Planning for Hybrid Work? 3 Questions for IT Leaders

Work models that support self-serve and maintain compliance

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How do you design a hybrid working model that keeps all the benefits of traditional office life without sacrificing the productive, employee-centric aspects of work-from-home? Throughout the last year, the way we work went through irreversible, tectonic shifts. Decades-old processes were replaced with video conferences, cloud-based apps and electronic signatures. Years of progress were made in months. It was a breakneck IT evolution and hard to deny that it worked. In a lot of cases, it worked better than anyone thought possible. 

IT leaders are now facing another critical decision-making period. Having survived the reactive rush to an all-remote workforce, they must lay the groundwork for a flexible work environment that achieves employee satisfaction and business productivity for employees returning to physical offices. This new hybrid model requires a shift in technology systems and internal policies – but it doesn’t have to be a blind leap. As your team develops a blueprint for success, here are three important questions to ask:

1. Are your employees having consumer-grade professional experiences?

Employees' needs for a consumer-friendly experience should drive IT decisions. Historically, employees have had patience with business applications, but a year of working remotely has changed that. As the physical distinctions between home life and office life disappear for employees, so do the differences between consumer tech and employee tech. We’re at a point now where those two areas have blended almost completely. To serve modern employees effectively, IT teams need to consider the technological experiences they are having as consumers and invest in business tools to meet those new expectations.

The goal is to empowering employees with self-service tools to manage their own professional operations. This is a critical part of designing a hybrid work environment that can scale. IT leaders need the tools and governance controls to provide every employee with a self-service framework that allows them to independently manage tasks without delays and inefficiencies of traditional systems. The smooth, effective hybrid workflows of the future will be built on consumer-friendly experiences that let every employee personalize their own professional journey.

2. Does your technology stack deliver a collaborative, anywhere-friendly work model?

An effective hybrid work environment is one with an integrated technology toolkit that allows anyone to complete any task from virtually anywhere. There’s an important distinction to make here between true collaboration technology and basic communication technology. If your new virtual workflows involve employees holding meetings to simply communicate to each other that offline tasks are happening, that’s not effective. Instead you need a virtual room that empowers employees to complete tasks in the same workspace that is hosting the meeting. That collaborative technology cuts out unnecessary steps and accelerates desired business outcomes.

These interconnected virtual environments offer more than just a replacement for traditional in-person workflows. As new advances in AI, analytics and automation are made, they can be added to the virtual workspace to deliver a superior experience. With the same employees and the same amount of time as a traditional meeting, intelligent technology can make virtual collaboration infinitely more productive.

Consider the example of faster sales cycles achieved with self-service workflows. Those workflows are only achieved because system integrations are replacing manual handoffs and eliminating traditional bottlenecks. With increases in automation and improvements in governance, these self-service sales principles will be even more effective. As sellers move back to physical offices, the new sales flows should be a permanent part of company strategy.

The best IT leaders know that a successful hybrid-by-design strategy starts with an emphasis on interoperability. All critical business systems need to be supported by the same technological infrastructure. IT teams aren’t looking for a silver bullet to replace the entire network of employee-facing solutions. They want to build a network of tools that allows every employee to work in the best system for them. Achieving that state requires systems that power one another and collaborate together behind the scenes. 

3. Are your compliance and governance obligations being met?

One of the biggest growth obstacles in IT is governance. As employees work from new locations and expand the number of devices they use to connect to professional systems, new risks arise. The benefits of a more flexible workspace are significant, but not if those changes come at the expense of company security or create new administrative work. IT teams need to be able to govern end- user actions with a simple, code-free back end. 

This is particularly relevant for organizations in highly regulated industries like healthcare or finance. If an IT leader invests in a hybrid-friendly platform, it’s imperative that employee access is expanded without opening the door for compliance failures. That means powerful central controls and clear visibility into employee activity in the instance of an audit.

As far as compliance is concerned, there are also considerations around the data held and used in an organization. An IT leader who is laying the groundwork for a successful hybrid environment has important questions to ask about that data: Where is it being held? What people and technologies have access? Are there safeguards to protect that data? What happens in the event of a breach? Can the data be used to build AI models that accelerate the business? The organizations that build the most robust flexible work systems will begin their transformations by answering all of these questions.

To complicate the issue further, regulations about that data are always evolving at the local, state and federal level. Innovative IT teams will build a system of technology that gives internal policy makers all the tools they need to govern data appropriately as needs change.

Docusign Contributor
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