Learnings from digital workplace transformations

Jacob Chacko, Regional Business Head – Middle East, Saudi & South Africa (MESA) at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company shares his experiences from some of our most recent digital workplace transformation projects

Jacob Chacko, Regional Business Head – Middle East, Saudi & South Africa (MESA) at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

As anyone who attended the recent Gartner Digital Workplace Summit knows only too well, digital workplace transformation is no longer a distant promise, but a stark reality that many organizations find themselves working to implement on a daily basis.

But with every organization at a different stage in their transformation journey, and technologies frequently moving faster than they can keep up with, it can be easy to lose sight of what they are trying to achieve in the long term in a rush to just get on with things and deliver immediate and tangible changes.

So, what networking lessons can I share from some of our most recent digital workplace transformation projects that might come in useful for those organizations who might need to pause and think about their digital transformation strategy:

1. Rethink your definition of the workplace

With today’s need for increased mobility, the demand for network support both inside and outside the workplace (be that an office, school, shop or hospital) is intense. However, though most organizations are already thinking about remote working requirements when planning their digital workplace transformations, many are still failing to consider all the coverage black spots within the building itself – and in doing so, are missing a trick.

We recently completed a new wireless network upgrade for The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH), which is an organization that specializes in wellbeing at work. With such a remit, digital working is inevitably a major focus – and to be able to best advise its clients, the organization has set itself the mandate of truly living digital working, not just researching it.

When the time came to refurbish its headquarters in Helsinki, FIOH decided it was the perfect opportunity to rethink its current network provisioning, and install a solution that would enable complete mobility for its staff, wherever they work. Importantly, FIOH didn’t just mean the places where employees might be stationary i.e. in rooms, at desks or in shared lounge areas but those they would potentially move through while still on calls or using their digital applications.

Thinking holistically about the journeys that its staff took around the building, FIOH challenged us to implement a solution that would support VoIP calls as staff walked between floors, moved from one meeting room to another, and even when they travelled up and down in lifts – all with no interruption to signal.

With Aruba taking care of coverage through the installation of over 600 access points (including several in the lifts), FIOH also brought in a raft of new devices and software solutions to further aid mobility. All staff were issued with new, higher-spec laptops and smartphones, and Microsoft Office 365 and Skype for Business were rolled out across the organization – ensuring that staff can now roam to their hearts’ content with no drop in connectivity.

LESSON ONE: When planning your digital workplace transformation, take the time to consider how your employees, guests, visitors and things currently move around your building and map out the network more broadly accordingly. The more mobility you can drive, the more dynamic, flexible and adaptable your workplace will end up being.

2. Consider network visibility before flooding the workplace with devices

While all these new devices sound brilliant in practice, the reality of trying to keep track of them on the network can be less so – particularly when organizations find themselves reactively scrambling to get a handle on the situation. My second lesson, therefore, is one of visibility.

Viessmann, one of the world’s leading providers of holistic energy and climate solutions, came to us because it needed a powerful new network to support the digitization of its internal processes. As with FIOH, the organization wanted to provide Wi-Fi connectivity in every corner of its sites, in order to support both a move to flexible desks and a heavier focus on bringing IoT technologies into its manufacturing processes.

As part of its ongoing transformation, Viessmann is aiming to get 80% of its devices on the Wi-Fi network. And with over 12,100 employees, 23 production companies in 12 countries, and sales companies and representatives in 74 countries worldwide, we’re talking about a lot of devices.

Before these devices connect to the network and start transmitting valuable data, Viessmann knew it needed to put in place a flexible management system that would enable it to control network access for all its devices in the future. By bringing in our Aruba ClearPass solution, which uses an integrated, context-based policy engine, and combining it with AirWave to manage network administrator rights, Viessmann can rest assured that it has total control over the devices on its Wi-Fi network at all times.

LESSON TWO: Make sure that network access controls and network management form a key part of any decision you make to bring new devices into your organization.

3. Don’t forget about your wired network

My final lesson points people towards their wired network as the logical next step in their journey.

Göliska-IT is a service provider for six Swedish municipalities. The organization first started working with Aruba in 2008 when it was looking to create a scalable solution for wireless access that would grow as its customer base of politicians, teachers and students continued to expand.

Though wireless is the primary method of connecting to its network today, this summer the organization began the next phase of its network upgrade – replacing the current wired switches to create a unified network management system that will drastically simplify how the network is managed.

Over the next five years, the organization will migrate over 900 switches to Aruba’s 2930F switch series, as well as bringing in Aruba ClearPass Policy Manager, Aruba Airwave or Aruba Central. With these combined solutions, Göliska-IT will be able to sit back and let Aruba Dynamic Segmentation automatically enforce consistent access policies across both its wired and wireless networks – regardless of how devices connect – to keep traffic secure and separate.

Not only should this reduce the strain on network management (I’m particularly talking to those of you with small IT teams here), but the increased simplicity and efficiency of the network operations and delivery will also allow Göliska-IT to accelerate the provisioning of services to drive its digital transformation further and faster.

LESSON THREE: Don’t stop at Wi-Fi deployment – instead, look for ways to harmonize your network architecture across both wired and wireless to truly digitally transform your organization.

Learn as your go
The benefits that digital transformation offers organizations today are undeniable, but they can be complicated to truly realize if everyone involved doesn’t approach the project with their eyes fully open. Before diving into anything, make sure your project lead takes all the relevant disciplines through the overarching vision. For real success, this vision then needs to be segmented into a step-by-step approach, where learnings are applied after every step has been taken.