Pandemic IT response shifting to user experience

One of the last things you want to hear on a 911 call is, “are you on mute?” Dropped calls and video conferences have been an ongoing problem since the pandemic began, said Jack Lumley, National Sales Manager Networking with Citrix Canada at CanadianCIO virtual roundtable with western IT leaders.

“It can be life-threatening to have a connection drop during a 911 call,” said Lumley. For everyone else trying to work together on calls, it adds up to lost time.

The roundtable discussion showed that IT leaders remain consumed with tactical issues to keep the business running during the crisis. Security continues to be a top concern. Supply chain issues and budget pressures are also creating challenges. At the same time, many of the participants are trying to put greater focus on improving the user experience and preparing for the “new normal” work environment. “It’s a difficult time,” said Lumley. “The things we thought we would be doing one year ago are now 100 per cent different.”

Application performance is critical

The online experience for employees working from home varies with Internet performance and devices, noted one IT leader. Some participants have increased bandwidth to handle the demand while others are working on accelerating an integrated cloud strategy. The availability of bandwidth is important, but in the virtualized environment, “none of it works without security and application assurance,” said Lumley.

Organizations are opting for an SDWAN to provide resilience and redundancy at an affordable cost, said Corey Cox, Vice-President of Information Systems for the Tandet Group of Companies. SDWAN can provide load balancing at scale and quality of service to improve the user experience. “We’re seeing a lot of new use cases for application assurance to make sure that calls don’t drop,” Lumley said. To address the remote work environment, he noted that cost-effective, home-based SDWAN solutions are now available.

Preparing for a long-term work from environment

“In the future, we’ll have a hybrid work environment,” said Cox. Some employees will choose to work from home permanently while others will want the flexibility to work at both venues. Several of the participants are actively taking steps to prepare for this new normal, while others taking a “wait-and see” approach.

For employees who commit to working from home for the coming year, one organization is paying a lump sum for home office supplies or equipment as well as supplementing Internet costs.

Other employees are having difficulty coping without social interaction or in-person collaboration. “It’s difficult to re-create the whiteboard experience online,” said one participant. His organization is planning a major change to turn the office into a collaboration space.

Most agreed that it doesn’t make sense to maintain a dedicated space in the office for every employee. Employees that choose to work from home won’t “own their own desk anymore,” they said. Instead, offices will provide hoteling space.

Given the constant change and uncertain future, a common theme among the IT leaders was that they’re finding ways to be creative to meet user needs and stretch budgets. “I think it is a very creative field,” said Cox. “I like to look at it as art with electrons.”

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Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker has over 20 years of experience in IT-related fields in the public and private sectors, as a lawyer and strategic advisor. She is a former broadcast journalist, currently working as a consultant, freelance writer and editor.

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