A new normal of remote or hybrid work when the pandemic abates requires IT managers to think about monitoring and understanding workforce experience, through home or remote networks, to ensure that they can connect and utilize new technology tools. Companies can achieve this by:
- Pinging employee laptops while they are connected to the network to assess and monitor the speed of their employee’s home internet connection
- Monitoring how performance changes over time to understand potential weaknesses, such as the internet service provider in a certain geographic area, the network needs for specific jobs or roles for certain employees, and the differences between connectivity in single homes, condos or apartments
- Working with their HR department to reallocate traditional costs in support of new benefits that are better aligned to remote or hybrid work employee preferences, such as upgraded internet speeds, dual monitors, headsets, speaker pucks and other pieces of equipment
Consumer expectations and network impacts
The pandemic intensified e-commerce trends and further complicated consumers’ digital behaviors. Your customers have higher expectations, often shaped by interactions in other industries and services, and the bar is likely set by their last best experience. The digital and physical worlds are getting closer, and those companies that don’t follow suit will end up surrendering market share. Three expectations affect your company’s network infrastructure and security:
- At a basic level, customers want to be able to access a secure, strong Wi-Fi network in a physical retail location.
- Retail consumer experiences should exist seamlessly across physical and digital domains — for instance, the simple customer journey of buying a product online and then picking it up at a store, an activity spurred by the pandemic but likely to persist beyond.
- The customer journey should be connected across all form factors of the experience, such as when a customer seeking a loan completes an application online, then discusses it in person with a representative at a bank, without filling in forms with pen and paper. The data flows should provide for an understanding of the customer across domains.
In response to changing technology and consumer demands, enterprises are constantly expanding the use of their existing IT infrastructure — posing challenges in maintaining the accessibility, performance and scalability across the hybrid landscape that the business and its customers require.
The complexity of services underpinning worker and consumer experiences demands a shift away from the “flat” network concept, which focuses on legacy network parameters and security architecture, without considering business functions, applications, services, partners and third parties, and others.
Network impacts for suppliers and partners
As companies move from linear to fully networked ecosystems, network traffic in the supply chain will explode. Companies that once were only connected to their tier one suppliers may now require visibility into tier two and three suppliers. This integration with suppliers may be accomplished through electronic data interchange, direct database connectivity via application program interface, or direct connectivity through a peer-to-peer platform. And while public blockchains might eventually take some of the strain off a company’s network, plenty of companies are looking at implementing private blockchains that will require constant communication with their participants.
Seeking more agile and resilient global supply chains, companies are also adding hundreds of thousands of internet of things devices to trucks, forklifts, factory machines and more, each emitting a bit of data to relay temperature, location, on/off status and other variables. In short, the data coming over the company network from suppliers and partners is about to explode.
Network traffic and access patterns have grown more prevalent and sophisticated — and companies should expect those trends to continue. An organization can expect breaches when its network security approach is too lax, yet the data flows for the experiences that remote workers and customers expect can suffer when your IT architecture and security policies are too stringent. Enterprises will need to balance network performance and security with enough agility to improve how they interact with employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.
Jonathan Sears, Principal, Technology Consulting, Ernst & Young LLP, also contributed to this article.