The structure of your company IT department has likely gone through drastic changes in 2020. More employees than ever are working remotely, causing a dramatic shift in your IT considerations. How we live and the new trend that combines home life with office life will continue to change how we plan the structure and infrastructure of our business.
The future is always in motion, but it is likely that we will function in a world where some form of hybrid business model is commonplace. Some employees may work remotely, while others perform duties that are better handled within a local office. Some companies may move from a central location to many satellite offices; other companies may go fully remote.
So what are the special considerations for your IT planning?
Review the Changes in IT from 2020
As much as you may be tired of the phrase “the new normal,” 2020 has certainly ushered in some changes that will forever shape how we live, move, and conduct business. At the forefront have been technological advances that became necessary due to COVID-19 restrictions on travel and personal interactions.
Two primary changes that will likely remain fixtures in how businesses operate have everyone focusing on digital screens: communication and commerce.
Virtually all personal and business communication has become virtual — virtually overnight. We’ve all become accustomed to Zoom meetings, Google Meets, and Skype family get-togethers. Our news is delivered in dribs and drabs via social media and video clips. Netflix and other streaming services are the new entertainment lifeline and “binge watching” became a new form of spending quality time together.
With the closures precipitated by COVID-19, brick-and-mortar businesses have had to pivot sharply to embracing digital commerce. Digital advertising and selling have become the lifeblood for both B2B and B2C companies. Digital payment systems, client communication channels, and banking protocols went from convenience measures to essential functions, as did a variety of video conferencing and collaboration platforms for meetings and keeping employees connected from home.
How do all these changes affect your workforce? The Wall Street Journal cites a survey by Vision Direct that claims the average daily screen time has jumped to over 19 hours per day. At this rate, the average person born in 2020 will spend approximately 58 years with their eyes glued to the TV, smartphone, laptop, or other screens.
If your eyes already hurt from reading this, join the crowd. Google searches for glasses that protect the eyes from blue light have tripled since early 2020.
Recommended Focus Items for Your IT Department in 2021
With these elemental changes in mind, here are some recommended items that should be the primary focus of your IT department in 2021.
Build a Remote Work Policy
As you may well have already discovered, managing a remote workforce is different from managing an office. Working remotely introduces all sorts of new opportunities and challenges, so your IT department should work to craft a remote work policy that is unique to your company. A great first step is listening to your remote employees; they will have a perspective that cannot be replicated from the office.
Your company remote work policy should specify who can work from home, how they should perform their work, what is expected of them. There should be provisions for evaluating work practices and deliverables. You should also spell out what kind of support mechanisms are in place from your company, as well as the company benefits and legal rights of remote workers.
Educate and Protect Your Business
Your IT department is strategically positioned on the inside to educate employees about the potential risk factors of at-home networks, scams, and the importance of network access control. This education is essential to preventing intentional and unintentional security breaches that could cost your company in many ways.
Employees should be given the necessary tools and educated in their use in order to protect themselves and the company. Keep them aware of the possible dangers and current risks. They are your company’s first line of defense. Your IT department must strike a delicate balance between protecting this “soft underbelly” of your company while allowing employees the authority and freedom to perform their jobs.
Ensure Network Security
Your company likely acquires and uses sensitive information in its operations, including business data, customer personal information, banking information, and other vital data. Protecting this data with ironclad network security is more than just satisfying FEPRA, HIPAA, or other statutory obligations, it is protecting the soul and reputation of your business.
Comprehensive network security protocols prevent the unauthorized dissemination of important data while ensuring the availability of this data to relevant employees who use it to carry out your business operations. This may require periodic changes and network upgrades to remain current with your protections, such as improved cloud solutions, disaster recovery, and redundancy provisions.
Research New Tools for Success
Network monitoring tools are vital to maintaining network security, and the best tools are the ones that are simple and effective. Increasing the number of remote workers and connected devices makes this task more complicated. This is why remote monitoring management (RMM) should be a primary and ongoing concern.
These tools include protections for identity management, mobile device management, software management, patch and upgrade management, and external protections against ransomware and malware.
MHO Internet and Networking Solutions
The ultimate goal of your IT department is to facilitate productive, effective, and creative operations throughout your business. MHO provides solutions that can help with that task, including secure networks, high-speed, low-latency data transfer, and other Internet services. Contact us today at 1-877-WANT-MHO and ask about how our team can partner with you for improved IT solutions in 2021.