It took a pandemic to make us think properly about our future flexible workforce

Sometimes it takes a major event to force a change. Without such an event to make us challenge ourselves hard about something, we often just carry on doing what we’ve always done the way we’ve always done it.

That has definitely been the situation with our workplaces and travel. I’m all for people having real human contact as I think there’s a stimulation of ideas that often can only happen when you’re actually with people and can see and respond to their body language, this is very hard to replicate over a conference call, same with meeting clients there are times when you need to be in the room together, but it’s certainly not every time.

When I think about the sequence of events as we went into this crisis it happened very quickly, one day we were together in our offices and the next we were working from home and IT had to respond rapidly to this new situation.

Fortunately a lot of companies had already moved some of their systems to SaaS providers such as M365 so this enabled people to carry on certain activities relatively unhindered. Some had also implemented virtual desktops which again helped, but many still had to scramble to upgrade network connections to enable users to VPN to get access to data and get them access to a device if they didn’t have one, that could be used to run the necessary applications.

For many this was the time to push forward their Virtual Desktop plans, to scale deployments that they already had to meet the huge new demand, and the Cloud came to the rescue, there simply wasn’t time to buy new equipment to wait for it to ship, to install it, configure it.

One of our UK based clients was in exactly this situation, how to scale their Virtual Desktop environment to meet the needs of the new working environment. They chose Azure and because they were already using NetApp on-premises it was very simple for them to rapidly and securely replicate the desktop images and data to our Azure NetApp Files, this is our technology running as a first party service in Azure. This happened overnight and not only did it solve the immediate problem it’s now also given them a platform to enable their future hybrid and flexible working environment.

They’ve essentially started to build their data fabric.

A data fabric is about enabling you to put the right data in the right place at the right time so that everyone is able to do what they need to do. As our technology is now available across all the major cloud providers, in nearly every region they operate in it provides a foundation for flexibility, whilst also taking care of data protection, encryption and even compliance. Then using our SPOT PC technology we are able to provide fully managed, continuously optimized cloud desktops as a service, reducing costs by 50% and more.

What’s next?

The world will not go back to anything like the way it was pre-pandemic, it’s now acceptable to ask ‘can we do this next meeting via a conference call?’, I think there were probably many times when we wanted to ask this before the pandemic, but we felt that it wasn’t showing enough respect or commitment to the person we were planning to meet, so we continued to jump on a plane or drive for multiple hours.

We still need to stimulate teamwork, creativity and a sense of belonging though. I think teams will rent a small facility by the day to work on a specific task, or just to get the group together, I think we’ll see drop in hubs where people can just turn up to meet with other people from the same company and of course we’ll continue to see a significant amount of working from home. NetApp ourselves are working on what our ‘Future of work’ will look like and we’ve already significantly scaled back the size of our HQ in San Jose.

Having a data fabric underpinning this is going to be essential to meet the needs of the Hybrid and Flexible workspace.

If you’d like to know more about how you can start to build your data fabric then come and join us on October 20th, 21st or 22nd (depending on your timezone) for NetApp Insight Digital where you can meet with, and put any of your questions to our specialists.

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