As the contours of the professional world evolve, the hybrid work model has emerged as a trend that blends the traditional office environment with the flexibility of remote work. Organizations, spurred on by necessity, embraced remote work in a bid to keep their operations running. However, building an effective and seamless hybrid work environment requires careful consideration of strategy and technology. Implementing a “productivity anywhere” model requires a robust IT infrastructure and represents a sign of high-growth tech business. Only 68% of high-growth organizations have enabled this workforce model in 2022, but the good news is that it shows an upward trend compared with the previous year.
So, in this article, we explore the challenges faced by CIOs in creating a robust hybrid IT infrastructure and delve into data-driven best practices to guide them.
- Creating a hybrid work-friendly IT infrastructure is crucial for long-term success in the evolving work landscape.
- The hybrid work model, combining remote and in-office work, requires careful consideration of strategy and technology.
- Challenges faced by CIOs include tech complexity, lack of visibility, inefficiencies, security concerns, and user support.
- Best practices include simplifying infrastructure, streamlining digital workflows, building alignment across departments, developing a hybrid work framework, automating processes, integrating systems, adopting a hybrid cloud model, and ensuring user adoption.
- Implementing these best practices enables organizations to optimize productivity, efficiency, and data security in a hybrid work environment, positioning them for long-term success.
The Conundrum of Hybrid Work IT Infrastructure
A nuanced understanding of the problem necessitates a detailed exploration of the issues at play. According to Forbes, 72% of businesses lack a strategic approach to hybrid work, which poses considerable challenges for CIOs. There's a tug of war between managing the complexity of IT systems and maintaining cost efficiency. Moreover, tech workers grapple with hybrid IT complexity and a lack of visibility, among other issues. CIOs are at the forefront of these struggles, balancing cost efficiency with technology complexity, ensuring smooth workflows, maintaining high levels of employee support, and optimizing productivity, both in-office and off-site.
To fully grasp the scope of the problem, let's delve deeper into what holds CIOs back from setting up clear strategies for a hybrid work IT environment:
The transition to hybrid work models introduces complexities in managing diverse technologies and systems. CIOs must grapple with integrating different platforms, applications, and devices to ensure seamless collaboration between remote and in-office employees. This involves addressing compatibility issues, managing software versions, and establishing secure connections that accommodate various operating systems and network configurations.
Lack of Visibility
One of the challenges CIOs face in hybrid work environments is the limited visibility into remote work environments. It becomes more difficult to monitor and manage remote devices, network connections, and software usage. This lack of visibility can hinder troubleshooting efforts, impede performance monitoring, and pose security risks. CIOs must devise strategies to gain insights into remote setups, ensuring data privacy and compliance while maintaining operational efficiency.
Hybrid work can introduce inefficiencies that impact employee productivity. Inconsistent access to resources, communication gaps, and collaboration hurdles can arise when teams are split between remote and in-office settings. CIOs need to identify and address these inefficiencies, leveraging technology solutions that streamline workflows, improve communication channels, and foster seamless collaboration across distributed teams.
Security and Data Protection
With the distributed nature of hybrid work, ensuring data security and protection becomes paramount. CIOs must implement robust security measures, including secure access controls, data encryption, threat detection, and incident response protocols. They need to balance the need for security with user convenience and accessibility. According to EY’s Global Information Security Survey 2021, 43% of CISOs say that they have never been as concerned as they are now about their ability to manage the cyber threat.
Vulnerability management programs may not come cheap, but the cost of inadequate security can be much more staggering. Post-pandemic, 89% of CIOs report having shifted priorities to cybersecurity, in part because cybercrimes increased 600% in the last year.
User Experience and Support
CIOs must prioritize user experience and provide adequate support to ensure smooth operations in a hybrid work environment. This includes addressing technical issues promptly, offering user-friendly interfaces, providing training and documentation, and maintaining clear communication channels for assistance. One of the most important aspects to embracing the hybrid workforce is ensuring that there is no compromise in employee and employer experience no matter where the employee is located.
Setting Up Hybrid Work-Friendly IT Infrastructure: The Imperative
Now that the hybrid model is becoming the most popular option, it is important that businesses have a plan to support a long-term view that enables the hybrid workforce. This implies the need to reimagine IT infrastructure to support hybrid work, as the demands on IT infrastructure will only increase, emphasizing the importance of proactive technology initiatives.
Consequently, setting up an efficient, supportive IT infrastructure becomes crucial. The technology used must not only support collaborative work and seamless communication but also ensure security, data privacy, and regulatory compliance. By reconfiguring or enhancing the digital workplace to support hybrid work behaviors, leaders can create a system that harnesses insights from individuals working from anywhere and maximizes their contributions to the organization. A robust digital workplace facilitates improved collaboration across physical and digital spaces, fosters professional growth, and enhances employees' sense of belonging.
According to the Work Reimagined survey conducted in the Nordics, employees express a strong desire for improved digital assets that can streamline their work processes. The survey highlights that 51% of the employees in the Nordics are seeking better technology within office spaces, while 45% prioritize investments in home office "hardware." These findings indicate that employees in the Nordics already recognize and embrace the significance of a digital workplace in enabling efficient work practices.
It's no wonder that, as businesses continue to incorporate hybrid working models, the demands on IT infrastructure will only increase, emphasizing the importance of proactive technology initiatives!
Long-Lasting Technology Initiatives: Discussing the Data
A study by Foundry Co indicates that 71% of companies plan to make remote or hybrid work policies permanent. This decision necessitates further investment in IT infrastructure, especially since 69% of IT decision-makers agree that the work-from-home shift is impacting how they plan for overall office space, tech staffing and overall staffing.
CIOs need to prioritize long-lasting, flexible solutions that can adapt to changing needs and circumstances, rather than temporary stopgap measures. Their initiatives include:
- Maintaining a hybrid workforce (65%)
- Adopting new security solutions for remote work (63%)
- Investing in security and risk management (53%)
- Maintaining a remote workforce (53%), a remote IT workforce (50%)
- Increasing technology investment for improved customer and employee experiences (49%)
Investments will focus on enhanced security controls, collaboration and meeting tools, and hoteling applications that enable desk reservations. At the same time, it is of high importance for CIOs to adopt sustainable technology initiatives. This translates into looking for scalable, flexible, configurable, global, mobile, and open solutions to be future-ready. Today, organizations are embracing a hybrid work model. But nobody knows how this will evolve. So, CIOs should think futuristically and invest in solutions that will help improve the employee experience.
Best Practices for Hybrid IT Infrastructure
With the complexities of hybrid work IT infrastructure, some best practices can help streamline the process. Here are some examples:
Simplify as Much as Possible
Overly complicated systems can inhibit productivity, cause confusion, and increase the risk of security breaches. The need for a simple infrastructure whose primary role is to maintain both employee productivity and company cost effectiveness is key. Simplicity can be achieved by tweaking existing solutions to work in new ways, eliminating the costs associated with implementing completely new infrastructures and avoiding money waste.
For example, CIOs should assess the existing IT infrastructure to identify redundant or outdated technologies, reimagine ways of using existing networks or consolidate systems and applications where possible to reduce complexity and costs. Increasing reliance on cloud software and implementing a unified communication and collaboration platform help simplify collaboration across remote and in-office teams.
Create Digital Workflows to Enhance Collaboration & Productivity
Work processes and workflows must now be digital and available via the internet as distributed teams collaborate remotely. CIOs should focus on developing digital workflows that support seamless collaboration, communication, and productivity across remote and in-office teams.
Some of these workflows should enable remote access and connectivity, allowing employees to connect to the company's network and access resources from anywhere. For e.g., implementing virtual private networks (VPNs), remote desktop solutions, or cloud-based platforms.
Others should focus on adopting unified communication and collaboration platforms that integrate messaging, video conferencing, document sharing, and project management tools. Such workflows should support synchronous and asynchronous collaboration, allowing employees to work together effectively and stay connected.
Digital workflows for security and access management to protect sensitive data and ensure appropriate access controls are of high importance in a hybrid IT infrastructure. This includes implementing identity and access management (IAM) solutions to manage user identities, permissions, and authentication. Workflows should cover processes such as user provisioning, access request, access review, and account deactivation to maintain data security and compliance.
So, whether employees are working remotely or on-site, by establishing standardized and efficient processes, organizations can ensure consistent operations and collaboration within a “borderless office”.
Build Alignment Across Departments
Building alignment across departments helps ensure that the IT infrastructure supports the needs of hybrid work and simplifies cross-functional processes. IT, HR, and facilities management teams must collaborate and break down silos to make informed decisions that consider employee needs, technology requirements, and physical building requirements.
For example, IT relies on HR to determine which employees will return to the office, while HR seeks guidance from IT regarding the technology required for enabling and supporting a hybrid-office setup. IT should provide expertise on the tools, software, communication platforms, and infrastructure necessary to facilitate seamless collaboration and communication among remote and in-office employees.
Facilities managers look to HR and IT for advice on safety protocols and building technology. Moreover, forming cross-functional committees can help IT leaders make sure that technology decisions are aligned with short- and long-term business goals while also meeting employee needs.
Develop a Hybrid Work Framework
Developing a hybrid work framework that articulates guidelines, expectations, and policies is essential. To avoid inconsistencies in flexibility across managers, a good planning of the employees’ working schedule is required. To develop a reliable framework, IT uses a structured approach to gather information about employees, such as their job descriptions, interviews, historical data (such as past work arrangements and experiences within an organization), and institutional knowledge (how the organization operates and how different work environments have been utilized in the past). IT can consider factors such as team dynamics, collaboration requirements, specific job roles, and cultural norms when determining best work arrangements that support the overall goals and success of the institution.
In essence, this structured approach allows IT to understand the unique requirements and preferences of employees in terms of their work environment (remote or in-office) and provide the necessary resources, tools, and support accordingly. Additionally, having a clear framework helps establish consistent guidelines and expectations for all team members, promoting a sense of clarity and alignment within the organization.
By leveraging automation tools and technologies, organizations can streamline and optimize their operations, leading to significant time and resource savings. Automated processes eliminate manual, repetitive tasks, freeing up employees to focus on more strategic and value-added activities. Therefore, time is saved, efficiency increased, and the risk of human error minimized. 36% of CEOs are looking to improve productivity with automation, and they’ll be looking to their IT teams for solutions.
In a hybrid IT infrastructure, where different systems and applications coexist, automation plays a crucial role in ensuring seamless integration and interoperability. By automating processes, organizations can establish efficient data flows, enabling the consolidation and synchronization of data, facilitating better decision-making, and enhancing overall operational effectiveness.
Integration plays a vital role in ensuring that various technologies work together seamlessly within the hybrid IT infrastructure. Integration allows different software applications, data sources, and systems to communicate in real-time. This promotes data consistency, improves collaboration, and enhances overall efficiency.
Moreover, automation and integration go hand in hand, as automated processes often require integration with different systems and applications. By automating workflows and integrating systems, organizations can establish end-to-end processes that span across on-premise and cloud environments. This enables the efficient flow of data, reduces manual intervention, and accelerates business processes.
Adopt a Hybrid Cloud Model
Adopting a hybrid cloud model offers organizations the best of both worlds by combining the flexibility of cloud-based services with the control of on-premise systems. This approach allows businesses to leverage the scalability, agility, and cost-effectiveness of public cloud services for certain workloads while keeping sensitive data and critical applications within their on-premise infrastructure.
For example, organizations have become reliant on team spaces like Slack and Microsoft Teams for day-to-day communication and video conferencing for collaboration. Cloud software, network accessibility and access to secure shared files are key for ongoing collaboration and productivity. A hybrid cloud model enables seamless integration and data flow between multiple environments, providing the necessary flexibility to accommodate changing workloads and business needs. It also helps companies keep a close eye on data control, security, and compliance, enabling them to harness the power of cloud technology while maintaining control over their critical systems and data.
Ensuring that employees understand how to use these new technologies in the workplace effectively is key for their success. Employees need proper training on how to operate these new systems so that they can benefit from them fully and give relevant feedback when needed.
In conclusion, hybrid work models are here to stay, and organizations need to embrace this shift strategically. CIOs play a crucial role in this transition, tasked with implementing robust IT infrastructure that can support hybrid work. Despite the challenges, with the right approach informed by best practices and proactive technology initiatives, companies can leverage the hybrid work model for increased efficiency, flexibility, and productivity. A well-prepared IT infrastructure is not only a response to current demands but also an investment in the future of work.