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Most organizations want to create a place where employees want to work. But what that means -- and how the workplace looks -- continues to rapidly evolve.   

Previously, employers focused solely on utility, providing employees with the essential tools and technologies they needed to do their jobs while requiring them to be in the physical office (i.e., Jane Smith must work at her desk with a corporate computer and needs access to the internet and intranet). 

Over time, however, the workplace has changed and matured. Key factors like rising employee expectations, tightened talent markets and increased competition ignited a spark in organizations to think beyond the bare minimum and consider the holistic employee experience. Organizations realized that investing in the right workplace technology could pay dividends in employee performance and engagement.

As time and resources permitted, IT teams with traditional operating models slowly started making improvements, adding new capabilities, features and device options every few years in sync with their technology life cycles. While this worked initially, the needs of employees and the business quickly exceeded this pace.

Adapting IT operating models to support a flexible future of work

It's no longer acceptable nor feasible to wait years for the next update and allow technology to sit stagnant. Instead, employees need IT to deploy improvements quickly and continuously to remain productive and engaged. And the business needs faster innovation to keep pace with competition. This tension between the business, employees and IT was finally exposed when the pandemic hit.

Suddenly, that spark to improve the employee experience turned into a full-blown wildfire as organizations shifted to all-remote work. IT faced a blaze of new employee needs and requirements at the same time they were trying to accelerate digital transformations and maintain business continuity -- an almost impossible feat with their existing processes.

At WWT, we helped many organizations pivot to overcome immediate obstacles in enabling remote work, but moving forward, IT teams must fundamentally change how they operate to support work-from-anywhere models and ensure long-term business success. 

According to Harvard Business Review, 91 percent of organizations that accelerated digital transformation during the pandemic intend to maintain the same speed or move even faster after the pandemic is over. This means that organizations must shift from their traditional, multi-year technology cycles into a framework that allows them to not only sustain this accelerated pace but kindle a positive digital employee experience along the way.

This is where evergreen IT comes into play. 

Evergreen IT versus traditional models

An evergreen model enables IT teams to deploy small, iterative updates to end-user technology on an ongoing basis rather than focusing only on big bang projects, forklift upgrades, and colossal migrations that can be disruptive and costly. This iterative model provides increased flexibility and adaptability so IT teams can stay on target and respond quickly to evolving business requirements instead of being locked into three- to five-year cycles that can result in the technology becoming obsolete.  

A good example of this is the iPhone (or any smartphone). Your iPhone has almost monthly software updates that deliver new features, better security protection and glitch fixes. Imagine if you had to wait until your next device upgrade in six months, a year or even several years to update your iOS. The same comparison can be applied to evergreen IT (monthly software updates) versus traditional models (waiting for a device upgrade). 

When it comes to end-user technology, traditional models are often transactional and, in some cases, built around the notion of "run to fail." When onboarding new employees, for example, IT provides them with a laptop, and when they qualify for a device upgrade in a few years, they get a new one. No additional value is delivered between those two transaction points.

In an age of accelerated digital transformation and rising employee expectations, these traditional models will not only lead to employee dissatisfaction and higher turnover rates, they will cause organizations to fall behind their competition.

Benefits of an evergreen IT model

Organizations can leverage several benefits when transitioning to an evergreen IT model. Here are some of the top reasons to consider making the shift. 

Continuously improve the digital employee experience 

Evergreen IT models are based on continuous improvement and updates, which prevent the employee experience from becoming stale. IT can quickly respond to employees' evolving needs and requirements by delivering new features, capabilities and improvements on a regular basis. And by breaking these updates into small increments, organizations can avoid major disruptions to employee productivity and business processes, which typically arise with large-scale migrations and application overhauls. Instead, employees are pleasantly surprised when a new feature rolls out that empowers them to do their jobs better

Create predictable spending patterns

Evergreen IT models allow organizations to shift from massive expenditures every few years to more evenly distributed spending over time.

One of the key benefits of an evergreen IT model is the ability to evenly spread updates over time, creating predictable spending patterns. This allows organizations to:

  • Better allocate IT time, resources and budget for upcoming projects
  • Minimize risk: small updates pose less financial and business risk than big bang IT transformations
  • Account for market fluctuations and take advantage of new opportunities should they arise

Keep pace with business innovation

Many organizations with traditional IT operating models have their technology initiatives tightly mapped for several years at a time. While a technology roadmap is recommended, it still needs to be flexible. For example, an organization might decide it will implement a major end-user computing upgrade this year, a security upgrade next year and a networking upgrade the following year. If issues arise before that designated upgrade date, organizations with traditional operating models are not only unable to pivot since their IT resources and budget are already claimed but could be left vulnerable to security threats and breaches. On the other hand, organizations with an evergreen IT model can adapt and respond quickly to new business requirements and keep pace with innovation cycles. 

Evolving into an evergreen IT model

Transitioning to an evergreen IT model doesn't happen overnight; it's an agile evolution that requires close alignment between IT and the business. An evergreen model changes how IT teams plan, design and implement new capabilities, as well as how they operate and support a continuous improvement cycle long term. From architects to operators, all teams must be aligned on the end goal and vision to ensure a successful transition. 

To help you get started on your journey, our team of experts created a Digital Workspace Priorities for 2022 white paper that includes step-by-step guidance on how IT leaders can successfully evolve into an evergreen IT model.

White Paper: Digital Workspace Priorities for 2022