6 trends that will drive sustainable, long-term hybrid work and productivity for dispersed workforces
If 2020 was a year of upheaval, and 2021 a year of adjustment, then 2022 promises to be the year of transformation.
Yes, another year of change, but one in which focus will shift from short-term fixes to long-term success for businesses that have embraced hybrid work as the new standard. The central factor for IT in this kind of environment will be the quality of digital experiences that organizations can provide to maintain high levels of productivity and success for distributed workforces.
This is a huge opportunity for IT leaders. A year of transformation promises to be a year when IT steps out from behind the scenes to take center stage as a strategic driver in the board room. Pre-Covid norms of work and organizational systems are not entirely obsolete, but the willingness to evaluate what does and doesn’t work — both for IT teams and organizations as a whole — has created a much greater capacity for accelerated change within nearly every organization.
The Great Experience Economy
Ten years’ worth of economic and digital change has been squeezed into the last two years of activity. As a result, businesses and customers are both fully adjusted to the digital workplace.
In 2021, IT leaders recognized that digital employee experience was a high priority and critical for the success of their organizations. With the ability to collect data from the edge, organizations were able to develop a full picture of employee performance and effectiveness. With a wealth of information at their fingertips, businesses are now able to draw a clear line between a good digital experience for employees and the value of transactions that those employees impact. As noted by Forrester, user-centric technology that improves the employee experience leads to a better experience for the customer which translates into a significant productivity gain and competitive advantage for the business.
Those patterns are already being seen. The “experience economy” is successfully delivering new customer engagement models, creating customer loyalty and new business value. Research from IDC shows how significant an impact improved employee experience can have on customer satisfaction.
The key is for organizations to equip employees with the tools and technology that make them happy and empower them to do their best work. When employees are properly enabled — and digital tools are fully utilized — they have the power to transform businesses.
Right-Sizing and Resizing for Long-Term Hybrid Work
In early 2020, remote workforces became an overnight reality for businesses of all sizes. This brought up fundamental questions about how businesses communicate, operate, and progress under the pressures of a remote reality.
Most organizations turned to technology to answer those questions. In the first half of 2020, SaaS companies such as Zoom, Slack, Box, and CrowdStrike saw their valuations surge in the face of an urgent need for dispersed teams to collaborate and share as effectively as they would in a physical office space.
The average technology company in 2021 now employs 155 apps to keep workplaces running as smoothly as possible. This is a 57% increase in the past three years, and 17% increase on 2020. Organizations now must ask if the solutions they have in place will facilitate long-term success in the future of digital work.
At the beginning of 2022, IT leaders will take stock of their tech stack and evaluate what is providing the most value to the workforce, what is still needed, and what can be taken away. This is no small ask. To analyze the value of those apps, and other technologies, IT teams must be able to access and interpret millions of user data points — including historic data — across the estate. However, the opportunity is great: software rationalization projects have shown to deliver immediate and huge cost savings, especially for large organizations.
Some of the most significant IT challenges of the last two years have been the hardest to predict. Few would have anticipated that the greatest supply chain disruption would impact technology and hardware before household goods — just as few would have predicted a labor shortage at this stage of the pandemic.
2022 is likely to see more of the same. Supply chain disruption in China and around the globe is set to continue, with economic uncertainty and Covid-19 public safety measures continuing to impact mining, manufacturing, and transportation centers.
An extremely hot job market coupled with inflation also makes employment and scaling hard to predict. For IT leaders, unpredictable, uncertain futures will remain the status quo. They will have to ensure that teams are prepared with a full range of system data to help prepare for any eventuality.
Corporate Concerns and Employer Branding Drive Green IT Agenda
With an extremely competitive job market in both the United States and Europe, employers are focusing on improving pull factors for hard-won talent. Good salaries and benefits never go out of fashion, but in a world where 68% of employees prefer to work for companies that have sustainable business practices, being green is a significant competitive advantage.
IT will not only be asked to adopt this culture but also be accountable for it. There will be ever more focus on visibility into device usage and consumption across the estate and a need to find technology to support sustainable initiatives.
Measuring the overall environmental impact of technology within an organization, however, is particularly challenging. IT leaders will need to be able to record their environmental footprint, report to stakeholders, and effectively reduce their impact by replacing resource-intensive initiatives and strategies with streamlined, resource-conscious ones.
IT in the Strategic Driving Seat
In the era of hybrid work, technological leadership roles have a higher profile than ever before. This may be the continuation of a trend that’s been accelerating over the last decade, but the importance of technology has never been more apparent to corporate leadership.
CEOs are now willing to put money behind digital transformation initiatives. Over half of IT leaders anticipate IT budgets to increase in 2022, with a heightened emphasis on the importance of IT projects identified as the primary driving factor. With this increased capacity comes a greater responsibility to completely understand what IT systems are supporting the business and how spending decisions are improving the experience and productivity of employees.
The best-equipped tech leaders make their presence felt at the executive and even board level. 57% of top-performing organizations incorporate senior IT leaders into strategic planning.
Nearly half of U.S. workers say they are likely to leave their current employer if workplace tech makes them unhappy or frustrated. In any climate, this would be seen as a shot across the bow of IT leadership, but in a competitive talent market, with a record number of unfilled openings, digital employee experience is becoming a critical concern.
Against this backdrop, IT is facing its own talent crisis. 80% of IT leaders report that finding the right talent is their greatest professional challenge. From entry level roles to senior leadership, there simply isn’t enough talent to fill the constantly growing demand.
So, how can IT leadership meet this ever-rising standard of digital experience that employees demand? This year will see an increasing focus on value optimizing practices such as automation, self-healing, and mass-healing technology that will take pressure off overworked help desks and enable proactive resolutions across the organization.