Al Kingsley is CEO of NetSupport, chair of a multi-academy trust in the U.K., tech writer, speaker and author of "My Secret #EdTech Diary."
Do you remember when corporations had static technology infrastructures that employees had to travel to their buildings to use? It seems an increasingly outdated idea these days, even though it has only been two short years since the pandemic changed how and where we work.
The speed of the change has been nothing short of monumental. Even back in April 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic was only getting started, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, said, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” Companies started adopting cloud solutions and services in huge numbers, attracted by their practicality, flexibility and scalability that allowed for greater collaboration and access, which, of course, was vital for home working.
Fast forward to today, and all businesses either have reviewed, are reviewing or should be reviewing their infrastructures to mitigate any potential future disruptions. Based on lessons learned over the last two years, here are five areas to consider as you transition to a technology infrastructure that will flex with your company’s current and future needs.
1. Get your digital strategy right.
Being prepared puts you ahead of the game, so ensure you review not just the tech in isolation but also your infrastructure and processes. To do so, implement agnostic solutions that run seamlessly across different platforms and invest wisely in the often-neglected parts underneath: internet bandwidth, cloud services, servers and appropriate hardware.
After planning and implementing, make sure to stay prepared by keeping your strategy under regular review—and, whatever shape your plans take, remember to communicate and consult with those involved and ensure training is provided where needed.
2. Review your cybersecurity.
Cybercriminals had a bonanza during the pandemic. The wholesale switch to working from home revealed gaps in systems that allowed unauthorized users entry to networks to extort vast sums of money from companies. Colonial Pipeline is the obvious example, with it paying a $4.4 million ransom to the criminals to reinstate its systems after they took them offline in May 2021. As a result, more and more companies are going one step further with their cybersecurity strategies and implementing a zero-trust approach to mitigate any operational and security risks.
No security solution offers 100% protection, and even the most experienced staff will not know every trick to stop breaches from happening. Staying up to date with the latest developments, though, gives your organization the best chance to respond quickly if a cyberattack does occur.
Acknowledging that cybersecurity is not a single issue, but one that permeates the whole organization and educating all staff accordingly about the risks will help to establish the mindset that encourages everyone to use technology responsibly.
3. Adopt a user-centered approach.
Agile is a proven model in software development, driving innovation and helping companies deliver new features to customers incrementally to avoid hitting them with a steep learning curve. Extending this mindset to other departments of the organization ensures that other teams can become more responsive and that changes to roles or procedures are manageable instead of scary or daunting.
Customers are at the center of everything you do, so be sure to include them in your thinking and put yourself in their shoes to recognize exactly how they interact with your products, systems and services. It is all about enhancing communication—you can only affect the needed changes if people understand and embrace them. It may be a substantial culture shift, but it is one worth considering.
4. Manage and maintain technology.
Employees need seamless access to the technology they use for their work, wherever they are. Having a high-quality, effective IT support and management solution to support your users and deal swiftly with any technical issues is essential to maintaining your company’s productivity and keeping confidential data safe.
We have mentioned cloud services, but these are not always appropriate for organizations such as financial institutions, governments or military organizations that need to keep their data on-site and exclusively within their own network for security reasons.
If that is the case for your organization, ensure that any solution you implement has plenty of security safeguards on board—e.g., configurable data encryption options, two-factor authentication, security keys, smartcard authentication and so on—to protect against unauthorized access. With a capable set of tools to minimize system downtime when problems arise, the company can save money too.
5. Consider areas for automation.
Many employees fear that automation will eventually drive them out of their jobs. However, it is not all about the robots marching in to take over. In today’s climate, automation can banish repetitive, boring activities (e.g., data entry, directing requests to the right departments and so on) and free up staff time to either do more creative work or training in areas where the company is experiencing skills gaps, which is great for their professional development as well as the company’s productivity.
Use data and analytics to inform any changes and think carefully about how you will introduce them to staff and get their buy-in before implementing them. It is worth emphasizing what technology and automation cannot replace, such as people skills, human-to-human interaction and the ability to think creatively, so be sure to demonstrate these factors as you guide your teams through the automation of specific functions.
Change keeps rolling on.
In the post-pandemic era, technology is the difference between success and failure for any business, and it never stops evolving.
Business leaders should keep in mind, though, that technology doesn’t function by itself; skilled employees are behind the scenes, implementing, managing and maintaining it. So, keep communication with the IT team flowing, keep everyone in the loop and listen to their advice, suggestions and concerns. Collaboration is the key to success as we navigate this new landscape of accelerated technological change.