Now, over one year into the global stay-at-home movement, the pandemic has left a lasting impression on the way we work and play. The sudden shift to a fully remote environment overnight put businesses to the test as they needed to respond quickly to evaluate the needs of employees. Leaders had to ensure not only that employees were fulfilled but that they would continue driving productivity and business results. In addition, this new way of operating has led to an uptick in demand for external IT services as businesses have recognized remote work is no longer an added company perk — but a permanent fixture.
IT Services are the Unsung Hero of the Remote Work Revolution
As many employees continue to embrace the “work from anywhere” mindset, it is obvious that workers will demand a hybrid work schedule from here on out. Ultimately, this new work lifestyle will become a prerequisite for future job openings well beyond 2021. As a result, now is the time for businesses and enterprises to lean on new technology offerings to ensure they maintain an effective IT approach.
Lenovo’s Future of Work Study found that employees prefer the flexibility of working remotely. The study shows that 88% of participants from large companies still want to work from home or work remotely from anywhere, at least part-time.
This new demand for continued flexibility and trust from employers will continue to flip current policies on its head and encourage businesses to upgrade their existing processes. Knowing remote work will be a part of our norm, companies will need to continue to explore ways to position themselves for growth. In addition, businesses will want to ensure their workforce remains supported, productive, and secure or risk getting left behind.
Outsourced services: Looking outward to empower and support success within
Pre-pandemic, employees had the benefit of having an assigned, on-site IT team at their fingertips to support any immediate issues that arose. Nowadays, employees no longer enjoy the access they once had to IT teams that were in a centralized location, and IT teams no longer benefit from the efficiencies on-site work once provided.
Moving entire organizations to remote work overnight was no easy feat
When the lockdown first hit, employees had to look elsewhere for immediate support and encountered new challenges they may not have experienced while in the office. The process included unstable internet connections at home, data security concerns, and delays or challenges in receiving timely IT support when needed.
Quickly realizing this “temporary” work from home arrangement was going to be much longer than a few weeks — companies began updating their IT infrastructures to address these challenges and ensure employees had the same level of support they once enjoyed in the office to help them remain focused on work instead of daunting IT issues. However, this pivot in priorities presented new challenges for already-stretched IT teams.
Lenovo’s Future of Work study also uncovered about half the employees in medium-sized businesses (50%) and small or very small businesses (42%) report delays or challenges in getting any kind of IT support when needed.
The sudden shift to remote work left IT teams completely overwhelmed to navigate the new challenges
Balancing the need to be all-hands-on-deck to transition the IT business to a completely new way of working while at the same time supporting employees that needed more support than ever before was its own challenge. This operational hurdle prompted many businesses to seek alternate support and leverage external IT service experts to ensure speedy repairs and greater cost predictability.
Outsourcing IT support seemed an easy solution for many businesses
Outsourcing IT support was an easier solution for many businesses that needed their internal IT resources to shift to core business applications. Businesses scrambled to eliminate delays and mitigate challenges that arose overwhelmingly with remote work.
High-level IT issues
With external IT service providers, in-house IT teams can focus less on run-of-the-mill support and repair challenges and more on high-level transformation issues like preparing for the future and ever-evolving security threats.
Not only does outsourcing give in-house IT teams peace of mind knowing that employees have the support needed to remain online, productive, and safe — but it gives employees the confidence they need in both their employers and the provided technology to allow them to perform their job to the best of their ability—a win/win.
Partnering with IT service providers
However, many fail to realize that outsourced IT services can extend beyond break/fix repairs and technical support. Partnering with an IT service provider can have real and lasting benefits in other parts of a company’s business, helping to resolve problems and create IT infrastructure readiness. Given that every business is unique, a one-size-fits-all solution will not give businesses the level of protection and support they need to operate at full capacity.
Today’s technology is smarter, needing enhanced solutions
Nowadays, companies have to have smarter tech. Tech must fix regular problems, deliver an optimal performance that adds value, predict user patterns, and mitigate future risks to eliminate unnecessary downtime.
This was especially important at a time when companies were seeking solutions to cut down operational costs and unnecessary spending to weather the COVID-19 storm.
As work-from-home continues to resonate, partnering with IT, service providers has enabled companies to get the absolute most out of their technology investments by reducing business costs, minimizing employee downtime, and powering a better user experience.
Securing the workforce, no matter where it’s located
A benefit many companies enjoyed pre-pandemic was having a better idea of where employees were located and could, therefore, more easily secure their devices from external threats.
Combine juggling the uptick in employee needs with the added security complexity due to the remote nature of the workforce, and IT teams are now facing completely new challenges. Security ranks as the #1 most time-consuming challenge among IT departments and will stay top of mind for IT teams as cyberattacks and data breaches continue to be a serious threat for businesses of all sizes.
Higher-risk work environment
IT departments can benefit from tapping into their hardware, software, and IT services partners for support to better navigate and support a higher-risk work environment. Companies should look for providers that offer a holistic approach to security and that incorporate built-in platform security, integrated system management, and a robust threat and data protection program.
There are also a growing number of security-as-a-service solutions that enable companies to more cost-effectively implement cybersecurity infrastructures and better protect their endpoints as dispersed workforces are on the rise.
Need to future-proof customers’ security
Additionally, new technologies need to future-proof customers’ security weaknesses at the start of deployment and enable safe computing throughout the entire PC lifecycle. By doing this, device onboarding becomes quicker and ensures employees can begin work immediately with the level of security support companies can feel confident in.
This is especially important for companies seeking ways to streamline processes, maintain device visibility, and increase security in a remote world. In addition to this, companies are also leveraging endpoint management offerings to better protect technology assets from assembly to disposal by providing clearer device visibility to better monitor the health of mission-critical security apps and mitigate security threats.
Drive organizational compliance and efficiencies with Device as a Service (DaaS)
Similar to the growing practicality and simplicity of subscription-based business models, such as streaming entertainment channels and consumer monthly boxes for makeup or athleisure, IT services have found their as-a-service niche for businesses.
In 2021, the everything-as-a-service concept will accelerate its crossover into the commercial enterprise and small-and-medium-sized business space.
The change will shift capital expense to operational expenses as companies gain access to more tech tools, IT services, and security at a more affordable price. In addition, the rise of subscription culture has prompted significant interest in DaaS tools to keep hardware up to date, while simultaneously freeing up employee time for more strategic projects.
The current DaaS landscape is where the real opportunity is
To better understand the current DaaS landscape and where opportunities lie, a recent study found only 10% of businesses currently subscribe to DaaS-like services, but 63% overall are interested.
This showcases that although right now, the majority of companies are not reaping the benefits of DaaS, nearly two-thirds of respondents are interested in the concept and how it can drive efficiencies within their organizations. Interest in this space will continue to grow as companies experience the tangible results from adopting DaaS-like services to support the in-house IT staff for better business agility at a more affordable price point.
Although the new remote work environment has presented many new challenges, it has also provided companies with the unique opportunity to adopt new processes that drive business efficiencies. Leveraging external IT services will play an increased role in the “new world” as companies adopt creative ways to safeguard and future-proof their businesses.
I’ve seen this new demand first-hand within Lenovo’s Solutions & Services Group. International IDG Services grew 39% year-on-year in early 2021, reaching a record revenue of US $1.2 billion.
I don’t foresee the increased adoption of services and solutions being a short-term trend. Instead, an integral piece of business strategy moving forward to help companies adopt more modern workplaces and better prepare for the future.
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Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending
London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.
According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.
The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:
“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”
The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:
“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”
The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.
The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.
Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!
Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs
As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.
Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI
In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.
According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.
One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.
To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.
Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!
UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations
As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.
Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation
To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.
The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.
Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!