*Originally published on The Sunday Business post, September 12, 2020.

Maintaining a productive workforce while keeping data secure is a tricky balancing act, writes David Jeffreys, Chief Executive of ActionPoint.

 

The nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday office environment is most likely a thing of the past. Although Covid won’t be here forever, its legacy will be the fundamental shift in what we consider the normal workplace. “Work is where the wifi is” is the mantra of today and I for one, welcome it.

It’s a simple idea, but it requires a massive shift in how we set up our organisations, both from a people perspective and from an infrastructure and security perspective.

Our digital estate, which encompasses everything from desktops, phones, servers and applications to, most importantly, our data has become even more fragmented in the past six months. We have never had so many devices outside the four walls of our office before.

So how do we approach this new way of operating? I’d like to break it down into three key categories, or three ‘P’s for simplicity.

People

Our People are key to everything we need to achieve, but they have expectations about their experience. Every day they use world class digital services Netflix, Dropbox and WhatsApp so when their workplace systems aren’t up to standard, this causes frustration. ActionPoint recently launched its Covid-19 remote working report and we were interested to find out that along with regular conference call and instant messaging tools, 66 per cent of respondents used unmanaged instant messaging tools (WhatsApp, FaceTime, SMS et al).

For many businesses this represents the tip of the iceberg for security gaps in what is commonly known as “Shadow-IT.” What can we do about it? The key to success here is to actively engage with our people, understand their needs and provide corporate tools that live up to their real-world expectations, while also keeping our data secure. Rather than flooding your remote environment with various tools from different providers, seek something that is easily integrated, can be managed remotely and can be secured centrally.

Process

Processes and policies underpin our remote working world. A key lesson for us relates to the assumption of knowledge that can exist around organisations. Often, we assume that every member of staff knows how to use every piece of technology, for example PowerPoint, but we must ask the question: have they been sufficiently trained on this tool?

Policies on their own are no good, but if we actively engage with our employees, train them up on new technology and make policy creation collaborative, we will be setting the organisation up for success. With modern technology moving so fast coupled with our goal to continuously match employee expectations, we must also ensure that our processes constantly evolve to support our team’s needs. Typical remote working processes run from the simple to the very complex.

Take communication for example. There is perhaps an assumption that it’s ‘camera on’ for conference calls. However, we realised last year, even before Covid, that this was not the case and it was causing a disconnect between team members in different locations. So now its ‘cameras on’ for every ActionPointer and although nothing beats face to face, it certainly helps to bridge the virtual gap.

Platform

Organisations need to realise that effective management of their digital estate is required to better manage their data. However, keeping security standards balanced with convenience and ease of use can be a challenge. Underpinning your remote working strategy is the platform you use and the people responsible for supporting your remote or hybrid environment.

Through continuous development and innovation, remote work is now built around Microsoft 365. Not just your home to essential productivity apps like Teams, Outlook and Excel, the platform now encompasses a suite of tools to secure your organisation’s devices and data from end to end. Teams has enabled our clients to securely consolidate their workplace, accelerate the adoption of remote working and effectively engage with their customers. Underpinning all of this is a suite of advanced security tools.

With features like organisation-wide multi-factor authentication, single sign-on through active directory, and encryption of data in transit and at rest, Teams is helping us to balance ease of use and functionality with best-in-class security.

Embrace the new norm

The last six months has been dizzying in terms of the advent of remote working, but I have been blown away by the agility and resilience shown by organisations and employees alike. Now we need to move from reactive to proactive, take a step back and plan the next 12 and even 24 months.

ActionPoint has started running workplace transformation workshops to help our clients create this hybrid workplace blueprint. We look at your current security policies, digital estate and delivery of key apps and services, and work with you to create the processes and platform you need to empower your hybrid workforce.

To book your workshop, email: remoteworking@actionpoint.ie

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