Remote-First is the Recipe for Success. There’s No Going Back on Working From Home

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As we approach seven months in this new reality, if you’re waiting to get through this period of having your employees work from home so you can return to the in-office model you had before, you may be missing a major opportunity. I believe that companies whose strategies remain unchanged by the current events are going to lag the industry as we go forward. In contrast, companies who are embracing a remote-first workforce are going to lead, because they’re going to move into a much more flexible model which allows them to drive business continuity, further business growth, and attract and retain talent.

We at Dell Digital, Dell’s IT organization, have realized that having a remote-first strategy is a key business differentiator, having enabled Dell to have uninterrupted business continuity over the past several months. We recognize in the data and what the industry is telling us that we should further reinforce our strategy to enable work to be completed anywhere, any place, any time in support of evolving work styles and personas.

Our customers are clearly telling us that they need their team members to be able to work wherever they are. Creating the flexibility for employees to work anyplace, anywhere, anytime is an approach Dell IT has been cultivating for several years.

If your company has decided to embrace that approach as well, your IT department will need to understand the desired business outcomes and support them by deploying modern, secure, mobile capabilities enabling flexible, remote-first work that meet the new needs of your businesses.

Before I offer advice on where to begin, a brief look at Dell IT’s workforce efforts might provide some useful insights.

Leveraging Digital Agility

At Dell Digital, we recognized quickly that we had digital agility that many other companies around us didn’t have. It allowed us to transition into working from home in a frictionless way and to maintain business continuity through this time period.

We leveraged our Connected Workplace program, which has been evolving at Dell over the last ten years enabling Dell team members to choose the work style that best fits their needs on the job and in life in a highly mobile, collaborative environment.

Dell Digital Team Member Experience (TMX) has also been driving a mobile-first approach to IT services for the past two years. We developed employee personas to standardize how team members are provisioned with the right devices, technology, applications, and access rights to let them work from anywhere. We had already been deploying key technologies, including Workspace ONE and collaboration tools like Teams and Zoom.

A prerequisite for the successful deployment of our modern services was the transition of our legacy network to a modern SD-WAN network allowing us to deliver the desired modern application experiences to our team members in a consistent way globally.

All these factors helped us shift 130,000 team members to working from home in a matter of weeks and will continue to be the foundation for our ongoing connected workforce efforts.

Assessing Remote-First Readiness

Where do you start in shaping your workforce’s future?

If you’ve tactically adjusted from on-campus to remote, I recommend that you begin mapping your long-term remote-first strategy by doing an assessment, both in terms of the infrastructure you’re running on, your endpoint solution, your network, and also your security posture.

First, make sure you calibrate with your human resources group around any adjustments to your work models and the talent needs of the company going forward in terms of remote-first or on-campus. For example, the remote-first workplace should include ways to help team members establish and sustain relationships beyond the traditional on-campus interactions. Being able to give team members the flexibility to work from home or on-campus is more crucial than ever in attracting and retaining talent to support growth and business continuity.

Second, look at what you have done in the last couple of months in terms of tactics and adjust them to meet the critical needs of the business to work from home. Make sure to build security in by design as you develop solutions in support of long-term strategic, scalable work modality.

And then from a technology point of view, probably more than ever, you need to assess alignment between the end-user group and the security group to make sure that the services, which are now being provided beyond the campus walls, are being deployed in a secure and scalable way.

With team members relying on Teams and Zoom as they work remotely, it’s important that your end-users’ devices are fit for purpose to work from home. Have you given employees the right laptop, etc., with the right specifications? The combination of modern services and increased security can impact device performance and end-user experience. In response, we have accelerated our device refresh program to move everyone to the latest specs.

Equally essential is determining if your network is fit for purpose to deliver the experience that you want. I recommend deploying SD-WAN to get the best economics and user experience going forward.

It’s important for IT to understand your organization’s facilities plan in terms of remote goals as well. If you are looking at reducing buildings and increasing the number of long-term remote roles, that has implications for how IT designs its services. This can include service delivery transitioning from on-site to service desk, PC provisioning to PC as a service (PCaaS), and data center capacity investment in support of remote-enabling capabilities such as Workspace ONE and/or VPN.

If the company does move into a more remote model, it’s a natural assumption to think that onboarding and supporting remote workforce will be part of talent, attraction, and retention, creating the need to deliver devices and services directly to team members’ homes with consumer-like, out-of-box experience.

Depending on your bandwidth and your structure, you can certainly do a self-assessment on your remote-first architecture, resources, and needs. You can also seek consultative services in this area, which Dell Technology Services does provide.

Whichever you choose, creating a roadmap or a bridge plan to a modern, scalable, remote-first architecture will ensure your company will lead and not lag as the current work-from-home scenario evolves into the workplace strategy of the future.

Be sure to check out a presentation by Pat Quigley and Kevin Cross, CISO, Security and Resiliency Organization, on Dell IT: Transforming the Technology Experience to Empower Our Workforce Anywhere, Anytime​. This session was presented at the Dell Technologies World Experience October, 2020.

Find out more about how Dell is reimaging how IT does business at Dell Technologies: Our Digital Transformation.

Do you have a remote-first strategy? I’d love to hear your thoughts and perspectives in the comment section below.

About the Author: Pat Quigley

Pat Quigley is a 20+ year IT veteran – a geek who thrives on change – passionate about creating a dynamic and collaborative workplace where team members can work seamlessly from anywhere, anytime, on any device. Pat is vice president of the 900+ person Dell Digital Team Member Experience (TMX) organization that is driving workforce transformation across Dell Technologies. He is also a recreational cyclist and avid oarsman who thrives on the work-life balance made possible by these modern solutions.
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