If you're a business or organisation, the workplace of five years ago is all but disappearing. Driven by the needs of employees for a more flexible environment, as well as the widespread Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, the desire and need to work remotely has never been greater. This has led to the formation of a term known as digital dislocation, where the challenges of remote working are not adequately addressed by organisations. Digital dislocation was also the recent focus of a collaborative report between Cisco and BT.
At our doorstep
For example, their study found that the changes being wrought by digital dislocation are not several years away, but happening right now. The last three years alone for example, has seen a rise in 31% of workers wanting to bring their own device to work, as well as 55% indicating that flexibility is a growing need, whether it be working from home, at a client's site or while they commute. It has also forced CIOs to adjust their approach, a sentiment echoed by BT’s MD for sub-Saharan Africa, Oliver Fortuin.
"The modern day workplace has evolved to a state where a digital strategy is imperative for any CIO. The workforce is becoming more mobile, with the affordability of mobile solutions making it easier for people to be productive anytime, anywhere. For most employees there is a natural inclination to work in an environment that's comfortable for them, especially if they are able to remain productive at the same time," he says.
As Fortuin begins to focus in on the local picture, he notes that South Africa is often an anomaly when it comes to many global workplace trends, but the past year or two has seen a significant rise in the pervasiveness of digital dislocation. "It's an interesting dynamic, especially in South Africa, as our organisations were not fully geared towards the idea of flexible working. The business environment in particular was not ready to embrace it fully, but this is changing," enthuses Fortuin.
"South Africa is starting to catch up with the rest of the world, and now it's actually cool to work from home. The focus is more on output than it is input, which means the more productive you are the better. It does, however, require a few factors in place in order to be effective, such as a mature workforce, the right technology, a correct level of affordability and an understanding between employer and employee."
The right tools
As South African businesses come to grips with how the workplace is changing, they require a well balanced combination of technologies to not only meet employees' flexibility needs, but also to ensure their environments are set up to be more agile. To address these multi-tenant requirements, Fortuin advocates the adoption of cloud services in conjunction with collaborative business solutions.
In his opinion, the best way to handle the growing issue of digital dislocation is the cloud, especially as two former barriers to its adoption – cost and security – are now falling away. The ability to choose the right type of cloud platform has also meant both cost optimisation (a 25% decrease in costs according to the report) and control are in the organisation's hands.
"Cloud adoption is happening rapidly, as companies are gaining a clearer idea of what their cloud strategy should be, with the hybrid cloud for example offering a good mix of security and enriched tools. Consequently, CIOs and organisations in general are becoming more comfortable," he says.
Comfort is not only a positive outcome for organisations, but employees too, with the report further discovering a 30% increase in their satisfaction where cloud has been introduced into the work environment. According to Fortuin, the cloud has yielded multiple benefits in this regard.
"If you look at what is happening in the cloud environment now, as an employee, there is a growth in technology around productivity toolsets. You're using Microsoft Azure for example, coupled with something perhaps out of the Amazon cloud, as well as having personnel to offer aggregation services to make the entire experience more manageable. The result is that the end users get the tools they need, when they need it, all with a solid user experience," Fortuin explains.
Collaboration is key
Talking about collaboration, Fortuin believes it is substantially impacted by the cloud and the solutions attached to it. "Productivity tools built on collaboration is at the core of our thinking at BT. We are also investing in the integration of having our own toolsets talking to one another in a better way, specially the use of voice and video," he says.
He further adds that in the past, collaboration in the workplace was all about audio, but now video is starting to play a much bigger part. “We've placed a significant amount of time in creating platforms where you can bring collaborative audio and video toolsets into a single environment, with cloud providing the backbone to it. This is the solution to providing flexibility that employees have been looking for, and the effective handling of digital dislocation that CIOs must consider,” concludes Fortuin.