As the Covid-19 pandemic necessitates widescale pivoting to remote working and learning, George Maybury, Public Sector Director of Dell Technologies Ireland, discusses the changes in the way organisations are having to go about their business and what is to come next in an evolving workplace.
“Over the last few months, we have seen extremely high levels of activity. It has been very busy right across the public sector,” George Maybury says. “Primarily looking at computing, where Government is trying to allow people to interact digitally, we’ve seen that some organisations have invested ahead of the curve. Organisations such as the NTMA have had a sustained end user transformation programme over the last two years and were very ready for the current crisis.”
Maybury says that Dell Technologies was itself well prepared because of the remote and flexible working arrangements that have been in place for its 6,000 strong workforce in Ireland since 2009. That experience has allowed the company to share its expertise with clients and to observe the stages at which they find themselves.
“Central government is a historically desktop-driven environment that is now trying to work remotely and move to a more agile workforce. That move towards an agile workforce is probably a two to three-year plan. In the first quarter of this year there was a demand for laptops that went through the roof. But on the remote working pivot, we’re only two months into a 24 to 36-month change process.”
Connected Workplace is Dell’s programme which allows employees to choose the work style that best fulfils their needs on the job and in life in a highly mobile, collaborative, and flexible work setting. Maybury says that the programme has allowed for a change in how Dell thinks about work; where work is not anchored to one place and time and instead is focused on outcomes.
Having established a 2020 goal in 2013 to enable 50 per cent of their workforce to work flexibly, Dell surpassed that goal, with approximately 65 per cent of team members leveraging work flexibility in their jobs. This integration allowed Dell to move 90 per cent of their global workforce to remote working “practically overnight”, Maybury observes.
“Having an end user device is fine but if your processes aren’t digitised, projects and programmes of work are going to have to be put into place to allow what is going to become the new normal to be more effective,” Maybury says, emphasising the need to focus on the entire process rather than just the technology. “Our view is that if social distancing has to continue then office space will not allow for everybody to be back in at once and you will have to allow for a hybrid workforce in the future. That means for us, and for Government, that we’re all going to have to look at all the processes that could be digitised and how to manage a mobile workforce. Having a laptop is one thing but being able to manage somebody out in the field is a totally different experience.”
“We’re all going to have to look at all the processes that could be digitised and how to manage a mobile workforce.”
Maybury is keen to stress that while the future cannot be predicted, one thing is certain: both private and public organisations will need to navigate the “new normal”.
“A key aspect of this journey will be user experience,” he says. “In Dell Technologies, when we log onto our systems, the applications and the services we use recognise us. We don’t have to log in multiple times. This is going to be a big challenge for the public sector; we have invested in the software and the security around this. When I log in, I know that I can access everything that I can access from within the Cherrywood offices. Because of our investment over 10 years, we’ve been able to test that and iron out all the foibles, so that if I have a problem with my laptop or services such as HR or payroll, I can fix that from home. In the public sector, take HR for example, trying to log onto that remotely can be a significant challenge. But modern infrastructure and systems can make sure the user experience is a seamless one for all those both in frontline and supporting functions.”
Security is also critical in these uncertain times, with organisations being forced into relying on technology and needing to be assured that their data and communications are secure. “Security for endpoints is significant for messaging and data,” he says. “For example, on our Zoom calls, everything is encrypted. It is as locked down and as secure as Dell can possibly make it, giving me peace of mind that our communications are secure. Both the public and the private sector need to know that they can trust the technology.”
A pulse survey carried out by Dell Technologies among its customers found that 40 per cent planned to make a more permanent shift to a flexible working situation in light of what has transpired with Covid-19, which Maybury says has been “an acceleration of what was already known in terms of home working”.
Maybury sees this change coming to the fore in public services especially: “I think we’ll see change in healthcare. In the past, you or I would much prefer to see a doctor, but now if we were offered a physical visit to a place with a lot of people or a video consultation, most would prefer the video. Remote healthcare will also be accelerated in terms of monitoring in the home.
“Looking at education, research universities are strengthening their collaboration with technology companies to make virtual learning a reality. Ulster University and Trinity College Dublin are collaborating around Covid-19 and starting to use the expertise they have invested together with the power of new technologies to fix real world problems. We see the importance of that growing over time and far beyond education. As public sector organisations plan for a changed future, there will be a renewed emphasis on research and harnessing the power of data to transform the way public services are provided in Ireland .”
Organisations across the public sector can begin that journey of transformation today with the help of the Payment Flexibility Programme from Dell Technologies. “We understand the many obstacles that may impede companies and organisations. That’s why we have made a $9 billion fund available globally to enable businesses to acquire the technology they need for their digital transformation,” says Maybury.
On the ground, that translates into zero per cent interest and a six-month payment deferral period. “Organisations will be able to make their digital transformation ambitions a reality with no capital implications until next year,” Maybury adds. “If they have a lot of legacy infrastructure in place with high maintenance costs, they can replace it with latest technology at zero cost upfront and benefit from cash flow savings as a result of the reduced maintenance bill.”
Be it something as simple as buying a second monitor to enable duel screen working or larger organisational programmes based on new Cloud technologies and modern infrastructure, Maybury sees the change coming as permanent.
“After this initial rush, leaders across the public and private sectors are going to be mapping out their new target operating model. They will be asking where they need to be. Everybody will be different and forced to assess their commitment to digital transformation. Some will have lots to do because until recently IT was merely seen as a cost in their business rather than something that strengthened business resilience. From now on technology will be seen as absolutely critical to how an organisation stays operational and thrives into the future,” he concludes.
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Dell Technologies Ireland