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Dr Daniel O’Sheedy, Group IT Director, Enero Group [ASX: EGG]
As I write this, over half of Australia is under aCOVID-19 lockdown. Some cities have been in multiple lockdowns, and this has changed, forced, how businesses work.
Before the artificial intervention of the pandemic, the ability to work from home was a rarity and something offered to a select few. Or maybe it would only be available in an emergency, for example when a child was homesick.
Remote working was viewed as the Holy Grail, showing that you have succeeded and broken the shackles of corporate life to some extent. The dream of software engineers was to work from the beach somewhere warm, but this situation was rare in reality. And if there was a request to work remotely, managers would ask, ‘How do we monitor them? Are they actually working?”
Remote working being forced on businesses by the pandemic invoke Charles Dickens, who mused, “I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
Our company, Enero, is a global group of businesses, and we had to tackle business issues arising from COVID-19 all around the globe. However, the very disruption that COVID-19 brought to the business world also allowed us to fast-track some of the technology evolution that was sitting in the queue. Through quick decision making (and a lot of work), we were able to remove old school methods and digitise workflows that were long overdue for change.
Organisations found that staff could work successfully from home, and some of the more astute ones have made this arrangement permanent. Indeed, the pandemic has permanently changed how and where work is done.
Richard Branson, a supporter of remote working, noted, “We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they at their desk or in their kitchen. Working life isn’t 9-5 anymore. Companies that do not embrace this are missing a trick.”
Collaboration is one of the key components of the knowledge worker at this time. When people can work from anywhere, you need the right tools to connect the team.
Now teams form quickly, working on projects across businesses and time zones. More of the workloads are becoming cloud-based, enabling access and integration from anywhere. Collaboration is one of the key components of the knowledge worker at this time. When people can work from anywhere, you need the right tools to connect the team. Email is the old workhorse but needs to be properly combined with video conferencing, chat software, and other cloud-based solutions to provide the right mix. Younger hires are used to working as a team, tuning parts of the document as they discuss it in real-time, so we need to provide the right tools so they can do this.
We are ideally placed with the timing, and indeed it has only been possible in recent times that certain technologies have been ready. The old way of securing the worker, where staff would have to connect back to the office and work from behind firewalls, is falling behind as a viable solution. Data security needs to now be distributed, cloud-based and highly redundant. It needs to protect the users, no matter where they are, even if they are working from the beach.
One critical technology is to concentrate more of the security on the endpoints. Having smart technology that can constantly check and recheck data flows for regulatory issues and threat actor activity is crucial. Having the support of a remote 24/7 SOC used to be only available for large corporations, but now small and medium-sized companies can leverage this solution as well. That means if members of the IT Team are asleep or on holiday, the SOCis able to remotely investigate, clean or isolate any nefarious activity.
Protection for the user and data, no matter where they are, is paramount, and data leakage, malware protection, and regulation protection for the business need to be built into all solutions. The ability to deliver security protection, software updates and helpdesk support is vital for the remote workforce. And as more solutions bolt together and data is shared between multiple platforms, single sign-on and two-factor authentication are basic hygiene components that need to be activated wherever possible.
My takeaway point though is to build everything towards teamwork.
As Andrew Carnegie remarked, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
Give people the tools they need to collaborate and remove any impediments to good teamwork that you find. Businesses need to embrace the diverse team, because if you do you can hire the best, no matter where they live. People may want to live in a place with the desired lifestyle, or maybe it’s to be closer to their family, the beach, the mountains, the snowfields. If you only hire people who live within a comfortable commuting distance to your office, you’re restricting your business and talent pool.
In this tightly integrated world, where our competition can be next door, or in the next country we need to use every trick available to us and embrace remote working.