Enabling the hybrid work era: you need an agile, secure network

The disruptions of the past year have had a big impact on how people will work in the future. A hybrid working model has become the norm, where employees split time between office locations and working from home (WFH). For long-term success, this approach will require a new focus on the network and connectivity and how they will drive end-user satisfaction.

The revolution in homeworking since COVID-19 shows no sign of abating. Employees have generally appreciated the flexibility of WFH, while companies have reported no significant drop in productivity from having workers away from the office.

According to PwC in January 2021, 83% of employers said the move to remote work was successful for their company, up from 73% in June 2020. Employees have become used to working remotely and are comfortable with the applications that enable them to remain productive. Moving forward, the onus will be on enterprises to ensure workers have the connectivity and right level of user experience provided.

New working model makes connectivity and network even more vital

Before the pandemic, much of the focus in digital transformation initiatives at enterprise levels was on the advanced applications it would deliver and their benefits to businesses. The potential of artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), and edge computing was central to the conversation.

Now for many businesses, the urgent need to ensure resilience has prompted a renewed focus on the platform for transformation. This has put network and connectivity at the top of the agenda. The 2021 State of Work from Anywhere Outlook report by AppNeta revealed insights to top technology-related issues causing frustration in the past year for remote employees. They listed connectivity as the number one concern, with 44% of workers expressing dissatisfaction in terms of user experience. Issues with video calls were cited by 40% of employees. With end users saying their remote experience is unsatisfactory, this will likely impact customer experience if the employee in question is customer-facing.

Digital transformation has changed the focus. It’s no longer just about the applications you can deploy, it’s about giving employees a remote working digital experience that is as similar as possible to what they are used to in their workplace with the same level of security. Moving forward, best-in-class organizations will need to have robust, secure and reliable connectivity to provide a strong digital backbone to operations. When evolving the backbone, the end-user experience must be at the heart of how we design our networks.

Internet is the new local loop – and home is the new LAN

The new way of working in the new norm places greater importance on Internet connectivity. The WFH element of hybrid working effectively makes your home your new office local area network (LAN). Your home connectivity isn’t part of your employer’s office and so doesn’t fall under your company IT department’s remit. There is an argument that perhaps it should be, but for the time being, it isn’t. With the right tools in place from the right partner, you can monitor it to ensure quality. Orange leverages the power of our partnership with ThousandEyes, which provides end-to-end visibility to proactively monitor availability and performance in the network and let you know where issues may be occurring.

With more people working under the hybrid model, it’s essential to ensure quality of connectivity for remote workers. Employers and employees should work together to do this, in a similar way to when bring your own device (BYOD) arrived in the workplace. Except in this instance, it’s effectively a “bring your own Internet access” approach. It’s also important to remember that when it comes to Internet access, cheap is not necessarily always cheerful.

There’s also been a lot of interest in Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) being able to provide a converged SD-WAN and security offering that encompasses your offices, data centers, cloud services and WFH access. It aims to provide a single security policy with more visibility and protection, alongside other benefits mentioned previously.

The Orange network is perfect for hybrid working

Orange works with companies to drive a user-centric approach. During COVID-19, this meant a range of solutions. For some customers, it meant upgrading their secure remote access service to deliver the bandwidth required for remote workers to access business applications needed to do their jobs. For other customers, virtual private networks (VPNs), cloud, and unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools helped keep employees productive and working as near to normal as possible. Orange recently helped all kinds of customers with our digital workspace offering, which comprises a consultancy-driven approach and leverages our existing portfolio and seamless cross-integration.

The network is what has supported it all though, and the network will continue to be key in the new hybrid way of working. SD-WAN delivers what enterprises now need most: flexibility, agility, cost reductions and greater control of network resources plus use of private or public Internet depending on traffic and application type. Furthermore, it gives you improved application performance and greater network resilience. Orange Flexible SD-WAN, including SASE solutions, can enable the connectivity needed for the hybrid work era: it can support both homeworking and office working in terms of scalability, security and performance, while maintaining performance, even as traffic patterns change.

Our understanding of legacy networks plus world-class cybersecurity and focus on the end-user experience mean we know what network connectivity is needed for hybrid work. The new world of work will exist halfway between the network and the workspace, and the workspace will only do what you want it to if you have the right network infrastructure in place. According to IDG, 71% of organizations are either actively researching or have SD-WAN in production. Moving forward, the network is going to be more vital than ever.

Learn more about how Orange Flexible SD-WAN can help your business deliver in the hybrid work era. If you would like to talk further about SD-WAN or the hybrid work era in general, please contact me on linkedin.com/in/smessaert.

Matthieu Smessaert
Matthieu Smessaert

As VP APAC, Head of Smart Mobility Services and Enriched Connectivity, Matthieu is responsible for helping Orange customers in the APAC region with their digital strategy involving network transformation and IoT. Matthieu is a passionate and entrepreneurial sales and marketing leader, with over two decades of experience in Internet, next-gen networks, mobile, IoT, Industry 4.0 and digital disruption. Born in France, Matthieu has worked most of his career abroad, including in the UK, Japan and Hong Kong and has more recently been living in Singapore for seven years. He likes traveling, is a finisher of multiple marathons and enjoys sharing good food, books and music.