With the constant development of technology over the last decade, the IT team’s role has been steadily evolving. Traditionally, the complexity and novelty of technology demanded on-hand expertise, with the IT department at the heart of the business. While IT remains a critical part of any organisation, today’s more tech-adverse employees are equipped with more accessible and understandable technologies. This has meant the conventional role of the hands-on IT team has been redefined to meet the digital era.
That was until the coronavirus pandemic erupted. While most businesses are built to support a small number of remote workers, few have likely planned for such a dramatic increase in the number of employees working from home. In the face of this new and unprecedented working environment, with technology at its heart, IT departments saw an influx of user support requests. As a result, a renewed reliance on IT has been formed. But what does this mean for the IT team? And what challenges does this present for them?
Managing a hybrid IT environment
Social distancing remains in force which means that many businesses can’t logistically bring back all of their workforce into the office for the foreseeable future. That said, having seen the benefits of remote working during this period, some have even taken the decision to allow their staff to work from home “forever”, if they wish.
For the IT manager, this adds a level of complexity that many will have never seen before. Having some employees working from within the office and others from remote locations creates a more defined hybrid IT ecosystem, likely with the added complications of orchestrating IT assets across multiple on-premise and cloud environment, as well as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Managing this new environment means that the scope of your IT team now reaches beyond the four digital walls of the company and involves ensuring all employees are getting the same IT experience, no matter their location.
Connectivity outside of the office
Although IT teams don’t control the employee’s environment, they are still responsible for their employee’s IT experience. With this in mind, connectivity also remains an important consideration. Ensuring a stable connection between the end-user and a company’s network, data and applications is increasingly challenging. In many cases during the pandemic, IT departments have been struggling to maintain a reliable and robust network infrastructure to cope with increased demand. As mass remote working continues, some IT teams may find they need to not only bolster but re-skill their workforce in-house to effectively manage these needs.
However, this is only part of the solution. Avoiding potentially costly downtime related to connectivity issues also boils right down to employee device level. IT managers investing in new hardware to equip their workforces need to consider devices which have the latest WiFi capabilities, as well as Bluetooth and sufficient peripheral connections such as HDMI and USB ports. Not only this, but the importance of a reliable camera, quality audio and reduced fan noise has never been more important in the face of a growing reliance on video conferencing.
Managing security risks
Unsurprisingly, security remains a key concern for IT teams. Now that data is outside of the business’s digital walls, there is increased risk of it being compromised or lost. A recent survey from Microsoft found that 90 per cent of organisations have been impacted by phishing attacks, for example.
What’s more, while BYOD isn’t exactly a new concept, it has renewed significance in light of current times. Many organisations are seeing an increase in employee-owned devices attempting to remotely access corporate networks and potentially sensitive information. With a BYOD strategy, IT teams are left with little control. This increased threat has seen IT managers have to not only converge with security teams but also become cybersecurity experts in their own right to stay ahead of potential new attacks and scams. Many have had to quickly boost both their team size as well as the investment into tools and technologies that will protect employees and business data.
These mobile device management solutions – designed to secure company data and devices – are often built-in to products and come at little or no additional cost. As far as protecting the device itself goes, biometric tools such as fingerprint recognition exist across many devices. Other defences include zero client solutions, which ensure devices themselves do not retain sensitive information. Instead, information is stored on a central, cloud-based system so if a device is lost or stolen, the data remains secure.
According to Microsoft’s CEO, at the start of COVID-19 pandemic we saw two years of digital transformation take place within just two months. This level of acceleration has shaken up the daily responsibilities of many IT departments, while at the same time presenting network capacity, security and even skillset challenges. As businesses begin to engage post-coronavirus recovery strategies amidst a potentially uncertain future, what is certain is that the IT team will continue to have renewed importance in this new normal.
Alexander Malienko, Business Unit Director Middle East & Africa, Dynabook Europe GmbH.