Insights from the Experts
The last two years have brought with them tremendous challenges, stresses, and forced adaptations. For organizations of all sizes and industries, the phrase “business as usual” has come to mean something quite different in 2021/2022.
With the hybrid workplace here to stay and cybercrime rising at a significant rate, many businesses are still trying to catch up and rethink their operations. Things like internal and external collaboration and connectivity, reconfiguring workflow efficiencies, all while making sure they’re protected against cyber attacks. That is a lot for any organization.
The good news? Innovation often accompanies hard times. The pandemic hit the fast-forward button on the advancement of business technologies as well as adoption. What should organizations be doing and what technologies can help them get there? The experts from Network Center, Inc., David Groth, Jason Messner, and Mike Pagan, shared a few insights and tips to help get you started.
Collaboration & Calling
As you have probably heard by now, the hybrid workforce is here to stay. Working both in-person and remotely, through multiple methods, is quickly becoming standard practice. After the initial rush to adopt simple collaboration technologies (like chat and video for meetings), corporate policy realized the true benefits and has produced various methods of adopting a “hybrid” workplace.
To create a hybrid workplace, there must be a digital collaboration equivalent for each in-person collaboration method a team would use now. The most popular platforms for hybrid collaboration (MS Teams, Cisco WebEx, and Zoom) all have similar functionality for these equivalencies:
- Whiteboards – The most understood tool for collaborating in a visual format. In a remote work environment, people use whiteboard software to share ideas in their collaboration software only. In a hybrid model, collaboration hardware allows physical whiteboards to work together with the software embedded in collaboration tools to provide a seamless experience for both remote and in-person users.
- Boardroom And Conference Calls – Traditionally, a boardroom has been a place for in-person meetings. You would set up a conference call through a third-party company and use a phone to dial in. In the remote model, everyone would use their collaboration software for calls or have video conference meetings. Now, new hardware allows people in the office board room to be a part of these online collaboration sessions.
- Documents –The backbone of any company is the documents it creates. In the remote work model, people were forced into e-mailing documents back and forth and versioning became a very large issue, not to mention inefficient. Collaboration software has evolved to the point where people can work on documents simultaneously, in real-time, regardless of location.
- “Huddles” – The real “wow” of the hybrid model and collaboration software. In the past, people would often have quick, ad-hoc discussions about projects they were working on. Initially, this was a bit cumbersome with the first iterations of collaboration software. Tools have now matured to the point where we can see each other’s status in real-time, create ad-hoc “teams” to collect all data for a project, utilize video, keep threaded chat, store files, work on documents simultaneously, and even automate workflows and approvals.
The hybrid model is here to stay. So much so, that many companies are using it as a recruiting tool by specifying their usage of the model. Companies that do not adopt will be behind the curve.
As a final note, it should be noted that this article was written entirely in a collaboration program, simultaneously, amongst several people, working in various locations.
Automation, Visualization, & Organization
Organizations have been challenged with the need to do more with less and Issues like employee productivity, data-driven decision making, and modernizing workflow processes are top of mind for many. The answer? Microsoft Power Platform.
With more than 11 million monthly active users, Microsoft Power Platform is the leader in low-code application platforms and a great way to turn ideas into impactful solutions. It’s more than the sum of its parts and includes Power Automate, Power BI, Power Apps, and Power Virtual Agents. Let’s look at how a few of the Power Platform pillars can help your business.
- Power Automate is a cloud-based workflow automation tool that allows you to define and quickly automate any process or task. It is a great way to boost business productivity and get more done by automating all your repetitive, time-consuming, and manual tasks.
- Looking for a great tool to help organize, analyze, visualize, and make informed business decisions based on your data? Power BI provides interactive visualizations and business intelligence capabilities to be displayed in a report or dashboard.
- Transform nearly any manual process with Power Apps, a service for building and using custom applications that connect to your data and work across the web and mobile. It gives you the ability to build a front-end user interface and digitally transform those manual, pen and paper processes that exist in your company today. Since it is a low code platform it greatly reduces the time and expense of creating a custom software solution.
- Power Virtual Agents is a service that allows you to use artificial intelligence (AI) to help automate tasks and create Virtual Agents. It uses Microsoft’s AI Builder and Bot framework to give you a way to introduce AI into your company and help drive innovation and collaboration. For example, you can create an interactive Virtual Agent, embed it into your Microsoft Teams channel to answer frequently asked questions, and provide automated customer service.
When it comes to efficiency, productivity, and simply doing more with less, MS Power Platform is a go-to option for any business.
Advancements in technology have changed the way we can conduct business, allowing us to work faster and connect with more customers. Unfortunately, cybercriminals have the same technologies. Between 2019 and 2020, ransomware attacks increased by 62% worldwide and the trend has continued to rise throughout 2021. The growing dependency on technology coupled with the evolution of cybercrime makes investing in cybersecurity a critical part of your technology planning.
Let’s start with the basics: inventory, backups, and logs.
- Inventory – How can you know what you need to protect or what vulnerabilities might affect you if you do not know what you have? A comprehensive and up-to-date inventory of your assets is critical.
- Backups – After identifying what you have and where it is located, figure out a data protection plan that involves a retention period you are comfortable with. Keep in mind that bad actors can be in your network for weeks before triggering malware, so the standard two weeks of backups are not enough.
- Logs – If you are breached or affected by ransomware, law enforcement agents will need logs of your systems to gather evidence. These logs should be backed up, stored offsite and preferably immutable.
Now that we have set the table, what else can you do, right now, to improve your security posture? Enable MFA and educate your people.
Multi-factor authentication is a simple way to add an additional layer of account security to your environment. In a recent Microsoft study, they state that 99.9% of Microsoft 365 account takeovers would have been prevented by enabling MFA. Multi-factor authentication is included on most services platforms so take advantage of it.
Lastly, work with your employees to help them understand good cybersecurity practices. Everyone knows that longer passwords are better than shorter ones as well as not to click on links in emails, but it still happens.
Educating your users on good security practices and encouraging them to ask questions will help them respond better the next time they are faced with a phishing email or unusual files on their systems. Creating a culture of education and good security practices will have a larger impact on your company’s security posture than buying the next security gadget or gizmo.