Enterprise IT professionals are engineers by disposition. We calculate, plan and, most importantly, test. Penetration testing, stress testing, integration testing, acceptance testing, performance testing – the list goes on.
However, if a CIO proposed that every employee be sent home immediately and indefinitely to see if the enterprise’s systems would hold up, that wouldn’t be considered a test – it would be considered outrageous.
And yet, that’s exactly what happened just over a year ago. It wasn’t a conference room white-board pilot or a war game, it was a real-life moment in time in which the capabilities of every IT stack were laid bare. The technology foundations of enterprises around the globe were put to a very real, very high-stakes test.
And, remarkably, in the United States most enterprise IT systems came through with flying colors. Sure, there was an adjustment period, but infrastructure and connectivity held up almost across the board. For those CIOs who fared so admirably through this challenge, they’ve earned a new level of credibility to shape the business agenda moving forward.
Now we’ve emerged on the other side into a new world – one that looks very different from the one we left behind a year ago. Our new hybrid business future will be about more than flexible working arrangements – the digital and physical worlds will be more blended than ever before, presenting new opportunities for growth, product innovation, and customer delight. That brings with it, of course, increased reliance on digital tools and data to conduct and empower business.
The businesses that will be best suited to meet the challenges of a truly hybrid future are the ones that will continue to advance and optimize their technology foundation. At Comcast Business, we know that businesses have big ambitions and they need to be ready to meet the future – whatever it brings. That requires a technology foundation flexible enough to support whatever comes next for your business.
We know that cybersecurity threats will continue to become more frequent and sophisticated. And as the adoption of digital transactions and processes rise alongside cloud computing, the potential harm from attacks will continue to climb.
Those demands usher in the need for new comprehensive solutions that marry advanced networking with security. Cloud-based security frameworks that combine software-defined networking with security functions, known as Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), allow enterprises to securely expand their perimeter, ensuring secure access to services no matter where users are located and where applications are hosted.
While security is table-stakes, employee and customer experiences will be differentiators.
While most employees dearly miss in-person human interaction, they have also come to appreciate many aspects of working remotely. And, most companies report productivity has not significantly declined during the pandemic. Expect the new normal to feature hybrid working environments, with an increased need for digital interaction between those working in an office and those working remotely. Traditional conference rooms and meetings simply won’t cut it – they need to be reimagined.
Customer experience was already a top brand differentiator before the pandemic, supplanting price, quality, and other factors in earning customer loyalty and wallet share. During the pandemic, the pace of innovation of digital customer experiences skyrocketed for all types of businesses. Experiences that have been talked about for decades, such as telemedicine, fast and on-demand home delivery, and touchless check-out, became commonplace.
Innovations in virtual and hybrid customer engagement, personalization, payment processing, mobile, inventory management, touchless everything, all demand adaptive technology, processes, and workflows.
As employees and customers went remote, so did applications. Not surprisingly, in retrospect, in 2020 businesses reported much higher cloud usage and spend than expected before the pandemic. Data storage needs, as well as software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings will continue to proliferate, and the move to the cloud will continue to accelerate.
However, as employees and customers venture back to physical business locations, so will certain applications. For example, latency requirements to run some 5G networks require processing close to the radios, and we can expect to see other latency-critical applications, such as robotics and high-definition interactive video, to pull computing back from the cloud to the edge. While improvements in WiFi and reductions in physical link latency will improve cloud application performance and be sufficient for most computing, there will continue to be new applications that are too latency-sensitive to operate remotely.
Moreover, as the connection between the cloud and the edge becomes increasingly important, IT departments will need to leverage best-of-breed last-mile networking tools to create flexible and application-aware networks that can route traffic intelligently.
Bandwidth. Without a doubt, the need for more bandwidth will not abate anytime soon. Secure, reliable, high-performance connectivity from, to, and in between applications, data warehouses, partners, and customers will be even more important going forward.
Advanced cybersecurity. As endpoints multiply and network perimeters expand, organizations will invariably become exposed to new risks. The most effective way to counter an ever-evolving slate of threats will be through some combination of employee education, advanced security, and trusted partners to augment IT teams with managed services. Advanced security includes capabilities like application-aware firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, and secure web gateway are a few examples.
Secure access. Far-flung workforces are the norm, but we haven’t yet replicated the in-office experience in remote settings. To mirror the convenience and security of the office, organizations will need to implement remote connectivity, identity management, endpoint bandwidth assurance, endpoint security, traffic management, remote monitoring, and more.
Agility and flexibility – at scale. Legacy networks are simply no longer viable. Enterprise IT teams need the capability to manage multiple and diverse network connections through a single pane of glass. As companies continue to transform how they operate, the application-centric routing and prioritization capabilities of software-defined networking will be crucial.
Extending, enhancing, and securing your network technology foundation will help enable better customer and employee experiences, business agility, operational efficiency, and risk management. There’s a lot to do. And we know there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.
As an IT leader who navigated the trials of the pandemic, you are empowered (and expected) to prepare for what’s next. A strong technology partner will help optimize your current technology to set the foundation for digital business growth. At Comcast Business, we can help. Learn more today.