What’s the new industry hot spot? Telework, according to both the Federal Government and channel experts.
In fact, companies should be seriously considering the range of opportunities the sector presents, especially within the network assessment, mobility and collaboration tools space, according to industry experts.
ARN’s commentators said telework was profitable for both businesses and employees, as it enables a flexible working environment for the latter, provides work-life balance options, promotes flexibility, increases hiring options, and potentially has an impact on acquisition and retention of talent.
“There are a lot of ways to say it – whether it’s teleworking, work shifting or hot-desking – but the crux of the matter is that, driven by technology, Australians are changing the way they work,” Citrix A/NZ country director for online services, Seamus King, said. “Work is no longer a place we go, it is a thing we do. Telework allows companies to reduce their costs while employees improve productivity and flexibility. It’s a win-win situation.”
However, the adoption of telework has been fairly low, lagging behind the US and Europe. The minister for broadband and communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, said businesses must change their attitudes about people working from home and use the Internet to connect employees through “telework”.
“In Australia, the number of people with an arrangement with their employer to work from home has been low by international standards,” he said at a recent Telework Forum in Sydney.
An Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) study showed six per cent of Australian employees have a telework arrangement with their employer. But in the US, 10 per cent of employees telework at least one day a month.
Channel Dynamics co-founder and director, Cam Wayland, believes this holdup is not a technological issue, but rather a cultural one instead.
“It really comes down to the corporate culture of whether the management of a company has embraced the concept of working does not have to be seen as being productive – it’s actually what the worker does rather than where they are,” he said.
Cisco A/NZ senior marketing manager, Suzanne Hansen, agreed with that. “The US and Europe are way ahead of us in remote working. The culture here just does not support teleworking or remote working as much as it does in other countries. It is an old-fashioned cultural thing that you have to be seen to be considered working,” she said.
Cisco, Logicalis and Citrix are among the few vendors involved in the telework space and have encouraged partners to seek market opportunities in the area. It is part of their digital plan to get a certain percentage of employees teleworking by 2020.
As part of supporting it, Cisco and its partners are focusing on unified access, which enables teleworking. Hansen suggested businesses should do network assessments and a security audit as a good first step towards adopting a telework trend.
“A lot of our partners are doing network assessments around National Telework Week [from November 12-16] and doing audits to see what’s actually happening – to see if people’s networks are ready to do this . That’s a huge consideration, mostly because of security. Everybody is going to have all these different points of contact with the network, and being able to control that is becoming really important,” she said.
Logicalis strategic solutions director, Ian Ross, said channel opportunities lie in mobility and collaboration toolsets.
“We see teleworking as a concept that can be as straightforward as mobile enabling the workforce. There are channel opportunities there and also around providing the toolsets that employers can deliver to their remote staff,” he said.
Wayland said the channel should be more active in explaining the benefits of telework to partners and clients, but also said the channel should understand what a company’s business drivers are to come up with a tailored solution that will work for them.
“The technology is the enabler and they should be educated that they can pick a myriad of options in terms of telework – that combined with Cloud computing and a whole range of other technology that has changed, make the solutions more flexible and able to be tailored,” he said. However, there are a few hurdles to telework adoption.
Hansen said the biggest concern for employers is the issue of employee productivity. Ross added businesses should adopt education programs across their management to educate them on how to deal with remote employees.
Security is another challenge that was shortlisted.
Ross said increasing the number of endpoints that an IT organisation needs to deal with releases a range of support concerns, security concerns, data protection, as well as data safety concerns.
“If you’re working in a variety of different ways, on tablets or other devices, you have to have a really robust network, especially as people are introducing other devices. You have to have a network that can handle it with policy,” Hansen said.
From a channel standpoint, Ross recommended it should work closely with ICT clients in eradicating these issues, opening up partnership opportunities between systems integration solutions providers and client organisations.
The rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) is also expected to facilitate greater telework opportunities.
Citrix expects that by 2013, 93 per cent of organisations will offer a flexible work policy, while by 2020 over a third of Australians will no longer work in a traditional office.