It is easy to imagine that the single biggest change in the business world during the Covid-19 pandemic, aside from remote working, was the advent of pyjama pants as work attire. In truth, this was a symbol of dramatic underlying shifts, which will continue resonating across enterprises for years to come.

Three technologies made the pyjama revolution possible, and will dictate a future beyond dress code: broadband-enabled home Wi-Fi; collaboration platforms that incorporate video conferencing; and cloud computing that connects the two. Think about it. Without cloud computing, collaboration becomes a bottleneck of physical presence. Without broadband, video conferencing is not feasible. And without Wi-Fi, the home environment cannot support a network of devices that need to be constantly connected.

The home office has come of age under lockdown

A World Wide Worx study called The Digital Enterprise in South Africa 2021 has revealed that home Wi-Fi has joined fibre, office Wi-Fi, mobile phones and landlines as the most-used forms of connectivity among South African corporations. This tells us that, during the pandemic, enterprises for the first time recognised the importance of the home office as an extension of the corporate ecosystem.

A further consequence has been that notebook computer sales have boomed in Southern Africa, rising by a massive 42% in the first half of 2021. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), this growth was driven by remote working and a transforming education market – and it more than balanced a 30% drop in desktop computer sales.

The notebook boom has mirrored international trends, with Dell reporting the best second quarter in the company’s history. Chris Buchanan, Director of Client Solutions for Dell in South Africa, said the company expected continued growth in demand for PCs ‘as the do-from-anywhere world is here to stay’.

Helping to drive this shift is the increasing capabilities of notebooks, which traditionally carried substantially lower specs than desktop machines. That is changing, as the spec balance of power moves to notebooks, both feeding into and substantiating the growing acceptance that the future of work is hybrid.

What, then, will be the real digital challenge for business leaders?

On the surface, it seems obvious that flexible office set-ups and schedules tend to make for more satisfied employees, resulting in a more productive workforce. However, many organisations are having difficulty making the transition, as their systems are still anchored in physical processes. (Asynchronous work is one way in which some companies have managed to move away from this way of working.)

It does not help that inappropriate technologies like virtual reality are being talked up as the future of work, resulting in the so-called metaverse being touted as the next big thing. If companies are resisting the need to meet and talk through screens, it’s not hard to see the flaw in that vision of needing even more equipment to conduct a basic conversation.

One of the biggest challenges for businesses won’t be to integrate the technology to make the metaverse possible, but to resist the demand from younger employees to embrace it.

The real need is for digital transformation of all business processes, moving from a mix of physical documents and digital platforms to a cloud-based system that allows all systems to be accessed or managed from any place.

This, in turn, makes it possible that business objectives such as real-time visibility of all company operations, instant reporting and quick decision-making and their implementation, are rolled out by cloud computing platforms like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud and Huawei Cloud.

These platforms introduce new features every day, bolstering anything from standard office suites to business process automation and artificial intelligence. It means businesses no longer have to bet on a specific technology – the cloud allows them to be scalable, flexible and future-ready.

Agility, and not technology, will be the real demand of the future.