Investment in products that assure security and awareness of best practices key to remote working productivity

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In the past four months, organisations of all sizes and sectors have seen a tremendous shift in the business landscape, and have been adopting various remote working practices to ensure the continuity of their operations.

In this new dynamic, efficiency, speed, and cost-effectiveness are given top priority. Which is why organisations are implementing new technologies to work virtually, stay agile, automate workflows, and communicate and collaborate in real-time.

To gather perspective on the new dynamics that come with remote working and how technology is a key catalyst in this change, YourStory presented ‘The New Order of Work’ webinar powered by Lenovo on August 6, 2020. The panelists, which had a special focus on Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs), gave their insights on the adoption of collaborative tools, the importance of cybersecurity in the times of COVID-19 and much more.

The panel was moderated by Dipti Nair, Editor-at-Large, YourStory and consisted of industry leaders Ashish Sikka, Director – Channel and SMB, Lenovo India; Chung G Tham, Executive Director, GDS Assurance, EY; Udaya Bhaskar Vemulapati, CEO, Flujo; and Vivek Ramachandran, Founder, Pentester Academy.

The need to meet ever-evolving customer expectations

Ashish began the discussion by noting that it is important, more than ever, to be customer-centric given that customer expectations have changed since the onset of the pandemic.

”We must keep ever-evolving and tailor-make our solutions to meet customer and channel needs,” he said, citing an example.

Given the limited IT support in offices, Lenovo has been providing customers with devices that are pre-loaded with all the necessary tools to enable collaboration and productivity.

Lenovo has also been helping its channel partners and customers with cash flow challenges through financing provided by Lenovo Financial Services, its finance arm. It has also been providing one-year leases, renting, and buyback offers on its product for both its customers and channel partners.

Embracing the new order of work

Chung from EY said that the company has been working towards creating a flexible working environment since the past two years, and technology has been a key enabler. It has moved most of its tools to the cloud, and linked its systems with their clients to gather data. He also noted that there has been a significant rise in the adoption of digital tools, particularly in banking and insurance sectors where signing documents, meetings and other key functions are taking place virtually.

“In terms of a silver lining, it has turned the non-believers of outsourcing to believers, and also helped reduce the carbon footprint,” he said.The new challenges to security

Vivek from Pentester Academy said that the secrecy of conversations and that of data are two key challenges to security for organisations. He explained that the shift to collaboration tools also uncovered the uncertainty around the privacy of these conversations, “We are unable to extend that perimeter of trust of these tools to our homes,” he said.

Vivek also pointed out that since employees had been working from their home with their own devices, shoulder-surfing and exposure to malicious links had increased the threat of compromising data.

“Hackers are having a field day since the perimeter of the organisation has reached individual homes,” adding that they have been capitalising on the fear and uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, as observed with the rise of spear-phishing emails centred around COVID-19 updates.A cultural change

Udaya from Flujo said that in their experience, the largest barrier to adoption of communication and collaboration tools like Flujo is not from a cost, but a cultural standpoint.

“Traditional SMBs find even communication to be a step up,” he said, adding that while top management and executive-level employees of SMBs are convinced in implementing tools like Flujo, it is middle management that often hesitates to adopt such tools.

Udaya also added that productivity from remote working also depended on an organisation’s culture, an individual’s culture, how self-driven each individual is, and the ability of a manager to properly measure and give feedback on the contribution of every individual. ”We need to find solutions that can fill gaps in these personnel, culture and HR-related issues before we can say a final goodbye to working out of offices,” he said.

Empowering SMBs with the right tools and devices

Ashish from Lenovo said that while SMBs must adopt technology to increase their productivity, they must also ensure that the devices they work on can be kept secure from data breaches and malicious attacks.

To that end, he mentioned that Lenovo’s devices are geared for this task. Its Thinkpad series come with camera shutter, port disablement features, hard disk and software encryption, and Lenovo ThinkShield, which secures the device with the help of third-party security providers, among others.

Best practices for enhancing remote working productivity

Chung mentioned that working with clients from countries that have strict data privacy laws like the US and those from the European Union meant that EY has always been keeping data privacy as a priority, particularly with personally identifiable information. It has been ensuring compliance with steps like double-factor authentication, end-to-end encryption, among other practices.

He also added that challenges such as system failures have been handled by using tools to access work systems remotely through home systems. On the people front, the company has been encouraging employees to be more physically active by exploring activities like chair yoga. “We are social beings, and so it is necessary for people to interact with each other,” he said, adding that to help employees cope with the mental stress from a lack of such interaction, the company has also set up hotlines for the same.

Vivek said that the main hurdle to securing operations is that security is always perceived as an overhead.

“The challenge has always been building security into the functionality of the product without having the user be aware of what he should do to secure the product,” he said, and he encourages his try to adopt tools and products where the security is seamless.

In cases where it is not possible, he suggests investing in educating employees about easy to implement best practices so that they should be reasonably secured while working from home.

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