In the last twelve months, the vast majority of organisations have rushed to deliver or expand their use of modern workplace technologies.
Driven by the necessity to enable home working amidst a pandemic, they’ve adopted a raft of new mobile working apps, issued hundreds of laptops to employees who were previously office-based and accelerated the deployment of new products including, in particular, Microsoft Modern Workplace solutions such as Microsoft Teams.
But is this hastily constructed new remote workplace environment secure? Does it provide the insight into employee activity that the business needs? Does it offer all the functionality that employees require to be truly productive? And is it affordable?
For CIOs, CTOs, IT Directors and Heads of Technology, one of the first priorities of 2021 must be to develop a clear modern workplace strategy. Having rolled out solutions quickly to meet an urgent requirement, many organisations need to address the fact that they may in fact now have too many remote working solutions, used by different teams in different ways, and not secured, integrated or optimised throughout the business.
Now is the time for IT leaders to critically review their IT environments and put strategies into place to ensure their workplace systems are secure, fit-for-purpose and cost-effective.
Five key considerations
If you’re developing a modern workplace strategy for your organisation, here are the top five things that you should consider:
1. Where are your security and compliance weaknesses?
Security should be the foremost consideration for your modern workplace strategy, as cybersecurity threats have increased significantly in the UK since this time last year.
According to one study by Beaming, the level of cyberattacks shot up to an all-time high in April-June 2020 when UK businesses experienced the equivalent of one attempted system breach every 45 seconds.
Many organisations fell victim to cybercrime during 2020, because the workplace systems they had rolled out in haste at the beginning of the first national lockdown were not set up properly and security updates were not installed.
You should, therefore, as a priority, review the workplace solutions that you have already deployed and make sure that they’re secure.
As part of this process, you should seek to gain an accurate understanding of all the IT solutions that are in play within your organisation – on premises, on mobile devices and in the cloud and map out your exposure.
It’s not uncommon for organisations that have rolled out Microsoft Modern Workplace solutions (providing employees with all the tools they need to share documents and collaborate) to find that some groups of users are still using Dropbox, Google Drive and Zoom to complete tasks.
This ‘shadow IT’ creates huge security risks because the applications are not managed centrally.
Groups of employees can also use these unmonitored solutions to evolve their own ways of working that do not comply with organisational policies or industry regulations. Understanding who is using what is the essential first step to tightening security and ensuring compliance.
2. Are you wasting money on software you don’t need?
Researchers estimate that organisations waste more than 20% of their software licensing budget on software that isn’t being used, according to ITProPortal.com.
This unnecessary overspend often results either from a lack of understanding of licensing agreements or from a lack of visibility of what software is actually needed. For example, lots of organisations pay for the entire Adobe product suite, but in fact use less than 10% of its functionality and could save money by buying specific Adobe products, rather than the full suite.
If you’re putting together a modern workplace strategy, you’ll need to evaluate exactly what software your organisation has and whether it’s delivering value.
This isn’t always as straight-forward as it might sound. Large organisations in the UK typically have many hundreds of applications, if not over a thousand. Within this software portfolio there may be several solutions with overlapping capabilities and similar if not duplicated functionality. How many organisations have both Microsoft Teams and Zoom, for example?
A solid modern workplace strategy will include a careful evaluation of software licenses and actions to rationalise the software estate, by eliminating duplication and moving apps to the cloud where possible.
3. Do your users have the skills to succeed in a remote workplace?
In 2020, many employees began homeworking and therefore using modern workplace solutions for the first time, with little or no training. An academic study published in August 2020 revealed that the number of people who worked exclusively at home rose eight-fold from 5.7% of workers in January/February 2020 to 43.1% in April 2020.
Your modern workplace strategy should therefore identify and address any training requirements. A popular approach is to nominate ‘champions’ within the business who can help their colleagues and encourage use of new collaboration tools, such as those available with the Microsoft Modern Workplace.
Formal training, classroom-style, is no longer appropriate, so you’ll need to evolve new ways to ensure that your employees have the skills and confidence they need to succeed with modern workplace technologies.
Cybersecurity training should be prioritised for all employees and a strong security culture fostered. An Infosecurity Magazine article, published just last month, reports that 32% of employees who work remotely received no security training from their employers within the last six months.
This is a huge concern, as employees will inevitably be exposed to phishing attacks and will need to be frequently reminded of how to identify them. Within just the last few weeks, I heard of an employee who received an email, supposedly from the company’s managing director, asking them to make a payment. They transferred the funds electronically, resulting in a £10,000 loss for the business.
4. Can your employees work productively?
When developing your modern workplace strategy, you should draw upon any business intelligence available to you about how employees use their workplace technology. For example, Microsoft 365 offers the ability to generate weekly analytical reports, showing the technologies users have interacted with.
Organisations can use this kind of intelligence to see if users are making optimum use of the solutions available to them to do their jobs and whether they could potentially work more productively.
It is particularly important to consider whether your organisation can adapt to improve the productivity of your central IT team. Consider how your IT resources are spending their time and if they are spending it wisely.
If they are spending a lot of time implementing, maintaining and up-dating on-premises systems, they’re not focusing on innovation.
Organisations can improve the productivity of their IT teams by migrating key systems to the cloud and adopting evergreen solutions, like Microsoft 365 solutions, that are constantly updated. In-house IT teams can then become centres of excellence in the business for application development, speeding up delivery times for new solutions that could ultimately open up new revenue streams or improve the customer experience.
5. How can you deliver manageable change quickly?
Creating a modern workplace is not a one-time project. Modern workplaces will grow and evolve over time, but you will want to show progress on the delivery of your new modern workplace strategy quickly.
You should start by identifying the tasks that can be undertaken straightaway, fairly simply. For example, if you have Microsoft 365 and two-factor authentication isn’t enabled, that’s something that you can implement easily and without much cost to improve the security of your workplace – immediately. There are many more of these ‘low hanging fruit’ that should be your first point of focus.
When rolling out new solutions and updates as part of your modern workplace strategy, you should consider adopting a phased approach, rather than a traditional ‘big bang’. This is because all new implementations bring risks.
If you upgrade a system for all users overnight and it fails due to an unforeseen incompatibility issue, no-one in your business can work the next morning. If you roll it out to a small number of users first, you can identify and resolve issues quickly without inadvertently causing enterprise-wide downtime and potential revenue loss.
A partner to lean on
If you follow these five steps, you won’t go too far wrong, but creating – and then delivering – a modern workplace strategy can be complicated.
Even if it appears relatively straightforward, the process of securing, rationalising and then optimising a workplace IT environment can take a lot of time – and, consequently, cost.
That’s why organisations should lean on their IT partners for help.
Managed Services partners like Camwood are an extension to your IT team, so draw on their skills and experience to help you deliver your workplace strategy. With your partner’s support and following the tips above, you can create a thoroughly modern workplace and give your employees the IT tools and skills they need to work productively anywhere.
Looking to optimise your organisation’s modern workplace set-up? Have a look at Camwood’s free, Microsoft-funded workshops and low-cost, high-impact accelerators.