Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

The past eighteen months have had a profound impact on every aspect of our lives. The pandemic has triggered changes on multiple fronts – from how we live, work, learn, consume, and even do business. While there is little doubt that we will conquer the pandemic and life will return to normal, many of the changes it has triggered are here to stay. In fact, they will shape what is already being referred to as the ‘new normal’.

From a business perspective, the biggest change for companies has been the realization that whatever can be delivered digitally MUST be delivered digitally. Since the start of the pandemic, digital-first interactions have become the norm. For many companies, this was a forced mechanism, driven by lockdowns which saw consumers and businesses turn to technology for interaction and connection. This trend will continue.

As a result, businesses are focusing more on digital transformation and delivering digital-first services, including those who have been reluctant in the past. We have seen perhaps five years, maybe even a decade, worth of digital acceleration condensed into just one year.

As businesses look to leverage technology to unleash a new era of growth in the post-pandemic world, there are a few key aspects they should keep in mind.

Observability is key  

Applications have become the primary way in which consumers interact with businesses. And as every business becomes digital, the one key differentiator will be the experience that customers have while using an application.

Think about it. When was the last time you gauged your experience with a bank, for example, based on your in-person interaction with the teller at a physical branch? It’s all about how easy, user-friendly, and responsive their application is when you want to perform a transaction. This is true for almost every sector now.

Multiple teams play a role in delivering an excellent application experience from network operations to security, infrastructure, and developers, etc. The issue, though, is that these teams have traditionally operated in silos, and this needs to change if businesses want to succeed in a cloud-first and application-centric world.

To address this, companies need to invest in observability. They need end-to-end visibility across their entire IT infrastructure with a suite of intelligent services that allow IT teams to orchestrate seamless digital experiences at scale while being device, network, and cloud service provider agnostic.

In addition, they need capabilities to process and analyze data to understand usage patterns and behaviors, identify potential issues, and trigger actions accordingly.

Empower your workforce

Organizations will have to cater not just to changing customer behavior but also to the priorities of their employees, which have evolved significantly. The future of work will look very different in the post-pandemic world.

While we are all social beings and are longing to meet our colleagues in person again, the reality is that no one wants to go back to the pre-pandemic workstyle of being in the office five days a week. Workers want more control and choice over where they work from and when.

This has a significant impact on companies as they build their technology infrastructure. They need to empower and enable everyone in their workforce not just to work from anywhere but to do so in the most productive manner.

For this, their hybrid work solution needs to cater to a few key aspects. It needs to be flexible to adapt to any work style, role, or environment. It should be inclusive. It is important to note that inclusivity is more than the physical location; it supports your work style and personality type (introvert or extrovert, digital native or occasional user). It should also be supportive in terms of using analytics and data to help teams with employee well-being and development.

Finally, it must be secure. Cybersecurity must be built-in, not bolted on as an afterthought. Employees should be able to just get on the tool and get their work done. They should not have to worry about whether their call will get hacked, whether or not the sensitive information they are sharing is adequately encrypted, and whether their own individual privacy is being taken care of.

Cybersecurity is foundational

With organizations moving to an application-centric and cloud-first business model and having a dispersed workforce, there will be a sharp increase in stakeholders accessing the applications and company data from different locations, using a range of devices and across multiple networks. This will increase the cybersecurity risk.

To be successful in this new normal, companies need to reconsider how they look at cybersecurity. There are two aspects that organizations should look at. First is a ‘Zero Trust’ approach. Simply put, this means you trust no one, and every user and device is verified before being granted access, no matter the location from which where they are trying to log in. This approach enables organizations to address the full spectrum of vulnerabilities across identity, application, and network threats.

Second, companies need to look at bringing together networking and security in what is referred to as secure access service edge (SASE) architecture. SASE combines networking and security functions in the cloud to deliver secure access to applications, anywhere users work.

This helps organizations to connect users seamlessly to the applications and data they need to access — in any environment, from any location. At the same time, they can control access and enforce the right security protection anywhere users work. The ability to do all of this allows companies to have a dispersed workforce empowered to do their job securely from anywhere, so they can cater to their customers who are trying to access their applications everywhere.

That, to me, is the primary reason for building technology capabilities to win in the new normal.

– Vish Iyer, Vice President Architectures, Asia Pacific, Japan, and Greater China, Cisco

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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