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Stepping into the Anywhere Workplace, Part 3

Feb 4, 2016

Oh no! Where’s my phone? 

Dashing back into the coffee shop, I let out an unintentionally loud “Oh thank goodness!” as I spot the familiar black silhouette, still sitting on the table, half-hidden behind my recently emptied mug. My noisy return fortunately does not disturb any of the nearby patrons. Instead, a few of us share a knowing glance and a smile, bonding over that moment of panic and relief we all know too well. I was lucky this time. That’s not how it always turns out…

If you can be anywhere, so can your gear, and with it access to all your personal and company information. Now lounging around with my feet up on the couch, I’m still able to bridge the gap from my current Anywhere Workplace to the office. In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we discussed how the right choice of hardware and software can give you and your employees unprecedented flexibility in where and how you work. The flip side is that a lost or stolen laptop or smartphone represents much more than a missing device. It could effectively mean the theft of the entire guts of your company.

So how do you reduce the risks that come with the Anywhere Workplace? Take a look at how much time, thought, and attention you plan to put into setting up the right hardware and the right software and services (quite a bit), then first invest even more on setting up the three Ps: policies, procedures, and people.

I know, when someone says “policies,” usually eyes glaze over. It’s bureaucracy, paperwork, legal mumbo jumbo. It’s definitely not the appealing or fun part of the Anywhere Workplace. But really, “setting a policy” just means answering the question “why and how are we all going to use these tools?” so that everyone knows in advance and everyone agrees. It is, however, perhaps the most complicated of the three elements of the Anywhere Workplace, the most often overlooked, and arguably the most important.

For example, how do you want to handle the practice of ‘Bring Your Own Device’ or BYOD? Do you want employees with work email on their own phone? How would you make sure your company information was deleted off that device if the employee resigned or was fired? Do they have enough security on their phone? And that’s only the first set of considerations.

Would you want things handled differently if the ‘anywhere’ was a resort in Mexico rather than a coffee shop down the street? Are there different legal requirements in your industry for information crossing borders? Even if your employees never actually leave the country themselves? And where should information be stored so that others who might need it can still get to it, in the cloud or otherwise?

From your policies come procedures. If policies ask the why and how, procedures tell you the what and the where. Where do I save the final version of the report versus the drafts? What do I do if I lose my phone? What do others need to know about what I’m doing?

Our cautionary real life tale comes from a company that didn’t think through their policies and procedures before issuing smartphones, with access to their cloud data storage, to almost every employee… no requirements to lock the phone, no procedures for if a phone was lost. Within days of issuing the phones, they noticed that large amounts of data had suddenly disappeared from their cloud storage. Fortunately their IT company was able to trace the deletions to one specific employee, lock them out, and restore the missing data (thanks to a solid back up plan). When confronted, the employee responded that he’d lost the phone at a bar the weekend before and didn’t think to tell anyone.

Which leads us to the third P: your people. Policies and procedures will do your company little good sitting unread in a manual somewhere. They need to be easily accessible and in front of your people. Proper training, and the occasional refresher course, needs to be in place to ensure that the policies and procedures for your Anywhere Workplace are understood. Then you will need to ensure that your company’s systems reinforce, and sometimes even actively enforce, your chosen policies. Everything from messaging on posters and screensavers, to reminders on checklists and forms, to mandatory passcodes on devices. Taken together, the right combination of hardware, services, and policies will ensure that your move into the Anywhere Workplace, whether small or large, is a successful one.

And should you feel the need to bring in an expert hand to guide your transition to this new way of operating, make sure you’ve considered the following:

  • Is your expert fully versed not only on the technical specifications for the hardware and software you will need, but also on the larger policy and risk implications of the changes you are making?
  • Do they fully understand the goals your company wants to achieve, or the underlying business challenge you are trying to address?
  • Do you feel confident that they are giving you the full picture for balancing the cost, convenience, and security equation?
  • Do they have the commitment and capacity to advise and support you beyond the initial set up?

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