With its unique perspective arising from the vast amount of data travelling over its global network, BT has had the ability to observe data flows, cyberattacks, changes in demand and the different behaviours of multinationals over the course of the Coronavirus pandemic. Leona Mentz, Regional Operations Manager, Asia, Middle East and Africa at BT, believes that for those businesses with an appetite for managing risks versus return on investment, this pandemic has created opportunities to ‘hit the reset button’ on digital transformation – and move at speeds businesses may have never before imagined.
The lockdowns implemented across territories gave businesses an opportunity to better understand how to adopt digital technologies at scale, how to connect people more effectively, and how to embrace a paperless environment. With speed of execution accelerating to weeks and sometimes days instead of months, businesses have seen the value of making instant purchasing decisions to maintain operations.
Securing a remote workforce
This rapid shift to “work from anywhere” has been largely positive. However, it isn’t without its challenges. In practical terms, the increase in remote workers has resulted in a drastic shift when it comes to cybersecurity.
An example of this is the prevalence of video conferencing. Our research has shown that 40 000 malicious domains have been set up solely to steal the credentials of Zoom users. Unsecured home routers, laptops, and even printers see traditional enterprise security measures flipped on their head.
This requires continuous education for employees to understand the need for vigilance when accessing the corporate network regardless of the device used. An innovation such as Continuous Authentication (CA) can assist in this regard. This involves the sending of low level signals several thousand times per second to constantly confirm a person’s identity. This unobtrusive solution is completely automated, with no impact on the remote worker or the organisational network.
A new way of working
Working from home has also been hard for many in more human terms. Leaders are finding it particularly tough as they learn how to manage more loosely defined job descriptions, working longer days, missing interaction with their peers and their own managers.
While some struggled to get used to the concept of working from home, it is important for business leaders to take cognisance from the experiences of this year – and in particular, what they’ve learnt about their workforce and how their teams like to operate. Going forward, a one size fits all approach won’t work. Rather, taking a people first, design-led approach is key to getting the roles, work design and tools mapped together correctly.
We have found that businesses further along the digital journey are weathering the impacts of the pandemic and lockdown measures with far more flexibility and resilience.
One of the business success stories this year has been the rapidly increasing adoption of cloud computing services and collaboration tools, which continue to demonstrate immense value in this era of physical and social distancing. It is as much about integrating these solutions into daily operations as it is about ensuring people have reliable connectivity in place and are comfortable in using evolving digital tools in new ways.
As part of this, businesses realise that they can no longer focus on traditional measurements of employee success. Instead, the focus is now on outcomes and whether employees are delivering value – regardless of where they are working from.
Looking towards a post-Coronavirus context, permanent homeworking won’t be for everyone. But we do expect that high numbers of businesses will provide more choice and flexibility to employees so they can work wherever they can get their best work done, including away from the office. In this context, the office is becoming another collaboration tool and how to manage it as such will challenge leadership. And while remote work is a discipline for the individual worker, distributed work is a discipline for the entire organisation.
Continuity meets sustainability
The shift in remote workers means businesses require less resources at their offices. Whether this results in eventually reducing the size of the physical office or just more intuitively managing the amount of people that need to go in and use resources, it is a dynamic new future of work.
In review, many businesses have experienced more digital transformation in a few months this year, than in the preceding decade in which we have been discussing the future of work. The urgency to adapt to the ‘new normal’ for sustained business continuity has made businesses more receptive to new possibilities – and businesses should not return to how things were before. Instead, they are presented with an exciting opportunity to transform into completely different organisations – and towards the responsive, responsible businesses that customers, employees and communities want.