As the government roadmap continues to pan out, it’s clear that remote working is here to stay, whether with some employees now based at home full-time, or a new, hybrid model with colleagues going to a workplace on a part-time basis.
A CIPD study predicts that permanent remote working is set to double from pre-pandemic levels, which means that we now need to look at long-term IT strategies to help support these new operational practices.
More than one year after the outbreak of the crisis, housing providers are finding that the ‘knee-jerk’ systems put in place to quickly allow employees to fulfil their roles from their own homes are not sustainable in the longer term. As a result, they are now assessing what infrastructure is needed to support a secure and effectual user experience.
Why is a seamless experience important?
It’s often said that the best technology is that which the everyday worker doesn’t even notice because it runs so efficiently, without a second thought being given to it. This means that users should be able to log on from their home or office (or from anywhere, within policy parameters) and still have access to the same systems, files and platforms that allow them to fulfil their roles.
This means that any employee, regardless of the level of their digital skills, will have enhanced productivity – creating dynamic operational processes and, ultimately, an improvement on a firm’s bottom line.
How do I cultivate this?
It can be difficult to know where to start, but every plan needs a solid foundation; that’s where your overall organisational strategy comes in. Assess your current roadmap, objectives and vision, then ask yourself, “what infrastructure do I need to meet these goals, now and in the future?”
Next, perform an audit and review of your current environment to assess where you are now. Are your existing systems suitable, and will they stand the test of time?
Equally importantly, talk to the people who use the technology themselves. Running user groups to gain feedback on current issues and frustrations is a great way to find those immediate pain points that can be quickly resolved, plus this process can often uncover issues that might not have been considered by the IT team.
Moving to the design phase
Once you have gathered all this data and carried out a gap analysis to identify what needs changing, you can then embark on the design phase. This will help you understand exactly how you can achieve that change, including the scope and cost of the work that needs to be carried out, in order to meet your business objectives.
The plan can then be put into action, and your internal or external IT resources can plan and implement a seamless transition of the identified changes.
Your current systems might just need to be tweaked or updated because your infrastructure is up to the task of managing a workforce that isn’t fully office-based. However, in some cases, it could be a full overhaul of both hardware and software.
Staff at home may need new devices and platforms to work from, so housing providers also need to consider connectivity and server capacity, both remote and on site. This is crucial to not only creating a seamless IT experience, but also one in which a worker can be productive and efficient.
And of course, your cyber security will need to be reviewed. There’s nothing quite like ransomware or a phishing attack to put a dampener on your user’s digital experience when attempting to work from home.
Have I achieved a great user experience?
The only way to know if you’ve accomplished your goal of creating a seamless experience is by asking the users themselves, again! The user groups should reconvene to provide feedback on whether the targets were met and if the issues raised in the initial sessions have now been resolved.
Another way to identify if the project has been successful is through the monitoring of service-desk enquiries. Considerably fewer support tickets being raised is usually a sign that employees are having no problems with the new systems, notwithstanding any teething issues.
It can be incredibly daunting to begin a new project like this, but it’s worth remembering that such a project can future-proof your IT infrastructure, provide efficiencies of scale for business operations, and even improve team morale.
Mike Dunleavy is the client director at Central (Central Networks & Technologies).