The way people work should be designed to get the best outcome for them and their organisations. The requirements of place and time will clearly vary depending on the role and individual circumstances. The lockdown has shown what is possible, but care needs to be taken in deciding what could be a long term answer and what is stop gap. For example, working at home with young children may not make home working a good long term work style for some.
Lockdown is reigniting the debate about flexible working and has accelerated programmes that were in train. Why do people need to travel to central offices? Can they work from home? Can we use existing offices for flexible working? Is there a case for creating new shared offices? Are large county/city halls necessary? Can we share with other organisations? ………..
Whatever the answer is to any of these questions there is an IT solution that can support it. From the user’s perspective there are fundamentally 3 options:
- A laptop issued at start of employment which they solely use and delivers an “any time, any place” service. Ie all that is needed is power and WiFi.
- Flexible desks equipped with workstations or pooled mobile devices
- VPN access from the user’s own device.
And what is the policy on telephones – can all voice and video be through the computer or mobile phone?
Some of these questions are fundamental to the design of the user service and the telecommunications architecture to support it. IT’s role is to make clear which are the key questions that need to be answered to avoid, in particular, wasted cost and effort. For example:
- Using WiFi to connect all computers so they are not physically restricted to needing a LAN port. However, the value of this is reduced if cabling is still needed for telephones.
- Do you want to share your network with other organisations?
Many councils already support the three user options as well as having fixed workstations at dedicated desks and have programmes to deploy WiFi in offices. As long as these services can be easily scaled then this is something that can be driven forward without having a complete understanding of the final outcome.
However, underpinning this is the network. Where and when will people be working? How much use will there be of collaborations tools – good quality videoconferencing needs significant good quality bandwidth? Resilience? Quality? Business Continuity? The network role in the security architecture? With whom might you want to share the network? And there are emerging technologies like SDWAN and 5G which may offer different answers.
Next week will explore these questions and possible answers.
by Ian Wilcox, Public Sector Strategist.