A New Reality for IT: A CIO’s Perspective During a Business Continuity Event

Snow CIO Alastair Pooley offers considerations for supporting your business during this period of uncertainty

With the sudden shift to working from home for a significant percentage of the global workforce, many IT professionals are starting to talk to us about what happens next. I think we can all see that, for many firms, remote working will become the “new normal.” Supporting an entire workforce at home puts massive pressure on IT departments to ensure that staff has access to the technology they need to be productive. The implications range beyond just hardware, software and applications, impacting everything from cloud capacity to cybersecurity. In solidarity with our community, I wanted to share some of the priorities that are top of mind for me as Snow Software’s CIO.

Equip staff for success with the appropriate devices

The first area that must be tackled is ensuring that staff has work computers at home wherever possible. With GDPR regulation and cybersecurity in mind, it is important to avoid using insecure home computers for work purposes. If you do have a bring-your-own-device policy, be sure that you have clearly outlined how employees access resources and data in order to avoid violating any GDPR or data privacy regulations. In Snow’s case, 90% of staff were already using laptops and, with some careful use of our in-house stock and the offer of taxis to move any desktop computers, we were able to ensure everyone was able to access a work computer. If you are not yet in this position yet, it’s important to figure out how you can put the hardware in place for three months or more of remote working.

Consider the immediate and long-term licensing impact  

There are several licensing issues that need to be considered at this time. At the top of the list for many firms is ensuring they have sufficient capacity for collaboration. Many of the collaboration providers have offered free licenses to help companies adapt, and these can certainly be of great benefit. At Snow, we are seeing much higher usage of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, sometimes for unexpected reasons. For example, we have started organizing company-wide “fika” breaks to be held via Zoom (Snow Software was founded in Sweden, and fika is the Swedish custom of stopping for a coffee and reflecting on the day with your colleagues).

The challenge with accepting these free technology offers is that, with insufficient planning, you may end up with these tools embedded in your organization. That can end up causing additional budget constraints should you have to pay for additional licensing at the end of the free period. By all means, do accept the offer if your organization needs additional resources to support your workforce during this time. But we all need to make sure that we understand how the applications we adopt now fit with the long-term vision for our respective technology estates.

Adapt any on-premises and cloud instances

One of my more pressing concerns is how we will maintain services in our data centers and colocation, whether we will be able to send staff to the facility and even then if the staff in that region will be well and able to do so. Extensive use of both SaaS applications and the public cloud has reduced our own organization’s dependency on operating physical infrastructure, and I am far less concerned about services run by larger cloud suppliers such as Microsoft, AWS and Salesforce who should have sufficient resources to keep their operations online.

With this in mind, I am actively planning more cloud migration to lower our level of risk – but that requires careful consideration on how to properly manage those resources. When thinking about how this might impact business continuity planning, it’s also worth considering multiple public cloud providers to add resilience. Using a cloud management platform can help us all deal with multi-cloud environments and ensure we can keep track of both the costs and security.

Prepare and reinforce security best practices

Unfortunately, there are still plenty of attempts to ransomware businesses or perpetrate a data breach for profit. Even during periods of crisis, criminals don’t stop being criminals. It’s important to reinforce security best practices all year, but it is especially important when your employees may be out of their normal routines. There has been a spike in phishing attacks focused on the coronavirus, which preys on the human desire for information and our expectation of unusual company communication.

At Snow, we employ a zero-trust model of security to ensure every individual verifies their identity using multi-factor authentication. During periods where your business continuity plan may need to be enacted, it’s essential to consider how your security measures may be impacted – or how you may need to adjust your response to a data breach or cyberattack.

Start looking at usage and cost now

Despite government action around the world, there will likely be a longer-term impact to the global economy, and ensuring technology spend is truly optimized will be crucial. IT can have a material impact on the business with careful management of software, hardware and cloud assets. Now is the time to identify over-licensed software, inactive hardware, overly provisioned virtual machines and zombie cloud instances. CFOs will need to take action, and when they turn to the IT department, it is critical that you clearly understand technology spend and streamline where possible without sacrificing productivity.

Preparing for a new reality

In the following days, our in-house experts will take a deeper dive into some of these topics to help you quickly address your current challenges and consider the future of your IT estate. If there is anything we can do to support you during this time, please reach out – Snow is here to help.