How SASE helps organizations forge new digital work experiences

Article by Mike Hicks, Principal Solutions Architect at ThousandEyes.

There is a truism for anyone who works remotely: Much of every day’s success depends on the digital experience we wake up to.

On good days, access to systems is simple and frictionless; the work is done and there is nothing more to say. But factor in an outage or slow internet connection, and the experience can quickly go south – and productivity with it.

A McKinsey study shows that technological transformations over the past two years have improved the employee experience in part or significantly for 79% of organizations.

Some organizations may have persisted with revamped but ultimately underperforming digital experiences because they still believed the business environment was in a tentative or fluctuating state, and blocked more substantial corrective action.

But it was mid-2021, and particularly in Australia and New Zealand, that the state of flux was long over. The business environment is regaining structural permanence. Longer-term calls have come through Atlassian to make office presence the exception instead of the rule. In addition, more and more companies are open to hiring people who live outside a commuting distance of a central office, as evidenced by the increase in remote job postings in Australia.

The permanence of remote working arrangements creates a need for permanence in the remote working experience offered to employees.

Now is the time to act.

‘Branch of a’

Most organizations are used to operating on a “hub-and-spoke” model when it comes to serving IT systems. Applications are hosted at the head office (the “hub”) and made available to staff working in various smaller offices or branches (the “departments”).

Branches in this context were regrouping points for staff. However, in the “new normal”, staff no longer congregate at branches, and instead, all sit at home and log in from there. Analyst firm IDC has rebranded this teleworking workforce “branches of one” – to show organizations what a redesigned digital experience should look like.

“Even as organizations implement safe return-to-office programs after the pandemic, many employees will continue to work remotely – some permanently and many others in a hybrid fashion. Enterprises will need to take advantage of “single branch” technologies to extend secure and reliable corporate networks to remote and mobile workers, ”IDC notes in a description.

The digital experience is thus reinvented through the use of Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) – a global term for the network and security architecture, technologies, methodologies and policies necessary to establish working configurations at consistent, reliable and efficient distance.

The emergence of SASE is a formal recognition that some aspects of remote working setups are not currently optimal. For example, teleworkers can go through geographically distant proxies or cloud regions far from where they are, slowing down the availability of their applications and slowing down their digital experience.

SASE is a tacit recognition that applying more application-dependent and application-specific rules and access routes is one way to optimize this digital experience. The appeal of SASE is that it offers a simplified front-end experience for remote workers while hiding the complexity of the backend. This primarily drives adoption and adoption of SASE, and this is expected to continue.

Some other observations

It goes without saying that organizations will follow the SASE path to optimize the security and experience of remote workers.

Many organizations may unknowingly be already on the path to SASE, without necessarily having put in place a specific strategy. Indeed, secure and cloud-centric solutions can span multiple tools and methodologies, from SD-WAN to VPN and identity management. As SASE grows, more organizations will integrate what they are already doing, creating a more formal remote work optimization strategy.

Security at the edge is likely to take many different forms, and different combinations of tools and methodologies will result in different levels of maturity.

Visibility into how an organization is doing on its SASE journey, and whether the components it has in place are functional and improving performance, can help improve maturity and accelerate progress.

In a future where remote working is the norm, what drives productivity and employee satisfaction more than anything is the digital experience. Very little business will be done if the systems are slow or unusable.

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