By Ronald Ravel, Director B2B South Africa, dynabook South Africa
The workforce of the future has become a prominent topic of conversation amongst businesses in the last few years, and small and midsize organisations are no exception. Workforce dynamics are set to change a considerable amount in the coming years.
As mobile technology continues to advance at such an impressive rate, it’s improving the way employees remain connected in the office, bringing many advantages such as enhanced staff productivity, better access to customers and information, and access to content from any location – whether that might be a client site or an office desk. 5G’s impending arrival is set to fuel this mobility further, enabling greater functionality across various technologies such as cloud and edge computing, AR and VR, wearables, and AI and automation.
While all these developments will be an asset to SMBs, who will more easily be able to take advantage of the increased agility they will allow, it is important to note that small businesses need to understand the crucial challenges mobility brings – the most critical of which is security. IT management within SMBs plays a vital role in ensuring maximum operational efficiency and security, all the more important at this challenging time of transformation. According to a study by Aruba of more than 500 SMBs across Europe, 66 per cent of senior SMB managers believe optimising the cloud, applications and mobile devices is a strategic priority for their organisation. The challenge now is for the SMB workforce to contend with and adapt to this evolving landscape.
Mobile working for SMBs
The continued adoption of new technologies is a core driving factor behind mobile working. IDC predicts that by the end of 2021, 60 per cent of SMBs worldwide will have formal or informal mobile worker support in place. Technologies will pave the way for this shift, especially cloud computing – allowing SMBs to easily access and store information from anywhere, regardless of their location – as well as the incremental upgrade of cellular networks to bring enhanced speed and lower latency.
5G is of course the impending and next iteration of this and promises to pave the way for a new generation of IoT solutions. Wearable technology such as smart watches, for example, can enable quick and nimble functionality to employees on the move. And more significantly, devices such as smart glasses will transform the way workers perform their job, by delivering hands-free working to SMBs within the heavy industry sector such as engineering, manufacturing and logistics. Such innovations owe much to the growing prominence of edge computing, with Strategy Analytics predicting that by 2025, 59 per cent of IoT deployments will process data through edge computing in some form.
However, traditional enterprise technology, such as laptops, will undoubtedly remain integral for SMB use. Becoming ever more lightweight, powerful and secure, devices such as the Portégé X30T have been created to accommodate the increasingly mobile needs of today’s SMB workforce. The challenge for IT leaders comes in ensuring the device fleet continues to meet these evolving needs, meaning longer-term device strategy is becoming a more important consideration.
‘PC as a Service’, within which business devices and services are subscribed to rather than owned, is therefore emerging as an effective business model to achieve a tech refresh not just now, but on an ongoing basis. With the rise of the ‘PC as a Service’ model and mobile working, the workforce of the future will have to be more secure than ever before – Aruba research has revealed that 50 per cent of SMBs had some reticence about mobile working, citing data security as the major barrier.
Security continues to remain a big challenge for SMBs
One common service offered within the ‘PC as a Service’ model is data recovery. The recent one-year anniversary of the introduction of GDPR is a timely reminder that SMBs must prioritise security above everything else in this data-driven landscape. Last year saw a 217 per cent rise in IoT attacks, recorded by Sonic Wall, today’s workforce needs to adjust to the wider threat landscape created by the arrival of IoT devices such as wearables. Further research from a Ponemon Institute study found a dramatic increase in IoT-related data breaches since 2017, specifically due to unsecured IoT devices or applications.
Security will continue to remain of the utmost importance for smaller businesses. In order to stay protected and compliant it’s abundantly clear that senior IT staff need to have the right tools in place to combat threats, while also ensuring employees are aware of the potential impacts and educated about the importance of data security and their growing role in protecting the network. Many of the aforementioned solutions deliver robust security, which is often a core reason behind their growing adoption. Mobile edge computing solutions, for example, enable data to be locally encrypted and translated to a communication protocol before being sent to the company’s network core via the cloud.
However, all of these solutions will only be of limited use to SMBs until staff members know how to safeguard the business. Which is why almost half (48 per cent) of Europe’s IT decision makers consider training and educating staff around technology a key investment priority. The future is here for today’s workforce and now is the time for SMBs and their employees to streamline operations and enhance productivity, simultaneously enabling CIOs to positively impact the bottom line. It is imperative that, in order to achieve this, employees are also invested to maximise the potential – and decrease the risks – of these technologies.