Hybrid work gained traction as a concept during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is “clearly here to stay”, according to a Cisco executive.
Speaking during the networking vendor’s Cisco Live conference, Dave West, president of Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China, said hybrid work is arguably “the most compelling shift to emerge from the global disruption”.
“It's clearly here to stay,” he said.
Citing the networking vendor’s Cisco Global Hybrid Work Study 2022 study, West claimed over 82 per cent of surveyed employees believe remote working has made them happier, as well as six in 10 saying that they are more productive when working remotely.
“In a hybrid world, connections mean everything across people, places and things. The quality of those connections will only be as good as the technology that underpins them," he said.
“Secure connections will power your success in the hybrid world. This will be your organisation's differentiator and a compelling way to drive growth and innovation for your business for years to come.”
The major touchpoints for where connections matter the most, West claimed, are businesses, customers and workforce. The focus on business, he said, revolves around the operational aspects of the business.
This includes how connections are used to drive greater automation, efficiency and productivity for running the business and monitoring systems in real-time to capture data and analytics, culminating in figuring out what’s working and what’s not working for the business.
“While all these connections are helping reduce operational costs, they can also be reducing your carbon footprint, creating more sustainable capabilities for your organisation,” he added.
On the customer front, West said to consider how business owners connect with them in new ways to products and services and to brand experiences in order to retain existing customers as well as bring in new ones.
As for the workforce, he said business owners should be asking how they connect their employees for future work through distributed locations, be it homes, offices or anywhere else, in a way that increases productivity.
“How do you ensure you are creating secure meaningful connections that will power your success in a new hybrid world? It requires the right technology platforms with security at the absolute front and centre,” West said.
“To succeed in a hybrid environment, organisations should aim to build a seamless journey across technology platforms. Whether it's modernising infrastructure and applications, moving your workforce to a fully hybrid operations, balancing your shift to cloud and then managing it all securely, there is a need for hardware, software and services to make this journey as effective as possible.”
With workplaces becoming less physical and more widespread, networks will need to be bolstered, as well as managed and monitored in real time, he continued, with policies needing to be created and deployed through automation.
“This is why every CIO has to think about how they transform their infrastructure with network at its core,” West added.
Such a method can include secure access service edge, or SASE, as the Cisco president said digital transformation and the shift to a distributed workforce are resulting in the need for access to resources anywhere at any time.
“SASE enables companies to operate effectively, particularly during times of disruption, providing secure high performance access to any application regardless of user location,” he said.
“The core functions include software defined wide area network, firewall-as-a-service, secure web gateway, cloud access security broker and zero trust network access. The SASE model consolidates all of these functions in a single integrated cloud service.”
Along with this comes the need for full stack observability, which moves beyond domain monitoring into full visibility, from infrastructure to applications, West said.
This, he continued, transforms siloed data into actionable insights, monitors cloud native, traditional and hybrid apps, gives insights into underlying dependencies and business impacts, as well enabling the identifying and blocking of security vulnerabilities.
West then brought the discussion to the hybrid cloud, as the increased focus on digitisation over the last two years has been powered in part by cloud technology.
“We know cloud isn't a single destination for businesses, it's a world of many clouds,” he said. “As you prioritise what you need and where you need it, many organisations will retain some on premises.
“Many will leverage multiple clouds across public, SaaS [software-as-a-service] and on prem. Others will modernise private cloud to optimise their data centres, some will shift to cloud managed, and some will opt for cloud first were all new apps are cloud native, and some will move 100 per cent to the cloud.”
Wrapping up, West added that the “most important aspect of hybrid work is of course, your people”.
“Hybrid work presents a compelling opportunity for businesses to foster not only more productivity and innovation but a more desirable company culture that will help profoundly,” he concluded.