Harnessing Software and Tools in the ‘New Normal’ – Part 1

09 / 04 / 21

Over the past year, there has been a significant need to utilise new software to support day-to-day working. We have seen clients adopt new software to bridge gaps, made apparent with the challenges posed by changing working environments. Primarily, we have seen a shift toward technology that facilitates collaborative working. This has been vital to allow employees, and external parties, to work together effectively, even if they cannot physically be together.

When wide-scale home working was imposed in March 2020, the priority was ensuring that people could still connect to organisation systems. As you’d expect, employees relied heavily on access to productivity tools, such as e-mails and file storage. However, there were simple considerations which hadn’t been made previously, such as staff needing access to their work phone – which would normally sit on their desk.

We observed a wide variety of challenges faced by our clients. For example, we assisted one organisation who had previously only allowed a very limited number of workers to access document repositories remotely. They had a complicated token-based VPN access to on-premise servers, which had not even been configured for the majority of workers. The organisation in question had to rapidly grant access, prioritising access provision for key staff. They have since expedited a project to move to cloud-based systems with simpler access provision, while still ensuring appropriate security. Although organisations have faced their own individual challenges, there has been one similarity- which is the speed at which they’ve had to implement changes, simply in order to keep up with the day-to-day.

Following on from the initial period of providing the essentials to employees, larger conversations about what technology to introduce, and how to govern the information produced had to occur.

Functional Leverage

Although we work with organisations using all kinds of software, from many suppliers, we find some are more popular with our clients. When it came to video calling and communication, we observed use of various platforms, such as Zoom, Microsoft Skype for Business / Teams, Cisco Webex and StarLeaf to name a few.

However, when considering collaboration and document storage, we found that the majority of our clients were already using Microsoft services in some way. This ranged from documents stored on shared drives with emails in Microsoft Exchange and some use of Office apps, through to full use of Microsoft 365 for all services. For many, it was a logical step to make further use of Microsoft’s products to bridge the new gaps.

There are many advantages of using existing software, from consistent user experience meaning less change for employees, through to cost savings from purchasing one consolidated license rather than licenses for a variety of apps from a variety of providers. The reality is that licenses such as Microsoft’s Enterprise offerings provide access to an array of apps and tools, many of which are unused within organisations, as their business value is not identified. In-Form Consult has been helping organisations make better use of software and apps they have already purchased, but do not currently use – something we call Functional Leverage. This can lead to improved productivity, as well as reduced costs, by consolidating disparate systems.

Governance Challenges

Information Governance challenges relating to these ways of working predominantly stem from the speed at which changes have been made. Software and tools have been adopted exponentially faster than usual project planning and considerations would allow.

Where existing software has been unable to bridge gaps fast enough, there is risk that users have resorted to Shadow IT systems or other work arounds. For example, by sending sensitive information in emails, or by creating an unapproved sharing area or used a sharing service not governed by the organisation.

Organisations who have accelerated software rollouts to meet users’ needs would have had limited time to consider the governance requirements and sustainability planning from the start. For example, Microsoft Teams may have been rolled out to enable communication, without sufficient governance policies and configuration to prevent users creating new areas and using them to store files. Although rolling out the software has been crucial, these considerations need to be made sooner rather than later to avoid sprawl and ultimately avoid the solutions becoming unsustainable in the long run.

In our next blog post, we will discuss ways that organisations have been addressing some of the challenges relating to the changes in software and tools. If you would like to know more or talk about any specific challenges you may be facing, please get in touch.