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CTO of 2021

Balancing productivity and cyber security is key to success, writes Dan Davies, pictured, Chief Technology Officer, at cloud and managed services company Maintel.

The way we work has changed. While flexible and remote working have been on the rise in recent years, the pandemic expedited the shift to digital. In a short time, technologies for communicating and working effectively from home became critical to continued operations.

Organisations are realising that remote and hybrid working models, which were first introduced as short-term measures, have now become the established model. In fact, a report by Gartner has highlighted that nearly half of company leaders expect remote working to become a standard more permanent option.

For CTOs, this creates two distinct challenges. Firstly, to find a strategy that enables safe and secure connectivity, irrespective of whether the employee is at home or in the office. Secondly – and just as crucially – how to maintain high levels of productivity in any potential working environment.

As lockdown began in March 2020, many businesses rushed to implement strategies that enabled continued operations with a remote workforce. Initially, businesses were simply making do – the priority was to get staff working. For some businesses, the only options was to rush out consumer-gra­­­­­de tools and temporarily neglect IT security best practice, just to keep things up and running. The rush to home working saw one-in-five UK workers received no cyber security training as a result.

Hackers are looking to exploit the shift, with cyber attacks on the up according to experts. Concerningly, the risk factor could be even more apparent with increased hybrid working. To combat this, CTOs and CISOs are looking to leverage corporate level protection across multiple business and office locations, with data and applications increasingly being delivered from multiple public cloud services.

However, additional security procedures are causing concern for some leaders. Overcomplicated measures such as multiple passwords and frustrating authentication processes may hamper productivity. Consequently, CTOs need to learn from what the last year has taught them and implement steps which enable robust security but do not impede productivity.

As CTOs work to streamline network architecture, cloud and videoconferencing technology, cybersecurity will become a central focus for most IT strategies. With this will come a greater focus on business continuity in order to enable a seamless and safe switch between home, office and hybrid working.

With data now considered as one of the most important assets in a company’s arsenal, protecting it is paramount. Ensuring that employees use enterprise-level, protected WIFI connections is critical. The same applies for contact centre workers who require reliable internet connections so that call quality is clear and uninterrupted – a core aspect of delivering excellent customer service. Along the same vein, providing professional grade laptops with safe, secure enterprise grade applications, rather than consumer standard, will also be critical to the CTO strategy.

Alongside the provision of enterprise grade hardware and software, leaders need to reassess the training they provide to new and existing staff. Guidance on best practices is the primary way to ensure that the core IT networks aren’t exposed to threats and that organisations don’t experience loss of data due to negligence or user error.

In addition to company offices, CTOs will have to learn to protect employees’ home offices where hybrid working is in place. Therefore, business leaders should have in mind that however secure we believe our home environments to be, they were never designed to ensure the availability and protection of sensitive data. Losing customer or corporate data is more than an inconvenience, it can have a dramatic impact on reputation and competitiveness. So, securing the connection, protecting the endpoints and encrypting application data is every bit as important in the home as it is in the office.

Most leaders have now seen the potential benefits of remote working. However, for it to become a long term and effective alternative, there are a number of factors that must be considered and applied. From working at a small screen laptop, noise distractions, or bandwidth issues, there are a number of challenges to the new model.

CTOs must assess whether employees have the appropriate mix of enterprise-grade equipment, such as headsets, printers, or collaboration tools, to ensure productivity and success. Where the correct measures and set-ups are not in place, CTOs should take steps to ensure to provide for staff. Employees should expect the same standard of technology and security at home, as would be provided in the office. By providing this, CTOs will reap long term rewards in terms of productivity and staff wellbeing.

Finally, leaders should consider the benefits of leveraging secure SD WAN connectivity. Doing so will enable the prioritisation of business traffic on a network. In turn, this will provide staff with the bandwidth levels expected of a professional environment – as critical for internal and external communications as it is for completing day-to-day work activities.

With hybrid working a permanent fixture, leaders must equip their teams to help them thrive. What’s more, to stay competitive in a challenging market, business leaders must do everything they can to improve productivity and win customers. CTOs are in a unique position to revolutionise the workforce. But this cannot be achieved without first providing the tools and technologies that make it possible.


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