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The roadmap for hybrid-workplace digital transformation

October 21, 2021

Srini CR   

Chief Digital Officer

Chief Information Officers now need to drive deeper cultural and technological transformation for effective hybrid work and powerful business growth (Raconteur, 2021). In this piece Srini CR, Chief Digital Officer at Tata Communications, discusses how businesses can navigate their way through the technological challenges of a hybrid workplace model.

In the first six months of the pandemic, enterprises were challenged with actively addressing their infrastructure and operational needs to enable a rapid shift to secure remote working. However, over the last few months, the focus has shifted to optimising and securing this new model. The challenge now if to ensure a better user experience, improve productivity and manage security. Enterprises now require a new approach to achieve desired success as processes go digital in a hybrid world. In this blog we will explore the technological and cultural roadmap to a hybrid workplace.

A recent global survey of CxO’s from 750 organisations conducted by Tata Communications reveals that 90% of the organisations are yet to achieve their digital first goals, while 41% believes a shift to digital-first operating models helped avoid loss in their market share.

The benefits of adopting a digital-first model are evident, but many organisations are still in the early stages of their journey and struggling with legacy processes, technologies and mindset. We believe that acceleration of this transformation will require focus on three areas- building agility, leveraging data and building digital trust.

Building Agility:

Digital transformation in a hybrid world requires agility from the organisation. Agile operating models and processes enable businesses to respond to unpredictable and sudden changes in the environment quickly and effectively. Building an agile operating model requires a reassessment of technology, people, and processes. It can also entail significant changes to business models driven by changes in both customer and employee expectations.

“An agile enterprise builds a culture of innovation resulting in shortened product cycles and continuous improvement.”

Process transformation underpinned by automation is another prerequisite for increasing agility. The starting point is looking at pre-existing workflows on the system and deciding which can be automated, and how far this can go, to make them more efficient, more intelligent and more resilient. Enterprises are investing in AI and machine learning (ML), and robotic process automation (RPA) to enhance process efficiencies. As an example, we at Tata Communications are transforming new joiner experiences through a virtual induction program, while EVA – our new HR mobile app powered by AI provides seamless access to HR policies and processes to our employees on the go.

This process transformation needs to be accompanied by an organisation change management effort as gaining greater adoption of the new digitally transformed processes remains one of the biggest challenges. For instance, there may be a new AI-enabled process that employees are asked to use, but adoption will only improve if they feel confident about the algorithm and functionalities. So here, user education and information is the key to success of the workplace transformation project. For example, a French wines & spirits company managed this extraordinarily well as a strategic adoption roadmap of Microsoft Teams enabled its people to work just as effectively from home as they did from the office or from operational locations.

Democratising Data:

It is now cliché to say that ‘data is the new oil’, but the importance of data in fuelling this phase of transformation and growth cannot be overstated. The amount of data collected by enterprises is growing at a fast clip (some analysts estimate that it’s growing by over 50% YoY). Yet, most of this data remains unutilised.

“The ability to instantly access and understand data will translate into faster decision making and that will translate into a more agile organisation.”

Data management and analysis are now critical foundational abilities. Also, making sure the right people have access to the right data at the right time irrespective of where they are, will determine efficiency and efficacy of decision making in this hybrid world.

Enhancing Security:

The rising adoption of a hybrid workplace models has increased the security threats across the entire IT landscape, phishing attacks have increased, firmware attacks are on the rise, and ransomware has become incredibly problematic. Microsoft intercepted and thwarted a record-breaking 30 billion email threats in 2021.

Most companies have an increasingly complex IT estate with their infrastructure on cloud – public or private and also on premise. Previously, the trust boundary was the office, but of course that has now disappeared in favour of hybrid work environments. The challenge for CIOs/CISOs now involves enabling the same level of security and trust for teams irrespective of where they operate from. Weak links in the security chain of the company need to be addressed without impacting user experience as multiple software/security agents on desktops or laptops increase complexity and impact performance.

“Securing digital infrastructure, enabling zero-trust access, proactive threat management and addressing governance and compliance risks will necessary to minimise business risk and improve performance.”

The pandemic has offered many businesses the opportunity to accelerate their digital transformation. Some enterprises were already allowing employees to work from home, but it’s the scale and capacity requirements that have changed. For example, acceptance of virtual interactions has increased significantly and can potentially replace face-to-face interactions.

With people, resources and technology enablement all coming together, enterprises can completely transform their customer and employee engagement models. This journey is certainly not easy as the complexities of process, people and technology transformation will require specialised skills which are already in short supply. CIOs and IT leaders will need to build a partner ecosystem and work with a range of partners who bring together the right tools and skills.

Digital transformation in the hybrid world has never been more important. It’s not about showcasing technology; it’s about practical innovation – right now.

For more information on this, read our eBook Accelerate Your Workplace Evolution.