Paid Feature The pandemic changed the way a great many companies organised their workforce, with offices closed and employees expected to carry on working from home. Many of these changes are here to stay, and for enterprises, the question is how they can best adapt their IT to support this new world of work.
According to figures from Gartner, 51 per cent of knowledge workers worldwide are expected to be working remotely by the end of 2021, up from 27 per cent in 2019. The analyst firm estimates that remote workers will represent 32 per cent of all employees worldwide by the end of 2021, up from 17 per cent in 2019.
Gartner distinguishes between fully remote workers and hybrid workers, the latter traveling into the office some days and working from home or remotely on others.
With a hybrid working model set to be the future of work, at least for the near term, many enterprises are giving more consideration to the end-user experience. This is to ensure that employees have the right tools to stay in touch with customers and the rest of their team, to ensure that they have devices with the necessary performance, and also to make it easier for workers to fulfil their role and be more productive.
This means re-evaluating the endpoint devices that employees are provided with, and whether these deliver the end user experience that workers need in this new world of remote working, according to Tom Butler, Lenovo’s executive director for its worldwide commercial portfolio.
“The question is how do you maintain engagement and the human connection that we have? When you enter into meeting spaces in person, you have an immediate engagement with the teams in front of you because you’re face to face, you’re seeing each other, you’re making eye contact.”
Better kit required
A direct consequence of this is that Lenovo has seen a significant increase in customer demand for systems with better quality cameras, better quality audio output, and better microphones for capturing audio, all driven by the number of virtual meetings and video conferences that employees have been participating in while working remotely.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad laptops, for example, have benefited from a partnership with Dolby that has led to them sporting Dolby Audio tuning and Dolby Vision display panels for better quality audio and video. They have multiple microphones that allow for near-field and far-field pickup, which allows them to act as a speakerphone, or tune the microphones to pick up just the voice of the user in front of the system. Higher resolution, higher quality cameras have also been added.
Another development that Lenovo has seen from its corporate customers is recognition that a laptop may be great for portability, but for prolonged use, workers need larger displays and a workspace setup more in line with that you would expect to see in the office.
“What we’re seeing is that customers are outfitting a working from home model with dual monitor support, with Thunderbolt docking capabilities allowing for high resolution monitors, plus full-size keyboard and mouse, of course,” Butler says. “It’s what I call Mission Control, which allows you to have the optimal sort of workspace in terms of the full setup that you need to work from home.”
Thunderbolt is a high-speed interface that delivers data, video, and power through a single port. Laptops with a Thunderbolt port can easily connect with a desktop dock and add two 4K displays, a wired LAN connection, plus the usual peripherals.
Another issue with staff working from home is connectivity, as not everyone has high-speed broadband, and so there has been higher demand for devices with integrated mobile broadband connectivity, both 4G and increasingly 5G. Lenovo has also implemented support for Wi-Fi 6, the latest wireless network standard, across its range. This not only provides higher bandwidth, but copes better with network congestion, when multiple devices are all using the same access point.
Securing remote endpoints
Better connectivity is also being driven by the need for heightened security, according to Lenovo. In an on-site environment, users are effectively behind the firewall and operating in a much more controlled environment.
This is very different for workers at home, where their endpoint device effectively becomes an outpost of the corporate network. In this situation, the ability for the IT team to reach employee devices is vital in order to keep them up to date with patches and ensure the correct security settings are used.
“So the endpoint is the new network and IT has to manage and control that endpoint and more importantly, secure the endpoint. You want to ensure that you have devices that are always up and connected so you can patch, update, and maintain against security threats at all times.”
A consequence of this heightened security is that organisations are putting more security in place around endpoint devices, in order to guard against threats such as malware. This in turn is placing greater demands on the performance and memory resources of those endpoint systems, and so Lenovo reports that customers have been upsizing the memory configuration of new systems, and also looking to move more quickly to the latest generation devices with greater performance.
A willingness by companies to offload or outsource their endpoint fleet to a third party is another trend of recent years, according to Lenovo. This enables the organisation’s in-house IT teams to stop worrying about managing laptops and other devices and focus more time and effort onto more strategic projects. In addition the organisation is in a better position to access newer hardware with better security and performance.
Outsourcing end user IT for a simpler life
This consumption model is called ‘device-as-a-service’, or DaaS, and a recent survey by Lenovo found strong interest in DaaS across the board, and especially in large and medium-sized corporations where two-thirds of IT decision makers expressed interest in it.
“It’s about allowing us to take on the ownership, the security, the manageability of the devices from the customer, because so much of their time historically has been allocated to the management of the individual devices,” says Butler of Lenovo’s own DaaS offering.
“The overall experience we offer is a rolling refresh of devices. We optimize the fleet by looking at the different use cases, how the devices are being used, and what level of performance is needed,” he adds.
For example, Lenovo can profile workers and categorise them into personas based on their roles and the workloads associated with those roles, and allocate a device configuration suitable for those requirements.
“Let’s say you’re a content creator, you need more performance. And let’s say I am a general office worker, I need less performance. So the day to day office suite, email kind of processing needs. We can identify those types of personas, and allocate a larger, more powerful device your way,” Butler explains.
Under a device-as-a-service arrangement, Lenovo assumes responsibility for replacing end user devices in the event of a hardware failure, and delivers them ready-configured and updated with the latest patches and drivers, pre-loaded with the set of applications required by the customer.
Lenovo can deliver updated devices to remote workers, as and when necessary. Customers can therefore take advantage of the capabilities of new generation hardware without having to wait for their next endpoint refresh cycle.
“Generally, companies are running a two to three year lifecycle. So that means you’re refreshing, say, one third to one half of your devices at a given point in time. That’s a large ask of an IT department, to handle that number of devices,” Butler says. “And so we’re able to take that responsibility and refresh on a more frequent basis. We can put new products in place as your performance needs or organisation size scales.”
If a workgroup within an organisation is given a new mission with more demanding requirements, Lenovo can refresh their systems with higher performance hardware. Meanwhile, silicon providers like Intel typically bring in new platforms on an annual basis, and as a system builder, Lenovo has immediate access to these upgrades.
Device-as-a-service also has other advantages: it allows the financing of new equipment to be moved from capital expenditure costs to an operating expense through a predictable monthly fee, with support available through a single point of contact. This can reduce total cost of ownership for endpoint systems, while delivering shorter refresh cycles.
With this in mind, it seems certain that device-as-a-service is set to be adopted by more organisations as they seek to adopt a more agile and flexible approach to IT, while continuing to deliver the appropriate hardware their workforce needs to function remotely in comfort, and stay productive.
Sponsored by Lenovo.