Hybrid working: balancing productivity, efficiency, and security

In today’s digital workplace, we rely heavily on a wealth of collaboration solutions; in fact, these tools have become ingrained and part of our daily workflows. Despite hybrid working patterns and the return, for some, to a more traditional work environment, the continued reliance on collaboration apps remains strong.

This presents opportunities and challenges for the IT teams tasked with onboarding and offboarding employees and effectively managing an ever-growing plethora of tools and apps.

Without a doubt, these collaboration tools have improved communication and made work easier and more efficient. Applications such as Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet have become essential in the workplace. Each offers unique features and integrations, enabling employees to go about their daily work lives, regardless of whether they adopt the hybrid or fully remote working model.

They enhance productivity as different tools cater for different users’ responsibilities and department needs. Certainly, employees feel more empowered with the right technology, leading to better advocacy for newer, more efficient solutions.

Tools that aid hybrid working also create complexity

However, for the IT administrators tasked with managing the IT environment within a business, this proliferation of tools or ‘tool sprawl’ has led to several issues:

  • Data and workflow fragmentation: With numerous applications in use, there is often a separation of data and workflows, making it difficult to maintain a cohesive working environment.
  • Resource strain: IT administrators are now required to be proficient in multiple platforms, adding to their workload and straining resources.
  • Tool overlap: The use of overlapping tools can complicate workflows and create inefficiencies.
  • Data management: When employees leave, the data spread across multiple apps needs to be managed properly, including deletion from personal devices.

Organisations are using between five and 15 tools

According to our latest IT SME Trends report, 45% of UK businesses rely on five or more tools to manage the employee lifecycle and the applications they need to do their job – and almost one in 10 are using more than 15 tools. This makes management of the environment incredibly difficult, with two-thirds (66%) of those surveyed stating they would prefer a single tool to do their job rather than several-point solutions.

Additionally, the widespread adoption of these different collaboration apps has led to security challenges, not to mention the stress of the additional workload. The increase in the use of personal devices and home networks for work purposes has expanded the threat landscape and raised significant security concerns.

Half (50%) of surveyed UK respondents cited security as their biggest challenge, with new services/application rollouts and increased work burden in second and third place respectively.

Operationally, tool sprawl stifles productivity. IT administrators drown in tickets and manual tasks as they become overwhelmed trying to manage different tools. Often this leads to overbuying as organisations throw more tools at the problem in an attempt to streamline and resolve the issues. End users end up with multiple passwords to manage, store and keep secure, not to mention a more complex environment to try and navigate.

Enforcing strict governance and controls

Ultimately organisations must ensure that data remains secure no matter where or how employees choose to work. To mitigate these challenges while maximising the benefits that these tools deliver, organisations should focus on policies that standardise what apps employees use to help streamline workflows and reduce complexity. At the same time, ensuring strict data governance policies and controls are in place to maintain security and compliance.

They can do this in a variety of ways such as:

  • Mandating multifactor authentication: Enhancing security through multifactor authentication provides an extra layer of security.
  • Enforcing data retention policies: Implementing robust data retention policies ensures data is managed appropriately.
  • Implementing centralised management: Centralised management of applications and data helps maintain control and oversight.
  • Recommending VPN usage: Utilising VPNs for remote access provides an additional layer of security.
  • Increasing user training: Regular training ensures users are aware of best practices and security protocols.

Conduct a self-assessment of technology needs

IT tool sprawl presents hidden costs and risks that can outweigh or even contribute to the problems all of those tools seek to resolve. The starting point for any business is to conduct an honest self-assessment of technology needs and usage.

Here are a few simple questions businesses can ask:

  • How many tools is my organisation using?
  • Does it cost more money to manage all these tools than the benefits they deliver?
  • Are these tools adding any value? What would happen if we didn’t have them?
  • Do we have duplicates of the same tools? Do we have tools doing the same thing?
  • How can I consolidate the tool stack or reverse tool sprawl without this impacting the user experience?
  • How can I designate the core platforms that will help deliver the technology and services we need?

The progressive digital workplace requires a balanced approach to leveraging collaboration tools and managing tool sprawl. By focusing on security, compliance, and governance, organisations can create a secure and efficient work environment that empowers employees and enhances productivity. Regular feedback and continuous improvement of the toolset will ensure that the workforce needs are met effectively.