Social-Distancing Enabled Digital Workflows Will Make Connectivity Increasingly Important David Hallinan Published: July 8, 2020 When the nationwide shelter-in-place went into effect in late March of 2020, few of us would believe that we might still be working from home over 100 days later. The COVID-19 Coronavirus has impacted the world’s workforce in unprecedented ways, forcing most of us in the technology industry, whether ready or not, to quickly move to some form of remote work. This remote work has taken on a phased approach to maintaining productivity due to very little structure or guidelines being in place prior to the pandemic, and most of us find ourselves still solidly planted in the first phase. As phase one of the remote “work from home” guidelines played out, companies have been forced to rapidly digitize their collaboration software workflows by increased adoption of cloud apps. Many of us were familiar with using some of the largest collaboration software offerings, such as Zoom or Slack, in our daily work, but the move to an entirely remote workflow has forced these tools to the forefront of our daily work. Agile stand-ups are now taking place over remote video calls and go-to-market meetings are increasingly encapsulated within Slack or MS Teams’ channels. While many were reluctant to embrace this remote workflow at first, the tools in place to help us succeed at remote productivity have shown that even the largest Silicon Valley tech companies can continue to produce and thrive in the face of unusual working conditions. More so, they have demonstrated that social distancing enabled workflows will make connectivity increasingly important. We expect phase one of the remote working conditions to continue as cases of the virus spike back up across the United States, but what consequences will this have, and what can we expect to happen when we eventually get to the next phase of remote work?Phase One: Adoption of the New Cloud Phase one of social-distancing enabled workflows can be simply put as the adoption and setup of new cloud applications and infrastructure across businesses. The most direct result of this phase is app deployment across web service hosting such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft’s Azure. Prior to the outbreak, online tech vendor O’Reilly published their Cloud Adoption in 2020 Report which highlighted that even before the pandemic began, 88% of organizations were using cloud infrastructure in at least one form. These numbers have obviously grown since the virus became a mainstay, with 45% reporting that they would expect to move at least ¾ of their applications to the cloud over the next 12 months. What started as companies incrementally moving pieces of their architecture to the cloud one at a time has become organizations scrambling to move 100% of their IT systems to the cloud.Credit: O’Reilly Cloud Adoption in 2020 ReportBesides the obvious move to cloud computing for back end architecture of enterprise software is the rapid adoption of cloud apps for collaboration. Slack, MS Teams, Zoom, Dropbox, and Twilio are just an example of these applications that have seen a massive uptick in users since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In Slack’s Q1 earnings release, CEO Stewart Butterfield said“We believe the long-term impact the three months and counting of working from home will have on the way we work is of generational magnitude. This will continue to catalyze adoption for the new category of channel-based messaging platforms we created.” Despite security issues that emerged early in the year, Zoom has now revealed that the video meeting client has surpassed 300 million daily meeting participants, up from only 10 million reported users per day in December of 2019. In what may be the biggest break from traditional operations, both the British House of Parliament and the United States Supreme Court have now used Zoom to meet remotely while sheltering in place. With accelerated adoption of these apps to meet the needs of a new digital workflow caused by working from home and social distancing, more and more of us will increasingly rely on these apps as daily necessities to continue working. A Gartner CFO Survey revealed that 74% of organizations will shift some employees to remote work permanently post COVID-19. This begs the question: What companies using these apps will become worried about the underlying infrastructure of them? When adoption rates spike and high usage is increasingly forced onto these organizations, protecting sensitive data is paramount to success. A single data breach can spell disaster for both sides of the relationship and can threaten to sink an app like Slack or Zoom due to terrible publicity and bad market optics.Phase Two: Ensuring Future SuccessIf phase one was primarily about the adoption of cloud apps to help with the increase of remote work, then phase two is about shoring up the infrastructure and operations for everything adopted in phase one. This can be broken down into three specific needs for concern: Security, Monitoring/Analytics, and Integrations.SecurityAs the adoption of these cloud apps skyrockets, the security of the data being transmitted becomes increasingly important. There are multiple types of security that must be addressed in order to guarantee the peace of mind of the organizations that utilize these apps. Network security is foremost of these concerns, with the increase in users remotely accessing internal networks and applications. Endpoint security is another major concern, as the increasing access to cloud apps from mobile phones and individual laptops become larger. Cloud app security and overall cloud security also must be kept at front-of-mind when envisioning the safety of future users and their remote workflows. Connectivity to integrations, toolsets, and comprehensive hosting suites will provide software companies with the ability to properly protect the data and users that flow through their applications. Cloud infrastructure must be addressed quickly and efficiently in order to maintain uptime and usability, and cloud apps must adhere to the strictest of guidelines when deploying new versions of their applications due to the increased userbase.Monitoring and AnalyticsHackers pose a very real threat to modern enterprise businesses. Firewalls can be broken into or legitimate credentials that can be procured that allow hackers to incur significant damage. Emails or messages with malicious attachments disguised as innocuous can result in data breaches of millions of dollars in lost capital. As a result, IT software must take comprehensive measures to ensure that an organization can detect users and other entities that look to compromise the systems that they try to infiltrate. Malicious intent is only one aspect of monitoring that must be kept in mind when migrating data centers to the cloud, as modern software has embraced event-driven architecture as a means of operation in recent years. This becomes increasingly harder as infrastructure is moved to the cloud.A major result of the increase in remote work will be felt by legacy companies moving their workloads offsite. With no onsite workers able to manage and monitor on-premises infrastructure, monitoring and securing new workloads must now be performed in the cloud on Amazon Web Sevices, Google Cloud, Azure, and other hosting platforms. Monitoring and analytics will be increasingly offloaded to the companies providing toolsets that integrate with these hosting platforms, such as Datadog, PagerDuty, New Relic, AppDynamics, Splunk, and more. Reliance on these platforms will introduce yet another step into the remote workflow of those tasked with overseeing the monitoring and analytics of modern enterprise software.IntegrationsIntegrations, or cloud apps, are now endpoints in the new network and must be increasingly directly integrated into collaborative software. As remote workflows increase, the need for direct API integrations grows, as well as the number of offerings. A single app like Slack can offer up to hundreds of integrations with the aim of keeping users’ workflow entirely within their app. Forcing users to go to a 3rd-party workflow automation platform will always be shunned in favor of a rival piece of software that provides the necessary direct connectivity. I say this with no hint of doubt: Integrations are table stakes in the next frontier of social-distancing enabled digital workflows. They are not a “nice-to-have” or an “icing on the cake” feature anymore. They are the backbone of the remote workflow and increase usability, productivity, and adoption rate more than any other feature. Integrations will be the difference between success and failure for applications looking to contribute to the new remote workflow.The Remote FutureThe topics discussed in this piece are not suddenly important as a result of the ongoing pandemic. For anyone in the SaaS industry, these are all trends that we’ve seen coming for some time. Increasing usage in remote working and collaborative tools has been steady for the last few years, with even more growth estimated to occur over the next 5-10 years. What has changed, however, is the pressing need to address these connectivity concerns in a shorter span of time. The toolsets that we may have envisioned as a need in 2025 are now front-and-center as we dig in and plan to work for the next 6-12 months remotely. With the increase in tech companies such as Twitter moving to an entirely remote workflow, connectivity is the most important factor in determining the triumph or defeat of software in this next frontier of digital workflows.