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Top tips for IT pros approaching 2021’s “next normal”

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

It’s been several months since the U.K. announced its official lockdown and there’s an overarching sense that businesses are beginning to adjust to operating in a pandemic. And, as the prospect of a second spike looms, it becomes clearer that “recovery” is unlikely. Rather than getting back to a state of “normal,” there is simply the “next normal.” With Gartner revealing 82 percent of businesses confirming staff will be at home at least some of the time, one trend is clear: Remote working is here to stay.

With this in mind, IT pros need to make sure the new challenges this environment creates are accounted for. Here are some top tips to support this community as they navigate the “next normal.”

Collaborate to communicate

This global, seismic event has shown employees and employers the jobs they thought couldn’t be done remotely are, in fact, possible, and this new flexibility holds a lot of potential for businesses. More businesses will expand their remote work offerings to employees now there is evidence it works—and productivity reigns. As a result, we’re seeing more businesses implement tools and solutions to stand them in good stead for this shift.

Fortunately, cloud-based ITSM tools with built-in employee engagement capabilities are ready and available for the modern enterprise. In the current environment, they’re critical to ensuring IT teams are available when and wherever needed while organizations are working remotely.

Mobile apps with chat functions and service portals are imperative for a remote IT workforce. It’s increasingly common for IT organizations to utilize these built-in solutions through a service desk to better enable communication between IT, employees, and other departments.

Businesses want a solution to fit their needs and the way they currently work—not to force their employees to work in a way they never have before. There’s complexity, time, and expense involved in training employees, so an ITSM solution with all these communication capabilities built into it ensures employees’ days are not disrupted by hunting for resolutions in multiple places. It’s up to the IT teams to make sure these are still running in an efficient and reliable way. At the same time, IT pros will need to audit employee access to these tools. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is likely to increase the strain on security teams—and full visibility is crucial.

Place security at the top of the agenda

Budgetary constraints have caused many small businesses to deprioritize updates to their technology infrastructure and overall digital transformation strategies, whether it be purchasing more licenses for an application or enhancing the bandwidth on the company’s VPN. Simply making sure all employees have equipment to work effectively and securely has been the primary concern in recent months.

As more people have the freedom to choose their own home office preferences, they may opt to use devices they feel more comfortable using. While a BYOD policy might save costs on devices, securing them can become tricky.

First and foremost, having insight into the devices and tools employees are using is key. Because, without a secure procedure in place to monitor these devices, organizations are vulnerable. What’s more, employees need to be communicated to clearly and concisely, so they fully understand the policies. This must be a priority for the IT pro community.

Eliminate inefficiencies

Automating services is becoming more popular as businesses continue to look for ways to cut costs and add additional value to their existing client base.

Inefficient ticketing systems which can be a drag on IT teams and the overall organization are a perfect example of an area requiring automation and scale. Streamlining ticketing requests with more sophisticated programs—and giving employees flexible ways to communicate with the help desk, will significantly improve how efficient an organization is.

A simple way this can be done is by identifying the commonalities of requests that come through. By running audits at least twice a month, IT teams will be able to weed out and identify opportunities to automate. This basic step can alleviate some of this stress on IT teams by enabling employees to help themselves with some common problems.

This “self-serve” approach frees up the IT teams to do other more interesting tasks and adds a level of value to the business.

Be patient and embrace change

Acclimatizing to the new digital workplace in this Covid-19 world can also be stressful for employees. Logging off at the end of a day becomes difficult as the line between work and home blurs, putting workers at risk of burnout. Lunch breaks are often ignored or forgotten—and many are finding themselves working late into the evening—87 percent of U.K. employees reported feeling the pressure to keep productivity levels high.

Let’s not forget this is also true for the IT pros keeping businesses moving. Since the pandemic hit and the world turned upside down, these teams have been dealing with the challenge of plugging millions of workers across the globe into remote networks and getting them up and running.

This period of uncertainty is here to stay. We’re in a turbulent working environment, with policies set to change continually, which means the pressure will remain on this community. IT pros must remind themselves to be patient during this turbulent time. Being kind to ourselves, making sure there’s a separation between work and home, and recharging batteries is crucial.

Going forward, keep things simple

It’s difficult to predict what the next normal will look like as we edge closer to 2021, but we’ll need to adapt for the long term. Just like with cloud adoption models, we seem to be moving towards a hybrid model of working. Amidst the uncertainty, IT teams must keep forward planning and thinking about the tools and strategies they need to implement.

It’s really important for solutions and tools to be user-friendly, otherwise employees simply won’t use them. Behavioral economics calls this “the path of least resistance;” the more barriers there are, the less likely people are to take that route. When dealing with employees working remotely, engagement is critical. To ensure employees engage with the solutions and use them the way your organization intends, simplicity is key.

Sascha Giese, Head Geek, SolarWinds (opens in new tab)

Sascha Giese is a Head Geek™ at SolarWinds, based in the company’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) headquarters in Cork, Ireland.