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Workplace networks must evolve to support digital ambitions

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The nature of work is changing. Remote working and mobility is on the rise. Employees looking for better work-life balance and flexible workstyles are driving organisations to embrace a mobility  mind-set, and empower their teams with flexible, collaborative and dynamic workspaces and tools to work securely from anywhere on any device.

Following the mantra ‘work is no longer somewhere you go, but something you do’, organisations are evolving from a traditional office environment to a digital workplace. But according to the 2017 Digital Workplace Report, IT leaders may be undervaluing, or taking for granted, technologies that are, in fact, vital to their digital transformation. Only 9% of organisations identify ubiquitous network access as the most important element of their digital workplace strategy, and only 27% place it in their top three. This is problematic. The network is a vital part of an organisation’s digital transformation initiative.

The network has become the fabric that supports the modern digital workplace and a vast array of sophisticated applications and services – everything from unified communication tools to smart building management, asset tracking, and wayfinding. It must be ready to address the needs of virtual and remote workers, nomadic workstyles and evolving, collaborative workspaces with sufficient bandwidth, well-configured quality-of-service policies, and constant availability.

As we move towards more user-centric computing, a modern workplace network can enhance and deliver better workforce productivity by integrating with the environment to prioritise business-critical applications. This is made possible by leveraging the benefits and features of new software-defined networking and intent-based networking technologies.

With the ability to autonomously implement and validate business policies in real time, intent-based networking uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to interpret business policy and uses software-defined networking to implement the changes. It can then analyse the environment to ensure that it is performing as intended by network administrators. The consequence of a policy-based approach to networking is that it enhances the security of the environment. By clearly defining which users have access to what applications, and from where, network security is inherently programmed into the modern network.

At the same time Wi-Fi has become the de facto connectivity method in the modern workplace. This is not the only technology that organisations are using to enhance their digital workplace. Technologies such as Bluetooth low energy and radio frequency identification are an essential part of providing an enhanced user experience through location analytics and presence.

My first piece of advice to anyone on the digital transformation path is not to be afraid of change. Whether your goal is to ensure your working environment is set up to effectively deal with the changing workforce, or to enhance user experience for your employees, this should be your guiding principal. Change is happening, and you should be investing to take advantage of new technologies so you remain relevant and competitive. Working with a partner like Dimension Data to understand and identify the areas of change that are most important to the business will ensure you achieve the business outcome you are looking for. In addition to helping design appropriate wireless network solutions, we can offer services that help you bridge the gap between current skills and resources and what you need to do to transform your business.

It’s also important to recognise that these kinds of infrastructure transformations can be done in phases. Regardless of the path you take, investing in new technologies is becoming critical to delivering the kinds of experience that employees and customers expect, whether it’s in retail, health care, or even business engagement. To leverage these technologies, you need to understand what’s available to you, and to do that, you need to work with IT specialists like Dimension Data.

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