I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how digital communication has increased in my life, and the lives of my teammates, and after a year of mostly remote working, I have come to a conclusion – that some tidy up is needed.

Should you turn your camera on during a video call? Are you meant to mute yourself when it’s not your turn to speak? Should we all be using a branded background on our video calls? And let’s not forget, do I send someone a link to a document, or send it as an attachment?

Questions like these may seem trivial at first glance, but as more digital tools are being added to our working lives (in warp speed in some instances), the way they’re used can start to have far-reaching impact – particularly if everyone is using them differently.

For instance, if there is no clear governance around when or how to use a collaboration solution like Microsoft Teams, data can end up in all kinds of places. Instead of speeding work up – things can slow right down when people don’t know where to find files or can’t easily collaborate with a co-worker or 3rd party. Similarly, something as simple as sending a document as an attachment, instead of link, can really mess up version control, or even have security implications.

With working outside the office, or borderless working as I like to call it, here to stay, it’s important to start thinking about how to improve our digital workflow – with a particular focus on governance, efficiency, and security.  Here are some things I think everyone should be considering.

Setting the rules and driving adoption

When it comes to digital governance, perhaps the most important step an organisation needs to take is assigning a team to lead the initiative. Too often we see a lack of planning when it comes to the introduction of new tools and systems – or, like we saw when the global pandemic landed on our doorsteps in 2020, many companies were forced to quickly spin up a digital solution that would enable everyone to keep working while in isolation for extended periods of time.

Ideally, when proper planning is done, you would look to recruit representatives from across the business, who can work collaboratively to ensure that new rules are realistic and practical, as well as to update any governance over time as things change. Most importantly, you want them to want to be part of the project – no point dragging someone along for the ride!

Your governance team should also include a member of your IT department and Cybersecurity team (if you have one) as they will need to provide advice on things such as server infrastructure, security protocols and implementation logistics. It may also be worth getting help from a 3rd party who specialises in training and implementation for your chosen solution.

Next, you need to educate everyone across the organisation and drive quick adoption rates. Training is critical, but something that is often missed when rolling out a new solution. I think this stems from the fact that with ‘tech’ being so entrenched in our daily lives, we assume that everyone will just get how it all works. To achieve consistent and rapid adoption of your digital workplace policies, it’s important to have a solid internal communications strategy in place, and to have ‘advocates’ or ‘champions’ throughout the business, who can help spread the word, and also show others firsthand how easy and great the solution is.

Work smarter not harder – Truer words have never been spoken

No two businesses are the same. The processes, tools and systems that are right for your business, and your employees, may be entirely different to another. To figure out what will help your teams work more efficiently, start by asking questions like:

  • Will we have different rules for internal and external meetings?
  • Will we have the same collaboration processes with team members and external clients or suppliers?
  • What is working well now and what could we be doing better?
  • Is the way we are working now putting our data or our clients at risk of security breach?
  • Is there anyone (or a team) in our business that is already leading the way?
  • Is there anything that needs to change urgently?

Your answers to questions like these will help you identify if you have the right technology in place to achieve your goals. For example, if you want people to send links to documents rather than attachments to avoid inefficient wrangling with version control, you’ll need a secure and reliable file storage solution that offers in-built security and protection. Or, if you want your people to move away from email and work more collaboratively and efficiently, you’ll need to look for an intuitive collaboration solution.

People and Cybersecurity – Your most important partnership

Evidence suggests that employees are more likely to take security risks when working from home, so it’s vital that you put some solid and well-defined rules in place for sharing files and collaborating with others.

For example, when it comes to sending files, many organisations today opt to send links instead of attachments, as the latter exposes you to greater risk.  When you send an attachment, it’s easy for the file to be forwarded to an unauthorised user (whether accidental or otherwise) or for the file to carry malware.  When you send a link, the file is better protected by the layers of security which should exist in your corporate environment, rather than what may or may not be running on the device of the attachment recipient.

You should also have your sights set on reining in rogue applications.  As our Head of Cybersecurity, Daniel Hayes, wrote in this recent blog, shadow IT isn’t new, but is becoming a growing problem for modern businesses – especially with so many people now working remotely and feeling less “watched”. He points out that a staggering 80% of workers have admitted to using SaaS applications without getting approval from their IT department¹, and 25% of workers also admitted to using several unapproved tools outside of the official IT policy.² Ok, confession time – I may have contributed to these stats at some point, so no judgement.

In a similar vein, 61% of CIOs also said they’re seeing an increase in risks due to the use of non-enterprise devices and software as more people work remotely.³. Proliferation of applications and tools outside of approved channels can lead to data going in unexpected and to undesired locations – something your security team won’t appreciate.

If people are choosing to use their own applications and software (and we know they are), it’s essentially impossible to control how they’re communicating or sharing files. To overcome the problem, put clear rules in place and make sure everyone knows what tools are available and how they can best help them in their day-to-day. I also recommend sending out a survey to see if there are any gaps within your current suite of applications, as this could be why people are looking for, and using alternative applications.

I’ll leave you with a few final tips that I think everyone can benefit from and that should help to facilitate smoother, easier digital collaboration.

Mute yourself when you’re not speaking in a video meeting – there’s nothing worse than random background noises getting in the way of a discussion. And, when you’re meeting new people, show your face – at least for the introductions (and, if your organisation has a branded background for video calls, use it!). When it comes to file sharing, follow your organisation’s policies but don’t forget to make it as easy and intuitive as possible for the recipient to open and collaborate on your file. Oh, and if you think there is a tool that’s missing from your company’s applications stack – tell someone.

Til next time.
MP


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