How to achieve business success in the midst of rapid workplace changes

Akhilesh Tripathi is the global head of Digitate, a software venture of Tata Consultancy Services. He has been a driving force since the venture’s inception and is critical to global revenue generation and service delivery. Previously, as the head of TCS Canada, Akhilesh drove the Canadian entity to be among the top 10 IT services company in its market. His 23-year career with TCS also includes his role as the head of enterprise solutions and technology practices for TCS North America. In that role, he led the management of strategic alliances with software vendors, and participated on the advisory councils of several strategic vendor partners

Most large enterprises rely on a globally connected ecosystem of workforce, workplace, technology and other key resources for their business operations. Not surprisingly, they have very robust business continuity plans (BCP) in place to protect their human capital, technology and other critical resources. Their plans address many scenarios – from geopolitical to cybersecurity, connectivity, climate or natural calamity related issues. That’s not to mention issues with business partners, travel and transportation or as in our current situation, an epidemic – and they look at 30, 60 and 90-day period.

The current pandemic has severely put BCP plans to test on all parameters, simultaneously, and with no end date in sight – a scenario not envisaged by anyone. Not surprisingly, after a mad scramble and heroics to overcome the crisis, organisations are now determining how to maintain the relationship between work and workforce as the workplace has shifted from offices to remote location. While we have many unanswered questions, one thing is certain: it is not going to be the same again.

All aspects of the workplace are changing

When it comes to the workplace itself, both physical and virtual spaces are changing. The effort will be much more focused on our ability to predict and proscribe, with less focus on hindsight and more on foresight.

Workspaces are no longer confined to the boundaries of an enterprise. As a result, the fundamental assumptions and rules also change with respect to effective collaboration, velocity and productivity of teams, safety and security of enterprise data and intellectual property, governance and compliance, talent management and development, etc. Establishing secure relationship between the enterprise and remote borderless workspaces that address these challenges will be of critical importance. The physical office will also undergo transformation – including the inevitable changes that will go into effect because of COVID-19 to allow distancing. Some organisations may return to the closed-off cubicle scenario as opposed to an open-office floor plan, for instance. Others are finding ways to re-arrange furniture and re-route office traffic to allow for greater social distancing, and the communal candy dish will be a thing of the past.

The notion of work-life balance will undergo a change, too. The pandemic has forced a transition to remote work while many working parents have also had to try to balance homeschooling – it’s unlikely that things are going to completely return to how they used to be. Companies may also experiment with tactics like flexible hours to reduce the number of people in an office at any given time.

Positive change Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice, noted that “it is critical for business leaders to understand the large-scale shifts that are changing how people work and how business gets done. Then, they must apply this knowledge to their specific organisation so they can alter their strategy accordingly.”

This includes re-evaluating your conception of what a meeting should look like, whether it’s physical or digital, and using the power of collaboration. It also means being able to reach out to different stakeholders at different points in time without being constrained by the physical office, being able to operate in a much more asynchronous mode rather than a synchronous mode – accounting for distances, different time zones, etc.

AI and automation are driving the future of work

The COVID-19 pandemic has super-charged the adoption of AI and automation, which had already been rapidly changing the way we work. There’s no ignoring that the future of work is here, and it’s sink or swim in many cases. Organisations must adapt to thrive in this new economy and doing so successfully requires an acute understanding of how these changes are happening and the impact they are having on employees and job roles.

Communicating and collaborating with a variety of connected devices is what makes a digital workspace. Over-dependence on the traditional service desk remediation approach for managing an enterprise digital workspace thus becomes a recipe for disaster. The reason is simple: all existing service desk models are “reactive” to end-user issues. As McKinsey & Company has noted, “automation, digital platforms and other innovations are changing the fundamental nature of work. Understanding these shifts can help policy makers, business leaders and workers move forward.”

This is a key point. These technologies are not just the domain of tech teams; business leaders and senior executives must also have a nuanced understanding of how these are changing work and what implications they bring. They must be able to take charge of integrating them into their organizations’ day-to-day work life. This new way of working relies heavily upon and expects a great deal from IT applications. After all, it is these applications that help us do our work – transact, collaborate and learn. All such applications will now be held by all users to a higher standard of experience. This higher expectation is the perfect setting for the entry of automation and AI in organisations.

It’s even more important to ensure that the productivity of the remote workforce stays high and predictable now that almost all of the workforce is working remotely. The likelihood is high that new models of business and work will be adopted. So, resolving and preempting digital workspace issues with high turnaround time/mean-time-to-resolve is pivotal.

Moving from the workforce level to the enterprise level, in dealing with IT operations issues and incidents such as with virtual machines, databases, operating systems, storage, network equipment and all the way up to the http and other endpoints, AI-based automation will be the game changer.

Agile IT, agile workforce

No one knows what the future holds – certainly no one could have known what was coming to the world stage for 2020. The face of work has changed rapidly and dramatically, but agile organisations, those that can pivot quickly and find solutions to sudden challenges, will rise to the top. This includes working from home and, when employees are allowed to return to the office, making physical changes to ensure their ongoing safety. It also includes making changes on the back end to support higher levels of remote work and assistance with the IT applications that make the new normal possible.

As industry experts have noted, AI-driven automation will be a tremendous aid in creating a flexible and productive organisation.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech ExpoBlockchain ExpoAI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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