Interview: Peter Hughes, RingCentral
In our annual Leaders in Technology series, we ask the experts what the year ahead holds. Today we talk communications with RingCentral’s Peter Hughes.
How have Australian workplaces coped with COVID? Will things go back to normal?
The disruptive changes we have faced this year have opened our eyes to a new, hybrid way of working. Our communications infrastructure has coped with the massive spikes in usage from the rapid and wholesale shift to remote work. We have seen the largest uptake globally in new users of telemedicine services. Educational institutions at all levels pivoted effectively to remote learning. Organisations like software company TechnologyOne were able to send 50% of its workforce to work from home pre-lockdown and maintain business as usual operations.
This hybrid approach also insulates organisations from any further waves of this current pandemic, or something similar occurring in the future. But it comes with one major caveat: organisations have to focus on the total employee experience — their systems of experience — for all staff, no matter where they are working. That includes continually improving their remote workers’ access to resources and collaborative tools, to create a ‘connected culture’ so that people stay engaged with their organisation and their colleagues.
How will IT improve operational efficiency in 2021, and who should lead the charge?
There have been several announcements recently at a federal and state level on major digital transformation or ‘restart’ investments. At their heart, most of these digital initiatives are focused on better or more efficient service delivery and improved access to information. That’s all well and good, provided these projects aren’t undertaken with a siloed approach. One of the best ways to tackle this is to take a ‘Tell Us Once’ customer experience approach that unifies and integrates internal and external communications and access to information. To achieve this requires cross-departmental collaboration amongst the entire leadership team from the top down; not just the CIO executing on a siloed IT project.
How can IT be more environmentally friendly, socially responsible and privacy conscious?
Adopting a hybrid workplace or work-from-anywhere operation has a lot of potential environmental benefits. The corporate office floor space and environmental footprint can be reduced; there is less travel and reduced congestion from all staff commuting to a central hub; and the adoption of cloud-based services will continue to accelerate, creating greater efficiencies in both hardware and energy consumed in the switch from traditional on-premise infrastructure. At the same time, organisations need to be far more vigilant about their employees’ wellbeing, safety and privacy. Communications applications and systems need to be secure and encrypted when users are connecting via home or wireless networks. Managers need to be far more focused on their team’s mental and physical wellbeing, which is much harder to monitor with a remote workforce.
What’s on your wish list from government, industry and innovators?
With so many government digital transformation projects planned to open up access to information and streamline services for Australian citizens, it’s critical that internal communications and collaboration capabilities keep pace with the change. The open nature of today’s unified communications platforms enables extensive integration — so if I had just one wish, it would be that governments, innovators and the wider industry look for every opportunity to integrate and unify their communications, their applications and their systems. That’s where we will see the biggest benefits from digital acceleration in Australia in 2021.
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