Will the Covid-19 lockdown signal a sea of change in working practices? If so, companies can be reassured that a move to mobile-first working can be achieved securely and with the support of employees if approached in the right way. These opportunities are not lost on chief information officers who, according to a Deloitte 2018 CIO Survey and 2018 Gartner CIO report, indicate a widespread belief that technology will transform their business more than any other global trend.
Many companies will have experienced the limits of their remote-working operations during the sudden and unprecedented move to home working in the face of the Covid-19 threat. Some will be suitably pleased at the resilience of their systems, while others will be reviewing the status quo.
If you’re in the latter camp, let me offer a few words of advice and reassurance. First, it’s important to stress the need to understand the preferences of your employees before you move forward with a solution. Without their support, you risk the smooth implementation of your entire vision. Even something as simple as replacing desk phones with headsets can cause considerable disquiet if not handled properly. Second, increased mobility doesn’t need to mean increased security risks.
The flexibility built into IT systems and sophisticated security solutions that are now readily available to companies of every size mean that fully mobile solutions can be implemented to accommodate a low friction experience for employees and maintain complete safety of your data.
When we introduced a cloud-based solution for The Department for International Trade, the aim was to create a mobile operation for teams who are out and about all the time but were still relying on fixed position desktops. The new mobile solution needed to work anywhere in the world and maintain security integrity at all times.
As part of the transformation, desktops were replaced by laptops or tablets, depending on user preferences. Once the first phase had been successfully implemented, the roll out moved to 1,100 staff working across over 100 countries. At this stage, we also looked at the introduction of smartphones which had been identified as offering real advantages for staff.
The messages to take from this example are that it is quite possible to meet different user preferences while delivering a secure environment that meets extremely stringent requirements. Equally, as user preferences develop, new devices – such as mobile phones – can be safely included in the mix.
To successfully implement a new vision, you need to have a very clear understanding of what is happening in your organisation right now at the level of teams and individuals. By asking employees how they work, how they want to work and what’s important to them, you can identify where processes need to be rolled out and make the right decisions about new tools.
Don’t forget too that expenditure on these tools can influence productivity gains. If you’re making a commitment to mobile working but seek to save costs by choosing devices that are not fully mobile, your savings may compare poorly against the lost productivity and damage to staff morale.
As mentioned above, there has been an interesting shift in how mobile phones are used in the working environment too. The share of productive time spent on phones is increasing – during meetings and on public transport. They should be viewed as a first-class device, one and the same with other devices, so the way people work with them needs to be just as effective.
It’s a short jump from the addition of mobile phones to the question of security. Traditionally, mobiles have been seen as higher-risk devices. That view is changing along with the entire question of end point security. Now multi-layered solutions are available to meet a full range of risk profiles.
At Core, our position as a Microsoft Gold Partner and our work for organisations including the UK Government and NHS give us a view from both the user perspective and technology provider as to how to secure the modern workplace. By combining these angles, we can create a security landscape that is proven across various devices and can be configured to meet the strictest governance and compliance needs of any business or industry, and which follows Microsoft best practices. Security is woven through the solutions we take to customers and is based on an end-to-end view of all possible threats across data, emails, viruses and the risk to the estate.
Interestingly, people often assume lost data is as a result of outsiders accessing the system. In fact, the reality is more often laptops left on trains, mislaid USB sticks or misaddressed emails, not to mention disgruntled former staff. All these eventualities can be mitigated through data encryption and control. What that means in practice is that it is possible to revoke user access, so you are always in control of your data.
It’s vital in successful transformations to provide a consistently excellent user experience across every touchpoint and the right levels of support and security for your teams. You can do this by listening, understanding and training while providing your teams with the luxury of choice.
Rye Austin is the director of sales and marketing at Core