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Enterprise IT Leaders: Preparing for Hybrid, Future of Work

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The future of communications and collaboration at times can feel both known and unknown. On one hand, many enterprises are betting on hybrid, investing in tools to improve collaboration among a mix of in-office and remote employees. On the other hand, other enterprises are planning to stay all remote, pointing to gains in worker productivity, and as such are looking at technology roadmaps from that perspective. And others still are making their decisions around the day all workers return full-time to the office.
 
No matter where your organization fits on this spectrum, the challenge of rethinking collaboration and communications for the post-pandemic experience is universal. So, what’s on the minds of enterprise IT professionals responsible for these decisions at their companies?
 
Last week at a half-day virtual summit sponsored by Zoom and hosted by Enterprise Connect, we had the opportunity to hear from several enterprise IT leaders from across industry verticals (legal, finance, education, energy, and more) on how they’re approaching the future of work and have adapted to change over the last year. Though each had unique obstacles during the pandemic, several themes and takeaways emerged from the discussion.
  1. Adjusting to Hybrid Work — At Harvard Business School (HBS), the university has applied the hybrid model to the classroom, shared Ron Chandler, CIO at HBS, during one roundtable. It has made the classrooms COVID-19-compliant, turning classrooms into Zoom Rooms and refreshing video and audio systems and projectors, and has set a cap allowing no more than 25 students to attend a class in person. To determine which students can come in, HBS built an app that serves as a lotto system, which also allows students to barter days with each other. At law firm Arnold & Porter, Vincent Pelly, director of global head of IT infrastructure, is working out the finer points of a hybrid work strategy, but here’s what he knows so far: Employees want more and more collaboration. Toward that end, one technology on his roadmap is the digital whiteboard capability within Zoom meetings, he said.
  2. Training Employees on Video, How to Collaborate — With more employees working remotely, many enterprises needed to train employees on how to use videoconferencing and other digital tools, and each has its own way of tackling the challenge. At ExxonMobil, IT "didn't provide any training," but rather "leveraged all the material that Zoom already had on the website and [created its] own mini version," Miriam Murad, IT fellow and UC solutions architect for the company, said. At the beginning of the pandemic, many employees at professional services firm Deloitte were just "grabbing all types of things off the market, things that put the rest of the firm at risk," Aaron Roe, CTO of products & solutions and managing director at the firm, said. To counteract this, Roe and his team created an internal portal, called "Collaboration Central," which lists approved digital tools and outlines when to use one over another. It also provides a list of blacklisted tools, he said.
  3. Creating a Video-first Culture — While HSB plans for more students to return in the fall, it is “largely a video culture now" and expects to have more remote students moving forward, Chandler said. At JPMorgan Chase, which had a strong video-first work culture before COVID-19, the video collaboration team will continue looking at how to leverage video in new ways to improve the employee experience, Eugene Pitts, an executive director at the financial institution, said. For example, his teams played "Zoom Roulette," where 100 people join a Zoom bridge and two random people get paired up and placed in a breakout room to get to know each other, Pitts said. These video experiments allowed employees to have those "personal moments and those other ways to connect because ... what we were doing before a year ago just isn't viable anymore," he said.
Whether the future of work is remote, in person, or hybrid, lessons learned over the course of the pandemic will inform how enterprises operate in the months and years to come. But it seems like a safe bet that cloud-based videoconferencing isn’t going away anytime soon.

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