Insight Enterprises President Joyce Mullen
By Jarrett Banks
Insight Enterprises, Inc. (ticker: NSIT) offers information technology hardware, software, and services to large enterprises, small to medium sized businesses, and public sector institutions.
Exec Edge sat down with Insight President Joyce Mullen to find out what the company is doing to help underserved communities and lay the groundwork for smart cities.
Exec Edge: As a technology solutions provider, Insight is uniquely equipped to solve big problems facing the country, like the digital divide. How does Insight determine the solutions they bring to market?
While digital transformation is not the answer to all the issues we face today, technology will absolutely help solve some of our country’s most vexing issues — both in the private and public sectors.
As an IT provider and super solutions integrator, Insight creates capabilities to help customers meet their most pressing business needs, such as:
- Modernizing and securing IT infrastructure with multi-cloud and hybrid environments that are cost effective, flexible, and agile
- Transforming businesses and communities to provide better customer or citizen experiences with the use of data, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and extended reality technologies
- Designing and implementing secure, collaborative, and connected technology workforce experiences
These capabilities, when coupled with the ingenuity of our clients, have resulted in countless improvements. For example:
- In the public sector, teachers, students, and teleworkers in a south Texas county now have access to the internet to facilitate remote learning and work thanks to a unique public-private partnership to create a wireless broadband network accessible by the community.
- Employees at a U.S. biopharmaceutical company show up to a safer work environment thanks to Insight Connected Platform, a proprietary technology, that couples IoT-based contact tracing solutions with advanced analytics to help detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- One of the world’s largest supermarket chains now more efficiently manages inventory through an intelligent platform, comprised of a cloud-native infrastructure, edge-based applications and interactive digital shelf displays, to provide more personalized shopping experiences.
Exec Edge: How is Insight specifically partnering with cities and municipalities to help deliver internet access to underserved communities?
There are two main factors causing the digital divide, particularly for smaller and poorer communities. The first is an economic gap, when people simply can’t afford the connectivity to work from home. The second is the availability of Wi-Fi services, where in many cases, private enterprises haven’t invested in the necessary infrastructure and services for true, sustainable “public” internet access.
We’re mapping government-funded dollars — from pandemic relief packages such as the CARES Act — to develop technology that helps public administrators bring secure, broadband Internet to their communities through Insight Community Wireless Broadband solution.
Our Insight teams are working with the City of Tucson, where more than 32,000 of the city’s roughly 212,000 households lack reliable Internet access, to pilot this solution. This work has helped them establish their own, secure, Wi-Fi that gives free access to people in the community with hotspot-like devices that they can apply for and receive at no cost.
The technology can work in any environment nationwide, bringing connectivity to rural and historically underserved communities where individuals don’t have the funds to connect via traditional broadband, or where it simply doesn’t exist.
Exec Edge: Can you explain how this technology lays the necessary groundwork for smart cities?
In a smart city, everything hinges on connectivity. In practice, this means connecting different sensors or smart machines and devices to IT assets that can collect and analyze the data via private and secure broadband infrastructure. Insight’s Community Wireless Broadband solution provides this infrastructure — an essential step in seamlessly integrating smart devices across public safety, traffic management and other vital city services into a unified grid.
This infrastructure allows the free movement of data across organizations and platforms. The intelligence can be made available to others to help public agencies collaborate better and give citizens useful information that can potentially save them time, make them safer and reduce their use of natural resources.
The possibilities are endless. Imagine…
- Traffic lights connected to smart automobiles to optimize the flow of traffic, minimizing congestion and pollution while creating safer driving patterns for everyone.
- Air-quality warnings sent to athletes using wearable smart devices to alleviate health concerns.
- Streetlights that get brighter with increased activity.
These technologies are designed to enhance lives and reimagine how cities can work in a digitally transformed world.
Exec Edge: How has COVID-19 impacted how private companies utilize technology and the ways in which the IT industry is helping companies accelerate digital transformation? What has become necessary? What has fallen to the wayside?
Accelerated by the pandemic, there are three main areas where organizations continue expanding their use of technology to help them adapt.
First, remote work is here to stay. Gartner predicts 48% of enterprise employees will continue to work remotely at least some of the time after the pandemic, versus 30% prior to the pandemic. In this new environment, companies need to focus on the employee experience and create sustainable anywhere operations. On-site facilities may evolve to more hotel-type workspaces and collaboration zones as people mix work from home with coming into the office more for group work and customer engagement. This puts a greater emphasis on device flexibility and managed services, digital collaboration tools, virtual IT support and self-service.
Second, cybersecurity initially fell to the wayside as companies worked as quickly as possible to transition to remote work at the outset of COVID-19. Now, enhanced cybersecurity is more critical than ever. Cracks in protection have risen as more people access corporate servers from different places and devices. In fact, a new IDG cybersecurity survey commissioned by Insight finds that nearly 80% of IT security leaders at large enterprises believe their organizations lack sufficient protection against outside attacks despite increased security investments made last year to deal with distributed IT environments.
Lastly, IoT, extended reality, AI, and machine learning will be a focus for companies to improve business operations and customer experiences. One area of AI that is accelerating quickly is computer vision, which refers to the use of machine learning to analyze, understand and respond to digital images or videos. If Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to help solve a range of real-world challenges, this means computer vision will, by necessity, have a significant role to play.
Exec Edge: What key areas of technology should business leaders be prioritizing now to shore up short-term continuity concerns and pave the way for long-term success?
Most companies have made the transition to a hybrid or remote work environment. Now, they can re-focus on addressing other pressing business needs, such as cost optimization, modernization, and security, such as:
- Accelerating automation to help streamline costs and alleviate resource constraints by reducing the time employees spend on tasks and refocusing their attention on value-add activities, like capturing new business
- Implementing low-code or no-code applications that simplify complexity, reduce the use of labor-intensive tools that require deep technical knowledge, and provide employees with information in user-friendly, digestible dashboards
- Establishing sustainable work-from-anywhere operations that are secure and enhance productivity and collaboration
The bottom line: Technology is being used to transform all aspects of business, work, and life. Having a partner with the right experts, solutions and reach can position clients for success in this new world.
Jarrett Banks, Editor-at-Large