Back to Normal or into the Unknown?
What does future normality look like? Employees across the UK are beginning a gradual return to the office as businesses embrace hybrid working. In just twelve short months, major changes have been witnessed, both individually and collectively, across the IT space of many organisations. Employees were sent home at the beginning of the pandemic, often equipped with the bare minimum required to do their jobs. However, as users became more comfortable working from home, the way that they began to work shifted dramatically.
Studies conducted over the past year suggest that the forced conditions of the pandemic have resulted in huge adoption of change by end-users. The pace of digital acceleration is believed to be as much as ten years of progress in the space of just a few months, for some organisations. Some of the key changes in the way that employees now work include:
- A video collaboration explosion
- WAN bypass and cloud services
As a result, employee perception of the corporate office has also shifted. Whilst the office may have previously been the epicentre and key component of a business, employees are increasingly viewing it as a social hub and place to congregate to work only when required.
Despite This, Staff are Coming Back
Businesses and employees are preparing for their return to the office. For many, how this will look still remains a relatively unknown entity. A number of organisations are adopting flexible working policies or allowing employees to choose whether they would prefer to work from home, the office, or both. Whilst there may be an initial spike in demand to return to the office by employees bored of working alone at home, this may tail off.
A great deal of change has been occurring away from the office over the last year, and the corporate network will soon be struck by these changes. Fundamental changes have taken place that will greatly affect office Wi-Fi and the traditional WAN design.
Proposed changes in office layout, such as hot-desking, will provide employees with the ability to remain socially distanced and enable a flexible working approach. However, such changes also tend to lead to increased demands on connectivity, with users more reliant on working wherever they are in the office, rather than from a single hardwired desk.
Homeworking has also bought into question the necessity of the likes of desk phones for many organisations, which have been easily functioning with softphones. Whilst softphones can greatly enable a business, their introduction adds another business-critical service onto a mounting pile on devices that are predominantly connected to wireless by default. As a result, factors that may have previously gone unconsidered, such as voice call and video collaboration quality must all now be taken into account.
User expectations for how technology will work are typically benchmarked by the first few times they use it. Many businesses across the UK introduced video collaboration tools, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, when home working began, meaning that user expectations of these technologies are based on their experience of using them at home. For the majority of employees, these collaboration tools have been functioning well on their low-traffic home network. When users return to the office, there is increasingly the risk that this positive user experience will be wiped out by an overwhelmed corporate network.
The user experience should now be a priority and a patchy, unreliable network can severely damage this. A network that is simply down is generally solely a problem for IT. However, an unreliable or patchy network can be far more of a focal point, significantly impacting an individual’s ability to work and can be extremely frustrating. Consequently, monitoring the individual user experience is paramount.
How Can AI in Wi-Fi Enable The Workplace?
One of the greatest issues when it comes to wireless is that it can be an extremely unreliable method of getting data from A to B. Within the corporate office, everyone is competing for bandwidth. In order to fully understand what is going on in a network, an ideal scenario would see constant monitoring of every access point in every client for 24 hours a day. This is extremely impractical for an IT team to carry out, but there are alternatives.
By implementing an AI-driven wireless network, businesses can better understand what is going on within their network, and crucially, how it’s impacting users. Juniper Mist’s AI network can carry out predictive analysis through machine learning, discovering what is actually happening within the network, whilst it’s happening. Through AI, the access point can make decisions, assessing whether the user experiences are matching up with the requirements or specifications laid out by the organisation. Anomalies can be easily detected, and alerts raised, not when things fail but when they start to go outside of the specifications laid out for them.
The Juniper Mist Cloud access points also have Bluetooth low energy integrated into them, providing the capability to track everything from mobile devices and devices running applications to ID badges. This functionality allows the tracking of movement on a minute-by-minute basis. As businesses reopen the office to employees, COVID-19 and the necessary precautions that must be undertaken are at the forefront of everyone’s minds. The Juniper Mist Cloud’s Bluetooth capabilities perfectly complement precautions that need to be taken, with the platform able to provide alerts when zones within the office become overpopulated by employees. It can also help ensure that the entire office is kept safe – if someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, the platform can detect who has come into contact with that individual over the last two weeks, meaning that the necessary employees can isolate without taking out an entire workforce. Using this platform provides organisations with the confidence and peace of mind to bring employees back into the office.
The Juniper Mist Cloud devotes itself to understanding the user experience and where the user experience degraded to understand exactly where the problem has occurred and where possible, fix it. Marvis is the Juniper Mist Cloud’s AI engine, a feature that enables IT to ask the system questions. These questions can include the likes of “what’s wrong with the wireless today?” and “why is the switch running slowly”. Marvis is now integrated with several platforms, enabling IT teams to ask a question and Marvis to respond similarly, making the assistant simple and easy to use.
How Can We Help?
Wireless is now the primary network within the office. Whilst it can be difficult to gauge what the demands on these networks may be, a distinct change in user habits will affect wireless networks. A user-centric approach should now focus on the individual user experience, rather than a simple analysis of whether the wireless is up or down. Delivering better service through AI is at the heart of the Juniper Mist Cloud, providing the ability to set service levels on a per-user basis to ensure a positive user experience. Get in touch to find out more.