What the London tube strikes can teach us about flexible working and the cloud

While this week’s tube strikes have now been called off, Londoners don’t exactly feel out of the woods. Further planned industrial action, almost inevitable over the coming months before the introduction of the night tubes will only mean one thing: grumpy Londoners struggling to get to work and ranting on social media about the pay of the tube drivers.

Cutting off a critical part of the city’s transport infrastructure, tube strikes are notorious for sending London into chaos, costing businesses precious workforce productivity.

But while the term ‘rail replacement bus service’ has the tendency to send shivers down the spine of even the most resilient Londoner, the strikes don’t have to cost businesses their productivity.

> See also: The right to request flexible working: one year on, has anything changed?

Flexible working is no longer the challenge it once was, in fact arrangements are increasingly regarded as a right, not privilege. As such today’s businesses are starting to rethink the way they provision their computing environment in the interests of agility through times of stagnation.

Turning to virtual technologies, including Desktop-as-a-Service and other cloud-based solutions, could be the answer. If the workforce can access business critical information from any device or location this would reduce the need for many employees to waste hours battling the disrupted commute and could support hot-desking and other space saving working models.

It also cuts down the risk of disruption should the office be left inaccessible due to extreme weather or other issues.

Employees normally tied to the office with a desktop PC are symptomatic of an old-fashioned and outdated approach to handling sensitive information and increasing productivity.

Virtualising the desktop and applications is arguably the best way to secure your data and provide work location flexibility since the data and processing takes place in a datacentre not the end user device. Face to face meetings are still a vital part of business communications, but having the option to work from different locations could prove valuable in enhancing both staff efficiency and employee happiness.

The adoption of cloud computing has been a critical turning point in unlocking employee productivity regardless of time or place. IT has never been more accessible, much to the concern of the IT department thanks to a rise in so-called Shadow IT (IT purchases without the CIO’s knowledge through other departmental budgets).

Laudable though it is for staff to take advantage of cloud services to boost personal and departmental productivity they stand to achieve something of an own goal if circumventing the CIO means introducing risks to data security and availability planning.

Unsurprising then that some have ended up with cloud hangovers. Research from Sungard found that each UK organisation pays an average of £200k per year to ensure cloud services run effectively AND an additional £270k over the last five years on unforeseen costs, including spending on managing deployment and systems integration.

Hangover or not, UK businesses simply can’t escape cloud’s clear potential – our respondents saw increased agility (77%), improved availability (67%) and competitive advantage (43%) as a result of their cloud development.

> See also: How Tfl will use data about you to keep London moving as its population soars

Businesses need to think strategically about the IT used in their organisations – with the CIO and ALL board members maintaining regular contact with employees at the coalface, understanding their needs, challenges and investing in technologies to address those concerns.

Ultimately, an employee’s business contribution is not measured by their office presence, but in the results and value they supply – does the location from where these are achieved really matter?

Interviews were carried out in February 2015 by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Sungard Availability Services. 400 interviews were conducted across the UK, France, Sweden and Ireland.

The research spoke to IT decision makers in businesses of over 500 employees in the UK, France and Sweden and 250 in Ireland across a variety of sectors.

Sourced from Keith Tilley, Executive Vice President for Global Sales and Customer Services, Sungard Availability Services

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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