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Mary P is the owner of a GA based marketing firm with 42 employees, including one internal IT technician. In early 2020, Mary was thrust into a situation that many other businesses faced, too. Her employees were blocked from working on-site, but there were projects due and work needed to continue.
Mary and her employees were scrambling and taking their workstations and laptops home to start working outside the office. The organization soon found that unreliable internet bandwidth issues were keeping them from getting work done, and a lax approach to security meant that some were falling prey to malware, phishing attempts, and viruses. Adding to the mounting problems, Mary quickly recognized that her teams didn’t know where to save files or how to collaborate on projects together. “Some work was being duplicated while other work was falling through the cracks.”
Mary admits that her initial efforts were disorganized and ineffective.
“We had a puzzle box full of pieces that no one could put together. Everyone was doing their own thing. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we were still spending a ton of money on maintaining office infrastructure alongside trying to equip our employees for the sudden work-from-home environment we found ourselves in.”
Mary’s initial research into the modern workplace journey was, as she puts it, “more than a little confusing.” She found that cloud services was a common theme for enabling a remote workforce. Mary explains, “There are constantly changing trends and thoughts about creating an effective mobile workforce, but one thing was constant: cloud services hold the key to everything.”
“My own attempts to restructure were overwhelming my limited resources, so I chose to partner with an IT services provider to help me start the journey to a modern workplace.”
As your business learned to adjust to the new realities of the pandemic, you’re now risking serious burnout among your team. Employees are feeling disconnected, disengaged, unproductive, and they are not always practicing safe cybersecurity practices. In addition to employees feeling the challenges, businesses are also facing issues like how to manage employee productivity or finding that some of the on-prem applications don’t play nicely together with their cloud applications, or they can’t access files or find the files. Employees can’t remember all these passwords and forget where they stored files—and that’s a massive problem with user experience.
Managing employee productivity
Changes in team culture and ways people interact
Maintaining employee efficiency and morale
Use of on-prem solutions that don’t play well together
Lack of unified experience with meetings and calling
Frustrations with accessing systems that weren’t designed to be used remotely
Frustration with not being able to find files or keep it organized
Unreliable internet connection
Not enough/unstable internet at the client end (users at home)
Unstable internet at the server end (providing for the users at home)
VPN overhead & issues with connectivity
Inappropriately designed architecture for remote use
Unknown devices accessing corporate resources
New attack vectors from exposure of corporate resources to a home environment
Cost sharing conversations about use of home resources
These challenges are new and they are presenting themselves because the workplace was never designed to operate the way we currently are.
Unknown devices and users accessing your network
Impersonators accessing company information
Sporadic monitoring schedule
Unsecured login methods
Unknown sources of internet connecting to your network
So from an IT perspective, organizations are wrestling with everything from unknown devices and unknown users logging in, to unknown internet connections that are connecting into the office network, and more. The old methods of protection are just not sufficient any longer.
Once a firewall, antivirus, email filtering, and backup were enough to protect your business. With data moving to the cloud, increased mobile access, and cybercriminals getting more sophisticated,
traditional security is not enough.
It’s not just about adding new technologies. It isn’t just about moving your files and servers to the cloud or setting up a password service. It’s time to rethink your digital strategy in the context of people. It’s about but how that tech will make your employees connect more effectively with their work. It’s also time to shift from the here-and-now and look further out, revisiting your long-term strategies.
To get the most out of your technology investments, you need to hit the pause button and think more about how you can connect your people to the goals you hope to achieve with that technology.
A modern workplace is one that recognizes that the nature of work has changed. Employees need productivity tools that enhance their work experience by increasing the quality and effectiveness of their work environment. Employees want to work securely on any device, regardless of where they are working. The modern workplace acknowledges that empowering employees with flexibility keeps them happier and makes them more loyal to your organization, but it also recognizes that there is an increased need for security, connectivity, collaboration, and communication across all platforms and locations.
The modern workplace is a destination, and the path to get there is the modern workplace journey. Businesses transitioning to the modern workplace are looking for positive changes through digital solutions. They understand that the evolving workplace is more than just the right tools; it’s finding ways for employees to work better together, make data-driven decisions, and automate routine tasks.
A successful permanent transition to the modern workplace will involve increased connectivity, productivity, and collaboration.
Let’s put the employee in the center of this new modern workplace design. What if we empowered the employee to decide the kind of workplace experience they want, the devices the applications they will use, who they want to share their data with, and the time and place they will use that data.
That level of personalization is achievable. For companies, the bigger challenge is: can it be done securely? The choices that employees make to achieve a personalized experience should not compromise security. Likewise, security should not hinder the experience. But to do that, security can’t be just bolted on. It must be an integral part of the workplace experience.
The traditional approach to security usually involves putting up barriers to “keep out the bad guys.” In a modern context, that only creates barriers that legitimate users must overcome — multiple layers of authentication, verification, etc. — all having a detrimental effect on the user experience.
Rather than presuming that we can keep all users, devices and internal networks safe, the modern workforce makes us face the challenge from a different point of view. We must ensure that users requesting corporate data are authorized to do so and can access it in a trusted way .
To emphasize the importance of this new paradigm, in the new style of workplace management, devices, software and the network are secondary. In modern workplace management, we connect authenticated users securely to everything they need to get their job done!
Old Way: Keep users, devices and internal network safe.
New Way: Ensure users requesting company data area authorized to do so and can access it in a trusted way.
Traditional workplace management reflects the highly centralized command-and-control style of IT that evolved over decades.
To a growing degree, work no longer fits this centralized model. Workplace boundaries are disappearing, and much of today’s workplace technology is supplied by employees who prefer their own personal devices to company supplied assets. This shift is causing companies justifiable concern as they try to find that balance between a user’s experience and securing corporate data.
The modern workplace comes with a completely new set of security requirements as it moves away from the locked-down, whitelist environment. The skills and effort required to meet the new challenges using traditional workplace management tools is simply beyond the means of the average company. That’s what makes the transition to modern workplace management so important.
Better Workplace or Better Security?
The digital workplace answers the fundamental question of how to secure data without compromising the user experience.
A modern workplace allows for a hybrid workplace. A hybrid workforce is made up of both on-site and remote employees and isn’t a luxury anymore; it’s a necessity. 83% of employees will opt for a job that offers a remote work option over one that doesn’t. This means businesses must evolve or lose valuable team players.
Businesses are always looking for the best ways to protect their mobile workforce and their network. An effective mobile workforce security strategy will involve layering security features such as multi-factor authentication, single sign-on, robust business continuity and recovery plans, cloud backup, encryption, and secure Wi-Fi access.
Finding the best tools that use cloud computing for connectivity and collaboration is the key to a successful modern workplace journey. You will need to choose an all-in-one option, such as the Microsoft 365 suite that includes:
File sharing and storage
Productivity and performance tracking
The modern workplace empowers employees, allowing them the ability to decide what kind of a workplace they want, the devices and software they will use, and the time and place they will use it. Therefore, employees do not have to report to the traditional office in order to get their work done safely.
Saving time and money on long commutes, increased flexibility, and the lowered cost of childcare before/after school programs are just a few more employee perks of the remote workplace.
Best of all, your company can get a real bottom-line benefit from the work from anywhere environment. Businesses who have made this transition are making the journey to the workplace of the future:
Save money on tech
Your business will benefit by saving money on office equipment and technology. Desktops, phone, and other hardware in a centralized location are no longer necessary.
Reduce turnover rates
Employees with flexible work options such as remote or hybrid are 22% happier than those that are office-bound, making them 13% more likely to stay with your organization and reducing your turnover rate.
Have increased productivity
Contrary to what you may think, remote workers are spending more time working remotely, not less. Remote and hybrid employees sign in earlier and work later, as a rule, because their work can more easily flex around their lives.
Employees with flexible work options such as remote or hybrid are
Iconic IT’s scalable cloud solutions mean that the organization can continue to expand without the costs of new hardware. Presbyterian Night Shelter’s partnership with Iconic IT has increased its capabilities and provided the updated infrastructure, instant file sharing, and reliable services that keep the organization up and running smoothly.
After her initial attempts at handling her own cloud migration failed, she turned to an IT services provider.
Before getting started along the journey, Mary’s IT provider needed to evaluate her company’s current strategies. This began with a platform assessment.
John T, a strategist from Mary’s IT services provider, explains,
“Not all platforms work together. When you piece together strategies, you may find that some of your platforms can be migrated to the cloud, others can’t, and sometimes you will need a complete restructuring of your strategy before you can migrate anything at all.”
John’s next step was a deep dive into Mary’s cloud migration project.
“This is where we assess the project’s process, time, and costs. this deep dive will also touch on security and compliance requirements. this is where we develop the roadmap for the journey.”
Mary’s IT provider assessed her marketing firm’s unique needs, helped her “evaluate her cloud readiness,” and put together an actionable roadmap for her digital transformation, starting with employee-centered security features.
John knew that Mary was a prime candidate for building her journey on the Microsoft frame-work. Mary needed security, such as Microsoft’s Intune and Azure, as well as reliable cloud connectivity through Microsoft services, and the collaborative power of the full Microsoft suite.
The first thing John needed to do was shift Mary’s focus to cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity wasn’t initially a concern for Mary until it was too late. Mary explains,
“Someone clicked an attachment from Human Resources in an email. The link wasn’t from Human Resources, and we ended up with malware installed that slowed us down and erased some of our files.”
John T says,
“Between the lack of unified security for connected devices and a generally lax approach to security among remote workers, cybersecurity risks have increased exponentially in the past year. The first step we had to take with Mary was to address the cybersecurity gaps she faced. We needed to secure her information, her data, her devices, and her network.”
John presented Mary a roadmap for her Modern Workplace Journey. John immediately began to tighten Mary’s security beginning with Identity Management, the first step along the modern workplace journey.
“The traditional approach to security was to put barriers in place to “keep the bad guys out.” With our new modern workplace this creates barriers that legitimate users must overcome. Once we shifted Mary’s perspective to putting the employee at the center of our security things started to fall into place.”
John explains that zero-trust is the most important part of identity management.
“When Mary logs in, we are verifying if Mary is really who she says she is by using Multifactor Authentication. This means we don’t “trust” Mary, and we don’t trust the computer she is logging in from. After we verify that Mary is Mary and that she is logging in from a safe computer, then we make it super easy for her to get her work done.”
To understand this change in thinking, John gives this example:
“When Mary is at her home office preparing a presentation for her customer, she reviews material and past projects through the company’s network. Mary isn’t challenged to verify her identity because she is complying without four of the five trust principles of zero-trust:
While presenting her project to her client, Mary uses her computer to connect to her cloud drive in the conference room. Because she is outside of her normal trust parameters, she is prompted to verify her identity.”
Now that Mary’s network was more secure, it was time to take the next step on the roadmap to digital transformation. One of Mary’s chief concerns was losing the momentum her employees enjoyed while working in the office. She agreed with John that Microsoft offered the best solutions for keeping her teams productive, safe, and connected.
“Microsoft is a name we all know and trust. We were already using Microsoft for email and applications like PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. Now that we are using the whole Microsoft 365 suite, we are all finally on the same page. Our communications and file sharing has been streamlined, everyone knows what they should be doing, and now we are focusing on creating our content for our clients rather than how we are creating it.”
John explains that turning to Microsoft 365 solutions added another level of security while giving her the powerful productivity and collaborative tools she needed.
“Microsoft 365 inherently has some very effective security platforms, like Azure and Intune, that helped to increase Mary’s cloud security.”
Cloud computing is the idea of using networks of remote servers rather than local servers. In other words, cloud computing delivers services through an internet connection. That’s a simplistic breakdown, but as Marc Benioff, founder, CEO, and chairman of Salesforce explains:
“If someone asks me what cloud computing is, I try not to get bogged down with definitions. I tell them that, simply put, cloud computing is a better way to run your business.”
John’s next step was to help Mary protect her information. Mary had concerns with protecting data, both her own and her clients’.
“We have a lot of financial information in our database and lots of proprietary secrets and processes. Our clients have entrusted us with trade secrets, too. Even though we are a marketing agency, we are still bound to data protection compliance regulations like regulatory issues like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act and HIPAA.”
Because Mary was using a Microsoft foundation, she had effectively plugged gaps in her platforms that could result in security incidents and regulatory violations.
By migrating to Microsoft cloud solutions, Mary now had control over business processes, reports, and KPI. She had a way of monitoring her employee productivity and producing reports that would be necessary for regulatory compliances.
Mary Takes the Wheel
Now it was time for Mary to plan how to start migrating her departments, one at a time, to the cloud. She needed to figure out how the departments would communicate both internally, and externally. Her IT services provider gave her the guidance she needed while allow-ing her the flexibility to set up her platforms in a way that works best for her business.
Mary’s Current Journey Is Leading Her to a Secure, Protected Modern Workplace
Thanks to cloud solutions, Microsoft 365, MS Azure, and her IT services provider, Mary is well on her way along the modern workplace journey. She has increased her security, productivity, and efficiency with the tools her small business needed and the guidance of her IT services professionals.
Mary’s future vision is to have a protected, connected workplace that is reliable and organized, enough to embrace all workplace models.
“Some of my employees are remaining completely remote, others are planning on a return to the office, and some are choosing a hybrid model of both. I want permanent solutions that will travel with my employees no matter where they choose to call ‘the office.’ ”
Cloud computing is the idea of using networks of remote servers rather than local servers. In other words, cloud computing delivers services through an internet connection. That’s a simplistic breakdown, but as Marc Benioff, Founder, CEO, and Chairman of Salesforce explains,
“If someone asks me what cloud computing is, I try not to get bogged down with definitions. I tell them that, simply put, cloud computing is a better way to run your business.”
Iconic IT, a Microsoft Gold Partner and a member of the Microsoft Advisory Council, understands that the journey to a modern workplace can seem difficult. We want to make it easy for you to understand, get started, and succeed.
Step 1: Platform Assessment
Iconic IT will meet with you and discover your current and future priorities, your current infrastructure, and your business processes.
Step 2: Platform Discovery
A deep dive to assess the process, time, and cost of your cloud migration. This also touches on security and compliance needs. You will receive your cloud migration roadmap after this discovery meeting.
Not ready to chat? Download our free, no obligation Modern Workplace Essentials Kit. This kit is full of do-it-yourself checklists and assessments, informative eBooks, on-demand webinars, and more. Move further faster on your modern workplace journey with this must-have kit.