Digital Transformation and the Virtualization of the Workplace

The way the workplace has changed in recent years, becoming portable and virtual in many ways, can be part of lasting disruptions to the business. That was the subject of a panel at Agora’s RTE2022 real-time engagement conference, held online last week.

The session looked at ways businesses have been forced to adapt to the pandemic, which is of course gaining traction, and how these developments may continue to impact organizations.

Michael McCarthy, COO of the Learning Design Network; Duncan Bucknill, Global Business Manager for Wipro; Sameer Mehta, senior vice president at JIO; and Jeremy Lam, CEO of Venu, discussed such trends during the Digital Transformation of the Physical and Virtual Workplace panel. Ira Weinstein, Managing Partner at Recon Research, moderated.

In addition to describing broader trends, panellists provided insights into how their organizations have changed over the past few years. McCarthy said his company took a virtual approach with a distributed and hybrid working model from the very beginning of the pandemic. Bucknill said the pandemic has accelerated the need for experts to be more remote, which Wipro has helped with. His division at Wipro focuses on developing solutions for digital transformation through augmented and virtual reality.

Mehta said his company was more prepared for hybrid work early in the pandemic. “We tried to reduce the differences between working in the office and working from home to almost zero,” he said.

Lam said his company a few years ago looked for ways to meet prospects more efficiently, especially when travel is prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. This led to a surge in virtual conferences and connections, which today may include Metaverse events.

Switch to hybrid and reduce costs

Though numerous companies are evaluating a return to the office, Bucknill said many of his clients are primarily field workers who need to be on-site. That meant travel continued for them in the midst of the pandemic, but there’s still a desire for fewer site visits, he said.

“By reducing on-site visits, delivery costs are significantly reduced for our customers,” said Bucknill. “The changes we’ve seen during the pandemic I believe will be permanent for our customers as they have significantly lowered the cost base of delivering these types of services.”

Mehta said physical workspaces may not have changed, but the way they can be used has. If there is a hybrid working model, the teams could decide together on which days they return to the office. Technical infrastructure has also changed in response to virtual, mobile and hybrid environments. “Most companies have converted their internal network to an open network,” Mehta said. “Whether you’re working from home or the office, you get the same access — if you’re trying to access your internal network, connect via VPN.”

He also said that digital tools have become more integrated with company employees, such as B. Sales calls scheduled through Salesforce or other collaboration and scheduling resources. “We realized that industry-specific solutions or embedded video collaboration in business processes are at the core of doing business in a special way,” said Mehta

Usability improvements appear to have led to greater acceptance of remote and virtual workspace options. “People know how convenient it is to click a link and meet up with people,” Lam said. This has also appealed to companies looking for cost savings. “If people are generating income and cutting expenses at the same time, they’re not going to suddenly go back to, ‘Let’s just all fly out,'” he said.

In the years since the pandemic began, technology has transformed the new, digital workplace and seems poised to continue to do so. The rise of virtual meeting resources, for example, could now mean using 3D avatars instead of just a video stream, Lam said. There has also been an increase in previously non-technical people using the tools available to them. “After those three years, suddenly people who might not have had a laptop — people who would have driven to work to use a computer — now have a laptop at home,” Lam said. “Many more people are using their smartphones for work. So much has changed, even the non-technical people have adapted.”

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