IT is rapidly changing. For the last decade, every company, now in the business of technology, has been experiencing growing shifts towards automation, decentralised technology budgets, adoption of cloud-based services and even the adoption of AI.
By Ronald Ravel, director B2B at Dynabook South Africa
Since the pandemic, these shifts have become more pronounced and more apparent. Technology continues to free workers from routine tasks, from warehouse to C-suite. Business decisions are beginning to be offloaded to machines, as huge amounts of data get ingested in real time. Workplace setups have changed forever as increasing numbers of workers shift to permanent remote working or hybrid setups. With location now less of a barrier to work, organisations face more competition for the best candidates.
When considering their IT infrastructure and updating technologies, IT teams must also think about how their business can stay ahead of the pace of technology and continue to thrive in the new normal.
While technology has always been an enabler, it is important to consider which technologies need our attention at the moment, and how they will carry us through the new normal. We’ve broken down the technologies currently shaping the future of IT infrastructure, and take a look at its long-term impacts:
AI, automation, and IoT. These are the technologies poised to disrupt every industry and the future of IT infrastructure in every workplace. While these technologies are certainly not new concepts, advances in both machine and deep learning mean that AI is poised to transform virtually every industry.
According to IDC by 2022, 80% of organisations that shift to a hybrid business model will spend 4x more on AI-enabled and secure edge infrastructure to deliver business agility and insights in real time.
Our own research backs up this prediction: we found that 52% of European ITDMs say purchasing decisions around AI and machine learning solutions are more important now than pre-pandemic. This was broken down into: 59% for wearable devices, 60% automation technology and 52% for edge computing solutions.
To stay relevant in this new world, organisations will need to improve their speed to market, gain and utilise insights into how their customers want to use their services, and manage the pace of technological change and customer expectations.
Edge computing solutions for example, can combine with next-generation wearable devices such as smart glasses to bring AI and IoT into various professional environments. Indeed, 63% of organisations from our own research said they were likely to deploy smart glasses within next three years, with improved mobile working behind 47% of these decisions.
Welfare technology tends to be a catch-all term for technologies that improve the lives of those who need it. As working patterns become increasingly remote and home-based, these technologies are becoming more and more shifted towards the prioritisation of employee wellbeing – in other words, providing the tools for a proper home working home setup, and appropriate collaboration tools to ensure engagement.
Naturally, the most obvious welfare (and business) need is communication. This is why tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex have all seen exponential growth in the past 18 months. But these tools are about much more than just productivity – they can also play a vital role in employee wellbeing by providing virtual team building opportunities.
According to our research, only 30% say offering support for employee well-being is a priority when it comes to increasing remote workforce productivity. But this is not necessarily the right approach – happier employees are more likely to be engaged and productive, so implementation of remote technology to keep your workforce connected and engaged is vital to begin thinking about for the future.
Naturally, when it comes to technology, hardware is just as important as software. Small details such as ergonomic chairs, keyboards and mice can play a huge role in supporting an increasingly mobile workforce, and careful consideration must be given to laptops in particular – one of the key gamechangers in the new remote-working reality.
Equipment for employees that are based at home, or a mixture of at home and in the office, need to fulfil four main criteria. The first is portability. The modern-day enterprise workforce needs more lightweight devices that are easy to carry around, particularly if they are working on the move, or balancing remote with on-site work. Indeed, our research found that portability was the most important feature for 70% of business purchases when thinking about laptop buying decisions.
The second criteria is durability. Lightweight equipment also needs to be robust to both lighten the load on IT support, and to enable optimum productivity for workers. Rigid and carefully engineered laptops with extensive battery life is crucial for workers to be able to remain agile while staying online as and when they need it. This was seen as one of the most important features for 71% of respondents.
The third (and arguably most important) is security. 81% of our respondents considered laptop security when making purchasing decisions and it is easy to see why. With most tasks being carried out online, and without the security protections in place that are provided within office settings, workers are more vulnerable to cyber-attacks than ever before. Security firm Darktrace found that throughout 2020:
- Ransomware was found in 27% of malware incidents – up from 24% in 2019
- 18% of organizations reported a ransomware attack
- There was a 630% increase in cloud-based attacks in the first half of 2020
Finally, IT equipment, including accessories, needs to satisfy a fourth criteria: user needs for simplicity and ease of use. With less office-based collaboration, hardware support needs to be simple and straightforward to relieve burden on already stretched IT teams and improve the experience of remote workers. And with 74% of European IT decision makers agreeing that purchasing decisions around laptops are more important now than before the pandemic, it is clear this trend is set to continue.
Shifting to the new normal has provided the potential for millions of technology companies to improve their operations. However, foresight of new technologies, employee wellbeing and carefully selected hardware is critical for this transition to work successfully. In the face of unprecedented transformation, it is necessary to reconsider how we work, and how technology can help business leaders learn from these changes and stay ahead of the curve.