remote work, IT challenges, optimisation

New challenges for IT departments in the coronavirus era

Jacek Włodarczyk, Senior Manager in the Crowe Consulting Department
remote work, IT challenges, optimisation
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the government's movement restrictions, the boards of many companies have decided to start remote operation. This posed new challenges for IT departments. These challenges concern the whole area of ITC (Information and Communication Technologies).

Methodologies of IT area

In the IT area there are many methodologies and standards which aim at protecting companies against potential risks and unexpected situations. Proper implementation of solutions such as COBIT, TOGAF, ITIL or ISO 27001 certainly proves to be helpful in times of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly true of the implementation of ISO 27001 in the area of security of business continuity management, supported by the ITIL methodology, thanks to which it is possible to design business continuity services as part of long-term planning and strategy management. This allows to minimize the negative impact of the changes (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) on business. ITIL also requires continuous improvement of IT services. Companies that have implemented such solutions are now much more effective at dealing with the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Home office – IT relevant issues

In the current situation, the requirements such as the provision of remote connections with the company's infrastructure used by managers or employees working outside the company and the security of such connections may not have changed, but their scale has changed significantly. Suddenly, it turned out that the bandwidth of the link may be insufficient, because the transmission has increased several times (here it will be useful to analyse the applications that will be used in home office and the traffic on the links they will generate). In many companies the links could be asymmetric, which is due to the fact that it was completely sufficient for the previous working model. Nowadays, it becomes necessary to use a symmetrical link, with much higher bandwidth and thus costing more.

Notebook or desktop computer

When all employees in a company use laptops, the situation seems so simple, there should be no problems with remote work. All you have to do is to secure (encrypt) your hard drives to protect your company's data from possible theft and install software for secure remote connections through a VPN tunnel. If an employee does not have access to the Internet at home, he or she can be additionally equipped with a GSM modem or mobile phone with appropriate data transmission packages. However, what to do if an employee has a desktop computer? One of the solutions is to use a private computer of the employee, of course if he or she agrees to it. Then it will be necessary to establish a VPN connection to the employee's desktop and use e.g. a Windows remote desktop. In this case, a person working from a private computer at home uses his or her desktop computer at work via a VPN connection. In such a situation, the issue of costs related to the use of the link and the private computer should also be further clarified.

What kind of tools should we use?

To secure internet connections during remote operation it is necessary to use VPN (Virtual Private Network) software. It creates an encrypted tunnel for data transmission between your computer and the server - the network from which you want to access the data or applications. Most companies already have this type of software, which they use to set up connections for the executives.

You can use BIOS-level security for notebook hard drives, but professional tools such as ESET Endpoint Encryption, BitLocker and VeraCrypt will be much safer.

Remote work also means communication, meetings or presentations. Here you can use such tools as MS Teams, SKYPE, Slack or Zoom.

Joint work on documents requires cloud drives such as OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox, but also large solutions such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google G-Suite. 

Service desk - new challenges

In the era of remote operations, IT departments have faced the challenge of changing their approach to supporting the entire organization. This applies both to issues of an organizational nature - from where to provide such support (company headquarters or home office), hardware (mobile phone and notebook), and in the area of software (the ability to log on to the computers of employees working remotely). The approach to communication is also important. Sometimes it is more difficult to explain something to an employee on the phone or in a message sent by e-mail than to talk face-to-face. Therefore, it is necessary to define very precisely the thoughts and not to use "IT jargon". It may be useful to designate the most communicative IT employees to contact the end users.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the massive adoption of the home office model and the meeting by IT departments of all the challenges arising during this period may allow companies to develop new business models. Everywhere, where remote work will work, one will be able to consider reorganization of business processes and, consequently, reduction of the number of workstations, complemented by home office positions. As a result, it will be possible to introduce the so-called hot desks, i.e. desks that will not be assigned to any specific employees and will be used rotationally. In this model, the number of desks may correspond to e.g. 70% of the number of employees. It will also contribute to the reduction of costs related to the maintenance of workstations (e.g. desk, chair, telephone).

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Jacek Włodarczyk
Jacek Włodarczyk
Senior Manager

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