort levels to understand whether they’re ready to return to the office and how often they might be willing to do so. Right now, it’s essential to keep your employees involved in the process of reopening; they need to feel secure in order to return safely and productively.</p> <h2>Challenges Tech Teams Might Face in Planning a Comeback</h2> <p>It’s one thing to simply discuss these ideas for reopening; it’s another to implement them. Small businesses face a number of pressure points in reviving an office or restarting a factory. Here are a few to keep in mind.</p> <p><strong>Cost:</strong> These are all new solutions, and if you have an unlimited budget, you can use such technology as artificial intelligence and thermal tracking cameras. Small businesses, however, may not have the resources to deploy such complex tools. For thermal scanning, for example, a kiosk that relies on handheld scanners may be more cost-effective than a camera system.</p> Jason Kaser VMworld 2020: Priorities That Will Lead to Success in the New Normal <p>The importance of being connected has never been greater. At a time when people are encouraged to keep their distance for their own safety, finding ways to remain in touch with others has become a critical aspect of both life and work.</p> <p>Enabling and protecting those connections is at the center of this year’s all-virtual <a href="" target="_blank">VMworld 2020</a>. <a href="" target="_blank">VMware</a> CEO Pat Gelsinger said in his opening keynote that the company has had to look at its work from new perspectives over the past several months.</p> <p>“We're in the midst of a profound rethink across every dimension of our lives,” he said. “How we care for our sick, how we connect, how we live, how we worship, how we learn and how we work. At the center of this profound rethink is digital innovation.”</p> <p>Gelsinger acknowledged that IT teams have taken a lead role in moving through these changing times.</p> <p>“As we navigate this chapter of human history together, many of you are at the forefront of our current environment,” he said.</p> <p>By keeping key priorities in mind, Gelsinger said that VMware has been able to continue to support its customers despite the rocky waters.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><em><strong>MORE FROM BIZTECH:</strong> What to expect from this year's VMworld.</em></a></p> <h2>Five Things to Focus on to Remain Productive During Remote Work</h2> <p>From the beginning of the pandemic, Gelsinger said that VMware’s focus was on its customers. Being able to relate their own challenges to those they served helped achieve that.</p> <p>“In 2020, we've proved to ourselves that empathy plus urgency is a powerful combination,” he said. “Our mantra is simple: Care deeply and act decisively.”</p> <p>This pushed five priorities to the forefront for VMware: app modernization, multicloud environments, digital workspace, virtual cloud networking and intrinsic security. </p> <p>In the face of uncertainty, we deliver five critical building blocks,” Gelsinger said. “Put it all together: the digital foundation for an unpredictable world.”</p> Keara Dowd Virtual VMworld VMworld Microsoft Ignite 2020: 4 Things to Take Away This Year <p>The current climate is accelerating businesses’ plans for digital transformation. Organizations have been pushed to enable sprawling workforces and protect their employees, and IT teams have been at the center of it all.</p> <p>“The case for digital transformation has never been more urgent,” <a href="" target="_blank">Microsoft</a> CEO Satya Nadella said during <a href="">Microsoft Ignite 2020</a>. “For any organization to succeed in a world of unprecedented constraints, they will need to empower employees, foster a new culture of hybrid work, engage their customers in new ways intelligently and virtually, transform products and services with new business models, and optimize operations to keep customers and employees safe and secure.”</p> <p>Nadella discussed how the pandemic has changed the way we work, possibly forever. Here are other important takeaways from the virtual event.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong><em>MORE FROM BIZTECH:</em></strong><em> Get more insights from Nadella's keynote address.</em></a></p> <h2>1. Integration Is More Important Than Ever</h2> <p>Businesses have had to dramatically expand the number of tools at their disposal. From collaboration and document sharing solutions to additional devices and networking capabilities, IT teams have added more solutions to their environments.</p> <p>This complexity makes integration key, Nadella said in his keynote address. He said that putting the pieces together with tool integration, optimization and security is “tech intensity,” and he said that it can make all the difference for businesses.</p> <p>“The stakes could not be higher,” Nadella said. “Tech intensity will determine not only whether organizations can weather the current crisis and also determine that they are prepared to navigate future tail events.”</p> <h2>2. Collaboration Experiences Must Be Sustainable</h2> <p>One of the biggest areas of focus for businesses during this time has been collaboration. Employees now need to be able to work together from anywhere.</p> Keara Dowd What to Expect from an All-Virtual VMworld 2020 <p>Of all of the traits that successful businesses can possess, adaptability has risen to the top of the list amid the quick and dramatic shifts that have defined 2020. From pivoting to new business plans to developing new products and services to meet the needs of the moment, organizations have had to rethink the way they conduct operations, and that includes their use of technology.</p> <p>Businesses have had to supply their employees with devices to work from home, deploy tools to enable them to collaborate with each other and ensure the security of home networks. In industries like retail and energy, organizations have turned to technology to help keep employees and customers healthy and safe while providing essential services. And most had to do it in a matter of days.</p> <p>Months after that drastic transition, businesses are now turning their attention to the future. What will offices look like when employees return? What do businesses and workers need to continue sustainable remote work models? How can businesses maintain their operations and deliver services safely?</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><em><strong>READ MORE: </strong>How four businesses survived the shift to fully remote workforces.</em></a></p> <p>These questions will be explored at this year’s all-virtual <a href="" target="_blank">VMworld 2020</a>. From September 29 through October 1, attendees will have access to keynote speakers, breakout sessions and workshops geared toward arming IT professionals for the new normal. Here’s what attendees can expect.</p> <h2 id="businesses-need-to-prepare-a-future-ready-workforce">Businesses Need to Prepare a Future-Ready Workforce</h2> <p>IT has played a critical role in helping businesses meet this moment. For the opening keynote, <a href="" target="_blank">VMware</a> CEO Pat Gelsinger will offer his perspective on the critical role that digital innovation is playing as we navigate this new reality. He will discuss the important role of technology and will celebrate the unique role of IT in this new landscape.</p> <p>As businesses and workers have settled into new routines, the conversation has shifted to what the future of work will look like. <a href="" target="_blank">According to McKinsey</a>, 80 percent of people who are working from home are enjoying it. It may be challenging to get employees to return to five days per week in the office after they’ve become accustomed to working remotely, which many think will create a hybrid structure that will include both office workers and remote workers.</p> <p>In a session about the journey to a future-ready workforce, VMware leaders will discuss how organizations need a strong foundation to be able to support this kind of work. Once that foundation is laid, businesses can build their operations to withstand the uncertainty of the future.</p> Keara Dowd Microsoft Ignite 2020: Achieving Resilience in the Future of Work <p>Many businesses were in a scramble for new tools when widespread remote work began. Whether it was adopting new collaboration technologies or establishing networks that could power remote workforces, the amount and capacity of IT solutions were forced to grow to meet the needs of the moment.</p> <p>Once employees were fully enabled, IT teams had to turn to another challenge: securing those complex environments. Employees were now depending on their own home networking — and sometimes even their own devices — to do their work, and those connections and computers needed to be defended. </p> <p>As remote work continues, it seems that this will be the new reality, not just a passing trend, said Vasu Jakkal, <a href="" target="_blank">Microsoft’s</a> corporate vice president for security, compliance and identity.</p> <p>“We believe that modern security should empower you to go further, faster,” Jakkal said at <a href="">Microsoft Ignite</a>. “It should be at the intersection of great human expertise and great technology. It should be cloud-native and AI-based so that it works for you everywhere, at scale. It should be extensible to a broad ecosystem of third-party tools. It should be based on zero-trust principles.”</p> <p>That modern security structure is where security, compliance and identity meet, Jakkal said.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong><em>WATCH: </em></strong><em>Learn the secret behind building strong security without compromising customer experience.</em></a></p> <h2>Integration Is Key for Modern Security</h2> <p>One of the bigger challenges with security is making sure it’s working across multiple platforms and tools. Embedding it into products is key, Jakkal said: “We believe that security should be end to end, including cybersecurity, identity and compliance. These components should be totally integrated, and built right into the products and platforms for comprehensive protection and seamless user experience.”</p> <p>Having this security can give employees the reassurance they need to flourish. </p> <p>“We know from our own business that being safe and feeling safe are what empower people to do more, to create more and to have trust in the very technology that connects us all,” Jakkal said. “That is the true purpose of security.”</p> <p>Keeping up with the latest security threats as the nature of work changes has also been challenging. Having too many separate security solutions only makes that challenge harder, said Andrew Conway, general manager for security marketing at Microsoft.</p> <p>“Security teams are struggling to keep up, often trying to manage multiple, poorly integrated solutions in the face of threats that are growing in sophistication,” Conway said. “Data is being collected and analyzed in silos, while point solutions and teams are challenged to detect and root out threats in the face of overwhelming alert fatigue.”</p> <p>By building security right into programs, IT teams don’t have to spend as much time connecting the dots and can focus on greater digital transformation efforts instead.</p> Keara Dowd How Banks Can Use AI to Deliver Personalized Service <p>The banking field is constantly feeling the tremors of disruption amid changing dynamics and advancing technology.</p> <p>Luckily for banks, people don’t tend to hop around much once they find a bank they like — a <a href=",decade%2C%20according%20to%20the%20survey." target="_blank">study this year</a> from Bankrate finds that people use the same checking account for an average of 14 years, and more than one-fifth of respondents have made it past the two-decade mark.</p> <p>However, competition is rising in the banking space. Online-only banks and other apps often have appeal among younger customers that can be difficult for smaller banks and credit unions to compete with. Bolstered by lower overhead, these digital options can often pass on savings to their customers while delivering the personalized experiences they have come to expect from the organizations they do business with.</p> <p>But banks and credit unions have access to those same personalization tools. Using the same techniques and technologies, they can improve the customer experience by using artificial intelligence to maintain their current customers, and even attract new ones.</p> Ernie Smith