On Wednesday 01 April 2020 MM Creative Solutions’ Managing Director, Monica Mwanje, hosted a webinar. The focus of the webinar was: ‘IT and Technology for effective and secure remote working’.
The Main Speaker
Monica was joined by:
Mike Douglass is Commercial Director at UK-based Yellowbus Solutions. He has worked within and run IT businesses for over 15 years. He has provided IT solutions for established businesses (small and large) and startups. He has excellent understanding of technology and business, and how to synergise them to: enable business growth, add value, and improve productivity. Mike’s current focus is cloud and security technology, within the Nuclear/Engineering sectors.
Monica is the founder and Managing Director of MM Creative Solutions (MMCS). At MMCS she has successfully worked remotely with clients ranging from large global multinational companies to UK SMEs. She has managed their bids and delivered business development and organisational development consultancy outputs. These efforts have helped clients secure business in nuclear and other highly regulated sectors.
Summary of the discussion
Key points raised by Mike
- Due to COVID-19, remote working at scale has happened. Many organisations (from small to large) were not ready to move to cloud technology.
- Some organisations are facing the challenge of enabling thousands of their workers to be able to work remotely effectively.
- We are witnessing digital transformation at scale. Change that would have taken some organisations a number of years, is now happening in the space of days/weeks.
- When undertaking this digital transformation, it’s really important to look at the technology and that you understand how to leverage it to maintain productivity, maintain security and manage your workforce. Otherwise remote working will not work for your business.
- Focus on the technology that can help your business.
- An element of remote working is likely to remain in place once lockdown/movement restrictions are lifted. Take consideration now of what your future working arrangements may look like. Develop a technology roadmap to help your business implement a seamless transition.
- The 4 key technology areas to focus on are: Productivity, Communication, Collaboration and Security.
- Understand the applications you will need to help you effectively manage tasks and projects. Examples of task/project management tools include: Basecamp, Asana, Trello, Monday.com, Microsoft Project, Primavera P6 or ActivTrak.
- Line of Business Applications. These are specific applications a business requires to undertake its work. Every business needs to assess what applications are critical so it can operate, and then determine if the applications can be moved to the cloud.
- It’s important to determine what hardware users need so they can work effectively from home. Do they require headsets or access to an additional or larger monitor, so they can continue to work on projects in a similar manner to when they were in the office? If hardware provided is to a lesser standard than that in the office, this could result in reduced productivity.
Communication and Collaboration Technology
- Communication is key. Use of telephone, instant messaging or video conferencing are all alternatives to email.
- Organisations with hosted telecoms (cloud based) will be able to transition to using soft telephones. Soft telephones provide full functionality reflective of the in-office telecoms system, e.g. direct dial numbers, voicemail etc
- Instant messaging can aid collaboration between colleagues. Microsoft Teams has its own instant messaging tool. A popular instant messaging tool is Slack.
- Video conferencing. There are many tools available. Microsoft Teams has video conferencing capabilities. Zoom and Webex are examples of other available platforms. Screen sharing and file sharing is possible within a number of video conferencing platforms.
- Microsoft Teams, contains a number of collaboration tools. It has voice calling capability, instant messaging, file sharing, amongst other items. For existing Office 365 users, it integrates with Word, SharePoint and Outlook.
- Loom is a screen capture tool. Loom can be used to record your screen to explain to a colleague how to do something. Loom records the information and then sends a link to the other person so they can view the footage.
- When people are working from home, they may feel a bit more relaxed and comfortable in that environment; thus security may lapse slightly.
- When remote working / managing a remote working team it is important to keep cyber security high priority.
- Potential issues may arise if users attempt to use home devices to access corporate emails / corporate systems.
- Due to the rapid dispersion of individuals in response to COVID-19 distancing guidance, there’s a risk that users were provided with laptops that may not have been fully security updated.
- Implement a security plan. Be cognisant of where data is going, police and manage that data to the same standard you would when working in the office. It’s important to ensure when transitioning to cloud systems, that data segregation and access control is maintained.
- Fearware is another issue to be aware of. Hackers are trying to take advantage of the current global climate. Hackers are increasing ransomware attacks, phishing emails and spam.
- Cyber security awareness training, weekly calls or weekly information bulletins are tools that can be used to keep your system users aware and informed of potential security risks. Remind users to change their passwords and be vigilant when opening emails.
- Cyber Essentials guidance can be used to help you create a security remote working from home checklist that can be shared with your teams.
- Feedback from the checklist can help IT teams to develop an action plan to address any items that are identified as missing or substandard.
- It’s important to check that antivirus, encryption, two-factor authentication are enabled and up to date.
- Password policies can be rolled out at a system level to prompt users to change their passwords regularly. With people working from home, they could potentially be using the same passwords across home and work devices. Prompting them to change passwords e.g. every two weeks, can help to maintain security.
- Two-factor authentication – Most technology vendors now have built this into their systems. However it isn’t always automatically enabled, so it is important to check your settings and switch it on.
- Backups and disaster recovery, again linked with security and usually falls down the line of priority when panic sets in.
- Acronis cloud backup is an example of a third party software that can back up e.g. your Office 365. Whilst Microsoft is a robust product, there is fine print within Microsoft that states you are responsible for your own backups. If data gets lost or corrupts in 365 there’s only so far Microsoft can go. Yellowbus always advise that organisations work with a third party backup provider. That way if there is anything happens to your data, you have the option and ability to recover it.
Technology that can aid productivity and wellbeing
Technology Vendor Support
During the COVID-19 outbreak, many Tech vendors are offering free services or extended trials to support remote working.
- MICROSOFT TEAMS – Extended Trial / 6 Month Discount Available
- WEBEX – Offering 3 Months for FREE
- ZOOM – Free Plan available
- ACRONIS Office 365 Backup & Replication – Offering 3 Months for FREE
- LOOM Free Video / Screen Capture Tool
If you would like to know more, please ask: Michael.Douglass@Yellowbus.uk
Some resources / other information mentioned during the webinar:
- When choosing a piece of software, check who has access to your data and check where the data centres are located.
- Duo is a piece of software that can provide two-factor authentication for software that doesn’t have it inbuilt.
- Mural – is a digital workspace for visual collaboration e.g. whiteboard and post-it notes.
- For organisations that require additional security for their data, it is possible to set up their own secure cloud system and select where the data centres are.
A recording of the webinar can be viewed here: IT and Technology for effective and secure remote working
The recording is also available here on the MM Creative Solutions’ YouTube channel; IT and Technology for effective and secure remote working -YouTube link.