Build a Resilient Firm by Identifying Opportunities of Remote Collaboration
All businesses, large or small, have faced challenges wherever the last couple of years – but one of the positive outcomes of the global pandemic is the notion that work can be done you are in the world. And while work has changed, expectations have not. Teams need to work with the same speed, efficiency and security as when they were all within the same four walls. It’s now up to IT to rise to this challenge with the right solutions to meet the new demands of the hybrid workforce. Remote working – and remote collaboration – is here to stay.
What does remote collaboration mean?
Remote work and collaboration with colleagues, partners, vendors and customers are becoming the norm with the dispersal of workforces and the rise of the global economy. Businesses need to enable a new model that allows employees to work away from corporate offices while managing and securing data and intellectual property.
The model of taking a partial project home from the office on a laptop quickly breaks down as project size and complexity increase. Large projects with large amounts of data and the need for security all drive a need for centralized systems and IT infrastructure. In an age of cyber attacks, ransomware and intellectual property theft, security of data is critical. Additionally, the complexity of managing work on a project points toward central gatekeeping to control data access and dissemination as well as synchronization of revisions.
A highly useful model of computing is remote display of applications running on systems at an office or datacenter. AEC applications generally require information systems with powerful computing and graphics capabilities. The applications can be hosted on workstations, datacenter servers, or public cloud instances, or in a hybrid environment combining these resources.
When working remotely, the user experience should be very close to what is available when directly in front of a powerful local workstation. The session must be highly interactive and responsive, especially when manipulating 3D models. Visual quality of graphics is critical for display of lines and text and also for display of rendered environments. High levels of computing and graphics performance are essential to meet this requirement and to maintain productivity and profitability. Another need is access to peripherals used in the design process such as digitizing tablets, 3D input devices and extended reality equipment such as virtual reality (VR) headsets.
With remote display solutions, the endpoint hardware can be fairly simple. A desktop or mobile computer, Chromebook or tablet computer can provide access to remotely hosted applications. A modest consumer grade desktop or mobile computer with one or two large external monitors makes a very effective remote display endpoint. Additionally, thin client devices can be used for remote display to offer very easy endpoint setup and central administration.
Remote display software will work effectively on typical home internet connections and will dynamically adapt to allow work on slower networks. And because of the minimal equipment needs it’s easy to fit remote work hardware into various environments that provide a comfortable workspace and encouragement and productivity, such as homes, hotel rooms, cafes, or even outdoor parks.
Remote collaboration entails an application session running on a central system which can be accessed by several users simultaneously for purposes of joint work, on site project access, demonstrations and other needs. Teamwork is enabled without regard to geographic separation.
What are the challenges?
With employees working between home and office, how do you keep valuable data safe and secure? The considerable volume of intellectual property developed as part of architectural and engineering design needs to be protected to maintain client trust and your competitive edge. And yet, providing secure access to applications and data so staff can work productively is one of the most widely applicable challenges for architecture and engineering businesses have encountered since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
With flexible working, it can easily become impractical and more importantly, risky, to share files between home and office, and can also lead to synchronization errors, version control issues and lost data. Keeping all design and project data secure at a centralized location can circumvent these challenges, regardless of file size.
What are the opportunities?
While some of the business problems we just cover impact productivity and profitability, there are also some compelling business opportunities to think about as well. For instance, finding the right talent to join your growing organization can be incredibly challenging if the market is small or highly competitive. Adopting a hybrid work philosophy means your business can extend its normal geographic hiring radius and tap into markets with more available talent. In turn, it could mean your ability to take on bigger and more challenging projects and scale the team more rapidly when needed.
If you can enable employees to work from anywhere, then consider the ability to work with customers remotely as well. Visiting client sites and remotely visualizing design files stored securely in a central location can facilitate creativity and decision-making abilities while giving your customer peace of mind knowing a lost or damaged laptop isn’t going to jeopardize their project. All the computee power to manage large files stays safe and secure at head office, and with the right remote workstation software, the risk of a data breach is eliminated. Brand reputations in many different industries are built on trust.
Another benefit of remote collaboration is environmental. 140 billion is the estimated reduction in commuter miles by 2025, assuming 36.2 million Americans are working remotely. As companies look to reduce their environmental impact, this becomes part of the calculation when assessing the benefits and practicalities of remote working and collaboration.
What does the future of work look like?
Work is no longer limited to – or defined by – a physical place. It is now a combination of the digital and the physical.
For the latter, Architect Todd Heiser, co-managing director of the Chicago office of Gensler, a global architecture and design firm, says we should not be looking at the old office for inspiration. “Let’s put the ‘place’ back in ‘workplace’,” he says. Talent, he argues, wants a workplace that provides a platform to thrive, putting flexibility, connectivity and equity at the forefront.
“Thoughtful space plus smart technology should amplify the benefits of being in a room together. If we model the workplace on places of learning, we’ll hit it out of the park,” he says. That means thinking about the office as having ‘amenities’ that aren’t consumable but that foster growth, such as spaces that act like college quads, yoga studios, test kitchens and artist-in-residence rooms.
The digital aspect of work is often encapsulated in the word ‘metaverse’. While the buzz over the metaverse is new, the idea of it is two decades old. In 1992, author Neal Stephenson coined the term for his virtual world in his novel Snow Crash. In simplest terms, the metaverse is the physical and digital convergence of experiences, services, and identity, enabled by an array of new technologies.
The metaverse is in its infancy but the Architectural world is leading the way. For many years, Building Information Modeling (BIM), visualization (often in VR) and ‘digital twins’ have been part of the industry’s lexicon and the last two years have accelerated adoption. How long before we see digital models and environments enter the public domain, becoming not just the means to design and engineer the buildings around us, but part of the digital world in which the public interacts and plays? We’ve already seen the film and games industries converge – with technology, techniques and assets being shared across the two mediums. The next step, as the metaverse takes shape, is to connect our work and play worlds– with architectural models inter-connected to create world environments, accessible to virtual tourists, gamers and clients alike.
However, as HP CEO Enrique Lores says: “Exciting as these technological advancements are, the hybrid era is about people. We need to appreciate the ways their lives are changing, have empathy for the challenges they face, and help find ways to make their lives better. And as we usher in our hybrid future, we must do so in ways that break down the digital divide and promote digital equity to ensure millions aren’t left behind.”
Tucked away on a quiet, tree-lined residential street near Stanford University, the HP Garage stands today as the enduring symbol of innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit – the original garage start-up. It was in this humble 12×18-foot building that college friends Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard first pursued the dream of a company of their own. Guided by an unwavering desire to develop innovative and useful products, the two men went on to blaze a trail at the forefront of the electronics revolution.
This desire to innovate and help others is still at the heart of what they do, and it’s for this reason that HP Inc is supporting Disrupt Symposium: the biggest Business of Architecture event, which is planned for 1-5th May 2022. With top speakers representative of C-level leaders, partners, directors and founders from the world’s most successful architecture practices, such as UnStudio, SOM, BIG, Snohetta, Safdie Architects, Zaha Hadid Architects, Gensler, Perkins & Will, WoodsBagot, ARUP to name a few.
Disrupt Symposium is sponsored by HP, because as a technology company born of the belief that companies should do more than just make a profit they advocate for making the world a better place. Their efforts in climate action, human rights, and digital equity prove that they are doing everything in their power to make it so. With over 80 years of actions that prove their intentions, they have the confidence to envision a world where innovation drives extraordinary contributions to humanity. Their technology – a product and service portfolio of personal systems, printers, and 3D printing solutions – was created to inspire this meaningful progress.