The changes 2020 brought to our workforce are undeniable: from an increase in remote and flexible working to embracing cloud services and digital transformation, we’ve witnessed a revolution to the definition of “workplace.” Many of these changes were made rapidly to accommodate the swift and sudden need to ensure public safety in the face of the Covid-19 virus.
Despite the great news that a vaccine is on the way, we can’t expect the virus – nor the lifestyle changes it has wrought – to disappear completely any time soon. As a result of these changes, technology use in the coming year will need to focus on security, sustainability, and a simplified user experience.
Because the pandemic required so many companies (76%, according to one survey) to adopt technologies such as cloud services quicker than planned to allow for remote working, the priority was on implementing the technology over all else.
This has had a drastic impact on security: 40% of the aforementioned survey respondents saw an increase in cyber-attacks during the pandemic. The National Cyber Security Centre’s Annual Review 2020 similarly noted an increase in online scams, including over two million suspicious emails and nearly 1,200 victims of attacks they were unable to deflect. Many of these scams were led by criminals trying to exploit the changing work environment, such as people using personal devices for work.
Regardless of industry, all businesses need to take another look at their security protocols and ensure everything is up to date. Staff also need to be clear on how to deal with cyber-attacks – the best security protocols in the world are meaningless without a fully-trained staff to implement them.
While there may be a blanket approach to the need for security, each organisation is unique, and each must choose the right technology for their operations. This is especially true when it comes to deploying tools such as cloud services. While the right move for many businesses in 2020 was to quickly jump on the digital transformation bandwagon, 2021 must be about making sure they can stay on that train. Services such as the public or hybrid cloud are great options to guarantee security alongside the freedom to scale up as required, ensuring adaptability over time.
As a clearer picture of the future of the workplace evolves, it’s important to take a step back and review how your digital transformation strategy fits into your overall business operations. You must build the right foundations that ensure agility while meeting security and compliance needs – this is the only way to ensure a strategy that can grow with your business over time.
Part of this will include input from people outside the IT department. Technology isn’t solely the purview of the IT department anymore: the marketing team uses it to build a website in the cloud, the finance team uses it to move its processes online to comply with HMRC regulations.
The digital transformation and cloud strategy must therefore have buy-in from the entire team. If they understand why the strategy has been chosen and how it will benefit their work, it will be used and adopted, ensuring longevity.
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This also ties into user experience: if your employees don’t like or understand new technology, they won’t embrace it. This is particularly important as many businesses are relying on technology to allow for more remote and flexible working situations during and post-Covid.
Prior to 2020, organisations were primarily office-based. Decisions were made for the benefit of the majority based there and, with everyone in one place, it was easier to enforce a single approach to technology. Now it is vital for IT departments to consider both where and how employees are working, necessitating a more personalised approach – and a simplified one, easily understood and followed by even the least tech-savvy employee.
Part of this will require a rethink of company culture. Businesses may have to consider developing a new strategy to accommodate a more hybrid workforce – for example, encouraging the use of collaborative workplace applications that can be turned on and off, to allow employees flexibility when they connect with others based on where they are and what they’re doing.
This year’s transition to remote work and reliance on technologies such as cloud services isn’t temporary. Before, it was a long-term goal for many businesses; now it is a requirement.
In 2021, businesses will need to re-examine their digital transformation strategy to ensure it is secure, sustainable, and simple.