by Keith Barthold
I’ve got good news: as someone who works on IT efficiency, productivity, and cybersecurity issues of just about every size and variety, I can tell you that many IT needs can be accomplished relatively seamlessly and with minimal investment. Unfortunately, the type and degree of issues that face companies today are only getting more severe, complicated, and consequential than ever before.
To help you navigate the new frontier of IT, consider three actionable steps to improve your IT productivity and cybersecurity position this year. These priorities are well within your financial means and technical capabilities and will keep you better prepared to deal with all the cyber threats lurking out there in 2019.
STEP ONE: Create greater productivity by reducing “the noise”
When I hear someone say they can’t afford to spend money on increasing the quality and capability of their IT systems — a direct productivity accelerant for their teams — I can’t help but shake my head. Companies can’t afford NOT to invest in their workforce. It costs time and money to be inefficient, and it’s only going to get costlier and more consequential in the future. Consider this scenario:
A recent CareerBuilder Harris Poll survey found that the average worker wastes 22 minutes a day wrestling with IT issues. For a full-time employee, that equals 91.6 hours a year. If the average employee makes $50K/year, that adds up to $2,748 in productivity losses per employee, per year. For 10 employees, that’s $27,480 a year. For 25, that’s $68,700. And for 50 employees, that’s $137,400. You get the point. And that’s just if the “average” user doesn’t experience any other IT issues.
Doing the small things like maintaining software, running the right virus protection, and keeping OS’s and hardware maintained consistently will significantly reduce the amount of time and issues employees face. The more efficient the system, the fewer distractions — and frustration — workers face.
STEP TWO: Maintain better onboarding and exiting processes and procedures.
The good news is that if you hire new employees this year, they’ll likely bring new ideas, methods, and tools to your organization. It also means that there needs to be some incorporation of those ideas, methods, and tools and technologies into your existing systems.
To the well-prepared company that has a well-defined and well-executed set of onboarding procedures, new employees will acclimate and become productive right away, both in accomplishing their job duties and in becoming an integral — and cybersafe — part of your team. To those who aren’t as prepared, transitioning a new employee can take weeks and may never be totally accomplished. A comprehensive onboarding plan should include training new employees about password security (see next tip!), pre-configuring company-provided devices such as laptops and phones prior to their first day, and making sure they understand if and when using personal devices for work is permitted. Failing to design this process correctly result in a frustrating scavenger hunt with a dozen requests to IT to get access to the resources they need: files, printers, the right applications, even the right email signature and font packs.
The protocols for exiting employees are also essential. Not only is a clear and comprehensive set of well-defined job duties and procedures highly important (ideally with the outgoing worker briefing the incoming one), but there is also the issue of cybersecurity and safety. Especially in industries with highly sensitive info — which includes nearly everyone these days — this is a security and compliance risk that can’t be overlooked. Companies must ensure that exiting employees return devices, immediately lose access to systems they could compromise, and do not knowingly or unknowingly expose sensitive information. The prepared will prevail; the negligent could be in for a world of legal and data breach headaches.
STEP THREE: Increase password sensitivity and ongoing IT and security training.
One of the greatest threats to corporate data and information security isn’t the rise of cyber threats alone — though they’re growing more sophisticated and complicated every day. It’s in the area of personal passwords. People just don’t take the time or give appropriate attention to the simple process of creating and maintaining password integrity.
Keeping track of passwords can be an arduous task for employees. Changing them on a regular basis is also a seemingly mundane and meaningless task. And enforcing policies and rules around password security can be onerous. But failure to do so sets the company up for compromise and reputation damage. And that type of ineptness and lack of attention to detail is exactly what cybercriminals exploit.
Employees need to be trained and reminded of password protection, specifically to change passwords regularly and to avoid re-using any personal passwords for company-related websites. Companies should consider investing in centralized identity management and multi-factor authentication.
Don’t think of these as random, superfluous tasks but an intentional, coordinated IT/cybersecurity strategy with the appropriate tools, ongoing reminders, and training that will equip your team and provide greater safety to your company’s vital data. IT efficiency and cybersecurity is an all-the-time issue, not a one-and-done proposition.
Technology is changing at never-before-seen speed, enabling companies to run faster, more efficiently, and more effectively. But that also means that unprepared organizations will suffer from inefficiencies and ineffectiveness.
I believe that these three simple steps are relatively easy and inexpensive to attain and upkeep, and with the proper time, attention, and commitment, you can significantly add to your company’s performance and potential through highly effective IT.