CIOs during COVID-19 – How to maintain normalcy?

CIO

COVID-19, as we know, has been declared as a pandemic by the WHO. The virus has unfortunately affected several parts of the world at different scales. The key to managing an emergency such as this one is to stay indoors and implement social distancing. Social distancing is done to control the spread of the virus as much as possible. Amidst all of this—everyone trying to stay indoors has to maintain a degree of normalcy in their lives. This includes businesses running as usual but in the comfort and safety of your home. Working remotely is a policy that has to be followed across all businesses wherein someone’s physical presence is not imperative, unlike in the service sector.

Remote work has always come with its set of security complications when it isn’t implemented with appropriate measures. Now, at the time of immediate requirement to work remotely, combined with the effect of the situation on businesses and the market—remote work becomes all the more challenging.

Be it to maintain security, ensure data privacy, manage supply chain vendors, keep bad actors at bay, or to ensure productivity amidst all the chaos is a daunting task. The CIOs of several companies have spoken up about the initiatives they have taken to keep things as normal as possible. And you can imbibe them in your organization too to ensure your operations run smoothly.

The emphasis on digital business

At times like this, whether an organization is thoroughly prepared or not, there are bound to be affected at different scales. It can be their lack of preparedness or even customer-related difficulties. But, the businesses that are digitally prepared are the ones who can have a smoother journey as compared to others.

Sandy Shen, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner, says, “This is a wake-up call for organizations that have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience. Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term.”

There are three aspects where the CIO must place his/her focus: employees, vendors, and customers.

Empowering the employees with the right technology as well as information

Some businesses might be of the habit of providing laptops to their employees. But, for those who were using desktops, this brings in newer challenges. But, there are several ways to manage it.

The CIO of Autodesk stated how his team is leveraging virtual desktop infrastructure technology for the employees who are used to working on desktops to provide application access on their personal computers.

Using devices provided by the company might come with its own set of policies. But, with personal devices, stringent BYOD policies must be set. These policies can be clearly stated to the employees virtually with an efficient collaboration with the IT team.

Once the device situation is normalized, it is crucial to have everyone on the same collaborative tools. This helps teams get in touch like they are sitting next to each other while maintaining pandemic safety.

Managing accesses can seem overwhelming. Ensure you know who is allowing or revoking which access. Hold off on providing accesses just to get something done out of lack of coordination. Pay close attention to privileged accesses, especially. It is always a best practice to have someone monitor them continuously with intelligent solutions like Identity Management.

Every remote work is an open opportunity for hackers to take advantage of. Unfortunately, this is no different. Employees have to be educated about the right kind of VPN, avoiding public Wi-Fi, and best practices while dealing with the internet, in general. Employees might switch between working from their laptops to phones, where employees tend to interact with social media. Considering how everyone is advised to stay at home, they may tend to spend a lot of time on it. Interacting with social media has to be done smartly; phishing attempts are happening all the time. You can read our blog, perils of social media, cybersecurity, and businesses to stay aware and informed.

There is also a vast amount of wrong information about COVID-19 on the internet. As an organization, it’s best if there is a forum, application groups, and regular information circulation on emails where people can share trustworthy information from CDC, WHO, and so on. Such information doesn’t only save your employees from panicking but also protects their data.

A lot of attempts are being made by hackers to send across malware-infected website links promising information about the virus. Even documents are sometimes maligned with malware. There have been incidents of emails claiming to contain infection prevention measures. The email urges recipients to download attachments, which contain malware. There are other attempts where people are sent a link claiming to be a tracker of the COVID-19 cases. These links, unfortunately, steal usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers stored in a user’s browser.

Inform your employees about all of it and ensure you provide them information from the right and safe sources.

Engaging your customer amidst everything

As an absolute necessity, business travels are not allowed anymore, unless necessary. This removes the face to face meeting factor and might make it harder for some businesses to close deals or to simply nurture the relationship with their customers. CIOs can think about ways to leverage technology to their benefit. Such as automated tasks, chatbots to keep the customers engaged when human resources may be lacking and conferencing tools to better heed to the customer’s demands.

Ensure you work on keeping them engaged virtually. Organizing webinars, providing informative documents, and calls on video conferencing platforms can take your business relationship a long way.

Encourage your employees who deal with customers to communicate effectively. Whether it is an outage or a partner who needs support with sales material, make sure you have provided your employees with enough resources to help them.

Supply chain vendors – ensure safety from their end too

We have seen time and again, how crucial it is to ensure supply chain security. A vulnerability from their end could put you at risk even if you have security measures in place. Ask your vendors how they are backing up data and mostly if they are facing a crisis because of a lack of human power.

Stay informed so that you could provide a helping hand and also prepare your business as well.

The situation that surrounds us is indeed challenging in many ways. The key is to get through by ensuring the safety of all employees and associates while maintaining the factor of normalcy. Going about your day as usual amidst unprecedented times, at home, might seem like a daunting task. Still, with the right tools and information, a CIO can surely lead the way in empowering businesses.

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