The last 12 months have fundamentally shifted the way that we think about the concept of ‘work’. And, as a result, the future has never been harder to predict. Whilst some leading brands - including Facebook, Uber and Microsoft - are already making plans to return to the office, others - like Twitter - have made it clear that remote working practices are here to stay long term. As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, it has become apparent that 2021 will be a turning point in terms of how teams across a wide range of industries operate moving forward.
Andrew Filev is Senior Vice President and Wrike General Manager, Citrix.
However, by focusing on what the future might look like at such a granular level, many businesses are failing to see the steps that need to take place today. Regardless of whether a business chooses to implement a remote, hybrid or office-based environment, collaboration and productivity will be at the heart of ensuring its success. Therefore, in some respects, location is almost irrelevant.
The most important thing is that the technologies businesses choose to invest in today, need to support the workforce of tomorrow, no matter where they log on from. Therefore, the CIOs and IT management departments responsible for selecting these technologies will be at the heart of leading the charge to a successful, collaborative future. They are the unsung heroes of the future of work.
The next chapter
The outbreak of the pandemic undoubtedly put CIOs and IT professionals in the hot seat. With the sudden and unprecedented switch to a ‘work from home’ model, IT teams around the world were tasked with building the solutions needed to ensure business continuity and keep employees connected. In the majority of cases, this needed to happen almost overnight.
The ‘first wave’ of tech investments during the early stage of the pandemic focused on enabling basic, secure communications between remote teams, clients, and vendors. This led to a surge in the deployment of communications platforms, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom, along with the infrastructure needed to support these platforms.
Although these tools certainly helped with survival in those first uncertain months, fast forward to today and many businesses are dealing with complex distributed work environments and an array of unorganized applications, communication channels and devices. Almost instant rollout, although necessary at the time, has led to some level of confusion and many of the technologies and tools businesses invested in initially are now getting in the way of efficiency.
Therefore, it is time for a second wave of digital transformation. This will likely see a greater number and variety of innovations than the first, as organizations look to move beyond the basic IT infrastructure implemented and invest in the solutions that will support their future operations. The focus will pivot from survival to long-term success – it is up to IT teams to guide organizations through this next transition. They will be responsible for building new strategies and leading the way.
The future workplace
As attention turns towards the future, post-pandemic business world, where employees will be located moving forward is high on every boardroom agenda. Whilst some organizations, like Goldman Sachs for example, have already firmly stated their intentions, others are yet to decide. But architecting the future workplace needs to be about more than just where employees are logging on from. Regardless of whether a workforce is remote, in-office or even hybrid, there needs to be strategies and solutions in place to support collaboration and productivity. It is only then that a business can be prepared for every eventuality.
A priority for IT teams will be to find and implement the next generation of digital workplace solutions that can support employees whether they are in office or remote. Collaborative work management tools can help to ensure a certain level of transparency throughout an organization, enabling teams to share information and make sure everyone is on the same page, regardless of location. They ensure that individuals remain accountable for the tasks that they are responsible for and also make it easier to stick to deadlines. These technologies can even help to prevent feelings of isolation by connecting teams, allowing them to regularly catch up online and feel a sense of shared accomplishment as projects are marked complete and company-wide goals are met.
IT teams should look for platforms that incorporate capabilities like project risk predictions, task prioritization and tagging. By using AI to provide recommendations to streamline operations, these features enable teams to focus on the work that really matters. The strategic insights that they provide can help set an organization apart in the competitive landscape.
Additionally, integration and flexibility are critical when looking for the right digital workplace solutions. Businesses need to implement a system that has the integrations needed to optimize workflows and minimize the time spent switching between tools or looking for assets. This will enable teams to maximize productivity.
Although the last year has been challenging for businesses across every sector, it also gave CIOs and IT teams the opportunity to take the reins and lead from the front. Whilst the initial shift to remote working was rushed and chaotic, it has created a new platform for change and innovation. There is no way to predict what the future of work will look like, but it’s safe to say that the IT team will be at its heart. The technologies and strategies that they invest in today will support the workforce of tomorrow and, ultimately, determine a business’s future success.
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