IT planning for a post COVID-19 future and lessons learnt

Nigel Morris from BDO’s Technology Advisory Services (TAS) team offers advice on what has been learned from the evolving business landscape, and how to prepare their IT strategy and workforce for an increasingly dispersed and tech-dependent world.

 

The good news is that many employees, across a growing number of companies, have now taken that first click. They are comfortable with collaborating remotely, participating in video conferences and conducting online meetings.

As a result, your IT environment needs to be flexible, resilient and secure, and you should review key elements of your IT strategy including your software applications, data networks, user devices, voice networks, information security and IT support.

It’s likely that you will have considered these aspects of your business as COVID-19 began to take hold. If you have, now is the time to drill down into the detail and prepare for the future. If you haven’t, there’s still time to begin the evaluation and implementation process, but you will need to act quickly.

Building a strong data communications backbone

Your business is only as robust as your data network. Even after the removal of all COVID-19-related social distancing restrictions, a substantial proportion of your workforce is likely to be operating remotely, and accessing software applications in the Cloud. Your prospects, clients and suppliers will also be more inclined to favour online video conferencing and collaboration tools.

Ensure you have sufficient bandwidth to support multiple remote network connections - your business will also need to rely on a mix of public and private data connectivity. This can lead to security management issues, increased bandwidth consumption, high latency (long data delay times) and a lack of traffic control.
A managed data network service provider can offer a fully managed, secure and resilient virtual network across multiple forms of data connectivity, e.g. private circuits, the Internet, 4G/5G mobile data.

Information Security remains key

Remote working increases the attack surface area for hackers. Put simply, hackers have a greater number of opportunities to cause disruption and steal data. Therefore, implementing effective data security is paramount and you should be sure you continue to address critical aspects of IT security.

  • Implement a finite set of proven, well supported and tested applications
  • Do not allow staff to choose alternatives according to their preference
  • Ensure all software and firmware is updated to the latest release
  • Make sure all data in transit and at rest is encrypted
  • Consider implementing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to verify a users’ access credentials
  • Provide all staff with regular cyber security training, to heighten awareness and enable them to recognise and avoid IT security pitfalls.

The changing role of IT support

With a greater emphasis on remote working and a heightened need for resilient and secure networks, your IT support team, be they internal or provided by a 3rd party, will be faced with a new raft of challenges. They will need to be more responsive, proactive and mobile than ever before.

Ensure you and your 3rd party suppliers;

  • have conducted a full risk assessment of potential pinch points that may arise from previously unforeseen circumstances such as COVID-19
  • Put solutions in place to mitigate effect including;
  • Tools and training
  • Remote troubleshooting
  • Supply and replacement of devices to off-site locations
  • Managing remote infrastructure
  • IT planning for the future
  • It’s likely that many of the adapted processes will be here to stay and that IT is the key enabler to facilitate business continuity and future planning.

A prudent SME or mid-market business should be assessing how well it has adapted to the COVID-19 restrictions, and be planning its IT strategy around enabling future employee flexibility and remote working, not only to adapt to any future workforce restrictions, but to improve business processes, control costs, and enhance employee satisfaction, developing a robust plan for future business success.
 

For the full article, please visit BDO website.
This article was published in INFO Magazine Autumn 2020: How business will adapt. Read the whole issue here.         

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