How enterprise networks need to evolve for the future of work

23 April 2021

The pandemic has taken its toll on people, organizations, and everyday experiences in different ways. Time will tell which of these changes are permanent. But when it comes to the remote workforce, we have probably reached a point of no return. In a global consumer survey across 10 countries, Amdocs Research found 36% of respondents expect to work from home more post-pandemic than they did before.

This begs the question: As expectations around what the work week should look like change, and remote work experiences become more data-intensive, can our current networks handle the new hybrid work environment's long-term implications?

A clash of priorities creates a new kind of consumer

When digital experiences such as the remote office and virtual learning clash with online gaming and 4K streaming, there is a potential for problems. Enterprises need to provide working-from-home employees a secure, reliable and seamless experience as if they were in the office. Communication service providers (CSPs) will therefore have to deliver separate use cases within the home, which will lead to a new type of user – the enterprise consumer.

This category will likely lead to in-home connectivity packages to guarantee bandwidth, security, policy-controlled access to enterprise networks, and ensure the availability of backup resources to keep the workforce connected. However, there are specific criteria necessary to ensure this is successful.

A better understanding of individual workers

Long term, the shift to a hybrid workforce will require CSPs, who today serve consumers and enterprises as distinct and separated market segments, to make changes. They will need to ensure their entire back-end operations are modernized and connected to support services that break down these boundaries.

Understanding the worker's persona and unique role at points in time and what applications they need will be essential. By leveraging pools of data, CSPs can make better business decisions, ensuring an employee has precisely what they need before they ask for it. Without a doubt, utilizing policy-based automation and AI in this way within the network, and being able to adjust as needed, will play a key role moving forward.

Better managing data in the home

Consumers are expected to have upwards of 14 network-connected devices each by 2022. As this creates issues in the home, ensuring remote work traffic can be better prioritized over "traditional" in-home services, and adequately balancing resource allocation regardless of location, will become indispensable. Availability and intelligent automation of capabilities like auto-flex-up, connection auto-bonding and application priority will be part of the solution mix.
Enterprise-provided broadband and backup options

When consumers were asked what would help them have a more successful remote work experience, 22% said a better internet connection. This could lead CSPs to offer enterprises the ability to provide managed broadband connectivity as a workplace tool for home-office employees, similar to the mobile plans for employees maintained by their employer. But this would go beyond a worker simply getting reimbursed for their home broadband connection by the company. This model in which employer-managed connectivity and applications extend into the home has implications on service management processes and systems that will have to be addressed, such as streamlined ordering, on-demand provisioning and closed-loop assurance .

Also expect to see more 5G fixed wireless networks that provide dedicated, reliable, and safe home connectivity entering the market. Resilient backup approaches to network failure, ensuring employees are never stopped in their tracks, will become a popular benefit.

Automation – and co-existence – will be critical pieces of the puzzle

As we look to this future, current processes and systems will need to be updated. This is because there are several limitations and challenges with existing systems, such as a lack of real-time contextual information for orchestration and assurance and closed and monolithic applications that only support one type of network technology or the other.

The next generation of operations support systems for enterprise services also require specific criteria. This includes a business-driven service design integrated with commerce catalogues, cross-domain orchestration that's combined with charging to monetise effectively, and a way to better view all network resources and services across all domains at any given time. Closed-loop assurance, leveraging rich data sources and using design-time policies and machine learning to support uninterrupted service experiences will also be critical.

New automation platforms are also needed to manage, orchestrate, and power tomorrow's dynamic enterprise networks, and more importantly, the hybrid networks that will co-exist as this journey progresses. This last part is incredibly essential. While everyone expects new approaches and technologies to become part of our daily practice, we still face the issue that we live in a world where existing apps, networks and operational tools must continue to function to meet user needs. This "era of co-existence" must be managed appropriately.

Even after vaccinations are more widespread and life returns to some level of normalcy, I believe the office has changed forever. While our current remote office setups have worked well given the circumstances, it’s time to think about what can be done long term to provide a better, more secure experience for the enterprise consumer. Intelligent and adaptable networks, a better understanding of worker personas, and prioritizing vital data may be the steps in the right direction.

By Ilan Sade, division president, Amdocs Open Network