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Back to the Future of the Workplace

Highlights from the first episode of Behind the Network and insights into the most compelling takeaways from the remote work event.

I thoroughly enjoyed hosting the first episode in a three-part webinar series with Cisco Meraki called “Behind the Network.” From my perspective, the pandemic shined a bright light on the need for not only networking scalability to support work from home, but also business resiliency and continuity planning. During my discussion with Chris Stori, who leads the overall Meraki business, and Lawrence Huang, responsible for product and solution delivery, we delved into several topics. The conversation focused on which industries have been most impacted by COVID-19, which tools companies need to stay ahead of it, and the future of the workplace. I want to double click into each of these areas, provide insights into what I found most compelling, and draw a lighthearted analogy to one of my favorite movies. 


Who is feeling the pain? 

I think we can all agree that COVID-19 has changed our lives in many ways. Its comparison to the Spanish Flu of 1918 is warranted, though there are noticeable differences that exist nearly 100 years later—specifically the internet and wireless connectivity in the form of Wi-Fi, LTE, and 5G. In our discussion, Chris, Lawrence, and I discussed some of the broader trends related to the response to COVID-19 with Meraki customers. To no surprise, verticals such as education, healthcare, brick-and-mortar retail, and manufacturing are struggling given the physical demands and workload requirements. Consequently, the million-dollar IT challenge seems to lie in supporting the same user experiences remotely. From my perspective, a new tool kit that blends video collaboration tools with more software-centric capabilities to deliver network automation for higher predictability and security for business-critical applications is critical. 


The work from home IT tool kit 

As a networking analyst, I often speak to customers directly about connectivity challenges. It was apparent to me during the peak of COVID-19 that mid-sized businesses, in particular, were ill-prepared to support remote work. The challenges spanned remote security, network and device management, and application access and support. During our conversation, Lawrence spoke to the need for simplicity and network automation to ensure the highest quality experience. I wholeheartedly agree and believe Meraki is delivering to this end with its investment in health and assurance, a robust ecosystem that includes location-based services capabilities, and an SD-WAN platform that is cloud-enabled and secure.   


What is the future of the workplace?

Is remote work here to stay? Companies such as Twitter have committed to supporting it indefinitely. More than likely, as COVID-19 infection rates decline, there will be a gradual return to the office with a balance of work from both home and office. During our last webcast session, Chris, Lawrence, and I discussed how Meraki customers embrace investment in new collaboration tools, such as Cisco WebEx, and improved home office setups and audio gear in light of the pandemic experience. A positive outcome from my perspective has been a revisiting of work-life balance, newly found productivity (something I can personally attest to given less time spent on airplanes), and the elimination of office commute time. How will this impact the future of the physical office? I believe it will result in the reduction of physical conference rooms, sustained use of video collaboration, broader adoption of location-based services, video recognition, and IoT sensors. Lawrence spoke to the latter in our session as a strategic consideration in the overall product roadmap development effort to help customers more intelligently manage office buildings. Meraki has also led the smart camera segment with its MV family of cloud-managed smart cameras, and I believe they will play a role in a safer return to the office.  


Final thoughts  

If you are a “Back to the Future” fan, you remember that the flux capacitor enabled Marty to travel through time in an attempt to change events for the better. It would be nice to have a piece of technology that does the same in light of COVID-19. However, networking infrastructure providers such as Meraki have stepped up in recent months to deliver solutions to bring businesses of all sizes the networking scalability, security, and business continuity they need. To this end, I am looking forward to participating in the second episode in the series on September 9, that will include Meraki customers from Australia Post, Regions Bank, and Tandem Health, and personal stories from around the world. It should be a great discussion, and if interested, please register for the event


Will Townsend is Senior Analyst responsible for Networking Infrastructure and Carrier Services at Moor Insights & Strategy. He has been featured on NPR, CNBC, in the Wall Street Journal, and frequently contributes to, providing insights into enterprise networking and 5G. Mr. Townsend is also ranked consistently as one of the world’s top networking analysts, as measured by ARInsights.

Moor Insights & Strategy provides industry research and analysis to the high tech industry. This blog was commissioned by Cisco Meraki.  Moor Insights & Strategy disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of such information and shall have no liability for errors, omissions, or inadequacies in such information. This document consists of the opinions of Moor Insights & Strategy and should not be construed as statements of fact. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.