A Moment Of Reflection: A CIO’s Perspective On The Remote Working Transition

By   Ian Pitt
CIO , LogMeIn | Sep 15, 2020 01:33 am PST

The coronavirus crisis has forced many companies to push ahead with digital transformation at high speed, causing many challenges for IT and security teams. Challenges include the need for extensive hardware purchases and new processes for home office work, but also connecting to the company’s own IT infrastructure and accessing files and apps that employees need.

At LogMeIn, it already seems like a lifetime ago that we transitioned our nearly 4,000 employees to a full, global work from home policy for the duration of the COVID-19 situation. Most CIOs were also tasked with this challenge, but as a SaaS provider of remote work solutions, I had the additional task of helping our customers do the same. At its peak, the use of our remote access services increased by 300%.

Helping our community get through this difficult time with the use of our products is what has kept my team and I up at night and drives us to continue improving.

From equipping employees with devices to ensuring remote access while maintaining compliance and security – there were many critical pieces to consider to keep a company’s operations running from afar. In the absence of company-issued devices, some had to quickly develop ‘zero-touch device delivery’ plans. And while collaboration tools have proven essential in keeping teams connected and foster productivity, many had to tackle quickly implementing these tools and onboarding teams. Above all, the coordination between IT, Security, HR, and Business Operations in continuity plans cannot be overstated. Seamless interaction and decision making among these teams was key to successfully executing plans.

Data preparedness

The massive number of remote workers around the globe has created unprecedented network traffic. IT teams have had to implement real-time monitoring to manage capacity and scalability. Product and operations teams must continue to be fully functional even though they are remote from each other. Our capacity management teams focused on capacity validation in light of the increase in use of our video conferencing and remote access solutions, GoToMeeting and GoToMyPC.

While designed to scale, we have had to significantly increase server capacity, CPU allocations, memory and network capacity. We used a combination of colocation data centres and a large public-cloud infrastructure globally to ensure this flexibility for internal teams and our customers.

Access from any location

Having a decentralised structure has proven to be a winning strategy. This allowed us to operate contact points for incidents at multiple locations around the world and to respond quickly to individual disruptions on our own network. As LogMeIn is cloud and SaaS-based, so our customers can be productive from anywhere and have access to essential business tools from outside the office.

Maintaining security

With this increase in network activity, also comes increased security risks. IT and security teams are continually tracking new user behaviour, while ingesting threat reporting on COVID-19 threats. A remote workforce requires IT to ensure employees have access to the resources they need, all while maintaining security throughout the business. This has required deploying remote access tools, updating single sign-on policies and increasing multi-factor authentication to ensure that all materials are secure and accessed by the right person. It has been a fine line for our customers to walk, but we are leading by example through the internal use of our products.

Leading the charge

During other disruptions in operations, IT leadership would typically assemble a “war room” to tackle the challenges head-on. But in this crisis, where leadership and operations teams are dispersed, we have been forced to create a “virtual war room.” This has certainly changed the dynamics and created the need for new processes and approaches. Communication and the chain of command must be made clear and known by all parties. IT teams must adapt quickly, as there’s no time for second guessing.

A short foresight

Having a business contingency plan in place is vital for future scenarios. Today’s situation shows exactly what the current IT equipment per employee is, what had to be implemented for working from home, what requests IT teams were confronted with, how quickly systems could be brought up and running and how long it ultimately took to get back to routine IT work. Thus, you have a policy for future emergency situations about hardware and software, cyber security, but also capacity planning. In addition to a contingency plan and the development of guidelines, IT teams should also focus on the digital orientation of the company, question and analyse current processes and systems.

One thing is clear after the quick transition to remote working, companies must finally take care of their digital transformation. They are currently experiencing first-hand the added value of digital work and can see where they need to start or intensify their digital transformation. Now is the time to review the status quo and develop new processes and strategies. The IT department cannot do this on its own. Together with legal, finance and HR, it is now necessary to develop guidelines and, in a second step, to get the employees on board to plant the new digital corporate philosophy in the minds of colleagues.

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