In the blink of an eye, the world as we knew it has changed. As governments across the world announce lockdowns of various proportions, companies are now having to run their operations with almost their entire teams working remotely. In many cases, they have had to make this switch overnight, or within days.

This new normal is forcing every company to re-imagine the future of work. Work is now officially an activity and not a place. Organizations both large and small need to find new ways of working, to help their customers and partners keep their employees safe, secure, and productive. This is the central business imperative for CIOs, CISOs, CEOs, and CFOs today.

Although there’s confusion about how to go about rolling out such a solution, there’s no doubt that working remotely is the new normal. A recent survey by Gartner, for example, shows that 74% of CFOs and finance leaders believe that at least 5% of previously on-site employees will move to permanently remote positions in order to benefit from creative cost savings.

As economies return to a sense of normalcy, employers and employees will still find value in teleworker scenarios, such as increased productivity, lower real estate costs, and the ability to configure/reconfigure their systems based on possible future crises.

The typical multi-domain remote working solution, therefore, requires three fundamental building blocks. The first is connectivity, which involves bringing remote workers online to connect them and help them be productive. The second is the need to enable collaboration among teams. Finally, the third building block, and perhaps most critical in today’s day and age, is security –  especially with organizations encouraging staff to bring their own devices (BYOD) to the corporate network at an unprecedented scale.

Business leaders need to open their systems to remote access and secure collaboration, at speed and at scale, with common policy, visibility, and assurance to ensure no compliance risks.

The four personas of today’s remote workers

We have been working with clients across the region on remote working capabilities for decades now. Our experience indicates that there are four personas that organizations need to support when they think of enabling the business to work from home.

The first is the Executive User which is usually reserved for company executives and client-facing employees with access to specific video conferencing hardware. This user is usually on a critical meeting with senior executives or addressing employees, and therefore, the experience from home needs to be flawless.

Next is the Power User, for employees in the field and road warriors who need to connect from anywhere, at any time. The fluidity of the nature of their work calls for their connectivity and collaboration activities to be secure. A Super User might also often require the flexibility of a Power User.

The Mobile User is the third persona. This type of user is typically an employee who uses only cloud-based applications, this is typically for functional roles who need to connect and collaborate and could probably get away with working without a laptop while ensuring high levels of productivity.

Finally, the fourth persona is IT Ops who oversees the rapid deployment of the work from home architecture, at scale, and not only supports but also ensures that all these personas have a seamless experience.

Businesses, depending on their demands, will need different persona-based architectures. If they are managed cohesively, flexibility and cost optimization can be guaranteed, even as organizations adhere to any and all workforce and workplace requirements.

Building the Business Continuity Ready Enterprise

Many businesses are struggling to enable staff to work from home quickly and at scale, without compromising on security, risk management, and regulatory compliance requirements.

I can tell you that achieving this scale of remote working is not an easy task. To be able to do it overnight, or within a couple of days’ notice, is a herculean task, to say the least. However, companies don’t have the luxury of time when they face a challenge of the scale we are witnessing right now.

The speed with which companies respond to crises, by building the flexible and a resilient business, is going to be the critical differentiator in ensuring business continuity.

One of Cisco’s clients — a leader in the industry with more than 100 employees — was among the companies faced with the need to enable its entire staff to work from home overnight. Below is a snapshot of how we worked with them to not only make the change possible but also take care of change management and ensure compliance with prevailing laws and regulations.

Enabling Remote Working: Use case for leading Global IT company

Enabling remote work was possible for the client because it decided to go with a single vendor with a strong, full stack portfolio developed on agile and scalable architecture with security embedded into its DNA. Pursuing a multi-vendor solution would be impossible to deploy and roll out as quickly and would be an IT nightmare for a number of reasons, for the foreseeable future.

This is why it is important to have a partner who can help you not just survive, but even thrive under such circumstances. At Cisco, our years of experience supporting 95% of the Fortune 500 companies with their collaboration needs has given us an in-depth understanding of how we need to orchestrate the architecture needed to allow 100 percent of staff to work securely.

In my next post, I’ll explain in more detail why cybersecurity has to be integral to any remote working architecture and what companies should do to ensure that their staff are able to collaborate in a secure manner.