NetMotion, in partnership with Quiss and Alternative Events, recently hosted a panel of UK IT leaders in the professional services vertical. The theme of the event was a discussion around what a 100% mobile workforce might look like, and what that would mean for the market – for both clients and employees. The key takeaways from the event were simple in theory; however, in practice there are several components that need to be lined up and integrated in a way that ensures the success of the work-from-home experience rather than something that’s just “good enough.”
Let’s take a look at some of the learnings.
User Experience needs to be consistent and seamless
Close your eyes and think back to the good ol’ days when you actually went to a physical office every day. You had a routine. You took the same commute every morning and evening, just like the thousands of people around you. Maybe you grabbed your daily coffee and a breakfast order to go, sat at your desk, and logged in for the day. During that time, you checked emails, prepared for meetings and managed various tasks. You were connected to the corporate network and didn’t have to give a second thought to security or accessing whatever resources and applications you needed. The point is, it was consistent and predictable. You knew what to expect every day, and for the most part it probably worked flawlessly.
Fast forward to 2021 and things look very different. We work where we live, and our home networks – which were never designed to be used by multiple family members day in and day out – are having to cope with bandwidth overload. The result is slow networks, unresponsive apps and poor connectivity.
Realizing the strain this issue is putting on organizations, CTO of Bishop Fleming, Andrew Yearsley, made a bold statement – that the user experience at home needs to be just as consistent and just as seamless as going into the office. And the attendees agreed. 66% of them said that the biggest IT priority facing their organization was improving the end-user experience; however, 58% said they don’t monitor the employee experience at all, so it’s very hard to establish a baseline. Digital experience monitoring (DEM) is a great tool providing visibility into the employee experience. The data and insights gathered can help an organization figure out what solutions to consider and which policies to implement in order to improve the experience. Happy employees = productive employees, right?
Tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have also become more prevalent, and have helped to make virtual meetings and gatherings (almost) feel the same as being together in person. Jas Bassi, Head of Solution Delivery at Gateley Legal, noted that there will need to be more digitalization to support ‘working from anywhere.’ He also expressed doubts about current tech stacks, and whether they can meet the demands of the ‘working from anywhere’ model. “The market is in need of additional tools to make that user experience what they expect it to be,” he said. He recommends that IT teams start with an “always on VPN,” and choose solutions that deliver seamless remote access for users, allowing them to stay online when the network drops, but also improves performance on slow networks.
Saving $$$ depends on reliable connectivity
When the panelists were asked how their firms had economized in this new remote working environment, there were some expected answers like reducing stationery, printing, catering and travel expenses. Jonathan Swan, Operations & IT Director at Roythornes, noted that one of his biggest savings was the huge amount of time saved in scheduling meetings and decision-making. “Our organization is more agile because we can get key people together for a meeting now, or this afternoon. You can find 30 minutes for a Teams call whereas previously you had to look for a window of opportunity in calendars and consider travel time,” he said.
Many others are likely to have benefitted from similar savings, but if the professional services workforce continues to move towards a 100% mobile work environment, this will depend entirely on reliable connectivity. This brings back the earlier point about the importance of a seamless connection. It’s not only invaluable to employees, but for a firm’s success as well. Jonathan agrees with this, saying he’s not convinced that traditional VPNs will provide the continuity of connectivity that will be needed. He backs this up by stating that “when people start to get back on the move – in cars, showrooms, coffee shops, client meeting rooms – we might see some of the technology come under strain.” Once again, the attendees concurred. 47% said that better network reliability/speed would be the single biggest improvement for fee earners working remotely or in a hybrid environment.
Security concerns on the rise
During the discussion, Nick Hayne, Head of Professional Services at Quiss, brought up a very valid point; users are particularly stressed about the security aspect of working from home, such as the security of endpoint devices and how sensitive or confidential data is managed. He presented a question to the panelists on how they control what their employees access on their technology. Andrew Yearsley stated that Bishop Fleming has made changes to their security by implementing things like stricter password policies.
Another way to protect employees is through a zero-trust based solution such as a software-defined perimeter (SDP). SDP delivers uncompromising secure access. Its main goal is to protect users and company resources, and keep them away from bad actors. It does this by analyzing every single request a remote worker makes, whether they are opening an Office 365 document or joining a Zoom call. And it uses dynamic, contextual data to determine whether the employee should be granted access to that resource at all, all in real-time. As a result, users can access only the data they need in that instant, with no risk of a bad actor moving laterally through a network. Unwanted and risky connections are blocked, and employees are kept safe from online threats and risky content.
We can all agree that a 100% mobile workforce comes with its own unique pros and cons. In order to cope, firms must continue to adopt technologies and solutions that overcome the challenges of working remote. And most importantly, making sure that employees feel empowered, and giving them an experience that’s as close as possible to what they would have in the office: consistent, secure, and worry-free.