Embracing the Hybrid Workplace with a Cloud-first Strategy

July, 2022

During the pandemic, organizations quickly transitioned to remote work. But now, as we emerge from the pandemic, organizations need to transition to a more flexible, hybrid work model driven by cloud-enabled digital transformation. Employee experience must be at the center of defining the digital workplace. Nevertheless, there is no one-size-fits-all model, and businesses are taking a “test and learn” approach based on their size, culture, and employee preferences.

This research byte outlines what organizations should do to embrace the digital workplace models of tomorrow and how service providers are helping to facilitate this transformation. We highlight the efforts of one such service provider, Unisys, based on its recent analyst and advisor event in June 2022.

Hybrid Working Yields Big Results, But Skills are in Short Supply

Initiatives to implement a hybrid work model are primarily driven by cloud-led solutions, which are helping deliver business outcomes. In our Digital Workplace Services 2021 RadarView, we analyzed digital workplace projects and found that around 50% improved operational efficiencies and about 45% enhanced end-user experience.

However, as digital adoption, automation, and hybrid work become more common, there is a rising enterprise demand for access to digital skills, leading to wage inflation and creating a talent shortage. In such a scenario, technology service providers are coming to the rescue and playing a pivotal role in designing the employee-centric digital workplace focused on user productivity.

At its recent analyst and advisor event on June 1 and 2, 2022, in Boston, Chair of the Unisys Board of Directors and CEO Peter Altabef and his new business leadership team weaved together several of these areas to build an overall theme of “What’s next? Accelerating success.” The theme primarily reverberates upon the eminent pain point of today’s enterprise customers—though businesses swiftly transitioned to the work-from-home model during the pandemic, now they are asking what’s next? How can they mature from the temporary mandates imposed during the pandemic?

Many of Unisys’ customers including leaders and senior executives from Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, California State University, CommonSpirit Health, Nutreco, and Omnicom Group shared their experiences on how Unisys partnered with them in some of their digital initiatives.

In our Digital Workplace Services 2021 RadarView, we flagged that the first and foremost step businesses should take is to establish a baseline to understand their starting point in the journey toward a hybrid workplace. Figure 1 below outlines a digital workplace maturity framework embedded in a cloud-first strategy.

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Figure 1: Digital workplace maturity framework

In a rush to implement remote work during the pandemic, many organizations found themselves with a variety of cloud services. Now it is necessary to manage and optimize those multicloud environments. They will also need to shift from an input-based approach to an outcome-based one. Finally, they will need to strongly focus their efforts on change management.

Manage and Optimize a Multicloud Environment

As organizations transitioned their workloads in haste to the cloud during the pandemic, knowingly or unknowingly, they landed in a multicloud environment. This led them to implement automation methods such as FinOps, AIOps, and DevOps to achieve benefits such as reducing deployment efforts and cloud spending on business operations.

To address this, all the major service providers are strengthening their cloud-native capabilities by building tools and platforms for efficient containerization. Also, they are integrating advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) in their existing tools to improve application analysis for IT modernization and gain insights during compilation. This thought is amplified in our Hybrid Enterprise Cloud Services 2021–2022 RadarView.

In my interaction with Manju Naglapur, senior vice president (SVP) and general manager of Unisys’ Cloud and Infrastructure (C&I) Solutions business unit, he clarified how multicloud complexity, along with the modernization of the business applications, is the top client priority that he and his team are busy solving. Naglapur, who came to Unisys with the December 2021 acquisition of cloud provider CompuGain™, took over the reins of the company’s C&I Solutions unit in May 2022.

Naglapur, along with Dan Chalk, who recently joined from NTT DATA as senior director, C&I Solutions, talked about leveraging their existing cloud management platform (CMP), Unisys CloudForte®, as an abstraction layer for core atomics and the DevSecOps platform in a typical multicloud environment.

In August 2020, Unisys took a series of measures to enhance its CMP capabilities:

    • Added a feature for continuous assessment of a multicloud environment with remediation guidance in the form of CloudForte® Navigator
    • Partnered with Morpheus Data to offer advisory services and technical support
    • Introduced CloudForte Accelerators 1.0 that help automate deployment process in Azure and AWS landing zones and come with in-built security and compliance templates

In terms of customer examples, Unisys deployed the CloudForte® asset suite at a global real estate services firm to address the complexities of its multicloud environment. It helped consolidate 11 operations, set common standards, automate scale-up/down of the cloud usage, and provide consolidated governance. The solution optimized consumption and improved IT responsiveness.

Shift From an Input-Based to an Outcome-Based Approach

In moving to the digital workplace, enterprises need to move away from the traditional decision-making process based on specific tools or technologies to be deployed (input-based approach), and instead make decisions based on the outcomes they are aiming for. For example, an organization could be looking to achieve cost reduction and another could be looking to increase operational efficiency, while others could be wanting to enhance the employee experience or ensure business continuity. The digital workplace initiative will vary based on the desired outcome.

Moving to an outcome-based approach will drive changes in how service provider contracts are structured. Many digital workplace outsourcing contracts are transitioning from being SLA based to experience level agreements (XLA). About one-third of all digital workplace engagements were transaction- and outcome-based, according to an April 2021 survey conducted for our Digital Workplace Services RadarView. We found that all the major service providers are focusing on enhancing employee engagement by providing mobile-enabled omnichannel experiences through persona-based, end user-centric digital workplace services.

Unisys is no different and is embracing this trend with its new leadership. Leon Gilbert, SVP and general manager, Digital Workplace Solutions (DWS), and Mike McGarvey, VP, Solution Management, who joined from Atos in early 2021, are helping deliver a proactive experience by designing contracts that are more outcome-based, XLA-focused, and with an understanding of personas such as field workers, retail workers, and knowledge workers. They indicated that over the past 18 months, Unisys has grown its client base, delivering a proactive experience to 1.4 million end users, compared to 50,000 previously.

This shift in approach happened after Unisys acquired Unify Square, a specialist offering unified communication as a service, in June 2021. The move enabled Unisys to transition to a strong consulting-based engagement model by adding more than 50 digital workplace services consultants.

For instance, a healthcare organization recently underwent a significant merger exercise. It engaged Unisys to harmonize the end-user experience across two large hospital entities. Unisys utilized XLA-based reporting and leveraged workplace analytics and device telemetry tools to quantify the end-user experience, helping facilitate a consistent employee experience for frontline healthcare workers with the goal of improving patient experience.

Drive Focus on Change Management

The role of HR will become important when imagining new workplace environments. Enterprises need to amend their HR policies and align with business continuity requirements. HR will play a dual role in workforce and change management as businesses adopt new ways of working. HR will see an increased use of digital technologies such as AI for recruitment/hiring, automation in employee onboarding/exits, and deployment of virtual training and e-learning methods.

Progressive service providers are joining hands with enterprises to develop a culture of digital dexterity at the workplace, focusing on elements of employee experience, digital adoption, and organizational change management.

The Unisys DWS leadership team realizes that implementation is one thing, and it is equally essential for the end users to embrace the change. Hence, it embeds organizational change management in every deal, not just at the transition stage but across the engagement duration, helping customers realize return on their digital workplace investments.

For example, in any client organization, Unisys applies a focused organizational change management program by deploying tools that detect the digital dexterity of users. It not only helps in identifying the use of the digital tools deployed but also helps in elevating the overall experience directed toward a specific user persona. Thus, it allows organizations to learn profiles, determine the adoption rate, and understand the adoption pattern.

Hybrid Workplace: A New Way of Life

Hybrid work is here to stay. It is not a temporary measure but something that has changed the workplace forever. Enterprises need to fully embrace hybrid work and make it a permanent part of their vision. Otherwise, they will lose workers to competitors who can better embrace this new workplace model.

This trend will continue to generate demand for services enabling borderless workplaces driven by cloud-led digital transformation and those focusing on business outcomes. As a start, businesses need to assess their digital workplace maturity to create a road map for a hybrid workplace. Additionally, hybrid work models require defining the right strategy, ownership, and governance, along with designing an employee-centric digital workplace focused on user productivity.

This is where the technology service providers will come into play, equipping businesses to embrace the digital workplace models of tomorrow and enabling workplace transformation.

By Gaurav Dewan, Associate Research Director, Avasant