This month we held our seventh annual Advanced World customer conference – the first we have ever done virtually. It was a great success and presented an opportunity to reflect on the changes we have all faced in the last twelve months – and those that continue to affect our daily lives. The previous year, when we had held our conference in Birmingham, author Daniel Susskind had introduced a fresh perspective on the increasing, and different role that technology will have on our working lives – how true that has become.
Our customers from across a variety of sectors attended – many of whom have been deeply affected by the pandemic. Whether it is healthcare workers caring for patients on the frontline, schools and colleges navigating remote or distanced learning, legal firms wrestling with a huge backlog of cases or the transport industry struggling with travel curbs. We have all been trying our hardest to succeed in challenging and ever-changing circumstances – and technology has proved to be one of the most powerful tools in our armoury.
What would we have done without video conferencing? Since the pandemic started Zoom has tracked 3.5 trillion minutes of recorded video time and Microsoft Teams currently sees over 115 million active users every day. What used to be classed as ‘productivity tools’ have become essential in our working and personal lives, as a way of connecting with other people for business, learning and entertainment.
The great digitisation of business has well and truly arrived - and is accelerating fast. 77 per cent of respondents to our most recent annual business Trends Survey of 1,000 UK company leaders said a legacy of the pandemic for their organisation would be a shift to a digital-first mindset.
For business leaders it has meant taking a step back and looking closely at the technology employed in their organisations. High performance computing is what is required for the new future of work. Tools delivered through the Cloud have become essential if organisations are going to be dynamic and fluid enough to flex with the changing landscape. The days of large, costly servers based on premise and housing all a business’ software applications are gone.
Sid Nag, Research Vice President of Gartner, said in November 2020: “Gartner predicts that a lasting legacy of the pandemic will be that businesses will focus on three priorities – preserving cash and optimising IT costs; to support and secure a remote workforce; ensuring resilience.” He went on to say: “Investing in the Cloud has become a convenient means to achieve all three”.
This year will bring about the biggest shift in how we do business for decades. Most organisations are not going to go back to their pre-pandemic state as they respond to a world that has changed forever. Those that react positively will not only recover but thrive too. They will create a digital blueprint for their business, and it will rely on three things – technology, people and processes.
Remote working is here to stay in a variety of forms. Increasing numbers of workers are demanding access to high performing, scalable infrastructure to perform their duties from anywhere and on any device. The pandemic has forced an experiment in agile working that has finally debunked the myth that home working is less productive. As a result, we need to look afresh at our office planning and attendance strategies. We are going to see completely new thinking when it comes to how we utilise our office space and how we bring our people back to work, when and why. There is an enormous opportunity to do this hand-in-hand with environmental initiatives, supporting a more sustainable way of working, as we reduce our office spaces and cut back on non-essential travel.
Technology is also helping us on our journey to make our working environments more inclusive and diverse. Last year, not only did we see the emergence of a pandemic, but also a wave of fresh social introspection regarding the continued inequality and injustice in our society. As business leaders it is our job to ensure everyone can bring their true selves to work and thrive in an organisation that is fair, welcoming and equitable. At Advanced, we are about to publish our first Diversity Pay Gap Report, an important milestone in this work. We need to use technology to support every member of staff, including those whose circumstances or needs may have changed during the past year. And as we look to recruit new people, we can now throw the net wider to include those who may have geographical, physical or social restrictions around travelling into a workplace.
Our evolving work life can encourage and support more freedoms - in where we work and how. We have a chance to rewrite our working day, to be inventive, do things differently and go forwards not back. Software has the power to help us create all kinds of new possibilities and turn them into reality.