Source: Protech Insights

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, small businesses are constantly seeking ways to stay competitive and efficient. The key to their success often lies in embracing the latest technological innovations.  

We’ll examine six technical advancements that are transforming small business management in this blog article, with a particular emphasis on scalable infrastructure, AI development, and AI applications. 

1. Scalable Infrastructure: A Foundation for Growth 

Scalable infrastructure is the cornerstone of modern small business management. It allows businesses to adapt to changing needs and grow seamlessly. By leveraging cloud computing, businesses can scale up or down their IT resources as required, reducing costs and improving efficiency.  

Whether it’s hosting websites, managing data, or deploying software solutions, scalable infrastructure empowers small businesses to compete on a level playing field with larger enterprises. 

2. AI Development: The Future of Efficiency 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) development is transforming the way small businesses operate. AI-powered solutions can automate repetitive tasks, analyze data, and provide valuable insights. This technology not only streamlines operations but also frees up valuable human resources for more strategic tasks.  

From chatbots enhancing customer service to predictive analytics optimizing inventory management, AI is a game-changer in small business management. 

3. AI Applications: Enhancing Decision-Making 

AI applications are not limited to large corporations. Small businesses can harness the power of AI to make data-driven decisions. For instance, AI-driven predictive analytics can help businesses identify trends and customer preferences, enabling them to tailor their products and services accordingly.

By leveraging AI applications, small businesses can make smarter choices, reduce risks, and ultimately increase profitability. 

4. The Rise of E-commerce: A Necessity, Not an Option 

The e-commerce boom has brought about a significant shift in small business management. With the right technology, even the smallest businesses can establish an online presence and reach a global audience.

Online marketplaces, digital payment solutions, and user-friendly website builders have made it easier than ever for small businesses to thrive in the digital marketplace. 

5. Mobile Technology: Connecting with Customers Anytime, Anywhere 

Mobile technology has changed the way small businesses engage with their customers. Through mobile apps and responsive websites, businesses can provide seamless experiences, allowing customers to interact and make purchases from anywhere at any time.

Mobile payment solutions also simplify transactions, making them convenient for both businesses and customers. 

6. Data Security: Protecting Your Business Assets 

As small businesses increasingly rely on technology, data security becomes paramount. Cyber threats are on the rise, and small businesses are not immune. Investing in robust cybersecurity measures, including firewalls, encryption, and regular software updates, is essential.

Protecting customer data and sensitive business information is not only a legal requirement but also vital for building trust with customers. 

Incorporating these technological innovations can be a game-changer for your small business. Embrace scalable infrastructure, AI development, and AI applications to stay competitive and position your business for success in today’s digital world.

Source: Protech Insights

In our fast-paced digital age, the fusion of Mobile Apps and IoT (Internet of Things) has sparked a wave of innovation, transforming the way we interact with the world. IoT mobile apps serve as the gateway, connecting users to a network of smart mobile devices, from home appliances to wearables. To harness the full potential of this synergy, developers must adhere to key best practices, ensuring seamless user experiences and robust functionalities. 

Understanding the IoT Ecosystem 

At the core of IoT mobile apps is the intricate network of interconnected mobile devices. These apps empower users, enabling remote control and monitoring of various gadgets. It’s crucial to grasp this ecosystem’s complexity before embarking on the development journey. 

Prioritizing User-Centric Design 

User experience is paramount. Designing intuitive interfaces with clear navigation and straightforward gestures enhances user engagement. A well-designed app fosters loyalty and keeps users coming back. 

Ensuring Ironclad Security 

With sensitive data in transit, security is non-negotiable. End-to-end encryption safeguards user information, and regular updates fortify the app against potential vulnerabilities, creating a secure environment for both users and data. 

Optimizing Performance and Integration 

Efficient coding and streamlined functionalities optimize app performance, ensuring responsiveness and conserving device resources. Compatibility testing across diverse platforms guarantees seamless integration, enhancing user experience across different devices. 

Real-Time Data Processing for Instant Insights 

Real-time data analysis is the lifeblood of IoT apps. Implementing swift algorithms provides users with instant insights, enabling informed decisions in real-time. Whether it’s monitoring energy usage or tracking health metrics, real-time data processing elevates the app’s functionality. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the collaboration of Mobile Apps and IoT technology heralds a new era of connectivity. By adhering to user-centric design, stringent security protocols, efficient performance optimization, seamless integration, and real-time data processing, developers can craft IoT mobile apps that stand out. 

This revolution in connectivity is not just about innovation; it’s about enhancing lives. Embrace these best practices, dive into this transformative journey, and be part of a world where Mobile Apps and IoT devices redefine the way we live and interact. The future of technology is here, and it’s in your hands.

Source: Protech Insights

In today’s digital era, where our lives are increasingly intertwined with technology, the protection of personal information has become a paramount concern. From online shopping and social media to banking and healthcare, we entrust a wealth of sensitive data to various digital platforms. However, as the volume of data collected and shared continues to grow, so do the risks of data breaches, identity theft, and privacy violations. In this blog, we’ll delve into the importance of data privacy in the digital age and provide actionable tips to help you safeguard your personal information. 

Understanding Data Privacy 

Data privacy refers to the right of individuals to control the collection, use, and sharing of their personal information. This includes data such as name, address, phone number, email, financial details, and browsing history. With the proliferation of digital technologies and the advent of big data, companies have unprecedented access to vast amounts of personal data, raising concerns about privacy and security. 

Risks to Personal Information 

In today’s interconnected world, personal information is constantly at risk of being compromised. Some common risks to data privacy include: 

Data Breaches:

Cyber attacks targeting organizations can result in the unauthorized access and theft of sensitive customer data, including personal and financial information. 

Identity Theft:

Criminals may use stolen personal information to impersonate individuals, open fraudulent accounts, or commit financial fraud. 

Surveillance and Monitoring:

Governments and organizations may engage in surveillance activities or collect data for tracking and monitoring purposes, raising concerns about privacy and civil liberties. 

Protecting Your Personal Information 

Use Strong Passwords 

Create complex passwords for your online accounts and avoid using the same password across multiple platforms. Consider using a password manager to securely store and manage your passwords. 

Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) 

Add an extra layer of security to your accounts by enabling 2FA wherever possible. This requires users to provide a second form of verification, such as a code sent to their mobile device, in addition to their password. 

Be Cautious Online 

Exercise caution when sharing personal information online, especially on social media platforms. Avoid oversharing and be mindful of the privacy settings on your accounts to control who can see your posts and information. 

Secure Your Devices 

Keep your devices, including computers, smartphones, and tablets, up to date with the latest security patches and antivirus software. Use encryption to protect sensitive data stored on your devices, and consider enabling remote wipe capabilities in case your device is lost or stolen. 

Review Privacy Policies 

Take the time to review the privacy policies of websites and online services before providing any personal information. Understand how your data will be collected, used, and shared, and opt-out of any data collection practices that you’re uncomfortable with. 

Monitor Your Accounts 

Regularly review your financial statements, credit reports, and online accounts for any suspicious activity or unauthorized charges. Report any discrepancies or signs of identity theft to the relevant authorities immediately. 

Conclusion 

In an age where personal information is more vulnerable than ever, protecting your data privacy is essential to safeguarding your identity, finances, and overall security. By following the tips outlined in this blog, you can take proactive steps to protect your personal information and reduce the risk of falling victim to data breaches and identity theft. Remember, when it comes to data privacy, vigilance is key – stay informed, stay cautious, and stay safe in the digital age. 

Source: Protech Insights

In today’s data-driven world, effective data management is crucial for organizations looking to harness the power of information to drive business success. With the exponential growth of data volumes and sources, organizations must adopt robust strategies to collect, store, analyze, and utilize data effectively. In this blog post, we’ll explore some top strategies for effective data management and how they can help organizations maximize the value of their data assets. 

Define Clear Data Management Goals 

The first step in effective data management is to define clear goals and objectives for your data strategy. These goals should align with your organization’s overall business objectives and address key challenges and opportunities related to data management. Whether your goal is to improve data quality, enhance data security, or streamline data workflows, having a clear vision will guide your data management efforts and ensure alignment across the organization. 

Establish Data Governance Frameworks 

Data governance is essential for ensuring that data is managed effectively, securely, and compliantly throughout its lifecycle. Establishing robust data governance frameworks involves defining policies, procedures, and standards for data management, as well as assigning roles and responsibilities for data stewardship and oversight. By implementing data governance best practices, organizations can mitigate risks, ensure data quality and integrity, and maintain regulatory compliance. 

Implement Data Quality Assurance Processes 

Data quality is paramount for reliable decision-making and business operations. Implementing data quality assurance processes involves identifying data quality issues, such as inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and incompleteness, and implementing measures to address them. This may include data cleansing, normalization, deduplication, and validation techniques to ensure that data is accurate, reliable, and fit for purpose. 

Invest in Data Integration and Interoperability 

With data residing in disparate sources and formats, organizations must invest in data integration and interoperability solutions to bring together data from different sources and systems. This involves implementing data integration platforms and technologies that enable seamless data movement, transformation, and synchronization across heterogeneous environments. By breaking down data silos and enabling data interoperability, organizations can derive valuable insights from their data and drive informed decision-making. 

Leverage Advanced Analytics and Data Visualization 

Advanced analytics and data visualization tools play a critical role in transforming raw data into actionable insights. By leveraging techniques such as machine learning, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence, organizations can uncover hidden patterns, trends, and correlations in their data. Additionally, data visualization tools enable stakeholders to explore and communicate insights visually, making it easier to understand complex data and derive meaningful conclusions. 

Ensure Data Security and Compliance 

Data security and compliance are paramount in today’s regulatory environment, where data breaches and privacy violations can have severe consequences. Organizations must implement robust security measures to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access, breaches, and cyber threats. This includes encryption, access controls, monitoring, and auditing mechanisms to safeguard data assets and ensure compliance with data protection regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA. 

Continuously Monitor and Improve Data Management Practices 

Effective data management is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring, evaluation, and improvement. Organizations should regularly assess their data management practices against key performance indicators (KPIs) and benchmarks, identify areas for optimization and enhancement, and iterate on their strategies accordingly. By adopting a culture of continuous improvement, organizations can adapt to evolving data challenges and opportunities and stay ahead of the curve in today’s dynamic data landscape. 

In conclusion, effective data management is essential for organizations looking to derive value from their data assets and gain a competitive edge in today’s digital economy. By defining clear goals, establishing robust governance frameworks, ensuring data quality, integrating data sources, leveraging advanced analytics, ensuring data security and compliance, and continuously monitoring and improving data management practices, organizations can unlock the full potential of their data and drive business success.

Multi Academy Trusts (MATs), a group of academies that have formed an association, are increasingly more common across the UK.  

Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) which refers to a group of learning academies that have formed an association, have become increasingly common in the United Kingdom. This is due in part to the Government’s plan to encourage most schools to join a MAT by 2030 as outlined in the 2022 Schools White Paper, “Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child”. 

With this, the government is pushing the education landscape to become more competitive as academy trusts optimize their processes and technology.  

However, as MATs onboard new academies this can bring some IT challenges that stem from the need to merge IT infrastructure, reduce costs, centralize services, migrate data, and manage technical changes across multiple schools within a trust.  

The challenges:  

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Source: The Business Cover

In today’s fast-paced business environment, companies are constantly looking for ways to maximize productivity and minimize costs. One way to achieve this is through outsourcing, the practice of hiring an external company or individual to perform tasks that would typically be done in-house. While outsourcing can offer many benefits, it also has its drawbacks.

In this blog, we will explore the pros and cons of outsourcing and how to decide whether to outsource or keep tasks in-house.

Pros of Outsourcing

Cost Savings: One of the primary reasons companies outsource is to save money. Outsourcing can often be more cost-effective than hiring and training new employees, purchasing equipment, and maintaining facilities.

Access to Expertise: By outsourcing certain tasks, companies can gain access to specialized expertise that they may not have in-house. This can lead to improved quality of work and increased efficiency.

Focus on Core Competencies: Outsourcing non-core activities allows companies to focus on their core competencies and strategic objectives, which can lead to increased competitiveness in the marketplace.

Flexibility: Outsourcing provides companies with the flexibility to scale up or down based on changing business needs without the need to hire or lay off employees.

Cons of Outsourcing

Loss of Control: Outsourcing can lead to a loss of control over certain aspects of the business, such as quality of work, timeliness, and communication.

Security Risks: Outsourcing can also pose security risks, as sensitive data may be shared with external parties. This can increase the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks.

Communication Challenges: Outsourcing requires effective communication and coordination between the company and external parties, which can be challenging if there are language or cultural barriers.

Quality Concerns: Outsourcing may lead to quality concerns, particularly if the external party does not have the same level of expertise or standards as the company.

How to Decide Whether to Outsource or Keep Tasks In-House?

Identify Core Competencies: Determine which activities are core to your business and should be kept in-house, and which activities are non-core and could be outsourced.

Evaluate Costs: Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether outsourcing would be more cost-effective than keeping tasks in-house.

Assess expertise: evaluate whether external parties have the expertise and quality standards needed to perform tasks effectively.

Consider Security Risks: Assess the potential security risks associated with outsourcing and implement appropriate security measures.

Evaluate Communication: Determine whether effective communication and coordination can be maintained with external parties.

Consider Timing: Assess whether outsourcing is the right option for current business needs and whether it aligns with long-term strategic goals.

Outsourcing can offer many benefits to companies, including cost savings, access to expertise, and increased flexibility. However, it also has its drawbacks, such as a loss of control, security risks, and quality concerns. When deciding whether to outsource or keep tasks in-house, it is important to evaluate the pros and cons, identify core competencies, assess costs, evaluate expertise, consider security risks and communication challenges, and align outsourcing decisions with long-term strategic goals. By taking these factors into account, companies can make informed decisions about outsourcing that will help them achieve their business objectives.

Source: The Business Cover

As remote work continues to gain popularity, effective management of remote teams has become a critical skill for businesses.  

In this blog, we will discuss the best practices for successfully managing a remote workforce, ensuring productivity, collaboration, and employee satisfaction. 

Clear Communication and Expectations:  

Communication is key when managing a remote workforce. Establish clear channels of communication, such as email, instant messaging, or video conferencing tools. Set expectations regarding response times, availability, and preferred modes of communication. Encourage regular check-ins to provide updates, address concerns, and foster a sense of connection. Clearly define goals, deadlines, and deliverables to ensure everyone understands their responsibilities and the desired outcomes. 

Provide the Right Tools and Technology:  

Equipping your remote workforce with the right tools and technology is crucial for seamless collaboration. Invest in reliable communication and project management tools that facilitate efficient workflow and document sharing. Use cloud-based storage and collaboration platforms to enable real-time updates and easy access to files. Provide the necessary training and technical support to ensure employees are comfortable using these tools. Regularly evaluate and update your technology stack to stay up to date with the latest advancements. 

Establish Trust and Autonomy:  

Trust is essential when managing a remote team. Focus on outcomes rather than micromanaging employees. Give them the autonomy to complete their tasks in a way that works best for them while ensuring accountability. Empower team members by involving them in decision-making processes and recognizing their contributions. Foster a culture of trust through transparent communication, regular feedback, and acknowledging achievements. 

Foster a Virtual Team Culture:  

Creating a sense of belonging and camaraderie among remote employees is crucial. Encourage team-building activities, such as virtual social events or virtual coffee breaks, to promote interaction and build relationships. Implement online collaboration spaces, such as chat channels or virtual bulletin boards, where employees can connect and share ideas. Celebrate milestones, birthdays, and achievements to boost morale and create a positive work environment. Regularly communicate the company’s values and mission to align remote employees with the overall organizational culture. 

Prioritize Work-Life Balance:  

Remote work blurs the line between personal and professional life. Encourage your remote workforce to maintain a healthy work-life balance by setting clear boundaries and expectations. Promote self-care practices and stress the importance of taking breaks. Encourage employees to establish a dedicated workspace and maintain regular working hours. Offer flexibility in scheduling whenever possible to accommodate individual needs and preferences. 

 Successfully managing a remote workforce requires effective communication, the right tools, trust, a dedicated team culture, and a focus on work-life balance. By implementing these best practices, businesses can ensure their remote teams thrive, leading to increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and overall success in the remote work environment.

Source: The Business Cover

In today’s digital era, data has become the new oil, and businesses are increasingly relying on big data analytics to gain valuable insights.  

This blog explores the growing influence of big data analytics in the business world, highlighting its transformative impact on decision-making processes. 

Harnessing the Power of Data:

Big data analytics involves collecting, organizing, and analyzing vast amounts of data to identify patterns, trends, and correlations. By leveraging advanced technologies and algorithms, businesses can make data-driven decisions with greater accuracy and confidence. From customer preferences and market trends to operational efficiency and risk management, big data analytics provides a holistic view of business operations, enabling organizations to optimize their strategies and stay ahead of the competition. 

Uncovering Valuable Insights:

One of the key advantages of big data analytics is its ability to uncover hidden insights that were previously inaccessible. By analyzing structured and unstructured data from various sources, such as social media, customer feedback, and transaction records, businesses can gain a comprehensive understanding of their target audience’s preferences, needs, and behavior. These insights enable companies to tailor their products and services, improve customer experiences, and develop targeted marketing campaigns, resulting in enhanced customer satisfaction and increased profitability. 

 Improving Operational Efficiency:

Efficiency is crucial for business success, and big data analytics plays a vital role in optimizing operational processes. By analyzing data related to supply chain management, inventory levels, production cycles, and resource allocation, businesses can identify bottlenecks, streamline operations, and reduce costs. For example, predictive analytics can forecast demand patterns, allowing companies to adjust their inventory levels accordingly and minimize waste. Additionally, real-time monitoring and analytics help identify potential issues and enable proactive maintenance, ensuring uninterrupted operations and reducing downtime. 

 Mitigating Risks and Enhancing Security:

In today’s digital landscape, data security, and risk management are top priorities for businesses. Big data analytics enables organizations to identify potential risks, detect anomalies, and prevent fraudulent activities. By analyzing large datasets, businesses can identify patterns that indicate potential security breaches or fraudulent transactions. Additionally, predictive analytics helps in assessing and mitigating risks associated with various business operations, such as financial investments, supply chain disruptions, and cybersecurity threats. This proactive approach enhances overall business resilience and safeguards sensitive data from unauthorized access. 

 Big data analytics has become a notable change in the business world, empowering organizations to make informed decisions, optimize operations, and gain a competitive edge. By harnessing the power of data, businesses can unlock valuable insights, improve efficiency, mitigate risks, and enhance customer experiences. Embracing big data analytics is no longer an option but a necessity for businesses striving for success in the digital age.

Source: The Business Cover

In today’s fast-paced business world, technology is essential for success. From digital marketing to cloud computing and cybersecurity, there are countless ways that technology can help businesses thrive. However, with so many options available, it is easy to make mistakes.

Here are the top five business technology mistakes to avoid.

Failing to embrace change

One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is failing to embrace change. Technology is constantly evolving, and businesses that do not keep up will be left behind. By staying up to date with the latest trends and innovations, businesses can remain competitive and adapt to changing customer needs.

Ignoring cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a critical component of any business technology strategy. Yet, many businesses ignore this aspect and leave themselves vulnerable to cyberattacks. Implementing strong cybersecurity measures is essential to protect sensitive data and maintain customer trust.

Neglecting training and support

Technology is only effective if your employees know how to use it properly. Neglecting training and support can lead to frustration and decreased productivity. Providing regular training and support can help employees use technology to its full potential and avoid costly mistakes.

Failing to plan ahead

Another common mistake is failing to plan. Businesses that do not have a technology roadmap risk investing in solutions that do not align with their long-term goals. Developing a strategic technology plan can help businesses make informed decisions and avoid wasting their investments.

Overlooking the importance of data

Data is one of the most valuable assets that businesses have. Yet many businesses overlook the importance of data and fail to use it to its full potential. By leveraging data analytics, businesses can gain valuable insights that can inform decision-making and drive growth.

Technology is an essential component of any successful business strategy. However, there are common mistakes that businesses make that can hinder success. By avoiding these top five business technology mistakes—failing to embrace change, ignoring cybersecurity, neglecting training and support, failing to plan, and overlooking the importance of data—businesses can leverage technology to achieve their goals and remain competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

Whether you are a small business owner or an enterprise-level executive, these mistakes are avoidable with a little planning and foresight. Do not let technological mistakes hinder your business’ growth and success. Instead, embrace change, prioritize cybersecurity, invest in training and support, and plan, and leverage the power of data to achieve your business goals.

What is ESG? 

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is a holistic framework for businesses to achieve sustainability beyond just environmental factors, but diversity and societal priorities too. It requires businesses to behave ethically to achieve a sustainable and responsible future.  

In recent years, ESG goals have gone from being “nice to have”, to a non-negotiable for companies looking to attract new customers, partners, and employees. While many may have primarily focused on “E”, “S” and “G” have increased in priority for companies looking to adapt a 360 approach to sustainability. 

Why is ESG important?  

ESG is important for several reasons. It not only addresses environmental and social challenges, but it also contributes to the overall resilience, sustainability, and success of companies as it focuses on the following areas: 

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Source: Protech Insights

Generative AI is the coolest new thing on the block. It is like a magic machine that can create anything you can imagine, from text to code to images to music. And it is already starting to revolutionize the way we do business.

So, what is generative AI, and why should you care?

Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence that can create added content, such as text, code, images, and music. It is trained on massive datasets of existing data, which it uses to learn the patterns and relationships in that data. Once trained, generative AI can be used to create added content that is like the training data, but also unique and original.

Generative AI is still in its initial stages of development, but it has the potential to revolutionize many industries. Here are just a few use cases of Generative AI:

Marketing and advertising:

To create personalized marketing campaigns, generate new ad copies, and create realistic product images and videos.

Creative industries:

To create new works of art, music, and literature. It can also be used to generate innovative ideas and concepts for creative projects.

Healthcare:

To develop new drugs and therapies, diagnose diseases, and personalize treatment plans.

Manufacturing:

To design new products, optimize production processes, and predict maintenance needs.

Financial services:

To develop new financial products and services, detect fraud, and manage risk.

In addition to these specific industries, generative AI is also having a broader impact on the way businesses operate. For example, generative AI is being used to automate tasks, improve customer service, and develop new business models.

So, how can you get started with generative AI?

The first step is to identify the tasks and processes in your business that can be automated with generative AI. Once you have identified these areas, you can start to experiment with different generative AI tools and platforms to find the ones that work best for your needs.

It is important to start small and scale up your use of generative AI as you gain more experience. It’s also important to monitor the results of your generative AI initiatives and adjust as needed.

Generative AI is a powerful technology that has the potential to transform many industries. By starting early and experimenting with different generative AI tools and platforms, businesses can position themselves to take advantage of this transformative technology.

Now, let us get funky!

Imagine a world where you can create anything you can imagine, with just the click of a button. That’s the world that generative AI is creating.

Generative AI can be used to create new products and services, improve existing ones, and even create new forms of art and entertainment. It is a technology that has the potential to change the world, and it is already starting to do so.

So, what are you waiting for? Start exploring the world of generative AI today!

For more information, please visit the original website: Protech Insights

In this month’s Knowledge Exchange we examine why users are closing the once mighty Windows platform in favour of macOS and Chrome OS devices which continue to grow in popularity and market share! 

Despite remaining the most dominant Operating System (OS) with 68% of market share worldwide, Microsoft’s Windows continues to face growing competition within the OS market.  

Over the past decade Windows has lost more than 22% of its desktop OS market share worldwide, and more than 27% of market share in the USA alone. In the same time frame macOS has gained 13.5% and Chrome OS has grown by more than 4%.  

OS Systems
Real time graphic – OS Systems Computer

Window’s popularity is due in part to its widespread availability on PCs from manufacturing partners such as Dell, HP, and Lenovo, but why has it lost such a significant proportion of the market in recent years? 

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How technology is changing the landscape of workplaces and workforces. 

There is no question that the working world is constantly evolving and adapting to modern life. Since the first industrial revolution in the 18th century, which saw the advent of machines for mass production, the way we work has been continually advancing. The age of the internet and computers began in the late 20th century, bringing a further shift towards automation and digitalization.  

Now with what has been deemed the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, cloud computing, machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and Internet of Things (IoT), further blur the lines between physical, digital, and biological domains.   

We have started to see the impact of these technologies in the workplace, but looking ahead to the future, how could they be further integrated into our day-to-day working environment? 

Evolution of the hybrid workplace: 

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Improve productivity, retain more staff, hire the best talent and reduce office and energy costs.

This month’s Knowledge Exchange will examine why more firms are not only adopting a work from home strategy (WFH) but also a WFA strategy, and what effects this is having on technology purchasing decisions, productivity, staff collaboration, corporate culture, and staff wellness including mental health. It will also examine what potential pitfalls to avoid, when looking to adopt a WFH policy. 

Introduction

According to the United States Bureau of Labour and Statistics, remote work has risen by 31% in the US in the last couple of years. While many associate this trend as a by-product Covid, allowing staff to work from home has been experimented with since another energy emergency gripped the world back in the 1970s, the Oil Crisis1.

During this time, which scarily mirrors the current energy crisis, rising inflation, the pressure on cost of living and energy, as well as the soaring costs for commuting forced the hand of some companies to allow its knowledge workers, to work from home.

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While these experiments were primarily aimed at supporting employees working from home, the proliferation of the Internet, email and other communications technology was making it easier for people to work from other places too such as customer sites, airports, and other places with reliable internet connection. Remember those Internet Cafes in the ‘90s?

Even before the Covid pandemic, around 20% of US workers were already working at home, according to the Pew Research Center. And this trend looked likely to grow, especially in the IT sector. The rapid and widespread onset of Covid naturally accelerated this adoption with office closures and lock downs, in another mass human experiment, this time on how businesses could continue to operate, and workers could effectively work remotely. After three years of WFH experimentation, the genie seems to be truly out of the bottle for a lot of workers with 54% of workers surveyed by Pew expressing a wish to continue to WFH now the pandemic has been declared over.


More recently, WFH has expanded the ability to work from anywhere (WFA) for cohorts of workers and especially Millennials and Gen Z who are attracted to being ‘digital nomads’, living in different parts of the world and working for companies that encourage remote, hybrid, WFH and WFA environments.

Technology, security, and infrastructure considerations

As we examined in last month’s Knowledge Exchange, the move to hybrid cloud is somewhat making it easier for organisations to adopt more WFH and WFA practices as a lot of the concerns of distributed computing can be managed in the cloud and with water-tight IT policies. Of course, the endpoint devices must be secure and have the right anti-virus and anti-malware detection on them as well as virtual private networks (VPNs) to encrypt traffic between the end point and the company environment, but with collaborative cloud-based office platforms, CRMs and video calling and instant messaging tools, the consistent threat to IT managers are the employees themselves and the email inbox!

Despite spam, malware and other malicious software screening, the level of sophistication of hackers and bad actors is constantly putting networks and infrastructures at risk either in a centralised office or in a distributed environment. Throw Artificial intelligence (AI) into the mix and IT Managers have another headache. AI can be immensely helpful in detecting suspicious activity and patterns, but also extremely tricky at the same time to detect as we examined in our recent cybersecurity articles.

Making sure remote workers are regularly trained in IT policy and best practice as a mandatory policy to be able to WFA is a prudent step to take when adopting a WFH/WFA strategy. And in a distributed cloud environment looking at a unified security solution should also be part of the strategy, according to Lloyd Tanaka of Checkpoint Software who thinks:

“Traditionally, organizations have established security protocols in conjunction with internet gateways. However, this approach only works when the number of access points are minimal and controlled, such as in a company’s office building,”

“When it comes to securing a WFA environment, making remote access work for all your employees requires must-haves, including, VPNs, real-time threat intelligence, a Zero-Trust approach to access management, and mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) device security.”

Tanaka also suggests IT Managers think about a unified approach to security in a distributed cloud environment and adopting Secure Access at the Service Edge (SASE) instead of managing point solutions. This, Tanaka suggests allows organisations to protect remote users and offices, consolidate networking and provide security-as-a-service.

“With SASE, organizations can lower OpEx and increase security at scale. Protect your distributed workforce with security that’s simple to implement, easily scalable and offers optimal management controls,” Tanaka said.

87% of employers said they anticipate prioritizing tech and digital infrastructure investments that support sustained remote work, according to the Boston Consulting Group

Lloyd tanaka

Productivity

Before Covid forced those that could work at home to do so, one of the main concerns companies had around WFH was largely centered around declines in staff productivity and staff collaboration, but in an in-depth study of the U.S. Patent & Trade Office (USPTO) started in 2012 by Harvard Business Review of working from home revealed that productivity actually increased by 4.4% without any loss in quality of work or work having to be redone. 

Whereas a study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) of 12,662 workers in the US, Germany and India found that during the Covid pandemic, 75% of employees said they had maintained or improved productivity levels by WFH. Although, the number was lower for collaborative tasks and cooperation,. Over 50% said they were able to maintain high levels of collaboration with co-workers including across geographical boundaries, which is encouraging for employers who have had concerns over how collaboration can work without in-person meetings and increasing requests from employees to WFA. 

In a separate study the BCG estimates using its analysis, as well as data from Forbes and Global Workplace Alliance estimates, that productivity can increase between 15-40%, a massive 40% reduction in absenteeism, can reduce staff churn by 15-20% and reduce real estate and associated costs by 20%.

Many commentators have attributed the increased productivity of WFA to the reduction in commuting to places of work. Traditionally businesses have looked to locate offices in large cities or towns that often have very high retail and renting prices, meaning the majority of the workers have had to commute into work from surrounding areas because they can’t afford to live near the office location. In addition, the quality of life in the suburbs or further away is usually much better than living in overcrowded city centres. So, workers have traditionally had to balance the stress and unproductiveness of the commute with the benefits of where they live even if it means that days are usually longer and there is less time at home and family during the working week. 

Cities and towns have built vast networks of public transport to ferry thousands of people into them every day, these networks are often unsuitable for the increasing numbers of people who wish to use them leading to uncomfortable overcrowding.  There is also a loss of productivity due to the dead time involved, where working whilst commuting is rarely possible despite advances in smart phones, WiFi connectivity and high-speed transit. 

For places with high retail and rental prices such as London, two- and three-hour commutes are not uncommon.  Now with the introduction of HS2 rail, the UK is rather questionably looking to transport even more commuters from the north of the country into London in addition to the traditional south and southeastern commuter belt. Perhaps now after three years of people working remotely and wanting to continue to do so, providing high speed internet connectivity rather than high speed rail would be a better solution for rural areas and areas where there are fewer job opportunities. Just getting to work can be an extremely stressful and energy zapping experience that can also affect people’s productivity when they arrive, which in turn can lead to more sick days as employees have to juggle the usual pressures with work, with commuting, school schedules and other factors. 

For those that can drive to work the pressures are similar with overcrowding on public highways and perpetual roadworks to fix the infrastructure from too many vehicles. In addition, with the increases in tolls and low emission zones to enter cities and towns over a long period of time the extra costs combined with the current high fuel costs, are influencing many workers to look for WFA options to save costs, decrease carbon footprints in favour of increases in productivity. 

And in terms of collaboration, the advancements in platforms such as Teams or Zoom has shown during the pandemic that staff can be just as, if not more collaborative by the ability to have video calls, instant message, and share files in the cloud. However, some employees have noted that even with collaboration tools, the ability to approach someone in an office at their desk, or in a communal eating space or even for a coffee, is something that they miss about WFH. 

Cost of living savings 

Combined with the high costs of commuting, in addition to high housing and rental prices in urban and suburban areas, the appeal to work in cheaper rural areas or in warmer climates can be beneficial for both younger and more senior employees. Inc. notes that for employees on a starting wage, WFA gives them the chance to reduce costs which would be the equivalent of a pay rise without their employer having to raise salaries. For more senior or longer tenured workers, WFA can offer the ability to relocate at more retirement friendly locations that would encourage them to remain in employment longer and retain their skills and experience in the organisation. 

Or in other instances, employees could locate nearer family members that may have already retired and may welcome being closer together for support and well-being. 

Environmental benefits, sustainability, and savings 

With less commuting, there are naturally positive knock-on effects to public transport and infrastructure and potentially less cars on the roads. Not only will this help employees save money on commuting charges but will also help reduce emissions on roads and for those that need to commute by public transport, more space on the trains and buses! 

Since the pandemic, many employers have also made savings on the physical size of workplaces and therefore rent and other costs to heat and cool employees as hybrid, WFH and WFA policies have continued. According to research by the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics: 

“Telework is also related to changes in the physical size of workplaces. Among the 6 percent (of its study) of establishments that reduced the square footage of their workplaces since the start of the pandemic, 63 percent increased telework. 

“By contrast, among establishments that either kept their square footage the same or increased it, 31 percent increased telework. Relatedly, among the 4 percent of establishments planning to decrease their square footage in the next 12 months (as of the time of the survey), 52 percent increased telework since the start of the pandemic. Of the remaining establishments, 32 percent increased telework.” 

And considering the current energy crisis which has mandated several countries in Europe to have set climate controls in term of maximum and minimum temperature for summer and winter months for public and working environments, WFA can allow employees to work from cooler spaces in the summer and hotter areas in the winter, while organisations can save on overall energy costs. 

Health and Well Being 

Many companies have encouraged staff to join gyms by giving discounted incentives or participate in sporting activities such as yoga or have things like bicycle subsidies in place to encourage staff to cycle to work. Why? Because it has long been considered that a worker’s physical health directly correlates to good productivity and less sick days. In its survey, the Boston Consulting Group found: 

“Employees who have experienced better physical health during the pandemic than before it is about twice as likely to have maintained or improved their productivity on collaborative tasks as those with worse physical health. This highlights the importance of building time for sleep, exercise, and nutrition into the new work routines.” 

And with the increasing awareness of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, employers need to be mindful of how to support remote workers with the same schemes as the physical office to ensure that remoteness does not become isolation or feeling out of the loop with what is going on. Again, there’s a distinct correlation between productivity and collaborative tasks and good mental health. 

KX Spotlight 

Moving forward, WFA will not be for all organizations, but the future of work looks increasingly hybrid with many companies surveyed by BCS expecting 40% of employees will be remote workers. To this end, employers will increasingly introduce or refine WFA and hybrid models to allow staff to switch seamlessly between spending time in the office, interacting with colleagues and managers and experiencing the company culture and general buzz of in-person interactions, with the ability to WFH and WFA. 

With technology and cloud increasingly making WFA a reality for a lot of workers just as long as end point devices are managed and secured in the same way application data is managed and secured in the cloud, companies can attract and work with the best talent anywhere in the world whilst offering more local staff the flexibility of hybrid working, that will in turn lead to improved productivity, a happy and healthier workforce and significant reductions in building and energy costs. 

Advantages of WFA policies: 

1. Childcare is more flexible during holidays and school pick-ups times 

2. Less sick days as people have a better work/life balance and tend to be healthier 

3. Better productivity 

4. Better flexibility for staff to keep physically fit 

5. Improved mental well-being for those that are comfortable in working remotely 

6. Lower living costs  

7. More time with family or closer proximity to family and friends. 

8. Reduction in physical office space and associated costs 

9. Improved ESG goals 

10. Attract the best staff from anywhere in the world 

Disadvantages of Remote Work: 

1. Online security: Humans tend to be the weakest link in the security chain. Managing point solutions can lead to overcomplex environments. 

2. There is some concern the effect that pervasive WiFi and more recently 5G is having on the environment, especially for bees and migratory birds. 

3. Worry that a company’s culture and values can be lost in a 100% WFH scenario. 

4. Social connectivity enables us to be collaboratively productive which is more present in an office environment 

5. Not all work and functions are suited from WFA 

6. Reduced physical fitness as more workers become sedentary 

7. Increased chance of mental health issues due to lack of interpersonal interaction 

Knowledge Exchange Further Reading: 

Harvard Business Review – Our Work-from-Anywhere Future  

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics  

Flexjobs – Top 30 Companies That Hire Work-from-Anywhere Jobs  

Indeed – 23 Jobs You Can Do From Anywhere in the World  

Newsweek – Radiation From Cellphones, Wi-Fi Is Hurting the Birds and the Bees; 5G May Make It Worse 

Digital Nomad World – Live Everywhere, Work Anywhere 

Tech Journal – Work From Anywhere: Concept or Reality  

BCG – What 12,000 Employees Have to Say About the Future of Remote Work  

BCG -Remote Work Works—Where Do We Go from Here?  

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Hope for the best by preparing for the worst: Knowledge Exchange examines the five key trends for ITDMs for 2023 and beyond.

As we enter the last few days of 2022 it is a customary tradition to do a bit of navel gazing about what the next year will hold for the IT Market and what hot topics will keep ITDMs awake at night next year.

As we end what has been for many, a rollercoaster of a year, there seems to be plenty of things that will cause a few sleepless nights in the months ahead!

Therefore, it is important to identify and adapt to these trends in a world that has had a perpetual round of shocks in the last decade that in more recent times has seen: a global pandemic, inflation, global supply chain issues, energy and food crises and latterly geopolitical instability through war. There are also many concerns over increasingly sophisticated criminal and state sponsored cyber-attacks. 

With another global recession on the horizon, it is more essential than ever to have the best and most actionable data, combined with continued investment in employee and customer value propositions, in order to ride the wave of these uncertain times.

In the first of this two-part piece, BNZSA will identify the key trends and challenges in the market for 2023 and beyond.

1. Hybrid Infrastructure

Many commentators have been tracking the long-lasting implications of Covid on the workplace and what knock-on effects it has had on the provision of IT services and employee working practices. While the race to look for more collaborative technologies during lockdowns and social distancing measures was a necessary first response to a natural disaster, most industry watchers believe that hybrid and remote working will continue after the pandemic.

In November 2022, a YouGov study on behalf of IT service and consultants NSC noted “… organisations should expect this to be a permanent and persistent pattern in their workplace and to prepare for this long-term shift.”

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