Tag Archive | remote working

It’s time for remote web conferencing meetings to positively change the game.

It’s time to act different to get different. Outside of the core fundamentals of life I value KNOWLEDGE and TIME higher than most things. Remaining knowledge hungry ensures the world is forever a captivating and interesting place to be. Optimum use of time ensures both essential and desirable socio-personal and business outcomes can be achieved with metronome like consistency and efficiency.

Home or remote working can deliver a mass of advantages including the removal of time lost to commuting, the potential to maximise time available for non-work activities, the chance for services to remain available through times of crisis and the potential to offer work opportunities to different demographics. However, it requires a rethink of work behaviour or meeting etiquette to ensure the remote collaboration or meeting experience is beneficial to all. Web and video remote conferencing services used effectively have the potential to “change the game”.

The points below are a handful of ideas to optimise and unlock measurable value from the use of remote web or conferencing platforms. Many are well known and common sense practices, but at this challenging time should be applied with increased levels of consistency:

Prepare the remote working space and web collaboration tools in advance of the remote meeting. Clear background clutter in the room if broadcasting yourself or your environment using video or web conferencing. At its most basic, move your seating position into a hallway with a blank wall behind you if you don’t want family pictures or your home environment on display.

If you do or don’t not want to use video during the remote web conferencing meeting, explain to all participants the need or benefits of using video (ability to see and interpret body language, etc). Video within a conferencing platform can be selectively used with participants either interacting via voice, video or both. Unless company policy forces the use of video, engage in a manner that feels most comfortable for all participants and if that means no video for the individual participant, it should be their choice.

Web remote conference meeting recording is a very important issue to address at the start of any meeting. The meeting host must convey their desire for the meeting to be recorded or not. If a participant for legal, privacy or other reason explains they do not want the session recorded the recording option must be turned off or the participant must leave the remote meeting. Background recording of a session by stealth contravenes all privacy guidelines and statutes.

Check to ensure the web conference remote access device (laptop, smartphones, tablet) is working and connects successfully at least 15 minutes before the call. It stops all parties losing the first 10 minutes of the call due to connection issues.

Send any pre read content for the remote meeting participants by Email 24 hours before the meeting or at least an hour if it’s a last minute request. Explain in the email the importance of the pre read email content to be absorbed ahead of the remote session to deliver context and additional insight. This will save 15 to 20 mins at the start of the session ensuring all participants are at the same knowledge level.

Circulate, ideally in the same email as the pre read content, the need for the remote meeting, the outcomes of the actual remote conferencing session (what does good look like at the end), a few bullet points to consider as topics for “discussion” or topics for “decision”. This ensures the remote conferencing meeting participants attend the meeting with views already formed to be discussed and tangible outcomes in mind.

If the main speaker will be occupied answering questions during the meeting from the start, appoint an alternative meeting chair to keep the meeting flowing, stop a single point or person dominating the meeting or to keep referring back to the meeting objectives and outcomes highlighted in the pre read email.

And lastly consider the impact of the duration of remote conferencing meetings. One hour is a time frame all can accommodate with enthusiasm and energy. One to two hours should also deliver valuable remote conferencing meeting outcomes applying the meeting etiquette techniques previously mentioned. Longer than two hours may be challenging for all parties based on keeping all participants fully engaged without human, person to person, proximity based energy. Longer remote conferencing or collaboration meetings are possible prepared and managed well but shorter, direct remote engagement seems to be effective.

I hope the content above is useful as we all expand the well-known and effective remote web conferencing approach and flip it for the short to medium term into the primary organisational, societal and personal user engagement platform.

Used well remote web conferencing (audio and video) will help to maximise the value of that golden component of life, “TIME”. Remote collaboration and conferencing tools used as the norm, in primary engagement mode have the potential to change the way we interact and work forever. But as people we need to re-calibrate our remote or home working engagement expectations first because the platform is only a vehicle or channel to achieve that engagement.

Until next time.

Colin W

Business Line CTO UK (Networking & Security)

Twitter: @colinwccuk

Its time to redefine the meaning of “Work” – signposting the new normal for remote users

It could be said the word “WORK” has been misunderstood forever. Its neither a location or something to do with business only endeavours but a description of the product or effort applied to deliver an output. The current virus outbreak is encouraging us to reset historical perspectives on the nature of WORK and perform a cultural reset, with work for many shifting from the defined confines of a corporate address and instead to a location neutral “output” delivered wherever the employee or customer may be.

The effective use of digital platforms is key to a successful remote employee and customer experience when it delivers the value expected by both parties. This is hardly new, with evidence daily of the value of digital collaboration and engagement platforms used to bridge geographical, social boundaries, for human engagement and access to services based on our use of social media platforms every day. However, the use of remote user, remote access and digital collaboration platforms as a critical success factor of business continuity through this time of unknown unknowns may result in some organisations determining existing processes, platforms, security and governance are insufficient.

There are number of steps organisations should consider to ensure they are well positioned through this challenging time and continue to deliver a positive employee and customer experience.  Firstly, ensure the lines of communication are clear with corporate guidelines explaining the approved way to perform company activities using remote or digital platforms. Simplicity is everything and organisations must strive to simplify user engagement via corporate digital collaboration platforms to make them as easy to use as the social media platforms accessed regularly by users. Simplicity is also key to successfully crossing the cultural adoption chasm. The creation and publication of easy on-boarding or quick start guides for users (and potentially customers) to reduce the load on helpdesk teams and to encourage self service should be available to all.

The network will play a massive role in the success of any remote worker, digital collaboration or remote user engagement programme. It’s important to check the network capacity, availability and resilience of inbound communication links to ensure sufficient bandwidth exists with latency optimised based on the unforeseen increased volume of remote users and external customer interaction. Increased use of video conferencing may place additional loads on networks via links previously not used meaning a thorough review of user paths, devices, workstyles and engagement expectations will deliver real value (consider how a user works, not how the network “should” operate). This may require discussions with telecommunications carriers from an operational and contractual perspective to gain confidence the user and customer experience delivered remotely is not sub-optimal and positive.

Remote access VPNs (virtual private networks) and digital conferencing platforms for both users and customer are in use today but a short term cultural shift may be required to use them as the primary engagement mechanism. Additional levels of employee guidance and potentially customer facing communication to convey the best way to maximise engagement and customer satisfaction via a predominantly digital engagement method should benefit all.

If remote access or conferencing platforms of the scale required do not currently exist or capacity augmentation is required it is straightforward to on-board functionality via cloud based VPNs, collaboration and remote access solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing platforms with minimal levels of reconfiguration required (consider the operational overhead or security impact). One button meeting join / start whether desk, mobile or other device is used is essential.

Security as expected must be at the heart of all remote employee and customer engagement. It’s important to issue security related policy guidelines explaining how to conduct business via remote or digital platforms to ensure both organisations employees and customers are protected (for example discussions about session recording). Security is best delivered “built in by design”, automated and requiring minimal user interaction.

In summary remote user and customer engagement using digital remote access, collaboration or conferencing platforms can deliver and maintain a positive customer experience through this challenging time. However, organisations must prepare well (in an accelerated timeframe) and operationally configure platforms to ensure this different way of working is as is simple, secure, seamless and beneficial as any previous way of working. And who knows, for many positive reasons aligned to work life balance in the digital age, the current challenge may signpost opportunities and benefits that help us to make this new way of working “the” way of working for many more in the future.

Until next time.

Colin W

Business Line CTO Computacenter UK (Networking and Security)

Twitter: @colinwccuk

 

No place to hide if you know what to look for

There is nothing like a good story in the IT world to generate a flurry of online chatter. In recent time weeks the “homeworking ban” proposed by a well known technology company has risen to the top of the corporate discussion agenda.

But this blog is not about the ban as such, but new information about additional insight that validated or supported the merit of “withdrawal of work from home privileges”. It is rumoured that information gained from vpn logs (that record remote connections) highlighted a reduced use of the vpn platform, thus indicating little use of remote connectivity to the corporate network.

If we cast our minds back, IT logs were considered by many to deliver more hassle than value. Rarely was anything of use found within, but they still were key elements to be stored securely and reliably, as part of the backup regime. It’s true, database vendors have always utilised logs to good effect to aid with transaction integrity and recovery, but for the rest of the IT community, logs equalled hassle…

But in the case of the use of log data for evidence to support the “homeworking ban” or the forensic use of log information for analysis after a major security breach, and worse still the use of log information unbeknown to us for malicious intent to launch a security attack – these examples indicate there was always “gold in the hills” but few knew where to look.

System logs pretty much exist for all elements within IT systems, software, hardware, process, you name it, everything has one and often many logs that hold a treasure trove of insight for those clear on how to and what to look for. SIEM (security information and event management) platforms, deemed by many as the perfect tool to reactively and proactively interrogate log data and turn it into true business insight, are moving from desirable (unless PCI compliance forces their use) to mandatory corporate information systems. SIEM solutions are ideal for taking often meaningless IT system data and presenting correlated, relevant business insight.

Many of us lack the time to look in system logs, nor understand what to look for (and equally what to do when we find what we are looking for), so the deployment of a market leading SIEM solution will certainly provide all of the gain with none of the pain (the configuration and deployment headaches of old are long gone).

The moral of this blog, don’t presume because you may not know how or where to look, that the information doesn’t exist. You just need to know what you are looking for (and hope someone skilled isn’t looking before you find it).

Until next time.

Colin W