Lessons learnt from the recent massive shift to remote work mean organisations now need to rethink business continuity from a ‘work from anywhere’ perspective. Scott Miller looks at some considerations.
The concept of the mobile workforce isn’t a new one. Forward-looking businesses and IT leaders recognise the inevitable changes to work dynamics on the horizon heralded by the growing ubiquity of handheld devices, cloud, and connectivity. Indeed, in 2019 20% of businesses had almost half of their workforce working from home – this grew to 41% in 2020. To support more flexible working practices, businesses embarked on digital transformation programmes to assure the availability of applications, data sets, and services across locations and devices.
However, the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the evolution of enterprise working behaviours and the trend of working anywhere now looks set to stay for the long term. As a result, many organisations are now confronting the challenge of enabling a future-proofed hybrid-working strategy that delivers secure connectivity, business resources, and the right collaboration tools to workers, so they can transact and be productive at all times – and from any location.
That means business continuity plans will need to be reviewed so that the security, resilience, and agility of the hybrid work environment means any potential disruptions to business operations can be identified and minimised.
Hybrid working – harnessing the long term benefits
Over the past 12 months, organisations have had time to evaluate the productivity and customer satisfaction benefits associated with enabling work-from-anywhere capabilities at scale. According to a recent McKinsey survey, most now plan to combine remote and on-site working in the post-pandemic future. Especially as employees now expect workplace options that deliver the best of both worlds.
However, as Gartner points out, organisations preparing to put their hybrid models onto a more permanent footing will need to revisit business continuity plans in the light of introducing permanent and more extensive remote work scenarios. Organisations need to ensure that the frameworks they put in place can be continuously adapted and reshaped in line with the evolving digital workplace. Let’s take a look at the top critical components that will need to be considered:
Distributed models of working introduce major security and compliance challenges. With employees now operating outside the enterprise network perimeter, IT teams no longer have visibility of what users, and their devices, are doing.
As organisations prepare to put their remote working infrastructure onto a more permanent footing, optimising business resilience and continuity means that reviewing security processes and controls will need to be a top priority. Because any quick fixes implemented at the height of the crisis will not be rigorous enough going forward.
When it comes to strengthening security and mitigating risk, IT leaders will need to audit everything from IT assets to controls for accessing systems, including reviewing password policies to reduce the risk of exposure to phishing or cyber-attacks. From a control and compliance perspective, applying role-based user access will help reduce the risk of information or commercial data being breached in any way.
Alongside achieving a 360-degree view of users and the systems they are operating, organisations should also implement network controls and undertake security monitoring of all endpoint devices. Regardless of whether an organisation supports a BYOD policy or is utilising a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), knowing where data is (without infringing on user privacy) and ensuring it can be remotely wiped and that conditional access policies are in place will be important.
Similarly, understanding where and how sensitive data moves into and out of cloud platforms like SharePoint, Office 365, Salesforce, and Hubspot will be key to mitigating potential risks and improving control. In addition to ensuring that appropriate security practices and controls are in place on all SaaS and cloud platforms, IT leaders need to ensure that the incident SLAs and communication protocols of all suppliers are clearly understood and documented.
Collaboration and communication
While on-premises solutions may have worked well when the workforce was office-based, the moment users tried to access premises-based systems from different remote locations when the crisis hit, access and usage problems became a commonplace issue. As a result, cloud-based systems and applications became the option of choice for companies that wanted to assure that users had high-performance access to all the applications, tools, and data they needed to do their job productively and collaboratively at any time of the day, regardless of location.
To benefit from the new workplace dynamic, companies will need to invest in a technology stack that delivers remote collaboration and workflow, makes it easy to add new users and tools remotely, and is scalable enough to support rapid change with minimal expense or disruption.
Today’s users, customers, and partners have high expectations that digital interactions will be simple, seamless, and available 24×7. Adopting a cloud-driven approach will enable a fully scalable digital roadmap capable of supporting future digital transformation initiatives, while delivering an always-on experience. This is becoming a core commercial must-have for any organisation that wants to enhance customer responsiveness and employee engagement.
Learning from past lessons
In the face of last year’s lockdowns, many organisations found themselves scrambling to put in place solutions that would enable staff to work from home. In some instances, this meant rushing out consumer-grade tools or neglecting IT security best practices in order to achieve the minimum working arrangements necessary for keeping the lights on.
Lessons learnt from the recent massive shift to remote work mean organisations now need to rethink business continuity from a ‘work from anywhere’ perspective. This will include ensuring the remote access infrastructure is always available and can scale, enhancing and modernising endpoint management strategies with security in mind, and ensuring that key productivity applications, services and workflows are optimised and always available to today’s work from anywhere users.
This article was first published on Continuity Central and has been written by Scott Miller.