Your Technology Hotlist in the Wake of COVID-19
Written by Thomas G. Stephens, Jr., CPA, CGMA, CITP
Disruption driven by COVID-19 has turned virtually every business upside down. As the virus spread, managers in many organizations scrambled to stand-up work-from-home (WFH) technologies so that team members could continue to complete essential tasks. However, team members often implemented these emergency measures without considering security concerns and other issues. Below, you will learn about three specific items that should be on your technology hotlist right now to ensure that your technology continues to serve you well.
Address Work-from-Home Security
The most pressing issues facing organizations that implemented a WFH strategy is the potential lack of security in many of these environments. In some cases, team members use personally owned computers that do not follow generally accepted security protocols. In others, team members share devices with several other members of the same household, all of whom log-in with the same credentials. And in other cases, team members connect to corporate resources using unencrypted WiFi connections. These are but three of the many security risks that manifested because of mandates to get team members up-and-running from home as quickly as possible.
Almost six months into the pandemic, now is the time to address security in WFH environments. Addressing WFH security is particularly necessary for situations where team members are expressing an interest in WFH on a full-time, going-forward basis. Failing to do so is tantamount to inviting a data breach to strike your organization. Therefore, schedule time with your IT team to create a minimum set of security protocols and standards that all remote workers must meet to continue working from home. With standards in place, have members of the IT team meet with remote workers to ensure that all their technology is appropriately secured. If WFH is the “new normal” – as is being suggested by many – this may be the most crucial action you will take in the shadows of COVID-19.
Re-think the Merits of Cloud Computing
First conceptualized in the 1960s, the concept of Cloud Computing is now mainstream. Once thought of solely as “software as a service,” Cloud Computing now offers “everything as a service,” including software, security, communications, infrastructure, and analytics. Consequently, businesses of all sizes have migrated substantial portions of their IT environments to Cloud-based resources.
Cloud Computing is, by its nature, is distributed computing – that is, team members access data and applications through their web browsers instead of from a server in the office. This attribute makes Cloud Computing is ideal for situations involving remote workers. Instead of WFH team members using “remote control” software to access an application back in their office, they can log-in to the Cloud-based application through their browser. In a WFH environment, there results in no difference in how team members access the tools they need to get their jobs done. Accordingly, team members experience less frustration and lost time when working remotely. Further, all team members will access the tools they use the same way, leading to improved efficiency and security.
Train Team Members on the Right Ways to Use Their Tools
Many organizations now use platforms such as Office 365/Microsoft 365 and GSuite by Google. Yet, in most of these organizations, team members do not take advantage of the best features of these platforms, including those that can be useful in WFH environments. For example, consider the situation where a team member obtains a license to Microsoft Excel through an Office 365/Microsoft 365 subscription. In that scenario, the team member can save an Excel workbook in SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, or Teams. Once saved, the team member can “share” the spreadsheet with other team members. Upon doing so, each team member can access and edit the Excel file simultaneously, along with all other team members.
The type of real-time collaboration outlined above is much more efficient and productive than the alternative of emailing copies of the workbook to all team members. However, most Office 365/Microsoft 365 subscribers remain unaware of this option, not only for Excel but also for Word and PowerPoint. Given that, now is the time to train team members on the right ways to use the tools they have available.
The first six months of 2020 have been “different,” to say the least. COVID-19 forced managers to make quick decisions to keep their businesses running. Now, several months into what may be our “new normal,” it’s wise to review what has worked well and where we can improve. As you do, carefully consider the technology hotlist outlined above – address security, re-think Cloud Computing, and train your team. No matter what the future holds, addressing these three items can help your business to not only survive but to prosper, no matter the circumstances.
Tommy is one of the shareholders in K2 Enterprises. At K2, Tommy focuses on creating and delivering content and is responsible for many of the Firm’s management and marketing functions. You may reach him at email@example.com, and you may learn more about K2 Enterprises at www.k2e.com.