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The World of Work is Changing. An effective Cloud Computing strategy can improve productivity and workforce effectiveness

Published on 22/05/2012

The world of work is changing

 

·       3.7 million people – 12.8% of the workforce – now work mainly from home (Labour Force Survey, 2010)

 

·       27% of the workforce now work part-time

 

·       41% of all businesses are home-based

·       60% of new businesses start up from home

·       3 out of every 5 new jobs created are ‘atypical’ in some way – i.e. not fixed hours, full-time permanent jobs

 

·       Over 90% of employers say they offer some kind of flexible working practices However, most organisations do not yet take a strategic or coordinated approach to this new world of work.

 

Figures from Office for National Statistics and Department for Business Surveys

 

Technology for Smarter Working

Cloud computing and virtualisation

 

One of the most significant trends in corporate technology is towards so-called “cloud computing”. The ‘cloud’ is basically the Internet, and cloud computing means that your organisation in the future won’t need to host its own IT at all, but will be able to outsource it to a third-party provider (such as JPCi).  Software and applications will be provided as a service (SaaS) rather than installed on client computers.

 

Once this happens a computer in the office has no higher capability or status than any laptop or other device attached to the Internet.  In one sense, even the staff in the office will be ‘remote workers’. 

 

For the remote worker, this means ‘remote access with bells on’.  Everything is accessed over the Internet, and there is no need for any permanent local storage or applications on any device they may be using.  The office may still be a good place to be based and to collaborate with colleagues, but it will no longer be the only or even the best place to do most of our work.

 

Of course most organisations have made substantial investments in their existing technologies and networks and are not about to abandon these.  And ‘cloud computing’ is an increasingly muddled term as vendors rebrand many of their existing products to fit the current fashion.

 

A related trend in corporate IT is towards “desktop virtualisation”.  What this means is that, rather than running their own programs, user computers run all their applications through a server. Support and upgrade costs can be cut dramatically and flexible location working is supported automatically.

 

Recognising trends and the key role of technology should help shape decisions in the short and medium terms.  ‘Future-proofing’ technology investments has never been more important.

 

An organisation does not need to embrace cloud computing and virtualisation before they can develop smarter working.  But any technology that helps people to work more effectively and efficiently wherever they are needs to be considered.

 

It is also important that organisations do not develop IT strategies for cloud computing in isolation from a wider approach to smart working.  Through smarter working, the IT strategy can be linked to savings in property and travel, as well as potential increases in productivity.

 

Data Security

 

When the network stayed in the office, or only connected to other locations such as branch offices over secure leased lines, data security was more straightforward.  The only ways for data in or out were via floppy discs (remember those?), memory ‘sticks’ or e-mails and required the conscious effort of an employee to force a security breach.

 

The days when data can simply be contained physically are now long gone and the IT director is faced with a big challenge – how to give employees all the flexibility they need to work smartly while at the same time protecting corporate data assets.

 

In broad terms there are two approaches:

1.       Make the remote access service as secure as possible, for example:

a.       Prevent access away from the office to sensitive applications and data

b.      Only allow access using corporate laptops with appropriate built-in security

c.       Prevent CDs and unencrypted flash memory drives from being used to save data

d.      Use a number of advanced user validation and authentication methods

e.      Enforce on users a range of strict rules and sanctions.

2.       Move towards a new ‘cloud computing’, ‘software as a service’ or ‘online applications’ model designed from the outset for use from anywhere and with built-in security.

 

In practice most organisations need to take the precautions listed above and put in place a strategy to migrate towards a newer model.

 

Whatever approach is taken it is vital that staff are made aware of and trained in good information management and security practice.

 

Staying Green

Smart working also envisages a leaner and greener approach to our use of personal computers. Wherever possible, a principle of non-duplication should be adopted when rolling out laptops and equipping home offices.  That is, situations should be avoided where an individual has a desktop PC and an individually assigned laptop or home PC paid for by the company.

 

Power consumption of IT equipment can also be a problem unless it is recognised and managed. Great steps have been taken in recent years to reduce power, for example through replacing CRTs with flat screens and reducing power consumption in standby mode.  However IT has become more demanding and power management in data centres and the proliferation of chargers for mobile phones and laptops have become issues.

 

Greening with IT

While making IT ‘greener’ is important and can be implemented through well-defined projects, much more significant is the potential for ‘greening with IT’ – that is, using IT for wider changes that can reduce energy and resource consumption.

 

Wider involvement in technology decisions

 

Non-technical managers can shy away from dealing with technology issues, all too often not challenging the views of the IT department.  This contrasts with office design and flexible working policies, where everyone seems happy to take a view and fight their corner.

 

Technical jargon should not get in the way of good business management and it is up to the IT people to communicate in a way that non-technical people can understand.

 

However, the key principles are that:

1.       Business need, in the context of Smart Working, needs to drive the strategy for IT and for the technology procurement decisions both in the office and beyond

2.       IT strategies need to be integrated with property and people strategies in order to maximise the business benefits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: Cloud Computing, virtualisation, virtualization, virtual hosting, cloud integration strategy, private cloud, public cloud, remote working, virtual desktop, SaaS, Software as a Service

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