Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about major disruption and impact to organisations globally. In the past 12 months, organisations have been forced to rapidly transform and modernise their operations to suddenly switch to remote working. Whilst this sudden digital transformation was unplanned, it meant that longer-term IT strategies were accelerated and has provided an opportunity for companies to realise the benefits much sooner than anticipated.
With the end of social restrictions and work from home orders in sight, organisations are considering what post-COVID working will look. In this article, we share our technology trend predictions that we expect to see organisations embracing and benefitting from over the next year and onwards.
Zero Trust Security
Traditional cyber security used a perimeter-based approach that secured everything within an organisation’s network, however the shift to remote working, increasing BYOD and the rise of cloud services has meant that this model is no longer sustainable. Staff now need to access sensitive company data from different devices and locations that are not contained within your organisation’s network – making this a ‘perimeter-less’ working world.
The more modern cyber security model is Zero Trust networking, which never trusts but always verifies access. Under this model any access to company data is verified by assessing the user, the device, the location and what is trying to be accessed. By embracing modern technologies that make best use of machine learning and automation, verification can be assessed against risk-based criteria and access granted or challenged near-instantly to give employees a smooth user experience.
By adopting a Zero Trust security model, organisations can continue to adopt modern working practices, but ensure that they have the right underlying model to protect themselves against evolving threats.
Cloud services are a key enabler for business innovation and agility, allowing great scalability and remote access to information, which is why it is no surprise that cloud adoption rates greatly increased in 2020. Moving to the cloud is often a phased approach as critical legacy systems, regulatory obligations, recent capital investments, and infrastructure complexity can hold organisations back. While some elements can be quickly migrated, a long-term cloud strategy should focus on ongoing transformation and optimisation so that you fully take advantage of the benefits of cloud computing.
It is worth considering now if any services that were migrated last year in a hurry (such as a ‘lift and shift’ approach) could now be reviewed and optimised to make better use of the advantages of the cloud and reduce cloud costs. Alongside this, we expect organisations to consider further services that could be migrated to the cloud and begin thinking ‘cloud-first’ when considering new technologies. The organisations that are succeeding with the cloud have adopted an agile and cloud-native approach and use the cloud as a platform to enable their innovation and growth.
Work from Anywhere
Organisations are now having to think about what post-COVID working will look like. Will we return to physical offices? Will staff want to continue with remote working flexibility? The chances are that most organisations will adopt a hybrid way of working – balancing the engagement, innovation and perhaps necessity of office working, with the flexibility and benefits of remote working that has been proven to be possible. As a result, organisations need to plan for how this will operationally work. This means considering:
- Device management – Being able to centrally manage and protect company devices and protect company apps and data on unmanaged (or personal) devices.
- Application access – Ensuring staff can access the applications that they need from anywhere, through technologies such as Windows Virtual Desktop or adopting SaaS apps.
- Security – Adopting a Zero Trust model to enable secure remote working from any location or device.
- Data protection – Shifting the focus from protecting a physical location to protecting the data itself wherever it goes.
The modern workplace has been a term that has been used in recent years to refer to the technologies and operational setup that supports secure, remote working and effective communication and collaboration between staff. For many, the technology is Microsoft 365. Microsoft 365 (or Office 365) has been widely used since its launch, but last year Microsoft saw Microsoft Teams become its fastest growing business app of all time. Teams allowed remote workers to easily be able to continue working together – enabling video meetings, instant messaging, file sharing, and general collaboration.
Organisations with Microsoft 365 have likely already implemented Microsoft Teams and been realising its benefits for quite a while. In 2021, we hope that organisations now review the other applications and services they are paying for in Microsoft 365 and consider additional services that would support their ‘modern workplace’. Within Microsoft 365, we would encourage organisations to review SharePoint, which allows organisations to build intuitive, mobile-friendly intranets that could further help with employee engagement and communications, as well as the security technologies that are included in Microsoft 365, which can be implemented as part of your Zero Trust security model. Modern cloud-based telephony is another key piece of the modern workplace to allow staff to effectively work remotely.
At the beginning of the pandemic last year, organisations were forced to roll-out new technologies and operations overnight without sufficient time for planning and long-term strategy. These swift responses were necessary to keep businesses running as normally as possible, however there is now the need to revisit and revise these changes.
As mentioned, Microsoft Teams was rapidly rolled out but unlikely had sufficient planning for long-term governance and management. In 2021, we would encourage organisations to review those services that implemented last year and consider futureproofing these solutions and thinking about governance, security, permissions, etc.
It is also a great opportunity to review and consolidate your technologies where you now may be paying for multiple services. If you recently adopted Microsoft 365 then you may be able to stop paying for third-party services, such as video conferencing and webinar software (included in Microsoft Teams), survey software (Microsoft Forms) and a wealth of security products. As well as the cost-saving benefit, reducing the number of third-party services and integrations reduces system complexity and can improve security.
Underpinning technological transformation is the need for the right service and support. The adoption of innovative new technologies and services requires user adoption and the right support when employees have a question, issue, or request. Service delivery also needs to modernise, as most people have now come to expect a certain level of service satisfaction and ease that they would receive in their personal lives. Service desks need to adopt new digital channels and increase their self-service capabilities so that employees can benefit from quicker resolution speeds and better experiences – that can be easily accessible from wherever they are working.
Smarter use of technology can support this service transformation by making better use of automation and using capabilities such as self-service password reset (SSPR) to support self-service. Adopting a shift-left service desk model also helps increase user satisfaction and resolution speeds by moving the resolution route to the most efficient channel possible. Efficient and user-centric service – whether delivered internally from your own service desk or through managed services – will be critical to ensuring technologies are adopted and properly supported.
There is no doubt of the importance that technology has played and will continue to play in business transformation. Organisations that embrace the right new technologies and align them with their long-term business strategy will be more agile and resilient — characteristics which are recognised as critical for long-term success.
If you would like to discuss any of these trends or speak to a technical consultant about security, cloud, service, or digital transformation, please contact us.