Rather than expecting the world to return to "normal" after this, IT managers must anticipate and adapt to these changes, reinforce their IT infrastructure and realign their strategies so that teams across the organisation can maintain productivity and efficiency levels seamlessly.
It is imperative that every organisation has a foundation that enables them to be responsive and agile during uncertain times; that includes their IT infrastructure, data intelligence, content management and communications to employees. The more firms can rely on their IT infrastructure to perform and can trust that their data is good, governed and shareable, the more likely they can make smart, informed decisions and empower employees in today’s volatile climate.
The Covid-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for IT teams to revaluate and adapt so that the necessary practices are in place to respond to these uncertain times. While organisations should ideally already have their IT foundation in place, there is now an added layer to focus on as a result of the remote work mandated by coronavirus.
Here are some strategies and practices that IT leaders can leverage so their teams will come out on the other side of the Covid-19 crisis stronger than ever.
Protect information with robust IT practices
As employees are now working on personal networks which introduce new risks for data privacy and protection, IT leaders and teams must double down on existing compliance and governance efforts, as well as introduce some remote work-specific protocols to combat and protect against these threats. Teams should focus on and revisit these three practices: data intelligence, content management and login credentials.
When it comes to data intelligence, organisations that will thrive in volatile and uncertain times are those that are working in a mature data environment and can find and trust the right data for making smart, informed decisions quickly. They must contextualise the data they have collected, govern it and then be able to share it, knowing it is tied to the right business policies.
Lack of trust is a bad tagline for any organisation. Chief Data Officers (CDOs) cannot trust what they don’t understand, and in turn, cannot glean value from what they don’t trust. This lack of understanding and trust in data is poor positioning when trying to establish compliance with data-related regulations and understand where companies could be at risk with the intellectual property they house.
By implementing an inventory, understanding the entire ecosystem and proactively seeking out dark and siloed data, organisations can confidently maintain compliance in spite of remote work, and ensure they know where all of their data is and who has touched it, despite leaving the four office walls.
IT leaders and teams must implement controls and IT practices to protect information and regulate who has access to shared content. Many organisations already have existing data governance and privacy strategies to protect personal information being shared both internally and externally—using content management solutions with event-based retention and redaction, for instance. These governance capabilities are critical for sharing personal information outside of the organisation. Human resources teams, as they handle massive amounts of personal employee data, will need to be extra vigilant about redacting unnecessary information and retention of the data.
Managers must also stress the importance of using login credentials that are strong and appropriately segregated. It is wise to adopt a password vault or password manager to keep a log of all passwords securely. Covid-19 has presented a clear and urgent need for two-factor login authentication. As almost everyone now has a smartphone, this is a simple exercise for employees but should be introduced and practiced to ensure maximum protection, especially to safeguard enterprise intellectual property.
Play close attention to collaboration
Even the most prepared organisations, especially those with mature data environments and robust governance practices, did not likely factor such a prolonged and prevalent remote work environment into their IT strategies. With that, there are a few new factors that managers need to keep in mind when working with their teams remotely such as the risks around video conferencing and effective and personalised communications with employees.
Managers who used to rely on in-person interactions are now turning to video conferencing tools to communicate with employees. But with the ease of use of tools such as Zoom comes more security risks for IT teams and a more fertile attack surface for hackers. There have been indications that hackers have obtained the Zoom installer and added a larger install package that includes dangerous malware, so it is crucial individuals install or obtain Zoom links from a trusted source. There are also risks of Zoom meeting intrusions where hackers obtain fraudulent access to a meeting or silently lurk to display inappropriate content. Even though Zoom has recently released an update to combat these privacy and security issues, IT teams and users must remain vigilant.
Even before Covid-19 and mandatory work-from-home policies, many IT leaders were managing teams remotely, which could make it difficult to establish a team identity. Communication has always been essential for remote teams—and is even more important for people who are used to daily social interactions with their colleagues. It is crucial that employees be engaged in meaningful ways by their leaders. Managers should consider sending email updates that cover the necessary corporate information but also show some personality. In turn, they should encourage teams to reciprocate. This will make a significant difference in the tone of internal communications and present opportunities for bonding experiences with teams.
A crisis of this scale will imprint itself on everyone’s lives for a long time to come. Managers and teams must learn to find their ways through these difficult times and emerge stronger and rebalance priorities to work from home successfully. In addition to these best practices, organisations must continue prioritising trust within their IT ecosystem. The more they can trust their data, the better they can make good, data-informed decisions while also protecting intellectual property, managing security risks and keeping employees productive and efficient. It’s time to adapt to the “new normal” and embrace this different way of working as the new way of life.
Jeff Cherrington, Vice President of Product Management (Systems), ASG Technologies