The remote offices and branch offices of today’s distributed enterprise are a far cry from what they were in the past.
The remote offices and branch offices (ROBOs) of today’s distributed enterprise are a far cry from what they were in the past. They’ve evolved from an outpost serving the local community to fully functional locations that are critical to the overall health of the enterprise.
They include geographically dispersed sales and marketing offices, customer service centers, manufacturing facilities, service and repair centers, retail and franchisee locations and more. ROBOs can drive revenue growth, provide business critical functions, deliver the right customer and employee experience in real time and proudly extend the global brand.
And they are connected. ROBOs have grown far beyond offices with basic technology needs to fully connected facilities that provide complete business functionality. Just 10 to 15 years ago, the typical remote or branch office averaged one desktop computer per user for office functions such as sending emails, drafting memos and creating simple spreadsheets. Over the years, it evolved to accommodating multiple connected devices per employee, digital point of sales systems, websites, video conferencing and customer databases. Add to that today’s growing uses of cloud-based supply chain systems and other business applications, connected security, video training and more.
In addition to these business operational demands, ROBOs must also be ready to accommodate emerging technology trends, such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), the Internet of Things (IoT), all things cloud, new social media platforms and whatever is coming next. These requirements are expected to be met at any ROBO, regardless of location: urban, suburban, isolated rural area—even mobile operations such as the cab of the delivery van.
All of this is driving an explosion of data and insatiable demand for real-time access, requiring fast, reliable and flexible connectivity. All ROBOs, whether a mission-critical manufacturing facility or a small customer service center, depend on the right connectivity. To fully empower the modern ROBO, enterprise IT decision makers need to ensure easy access to greater bandwidth and superior connectivity to cloud-based applications, data centers and other locations. And they have to accomplish all of this with limited IT resources and relatively flat budgets.
How can IT decision makers ensure that they are creating the connected ecosystem for their ROBOs that can support their business today and future growth? Here are seven critical steps to remember:
- Assess your current bandwidth requirements and think about what you will need for the next three to five years. Every year, the average enterprise uses 50 percent more data on its network.
- Ensure your network infrastructure is flexible enough to provide dynamic scalability across locations and applications as needed by just making a phone call. Gone are the days where businesses can wait weeks or months for providers to make onsite visits to each location to increase bandwidth.
- Evaluate total cost of ownership (TCO), not only network infrastructure costs, but implementation times, IT resource requirements, training, reliability, latency, service level agreements (SLAs) and more.
- To provide the necessary connectivity to outside resources, carefully evaluate options which could include Ethernet, Broadband Internet, or other data options through the Internet or private/direct connections; or the solution could be a hybrid approach.
- Seek technology solutions (infrastructure and applications) that can work across all your locations to drive efficiency and minimize IT resource requirements.
- Continually evaluate and strengthen the security of your network all the way through, including your ROBOs.
- Consider and plan how you are going to manage IT services in disparate locations: independently with on-site staffing, through a managed services provider, or a combination of the two.
Today’s ROBO has come a long way over a short period of time, and much of that evolution has been underpinned by advances in technology and an increasingly connected world. Whatever new technologies may be on the horizon for the enterprise of tomorrow, one constant remains: a growing demand for the bandwidth that connects them and the IT professional’s challenge to provide it.