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Navigating the journey to a reconfigured, hybrid workplace

How to deal with technology challenges to realise the benefits of digital transformation for your organisation

For the past 16 years, leading managed IT and cloud service provider Innovate has been helping companies around Ireland to deal with ICT challenges and realise the benefits of digital transformation.

These challenges have increased quite dramatically over the year, according to Innovate co-founder and CEO, Jim Hughes. “We have seen many changes and disruptions over that time,” he says. “But this is probably the biggest single technological shift in such a short space of time that anyone has ever seen. I am incredibly pleased that we were able to adapt and support our clients during this unprecedented transition.”

Innovate's core specialism in security, cloud services, networking, cloud telephony, and collaboration have come to the fore over the past fifteen months as our clients struggled to deal with the rapid shift to remote working and the consequential changes imposed on their operations.

“How to use technology has changed quite radically as a result of Covid-19,” says Hughes. “One of the biggest challenges facing an organisation now is connectedness. How do we give people who are working remotely the same opportunities to be part of the corporate culture? We have built up considerable expertise in that area over the years.”

What is shaping the future workplace?

There is also the question of what shape the workplace of the future might take. “Our clients are telling us that as staff come back to the office it is now primarily for meetings and collaborative purposes and they are quite happy to continue to do certain tasks from home. Office layouts are morphing to more collaborative spaces as well as being made up of individual desk spaces.”

The enforced shift to home working caught many organisations off balance. “In March last year people had no choice but to make the switch and they were at various stages of readiness for it,” Hughes notes. “Some already had all of their IT services and infrastructure securely in the cloud and that made the transition much easier. Others had to use their own devices because they didn’t have the infrastructure to underpin and support the move to home working.”

We understand technology, we understand organisational change

For many it was a time of panic and significant short-term investment in technology to immediately sustain their operation. “Now people are asking how they can make strategic technological investments to drive organisational strategy while offering staff a flexible, secure working environment thereby increasing overall productivity. It is now about creating a winning long-term strategy for our clients and their people.”

They are also asking questions as to the future of the office. “Organisations had no choice but to move to remote working. They thought it would be short-term initially. What does the office look like going forward?  It certainly has a significant role when it comes to corporate culture and collaboration. For a lot of organisations, it will mean a reconfiguration to enable the best of both worlds - a hybrid operation.

Innovate is helping its clients navigate the journey to this reconfigured, hybrid workplace. “Cloud services are at the core of what we do,” Hughes explains. “Our customers can have their systems running in the cloud and all their information stored securely there.”

Your office number goes wherever you go

But that is just the beginning. With cloud telephony services each user can have a number which follows them everywhere regardless of where they are working. “Work is something you do, not necessarily a place you always go to,” Hughes notes. “With IP telephony your number goes with you wherever you go. It is not like the old phone systems out there which do not give any flexibility and require a technician to make changes to the configuration. With cloud telephony there is no more frustration when inbound calls can’t be transferred by the person who answered it.”

It is key for organisations to have a telephony solution such as Webex Calling where meetings, calling and messaging can all be integrated giving everyone the feeling of being together in the room. And configuring these systems could hardly be easier. For example, Webex Calling comes with a QR code which is assigned to each individual user. Accessing the code automatically pulls down the configuration from the cloud with all the user’s personal settings, phone books and so on.

Innovate also offers Microsoft Teams integration with cloud telephony systems. That reflects the growing importance of video communications in the new work environment.

“Video is all-pervasive now and is part of the new normal,” says Hughes.

But the importance of the underlying network is critically important to the delivery of these services. “One of our key strengths at Innovate is that we have both cloud and network expertise, and we can offer the applications that deliver the best high-quality video experience.”

Securing data, email and mobiles

Security is another strength. “Security is always top of mind with everything we do. Securing applications like our clients’ email system is so important. We also help people get more out of their Microsoft licences in terms of security. The mobile device management features are fantastic, for example. Many people didn’t see the relevance of those features up until now.”

Our solutions are designed to meet the specific needs of the individual client

He points to Cisco Umbrella as a good example of cloud security. This cloud-delivered network security service provides users with a first line of defence against cybersecurity threats.

And all these services are available on a pay-as-you-use basis making them accessible to organisations of all sizes. “Gone are the days when you had to pay for a minimum number of users to be able to avail of a service offering,” Hughes notes. “You can have as many or as few users as you want with our services. One of the big benefits of the cloud is the fact that it can be used cost effectively by entities of all sizes. It flexes with your organisation, and you can reconfigure it as often as you like.”

The other key benefit of the cloud is that it brings world class expertise within reach for all organisations. “Our clients get access to our talented team of professionals at Innovate who keep themselves constantly up to date with the latest developments,” Hughes concludes. “We understand technology, we understand organisational change, and we have worked with entities of all sizes across just about every sector. Our solutions are based on that experience and expertise and are designed to meet the specific needs of the individual client.”