2020 challenged business systems and technologies like never before, forcing many organisations to adopt remote working arrangements at scale, almost overnight. blueAPACHE is more than a leading technology and communication service provider; its solutions enable business growth, innovation and facilitate customer and employee engagement. As trusted advisors, blueAPACHE partners with many businesses to fast-track their digital strategies in a safe and sustainable way – including Honan. As 2021 begins, we spoke with Michael Zuppa, General Manager – Technology about blueAPACHE’s key learnings from last year, and noteworthy trends on the horizon.
THE CRUX OF YOUR BUSINESS?
blueAPACHE is based on the idea that people should have secure and efficient access to their systems wherever they are, all of the time. This enables our clients to achieve success, be agile and dynamic to support their own client communities.
2020 SAW A DRAMATIC SHIFT TO REMOTE WORKING AND blueAPACHE WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN HELPING MANY BUSINESSES MAKE THAT MOVE. WHAT WERE YOUR BIGGEST LEARNINGS FROM THE YEAR?
- As organisations were forced to adopt a remote working model, the swift transformation emphasised two key misconceptions:
- Firstly, that implementing such dramatic organisational change is difficult and time consuming. COVID-19 has not only set a “new normal” when it comes to traditional workplaces, it has also set a new normal in terms of what is achievable in a short timeframe. Historically, a project might have had a 6-month deployment timetable, but COVID has expedited this, demonstrating a new application can be deployed and value realised in days or weeks, not months.
- Secondly, from an operational perspective, many organisations incorrectly assumed that their people could not be as productive and effective when granted access to the tools to work remotely. The amazing response to the pandemic has clearly proven this wrong which will require some organisations to change their attitudes towards flexible work arrangements – it is now clear, when you give people the right tools for the job, they rise to the occasion.
- The value of network connectivity was realised during lockdowns with the NBN retail network placed under considerable strain. Whilst it worked for many, there were instances where it was not sufficient. With agility top of mind, blueAPACHE responded to our clients’ immediate needs, designing a bespoke data and device rental solution ‘Connectivity in a Box’ which provided flexibility and cost reduction from a pay-per-month model. This reinforced the importance of home connections for employee collaboration and productivity in this new remote-working norm.
- Organisations that were already harnessing a consumption-based, flexible application delivery supply chain model were positioned strongly to transition to the new way of working and experienced the greatest time-to-value. The traditional capital expenditure (CAPEX) hardware stacks however saw challenges expanding beyond their original intent, and thus in some cases, had to be replaced altogether.
- Work is no longer a place we go to, it is a thing we do and should be able to do from anywhere, on any device, with a consistent and secure user experience.
AT HONAN, MAINTAINING QUALITY CONNECTIONS WITH OUR PEOPLE, PARTNERS AND THE COMMUNITY SITS AT THE HEART OF WHAT WE DO. WHAT RELATIONSHIPS & CONNECTIONS WERE CRITICAL TO YOUR BUSINESS SUCCESS IN 2020?
As we descended into the COVID world of remote working, maintaining our #teamblue community culture across staff, clients and suppliers was the top priority.
To counteract these workplace changes, blueAPACHE moved the traditional monthly townhall to weekly occurrences, and delivered these via TEAMS. The virtual speakerphone was used as an opportunity to connect with staff, providing an update on fluid changes to ease any COVID related angst whilst offering staff a platform to celebrate their peers with “shout outs” openly calling out a colleague who had gone above and beyond over the course of the week. Furthermore, department heads were encouraged to host daily stand ups to connect the team as a collective group, outside of 1-1 meetings.
blueAPACHE was extremely fortunate to continue our growth trajectory in 2020 with technology deemed instrumental in our “new world”, subsequently leading to blueAPACHE welcoming new members of staff, globally.
Delivering a consistent induction experience for these new members was critical to ensure they felt part of the blueAPACHE community and were well equipped to deliver in their role irrespective of the 2-dimensional restrictions.
Relationships with our distributors and suppliers continued to be critical – working with them through their change process and understanding any supply impact due to international restrictions. This positioned blueAPACHE strongly to fast-track communications back to our clients and implement contingency plans if required.
DATA SECURITY, PRIVACY AND COMPLIANCE WERE TOPICAL ISSUES IN 2020, AS MANY BUSINESSES RUSHED TO DEPLOY REMOTE-WORKING CAPABILITIES. WHAT LESSONS CAN BUSINESSES TAKE FROM THIS?
- PEOPLE, PROCESS AND TECHNOLOGY: When it comes to security there always needs to be a balance between people, process, and technology. The shift to remote working does not change an organisation’s obligation to adhere to industry compliance standards and regulations. Employees will be relying on the employer to provide guidance on how they should be working from home, and as the employees’ home inadvertently became the 2020 office, home networks were typically far less secure with printers and wireless devices connected, triggering vulnerabilities. Clear and concise policies, procedures, and guidelines along with awareness training goes a long way!
- POLICY REVIEW: In order help protect sensitive data, organisations should be reviewing their data classification policies and toolsets.
- ASD ESSENTIAL 8: At a minimum, it is highly recommended organisations align with the Australian Cyber Security Centre Essential 8 strategies to assist in protecting systems against a range of adversaries – in particular, multifactor authentication should be mandatory.
THE EVENTS OF 2020 DEMONSTRATED THE POSSIBILITIES OF REMOTE WORKING ARRANGEMENTS AND CHALLENGED SOME ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT PRODUCTIVITY/EFFICIENCY. WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR ORGANISATIONS ON HOW TO BEST FACILITATE A MIX OF ON-SITE AND REMOTE WORKING?
- Equip employees with the right tools to be effective and productive when working from the office or home.
- Portable devices support the seamless mobility between locations.
- Standardisation of device enables higher adoption of flexible workspaces and hot desking.
- Try having team members working out of the office on the same day.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST TECH TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS BUSINESSES SHOULD BE AWARE OF FOR 2021 AND BEYOND?
It is all about SASE – Secure Access Services Edge. SASE is the convergence of wide area networking, or WAN, and network security services like CASB, FWaaS and Zero Trust, into a single, cloud-delivered service model. With remote working being the norm, and workloads transitioning to cloud at an increasing pace, the traditional approach of data centre firewalls backhauling traffic and remote VPN users no longer suffice, especially with the high adoption rate of unified communication and collaboration platform such as – TEAMS, ZOOM and Cisco Webex.
Workspaces and Zero Trust Identity access are a complementary trend that is gaining high attention. This is around single sign on (SSO) and multifactor authentication (MFA) access into all corporate systems and data with access being contextualised based on the location and the device that the user is connecting from.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR THE BUSINESS OVER THE NEXT 6-12 MONTHS?
2020 saw significant investment across both our core network and cloud hosting platforms. The new infrastructure will enable blueAPACHE to solidify our market-leading offerings into the mid-to-sub enterprise market.
These projects are in full swing and I am excited to see the successful completion of these transformational ventures so our existing and new customers can realise the value and benefits of this investment.
TECHNOLOGY MOVES AT SUCH A FAST PACE! WHAT INITIAL STEPS WOULD YOU SUGGEST TO SOMEONE LOOKING TO UPGRADE THEIR INFRASTRUCTURE, BUT FEELING OVERWHELMED ABOUT THE STATE OF THEIR BUSINESS’ SYSTEMS?
- Focus on the business outcomes and desired end state.
- Majority of vendor line of business applications are transitioning to SaaS or PaaS.
- Ensure the future state infrastructure is consumption based and can scale in line with business revenues. Agility to expand is paramount in order to take advantage of business opportunities and provide the flexibility to retract when needed.
- Security, Governance and Compliance should be at heart of the service.
- Work with a trusted partner like blueAPACHE who can guide and assist you through the entire application delivery supply chain, forming the right end user – network – private cloud / public cloud – security – governance and compliance composition to suit your unique requirements. Point solution providers will use the same hammer for every nail.
- Hybrid cloud is the new norm – right workload, right cloud.