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Why rapid remote working roll-out could impact long-term business success

As nations across the world grapple to contain the impact of the Coronavirus, governments, organisations and individuals have been responding to calls from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for social distancing. With the pandemic already bearing an unprecedented economic impact, there has been an incredible need for organisations – especially in essential sectors such as government, healthcare, education and banking and finance – to maintain business continuity. Remote working has therefore becoming more important than ever. In this feature Steve Joyner, Managing Director UK&I, Avaya, explains.

Technology is the fundamental enabler of this paradigm shift in workforce distribution but while the rapid uptake of free consumer tools may provide a quick solution to organisations looking to expediently roll-out remote working initiatives, they could impede an organisation’s long-term success. For example, given employees’ familiarity with consumer-grade video collaboration solutions, it may be easy to now get them to use these when communicating and collaborating with their colleagues and customers. However, these solutions often lack the security, scalability and features that are essential to true enterprise collaboration. Once procedures have been set and behaviours adopted, changing these could be a major challenge. We’ve learned this lesson before with the rise of shadow IT and even today IT teams battle to ensure employees use official file sharing applications rather than unregulated alternatives such as personal email, USB drives or cloud-storage applications.

While these are undoubtedly challenging times for businesses, budgetary pressures shouldn’t skew good decision making. While attractive, just being ‘free’ shouldn’t be a sufficient reason to favour a certain solution. Just as before, organisations will need to properly evaluate every option – free or otherwise – and ultimately pick the solution that best fits their established IT strategy while meeting both near and long-term business objectives.

Why? Because when trial periods end or when business returns to normal, there’s the very real risk of organisations being ‘locked-in’ to their rushed decisions. After all, once time and effort has already been invested into successfully implementing and integrating even a free solution, it could be challenging – both from a resource as well as a technical perspective – to rip-out and replace it when it eventually falls short of business requirements.

While it might almost seem impossible to find a silver lining to the current crisis, there is in fact opportunity for IT teams to channel the immense pressure they are under into a water-tight business case for building a remote working strategy that is designed for long term success. The writing has been on the wall for a while now and even prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, leading research firm, Gartner, had predicted that by 2023, only one-third of workers will choose the office as their preferred working location.

So, while at present, there’s dire need for organisations to implement work-from-home initiatives, there’s also an opportunity for them to take a more strategic approach, thereby making themselves more appealing and suitable to the digital worker of tomorrow. The technology investments organisations make today will serve to not only ensure business continuity and employee productivity in times of crisis, but also enhance their experiences as the very nature of how employees work itself evolves.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine