Going mobile to support hybrid working models

Woman in dungarees sat in a home office, smiling slightly while she looks at her laptop.

Flexible working jumped from ‘pipeline goal’ status to full-blown reality within a matter of weeks, and with this trend the channel pivoted to support customers. Remote working won’t be forever, however, with business leaders now recognising hybrid working models as the most likely future, and channel businesses will need to adapt once more.

With the kitchen table now the prime hub for daily business, remote working technologies are being put to the test. This has led to a surge in demand for the likes of collaborative technology, security and devices. In addition to this shift in channel trends, stock shortages, delays and cancellations of big projects also rocked channel firms earlier in the pandemic.

Today, the ability to work flexibly is critical. Adapting to the ‘new normal’ is a collaborative effort which calls for unity between the c-suite, IT departments and third-party experts. As businesses ask themselves whether they’re prepared for remote working in the long-term, and if they can do more than simply survive - but thrive, the channel must adapt to these new demands. These businesses must, crucially, stay ahead of the curve and provide the support and expert consultancy needed to guide customers through uncertain times.

We know working from home is not a new concept, however, and the connected office has long been deemed a critical enabler of the modern era’s distributed workforce, bringing productivity and experience boosters. By 2018, for example, 15% of EU workers were able to work from home.

Nevertheless, remote working has now been fast-tracked, with two years of technological change occurring overnight. This needs to be sustainable for it to be meaningful beyond the COVID-19 outbreak, however, and channel partners have a role to play in supporting customers with consultancy that goes beyond selling products. Instead, they must utilise a holistic approach to managing their relationships.

Empowering productivity

While challenging, this is also an opportunity for businesses to demonstrate their agility – and for those lacking agility, to prioritise it. The channel must rise to this, helping customers transition with the right tech.

There’s no doubt this shift will test security and infrastructure to the limit, but flexible working can boost productivity too, giving employees freedom to work away from office distractions. Meanwhile, the human factor cannot be underestimated. The workforce, too, would strike a better work-life balance, with more time to share with family and no daily commute.

As the workforce settles into the home office, there are important security considerations that need to be made – keeping applications safe in the data centre and protecting end-point data – to support network traffic and enabling increased flexibility. As a result, businesses should be carefully thinking through their value chain – and partners can support them on this journey as trusted advisors.

Research shows that traditional PC shipments are already exceeding expectations, with strong double-digit growth in Q2 2020. As lockdowns became the norm, recovery in the supply chain meant the unprecedented pent-up demand for mobile form factors demanded that the need to work and study from home was satisfied. Looking to the future, it’s clearly a huge channel opportunity, as setting up the home office with the right devices offers the connectivity and performance levels deemed essential to sustain collaborative teams. With a remote workforce, it's more important than ever for channel partners to provide the tools, training and resources to ensure teams collaborate and stay connected.

Extending security to the home office

By raising the number of devices connected to the network, the challenge will be managing and processing additional data. To completely overhaul existing networks is unrealistic for most businesses, as this not only takes time but drains resources. Expert guidance from channel partners can help to guide concerned customers when it comes to identifying the optimal solutions. For example, edge computing can help to process data while limiting the impact on the enterprise cloud by only sending selected data. Questions around security are relevant, too, and channel businesses are in pole position to provide the answers.

Europol recently revealed the number of cyber attacks against individuals and organisations has grown to levels much higher than expected, and will continue to rise. This is due to the increased surface area susceptible to attack now that the home-based workforce is connecting to their organisation’s systems remotely. Data must be protected - all the way from the endpoint to the data centre - and channel firms need to be ready to support customers by driving home this awareness, and building a strong understanding of cyber security.

As channel leaders look to guide their customers through these unprecedented times with tailor-made business-critical solutions, a robust and collaborative ecosystem is more important than ever. This is a moment where IT decisions mean the difference between surviving and thriving – so expert channel consultancy is more important than ever.

Rob Tomlin is vice president and general manager for channel and distribution with Dell Technologies UK