In order to succeed in the digital era, business leaders need to focus on changing the way companies function—rather than just change the devices they use. To help do this, chief information officers (CIOs) must address the challenge of enhancing employee productivity and customer experience—by providing the tools to better understand and address the diverse needs of employees as well as customers. 

We are witnessing the digital-first mindset of customers permeate the workplace and this requires information technology (IT) and business leaders to embark on a workforce transformation strategy and provide employees with the devices and software which enhance their efficiency. In order to stay ahead in this digital era, it is critical that organizations view workforce transformation as part of its overall digital transformation strategy. 

While the digitally savvy, demanding and attention-deficient nature of millennials is well known, Generation Z (the next-gen) is entering the workforce and is sure to trigger a new wave of transformation. If millennials are texting all the time, Gen Z primarily communicates through visuals. If millennials are savvy about the digital sphere, juggling at least two devices at a time, Gen Z is digitally native and can manage five devices on average, at once. Why is this “Snapchat generation" important to organizations?

Employees want to work from multiple locations and use several devices, including their personal devices, at work. The need for improved IT support has emerged as a top concern. As per a recent study, 44% of the survey respondents, who are IT leaders in firms across industries in India, said that the inability to support a remote workforce is a top PC (personal computer) life-cycle management challenge, while 35% have found a lack of 24x7 IT support to be a key concern.

In addition, 67% of respondents in our global Future Workforce Study have gone on record saying they would be willing to use augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) products in their professional lives. Over the next few years, expect VR/AR to reach a tipping point. Hands-free devices will propel people into parallel worlds, in which their only limitation will be their imagination. They’ll learn new skills, provide services and engage with people, without bumping into the time and cost constraints of physical media.

By 2020, less than three years from now, the median age in India will be 29 years. Nearly half a billion Indians will be young, which means there’s a good chance that if your business survives that long, your employees will be young and restless. How you engage and empower them will determine the future of your organization.

It isn’t just about incentivizing bright, young minds to work for you. Digital natives will be the biggest asset in navigating technology shifts, and the data they will generate can be mined for insights that can strategically drive your business. As the pace of technology innovation accelerates towards an era where the lines between real and artificial are non-existent, technology infrastructure needs to facilitate new behaviours in social, web and user experience, constant innovation, continuous mobility, and complete globalization. The truth is, enabling the workforce with technology is a deliberate strategy to foster high performance and excellence. It begins with understanding that employee experience, customer experience, and revenue growth are decisively linked. Workforce transformation is about marrying all these needs into agile solutions that can evolve in step with technology innovations. Managing multiple devices, applications and disparate data sources isn’t as nice as the latest shiny gadget, but it’s a critical job. As the definition of “the office" transforms from cubicle farms to whatever screen is in front of you at the moment, beating back the ABCDs—attackers, breaches, cyber criminals, and data thieves—can be as fruitless as tilting at windmills.

Yet, that’s the exciting IT challenge. How can we protect devices regardless of wherever and whatever form they are? How can we differentiate between genuine and malicious or fraudulent users when the employee is working out of a Goa beach as much as the corporate tower in Mumbai? How can data be protected, backed up and restored when necessary, without disrupting productive time?

Now, it’s clear that workforce transformation doesn’t begin or end when you place an order for the newest trendy gadget for employees; it is a strategic reinvention of what you want your office and your workforce to be, and align your technology around these needs. It means deploying, managing and protecting applications, devices and information in a way that triggers conversations, sparks innovation, and facilitates an effective, engaged and empowered workforce.

Alok Ohrie is president and managing director, India Commercial, Dell EMC.

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