IT Teams: Get ready for the hybrid office

Online meeting

The hybrid workforce is going to make things complicated again for IT.

“We’ve been optimizing for people working from home or another location,” said Kurt Roemer, Chief Security Strategist at Citrix Systems at a CanadianCIO virtual roundtable. “The hybrid workforce is going to present more challenges around security, user experience, and the network, among other things. We need to be planning for it.”

The two dozen roundtable participants agreed that the hybrid working model will likely become the norm. “People will have the ability to work remotely whenever they wish and come in for meetings as needed,” said an IT leader from the public sector.

This means IT has to design solutions that provide the same level of security and user experience for employees no matter where they are, said Roemer.

Security in a hostile environment

The IT leaders said they see security as a big challenge. “It’s like going to war every day,” said a CIO from the entertainment industry. “What keeps you up at night is whether your systems will operate tomorrow or not because of some crazy threat.”

Given that people will be working from different locations, it doesn’t make sense to have a box at home with the worker to provide security, Roemer said. He suggested that organizations consider secure access service edge (SASE) solutions to bring the protection of the corporate environment to the worker to protect any device anywhere.  This is especially important if sensitive topics are being discussed over voice and video streaming or via collaboration tools. Similarly, a Zero Trust model can provide a stronger foundation to improve security outcomes.

It can also be helpful to have someone manage your security environment, said Roemer. “The work from home environment has made it easier and more common to hire resources from around the world,” he noted.  One CIO said his company outsourced much of the security function. “We feel safer having a team of experts who do nothing all day long but worry about security,” he said. “Their tools are up-to-date and they know about the latest threats.” However, some CIOs noted that they still worry about employee awareness and training.

Will the office experience still measure up?

Several CIOs said they’ve put so much effort into improving the home environment, they’re now concerned whether the office experience will compare. For example, one CIO suggested that the audio and video in boardrooms will have to be updated. “It used to be that people on the conference call in the boardroom were forgotten,” he said.  “Now, it’s the reverse.”

The quality of service provided by SD-WAN technology can help organizations maintain a consistent user experience, said Roemer. One CIO added that his company has maintained service through its contact centres by giving mobile phones to the agents in order to avoid any home Wi-Fi issues.

Organizations should also look for ways to automate work and workflows, said Roemer. Employees have been working longer hours since the transition to work from home and IT should look at how to automate mundane tasks to give them time back. “This is all part of digital transformation,” Roemer said. “It’s great to be having these conversations now because the hybrid workforce will force it upon you.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker has over 20 years of experience in IT-related fields in the public and private sectors, as a lawyer and strategic advisor. She is a former broadcast journalist, currently working as a consultant, freelance writer and editor.

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