remote work

Reset & Thrive Your Business

The Remote Working Reset

Reset & Thrive Your Business (08) - The Remote Working Reset

Looking back on 2020, the sheer magnitude of Digital Transformation that’s taken place within (or, as some might argue, was forced upon) organizations across all industries is astounding. And it’s all thanks to an unprecedented global pandemic that forced businesses to implement company-wide Remote Working Solutions in mere weeks – building a framework that may have otherwise taken months or even years to develop.

Now that we’re heading into the final quarter of the year, it’s a good time to take stock of all that’s happened during this roller-coasterride. In particular, IT professionals need to make sure that all those early, time-pressured decisions were the right ones to make. While the speed of change presented organizations with an opportunity to thrive by putting in place a new, more collaborative and streamlined way of doing business, a number of risks must be accounted for – and safely managed – before they become serious threats.

If nothing else, COVID-19 has proven the importance of an agile framework for change. Let’s take a look at some of the key IT considerations for organizations in Q4 and beyond as discussed during our recent customer round table, “The Remote Working Reset.

Standardization

In the rush to go fully remote, a collection of tools may have been rolled out without consistency. How can organizations now standardize and regain control to reduce shadow IT, optimize costs and put long-term governance in place?

By controlling the systems, devices, applications, and configurations on a given organization’s network, IT operations become far more efficient and easier to maintain. Plus, consistency in IT infrastructure makes budgeting more predictable and upgrades more feasible. Now that COVID-19 has amplified concerns around safety, data security, and privacy, IT standardization should be a topic that comes up frequently during monthly and quarterly check-ins.

Employees working from home may be more tempted to download unapproved applications (also known as Shadow IT) in place of other tools or software that they don’t yet feel comfortable with. These platforms and applications pose a serious risk to network security. Organizations can mitigate these risks by standardizing devices and systems across the workforce and providing ample resources to employees to educate them about how to get the most out of their technology.

Security & Data Protection

Remote working has seen a spike in security breaches and harmful attacks. Mobile device management is key, and, as more people have moved to Microsoft 365, backing up of corporate data has become even more important.

IT professionals are very much aware of the security challenges posed by moving an entire workforce to remote operations over a short timeframe. As such, they're taking more holistic approaches to security, even vouching for solutions that replace or nullify multi-factor authentication. One of our webinar participants mentioned, for example, a Microsoft-centric server trust approach where devices are deemed compliant based on a set of predetermined screening criteria.

Of course, VPNs are incredibly important to a successful long-term security strategy. Some organizations have even placed further restrictions on sensitive data and resources, preventing authentication or access to all individuals except those coming from a specific network. For remote workers, this means working off of a standardized, company-issued device with the VPN service set up and using an Internet connection through the corporate network.

Unified Communications

Telephony and voice may have been neglected by many organizations in the past, treated with an ‘it’ll do for now’ approach. If remote working is to stay, how should organizations address their telephony needs?

While the pandemic and subsequent shift to remote work accelerated many businesses’ movement towards a cloud-based digital infrastructure, the real sticking point often hovered around telephony and related customer (or internal) support systems. These tend to rely upon on-premises assets and dated, clunky platforms.

Yet many companies have been successful in their efforts to take these services to the cloud, as well – making an agent’s physical location more or less irrelevant when it comes to job performance. This has been a major boon to those organizations that saw a surge in telephone-based inquiries during the height of the pandemic. We expect to see more organizations follow suit by implementing cloud telephony solutions in the near future.

Human Behavior

The rapid deployment of tools means not all employees will know how to use them effectively. What can organizations do to ensure workforce productivity going forward?

Because a new way of working was implemented so rapidly following the onset of COVID-19, organizations face several human behavior-related challenges that have the potential to dramatically impact big-picture operations: Namely, productivity. Teaching employees to communicate, collaborate, and manage projects remotely involves the use of new tools and applications, such as Microsoft Teams – and these aren’t necessarily intuitive. How can organizations prevent lapses in output and make sure that all team members are given the resources they need to adapt to these new processes and programs?

Garnering buy-in from leadership is a critical step. It’s far more difficult to persuade employees to embrace a new way of working when their managers have yet to do the same. A top-down approach is therefore necessary to ensure a smoother transition. In addition, while much can be said for collaborative training programs and initiatives, there are a myriad of adoption and change management strategies that should be put into place that support the entire end-user journey. Support should be offered continuously, and not only for a short period following the software or technology platform adoption.

Looking Ahead

How have business priorities changed since the onset of the pandemic?

For many organizations, cloud transformation was already on the cards well ahead of the pandemic. Thankfully, that was at least one arena in which priorities did not have to be completely realigned. As a whole, however, corporations of all sizes have had to move from a mentality that says, “If it isn’t broke, why fix it?” to one that emphasizes digital transformation and the overall streamlining of IT processes.

CIOs who may have formerly thought about security in terms of a closed, in-office environment must now pivot to thinking about how they will secure their employees and meet data privacy and compliance requirements in an open environment. They’ll have to ensure that employees have access to devices and standardized software that meet security and privacy requirements, that individual work-from-home setups are secured, and that encrypted communications can be filtered from any network employees happen to connect back into the corporate digital infrastructure.

While we acknowledge and respect the scope of the challenges organizations now face, the good news is this: COVID-19 has made us all scrappier, more creative, and more adaptable. We believe that only positive change lays ahead for remote work and digital transformation – and we’re here to support you on that journey, no matter what it looks like.

Looking back on 2020, the sheer magnitude of Digital Transformation that’s taken place within (or, as some might argue, was forced upon) organizations across all industries is astounding. And it’s all thanks to an unprecedented global pandemic that forced businesses to implement company-wide Remote Working Solutions in mere weeks – building a framework that may have otherwise taken months or even years to develop.

Now that we’re heading into the final quarter of the year, it’s a good time to take stock of all that’s happened during this roller-coasterride. In particular, IT professionals need to make sure that all those early, time-pressured decisions were the right ones to make. While the speed of change presented organizations with an opportunity to thrive by putting in place a new, more collaborative and streamlined way of doing business, a number of risks must be accounted for – and safely managed – before they become serious threats.

If nothing else, COVID-19 has proven the importance of an agile framework for change. Let’s take a look at some of the key IT considerations for organizations in Q4 and beyond as discussed during our recent customer round table, “The Remote Working Reset.

Standardization

In the rush to go fully remote, a collection of tools may have been rolled out without consistency. How can organizations now standardize and regain control to reduce shadow IT, optimize costs and put long-term governance in place?

By controlling the systems, devices, applications, and configurations on a given organization’s network, IT operations become far more efficient and easier to maintain. Plus, consistency in IT infrastructure makes budgeting more predictable and upgrades more feasible. Now that COVID-19 has amplified concerns around safety, data security, and privacy, IT standardization should be a topic that comes up frequently during monthly and quarterly check-ins.

Employees working from home may be more tempted to download unapproved applications (also known as Shadow IT) in place of other tools or software that they don’t yet feel comfortable with. These platforms and applications pose a serious risk to network security. Organizations can mitigate these risks by standardizing devices and systems across the workforce and providing ample resources to employees to educate them about how to get the most out of their technology.

Security & Data Protection

Remote working has seen a spike in security breaches and harmful attacks. Mobile device management is key, and, as more people have moved to Microsoft 365, backing up of corporate data has become even more important.

IT professionals are very much aware of the security challenges posed by moving an entire workforce to remote operations over a short timeframe. As such, they're taking more holistic approaches to security, even vouching for solutions that replace or nullify multi-factor authentication. One of our webinar participants mentioned, for example, a Microsoft-centric server trust approach where devices are deemed compliant based on a set of predetermined screening criteria.

Of course, VPNs are incredibly important to a successful long-term security strategy. Some organizations have even placed further restrictions on sensitive data and resources, preventing authentication or access to all individuals except those coming from a specific network. For remote workers, this means working off of a standardized, company-issued device with the VPN service set up and using an Internet connection through the corporate network.

Unified Communications

Telephony and voice may have been neglected by many organizations in the past, treated with an ‘it’ll do for now’ approach. If remote working is to stay, how should organizations address their telephony needs?

While the pandemic and subsequent shift to remote work accelerated many businesses’ movement towards a cloud-based digital infrastructure, the real sticking point often hovered around telephony and related customer (or internal) support systems. These tend to rely upon on-premises assets and dated, clunky platforms.

Yet many companies have been successful in their efforts to take these services to the cloud, as well – making an agent’s physical location more or less irrelevant when it comes to job performance. This has been a major boon to those organizations that saw a surge in telephone-based inquiries during the height of the pandemic. We expect to see more organizations follow suit by implementing cloud telephony solutions in the near future.

Human Behavior

The rapid deployment of tools means not all employees will know how to use them effectively. What can organizations do to ensure workforce productivity going forward?

Because a new way of working was implemented so rapidly following the onset of COVID-19, organizations face several human behavior-related challenges that have the potential to dramatically impact big-picture operations: Namely, productivity. Teaching employees to communicate, collaborate, and manage projects remotely involves the use of new tools and applications, such as Microsoft Teams – and these aren’t necessarily intuitive. How can organizations prevent lapses in output and make sure that all team members are given the resources they need to adapt to these new processes and programs?

Garnering buy-in from leadership is a critical step. It’s far more difficult to persuade employees to embrace a new way of working when their managers have yet to do the same. A top-down approach is therefore necessary to ensure a smoother transition. In addition, while much can be said for collaborative training programs and initiatives, there are a myriad of adoption and change management strategies that should be put into place that support the entire end-user journey. Support should be offered continuously, and not only for a short period following the software or technology platform adoption.

Looking Ahead

How have business priorities changed since the onset of the pandemic?

For many organizations, cloud transformation was already on the cards well ahead of the pandemic. Thankfully, that was at least one arena in which priorities did not have to be completely realigned. As a whole, however, corporations of all sizes have had to move from a mentality that says, “If it isn’t broke, why fix it?” to one that emphasizes digital transformation and the overall streamlining of IT processes.

CIOs who may have formerly thought about security in terms of a closed, in-office environment must now pivot to thinking about how they will secure their employees and meet data privacy and compliance requirements in an open environment. They’ll have to ensure that employees have access to devices and standardized software that meet security and privacy requirements, that individual work-from-home setups are secured, and that encrypted communications can be filtered from any network employees happen to connect back into the corporate digital infrastructure.

While we acknowledge and respect the scope of the challenges organizations now face, the good news is this: COVID-19 has made us all scrappier, more creative, and more adaptable. We believe that only positive change lays ahead for remote work and digital transformation – and we’re here to support you on that journey, no matter what it looks like.

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Author

Alex Dalglish

UK Services Director at SoftwareONE

Cloud, Digital Transformation, Modern Workplace, Software Asset Management, Software Portfolio Management

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