How to Transition to the ‘New Normal’ of Business after COVID-19
The challenges created by the COVID-19 outbreak will likely continue for months, if not years, to come. But already, businesses are scrambling to navigate the “new normal” of maintaining continuity through a pandemic and beyond.
In the aftermath of coronavirus, the business landscape could look very different. Companies that are going to survive this crisis will need to invest heavily in technology that supports remote access, collaboration, data protection and a more agile disaster-recovery framework.
A critical transition
Businesses responded rapidly to COVID-19, but the response was largely reactionary.
As companies faced the threat of an infected workforce, and complied with shutdown guidelines, they raced to find ways to stay open. For office environments, this meant enabling employees to work from home.
In the process, this created numerous logistical challenges for unprepared businesses: how to equip workers with the tech they need; how to sustain communication and productivity; how to prevent cybersecurity breaches and/or a complete infrastructure meltdown.
Businesses are still scrambling to address these issues. But what needs to happen now is a permanent transition from these quick, reactionary fixes to a more long-term continuity strategy.
Business after COVID-19: what the new normal looks like
What does business look like in a post-COVID world? In all likelihood, it will be similar to the current decentralized nature of many organizations, but with more permanence.
Regardless of how soon a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, or when the “economy reopens,” there is likely to be a long-term shift in how companies conduct business. New emphasis will be placed on employee health and work flexibility. Business operations, too, will be made more flexible and agile.
This could mean:
- Employees allowed to work from home indefinitely (as is already happening in some industries).
- Decentralized workforces with operations being carried out in numerous locations, rather than a single site.
- Permanent shift to a “contact-less” economy with greater emphasis on workplace health, sanitization and distancing.
- Acceleration of AI and machine learning to bring greater efficiency to operations, reduce the time and expense of manual processes and adapt more quickly to market shifts.
- Heightened focus on business resilience, continuity and long-term sustainability, particularly in response to uncertain economic factors.
Businesses must begin making this transition now. Those that continue to use a sloppy, reactionary strategy aren’t actually surviving this crisis. They’re merely creating more risk and delaying their inevitable failure.
So, how do businesses actually make this transition happen? Let’s break it down into the most critical technology categories.
Businesses need to take a good look at their business continuity plans (BCPs) right now and consider drastically revising them, if not starting over completely.
Why? If your operations have dramatically evolved, then so should your continuity planning.
Yes, your business faces many of the same threats today as it did before: natural disaster, data loss, hardware failure, network interruptions and so on. But what do those disruptions look like now that your operations have changed? How might an incident such as data loss affect your business if your teams are spread across a continent?
Additionally, consider all the new threats that have emerged in the wake of COVID-19. In many ways, relying on a remote workforce can create new cybersecurity vulnerabilities and other risks if it’s not executed properly.
Businesses would be wise to conduct new, far-ranging risk assessments and business impact analyses to determine an adequate continuity strategy going forward. These findings are likely to uncover many of the vulnerabilities and recommendations we highlight below.
A shift to remote work means your data now lives everywhere. Your employees are spread out all over the city (or the country). They’re working on different devices, including their personal laptops and phones. They’re connecting to their home Internet. They’re saving files in all kinds of unsecure locations.
It’s a cybersecurity nightmare.
IT departments rushed to make remote work possible – for example, by equipping them with devices, helping them connect to the company network and so on. But that was the reactionary response. Now, businesses need to consider how to bring more security and efficiency to this infrastructure.
Similarly, many companies had to rapidly create or expand new digital channels for customers and suppliers to engage with their business. But this too resulted in untested systems being deployed, not to mention the increased stress on infrastructure.
At the heart of these vulnerabilities is your data – the lifeblood of your business.
To adapt to this new normal, businesses must deploy stronger data protection solutions that secure and back up your data, no matter where it lives.
For example, this could mean deploying endpoint backup protection on every remote device, so that no files are at risk of being lost permanently. Also, it means transitioning to a more robust BC/DR solution – one with more resilient backups that aren’t prone to the data-corruption problems and other issues that older systems are notorious for.
Stronger data protection also means faster, more dynamic recovery. So that when data loss occurs, whether it’s a single file or a widespread ransomware attack, systems can be fully restored in minutes, not days or weeks.
Remote access and collaboration
Step one was creating a process by which employees could work from home. But if remote work is going to be the new normal, then businesses need to think long term. Employees’ work needs to be as efficient and productive as possible, while also fostering a collaborative environment that keeps your top talent motivated.
The pandemic ushered in an explosion in Zoom meetings in numerous industries, but often without the guidance or oversight of IT. In some cases, users bypassed the companies’ existing, secure video-conference systems entirely, either because they didn’t know it existed or weren’t instructed otherwise.
Companies need to switch from the mindset of “Okay, this works for now,” to a long-term strategy: “Which solutions strengthen, improve and integrate the most seamlessly with our existing processes and systems?”
The same goes for collaboration tools. Remote workers need simple, secure systems for sharing files and collaborating across platforms and devices.
In previous posts, we’ve pointed to the efficiency of Datto Workplace for streamlined file sharing and syncing, and management. But businesses ultimately need to determine the right solution based on their unique needs, operations and existing infrastructure. To stay competitive in the long term, businesses need to steer away from a disparate mishmash of tools and transition to a unified system that consolidates multiple solutions into one.
File sharing is just one example of the many cloud services businesses need to start relying on more heavily. This is true whether the workforce is centralized or remote. Cloud applications and software-as-a-service (SaaS) can vastly improve operational efficiency.
By leveraging the cloud, data can be accessed from anywhere and updated across all devices in real-time. There’s no shortage of SaaS solutions available to support nearly every aspect of your operations: email, CRM, sales, logistics, HR, employee time-tracking, project management and so on.
The questions businesses need to consider are:
- How can these systems be streamlined and secured against threats like cyberattacks and data loss?
- How can IT retain greater control over these systems to ensure they are safe to use and easy to manage?
- Can some solutions be deployed on the company’s own private cloud?
Data stored within these platforms should also be backed up whenever possible, because often the provider does offer their own backups for user-caused data loss. SaaS platforms like G Suite, Office 365 and Salesforce can be backed up with independent tools, such as Datto’s Backupify. But if no backup solution is available, businesses will want to consider routinely exporting data (or creating their own application for automating this export process).
We mentioned the importance of data protection and backups. But that’s just one piece of a multi-layered cybersecurity strategy that businesses need to implement going forward.
With threats on the rise, more devices being used remotely and IT systems under increasing stress, businesses are more vulnerable than ever.
To adapt to this new normal, companies need to harden their defenses now. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before the next disaster strikes.
Just last month, global IT services company Cognizant suffered a ransomware attack that exploited vulnerabilities in its remote-desktop systems, which had been expanded in response to COVID-19. The company fully recovered in just days, but the damage was already done. The incident is expected to cost Cognizant $50 million to $70 million in losses.
This is a prime example of unintended lapses in cybersecurity that have been created by the pandemic. To eliminate vulnerabilities in the months and years ahead, businesses must conduct a deep reassessment of their cyber-defenses, including anti-malware, network security, ransomware protection, employee training, email filters and other measures.
Business after COVID-19: This is only the beginning
These areas only scratch the surface of the technologies that will need to be utilized to keep business operations agile, efficient and secure.
Nobody can predict when the coronavirus crisis will be “over,” but doing business is likely to look very different when it is. Companies in every industry need to be aggressive during this period of transition to create a roadmap for long-term sustainability and survival.
Get expert guidance
If you need help with your business continuity planning as it relates to data protection, BC/DR, file-sharing or IT infrastructure, contact our business continuity experts at Invenio IT. Call (646) 395-1170, email success@invenioIT.com or request a free demo.