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With company employees widely dispersed from offices to the network edge in new hybrid workplace environments, CIOs and other IT decision makers must navigate a variety of challenges. We spoke to industry expert Yanick Pouffray, Chief Technologist for IoT services at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), about this new reality.
How has the global pandemic impacted HPE and its customers, especially as some employees are now returning to offices?
We have gone through multiple phases to help our customers through their pandemic journey. When the pandemic started, we put together solutions to address the need for many employees to work remotely. That campaign was centered around employees and their requirements to continue to be productive, to collaborate, and to have the right security framework.
Then, as the pandemic initially eased, the second phase of our activity was centered around helping companies bring some employees safely back to work. In addition to addressing safety issues such as adhering to social distancing and performing contact tracking, there were a lot of activities around creating a touchless workplace and performing fever detection.
Beyond such safety concerns, enterprises wanted help with using technology to augment returning workers with technology such as immersive rich media and improved workplace alerting and information sharing.
Still, many companies are facing a new normal where most of their workers will be edge workers, remote workers. The companies are asking, “How do I build a hybrid model for this new workplace that provides the right framework for combining remote work with safe, in-person work in a borderless, fluid way?”
Even though companies have been forced into this new workplace reality, can they ultimately benefit from this “new normal?”
Absolutely, because this pandemic is forcing the enterprise to put its employees journey at the center. They need to think, “How do I empower my employees?” “How do I deliver the right tools and capabilities so that they can productively deliver the right outcomes?” “How do I keep my employees safe?”
This is going to force employers to rethink the way their workers are operating when doing their daily tasks. We’ll see a new division of labor, where many tasks will be done less manually, either augmented or fully automated. Workers will be augmented with immersive rich media so, for example, they can turn on video and collaborate with others in a seamless manner.
How are companies adapting to this new reality?
This pandemic has created a major reset on everybody’s digital agenda. It’s forcing enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives and the move to hybrid workplaces so that their employees can be safe, successful, productive, and happy.
In this new world, companies are going to be competing more for the best talent. Those that are able to provide a borderless, fluid workplace that enables employees to work anywhere, anytime in a safe manner will be better able to retain and attract talent.
What are some of the main challenges facing CIOs and other IT decision makers?
Even as some workers return to offices, the number of remote workers has dramatically increased. This hybrid work environment has profound consequences for IT, which needs to adapt accordingly.
Because some people are required to be in the office, companies need to think about things such as touchless entry, fluid access to conference rooms, and the number of people in different physical zones.
At the same time, with more remote workers and fewer people on site, IT needs to think about facility optimizations and how employees will need to consume IT.
Fundamentally, this will require resilient and secure connectivity that can help you deal with the variability of requirements. What’s connected where? Do I have the right compute? Are my VPNs of the right capability to support my workers who are distributed around the globe? Do I have artificial choke points? etc.
IT also needs to modernize their device management for employees as well as their authentication processes. They need to be thinking about what it means to deploy more virtual desktop platforms, which many companies will do as a way to better keep sensitive information in a corporate data center.
One additional hurdle for many companies that have introduced a lot of customizations on top of off-the-shelf solutions they use. With today’s highly rapid, ever-evolving environment, they need to think about reducing this customization, to allow for the automatic upgrades and enhancement of capabilities.
IT needs to work with a broader range of stakeholders to address all of these workplace changes, correct?
Absolutely. HR is a critical stakeholder because employees are at the center of this journey. Given the issues around returning to work and workplace safety, global real estate departments are also key players. They, IT and others all need to work together with the goal of ensuring that the business is able to thrive.
And let’s not forget the employees. It’s really important to think about how we can help them navigate this change. With the new technologies there are sometimes concerns about privacy. Those concerns need to be addressed up front so that a new level of trust can be established between employees and employer.
If you deal with this up front, you can help your employees embrace and navigate the necessary change in processes and culture.
What is HPE’s approach to solving these challenges, and how is it partnering with Intel in this regard?
It’s all about re-imagining people’s function in the workplace and about creating a more intelligent edge. To solve business problems, you’ll need to augment your workers. To do that, you’re going to need to bridge physical and digital world. You need IoT (internet of things) solutions so you can leverage the data, the insight that is sitting at the edge and drive real time actions.
Fundamentally, the intelligent edge is about extracting critical insights to help remote workers and the business be more productive. Hybrid work solutions are very often based on rich media, and these solutions are very demanding in terms of both compute and networking.
For these demands, you need sophisticated software as well as hardware acceleration, which are the capabilities that HPE and Intel provide together. It’s almost like having a set of scalable building blocks, both in terms of hardware and software, that enables us to build these solutions.
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Yanick Pouffary is a distinguished technologist and serves as chief technologist for IoT and edge services within HPE Pointnext Services, focusing on digital transformation, innovation, and emerging trends. Yanick draws upon three decades of experience in the IT industry and has extensive experience in the development of networking products, services, and technologies.
Over 15,000 scalable, repeatable end-user edge deployments and counting. Anchored on Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, Intel helps you build a secure and resilient edge with the most diverse edge-ready compute, connectivity, memory, and storage technologies built on open standards and APIs, with fully optimized software and zero-trust security. Intel provides edge technology you can trust—anywhere.