It’s hard to deny that hybrid work is here to stay with staff now alternating between the home, office and other locations for the foreseeable future. This means that CIOs need to support and sustain these new work practices even as pandemic-related restrictions ease.
Key to achieving this effectively and securely will largely depend on the CIO’s ability to choose, deploy and manage the best cloud and other digital technologies available. CIOs also need to ensure they support their teams on the journey.
Senior technology executives gathered for a roundtable discussion recently where they spoke about how they are best preparing their technology infrastructure, teams and the broader business for the challenges of hybrid working.
They also discussed how they are leveraging cloud capabilities, the growing choice of ‘as-a-service’ offerings, as well as the opportunities provided by artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital twins, and internet-of-things (IoT) technologies. The discussion was sponsored by Equinix.
A recent Global Interconnection Index, published by Equinix, states that ‘cloud deployment as usual’ will not be enough to help organisations that are trying to capitalise on opportunities or simply fight for survival. In fact, everyone needs a digital-first strategy now, the report says.
Guy Danskine, managing director at Equinix Australia, says that in the face of ever-accelerating changes in market conditions, traditional approaches often lack the flexibility and agility that enterprises must now achieve to remain competitive.
“Not all enterprises are adapting to hybrid work models as quickly as they would like to. One trend that is set to continue is the evolution of video conferencing and collaboration platforms, as well as the increased scale by which they need to be reliably operated,” he says.
But enterprises are being held back by ‘sunk costs’ in core systems and legacy network architectures, which makes infrastructure modernisation difficult, he says.
“At the leadership level, the will to change is usually quite good, but the challenges are mainly around funding, especially with respect to the cost of change, as well as risk,” he says.
BBC Studios’ shift to hybrid working began before the pandemic so the organisation’s technology platforms were already well on the way to being fully digitised, says the organisation’s Sydney-based APAC director of technology and operations, Mark Smee.
“Regionally, the focus has switched to the services that were thought to be an on-premise function as the pandemic has taught us that there is no such thing and we are re-evaluating how we can do things differently,” Smee says.
“As such, we are now ensuring that our post-production solutions around editing and mixing can deliver a remote experience in line with all other technical services that the business has now come to expect,” he says.
Smee adds that the BBC has also focused on leveraging cloud capabilities for 10 years, beginning with online services when it moved from a LAMP stack to AWS solutions.
“We then migrated core service to cloud platforms if and when the technology had sufficiently matured. Across the region where we work with 4K video and platform-as-service (PaaS) offerings still can’t quite compete with an on-premise solution, but I am always happy to be proven wrong,” Smee says.
Hybrid working and the impact on cyber
Roundtable attendees also discussed how their cyber security postures have changed since the onset of COVID as cyber incidents, particularly coronavirus-related phishing attacks, have been quite frequent.
As the priority of cyber security continues to increase across all sectors, there is improving sentiment towards adopting approach that suit distributed networks, says Equinix’s principal solutions architect, Scott Polson.
“These may include zero trust or application solutions that provide secure access service edge (SASE) architectures,” Polson says.
As part of its push to a hybrid model, BBC adopted a zero trust security model and a digital identity strategy. This made the transition of the last two years to a remote working model much smoother and proved to be as a solid architecture for managing an expanding number of endpoints, says Smee.
“Where policies and procedures have needed adjustment is around the reality that many staff and their devices may require remote onboarding or may go extended lengths of time without attending our sites,” he says.
Utilising emerging technologies
Digitising core business processes also provides opportunities for enterprises to take advantage of artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital twins, and internet-of-things (IoT) technologies.
IoT uptake, in particular, is high. Australia has the highest adoption rates of IoT applications in the world, according to the Microsoft IoT Signals report. Almost all (96%) of respondents to this report from Australia said they had adopted IoT technologies across their organisations. This is higher than Italy (95%), the United States (94%), and France, the United Kingdom, and Belgium (91%).
Equinix’s Danskine says that generally speaking, a large number of enterprises are in the discovery and experimentation phase when it comes to these technologies.
“The technologies are definitely available and are continuing to mature. However, those who are actively using these technologies to gain real advantage are mostly limited to the bigger players or those heavily invested due to their industry vertical,”: says Danksine.
BBC’s Smee adds that as the media landscape shifts to digital, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to harness big data is a pre-requisite for success.
“The BBC is currently developing everything from ‘mood metadata’ to natural language learning, which is leveraging these emerging technologies,” he says.