Unstructured. Flexible. Collaboration. These are some of the words that came up in a panel discussion about operational productivity and the future of work. And two of the biggest issues? Cybersecurity and the customer experience.
Business leaders are trying to wrap their heads around how to build a framework for the future of work in a post-pandemic world. The hybrid model is here to stay, so the future of work will require integrated solutions that allow businesses to deliver the best possible experience for their employees and their customers—without taking a hit on productivity or security.
A panel of Cisco and Allstream experts addressed this issue as part of Allstream’s Future of Work webinar series, now available on-demand.
The future is hybrid
“We’ve been living and breathing this dilemma here at Cisco over the past couple of quarters,” said Joey LeMonier, sales manager with Cisco Meraki, during the panel discussion. Like most companies at the start of the pandemic, Cisco went from a traditional in-the-office environment to having a remote, distributed workforce.
“The real challenge now is there’s a lot of opaqueness of what it’s going to look like moving forward,” he said. “Are we going to be fully in the office? Is there going to be a hybrid model? What we’re hearing out here in the Valley is the hybrid model is really what’s going to be moving forward.”
That being said, how can organizations maintain their operational productivity, their security posture and their customer experience in this new hybrid world?
“I think it’s hubris to go on this journey alone,” said LeMonier. “Use a trusted source to help not only navigate the technologies that can facilitate this, but how to do it in a cost-effective manner as well.”
The future is SD-WAN
One of those technologies is SD-WAN, which can boost productivity, enhance security and improve the customer experience.
“Productivity and customer experience go hand-in-hand, because if you’re productive, you can enhance your customer experience,” said Matt Waldo, senior product manager with Allstream.
For example, SD-WAN enables multi-site connectivity over typical internet connections, so you can prioritize applications in the cloud or remote locations to ensure they’re not impacted by regular browsing or general traffic.
“That’s going to help your customer experience (by) making sure you’re always connected to your customers,” said Waldo. And on the security side, SD-WAN allows you to encrypt connections between locations to mitigate threats—which also serves to improve the customer experience in the background.
While MPLS still has a use case, with SD-WAN “we can achieve the same outcome at a fraction of the cost,” said LeMonier. “And if you think about the environment we’re in today … SD-WAN really enables that experience of being in the office while you may be in a distributed location.”
The future is CX
Consumers expect to be able to access their products and services whenever they want, so if those aren’t available, “the first thing that we do is we blame the company for not meeting our expectations and then we call a branch or we call a contact center,” said Dan Mathews, CTO for Cisco’s global contact center sales and strategy organization.
That, in turn, becomes a high-cost interaction for the company since they’re using human capital to resolve the issue.
With an SD-WAN framework—especially one in a cloud environment with distributed applications, distributed agents working from home and distributed consumers across multiple channels—you can ensure a high level of quality and reliability while avoiding escalations to high-cost interactions.
“SD-WAN has a significant impact on the underpinnings of your application strategy,” said Mathews.
SD-WAN has other use cases, too. “You can really enhance your productivity and customer experience by having a wireless failover or having multiple accesses so that you maintain that uptime and maintain that experience for your customers, while also staying very productive for your employees,” said Steve Fisher, Allstream’s COO who leads IT and network architecture, technology innovation and network operations.
Driving operational productivity
So how do you get started? “It comes down to defining your needs,” said Waldo. “Are they operational efficiencies? Are they increased productivity? How are you going to support your business growth?”
Whatever those needs are, there is no single technology or point product that can solve all of these issues in the post-pandemic world. Finding the right architecture and the right partners can go a long way in helping business leaders manage the new world of work.