Managing IT with a Remote Workforce – 2020 revisited, and 2021 planning

In the crisis of the early pandemic, business leaders needed to quickly facilitate getting work done remotely as quickly as possible. Now that the crisis has become “the new normal”, what may have been forgotten? What new challenges exist that we didn’t foresee? How will we address them?

These were among the questions discussed at a recent CFO Roundtable event at which Suite3 presented. We revisited the crisis management of the early days of COVID-19, we discussed facilitating a remote work force, we talked strategies for enabling communication and collaboration among a newly distributed workforce, and we discussed the needs for administrative controls, including a focus on Information Security and the importance of IT policies and their governance.

Think back to early March, 2020. News of pending lockdowns were starting to circulate – it was clear business-as-usual would be impacted greatly. How did you react? Did technology work for you?

Many of our clients were facing initial accessibility challenges as they had been slow to adopt remote access technologies. As a result, some asked “we have 2 people who can work remotely already – can we add 15 more?”, while others started from jump asking “we don’t allow remote access – how do we get everyone able to work remotely?”

As America’s workforce adjusted to working remotely, often for the first time, security risks exploded – Beazley Insurance reported email phishing campaigns by malicious actors more than doubled in the first month of the pandemic and reported ransomware incidents increased by 37%. As a result, later in the year, we started hearing from clients who had clients of theirs contacting them to ask “Do you have an Incident Response Plan / Information Security Plan / Disaster Recovery Plan?” or similar. Their clients wanted verification that a key vendor was taking Information Security seriously, and had a plan, was sticking to the plan, so they could keep calm and compute on.

Meanwhile, the challenge expanded to how to best get your teams to communicate and collaborate when they lacked physical proximity because they aren’t in the same office. We saw the adoption of platforms like Microsoft Teams explode. We had one client who recently stated that they were ready to uninstall Outlook from their computer – Teams was where all the pertinent information about their business was being discussed – that their Outlook inbox was starting to resemble their fax machine output the last year or two before being retired – filled with nothing but spam for discount cruises and sales and specials from businesses.

So what’s next? If adoption of Teams and Information Security policies and procedures hasn’t been tackled by your organization, don’t worry – it’s not too late to start. For those that have tackled those COVID-inspired challenges, file management for those that have embraced cloud-adoption seems to be dominating 2021 planning discussions. Where should files live if no longer on a local file server – OneDrive, Teams, or SharePoint? That will likely be the focus in 2021 for many businesses.