5 most common business challenges in the COVID-19 era (and how to solve them)

5 most common business challenges in the COVID-19 era (and how to solve them)

As COVID-19 continues to change the way we live and work, many businesses around the world are battling to come up with a long-term, sustainable business plan in uniquely challenging and uncertain times. 

Increasingly, it’s becoming clear that we’re in this for the long haul. If your business is going to navigate this unprecedented situation, then now is the time to shift from short-term fire-fighting, and focus on the bigger picture. 

What are the major challenges facing your business? Does your IT department have access to the tools and data they need to drive large-scale changes, potentially while still working remotely? Your staff may be able to connect to your apps and services from home, but are issues with their local network damaging their overall productivity? 

In this article, we’ll share 5 of the biggest challenges facing businesses of all shapes and sizes, and suggest practical tools, tips and techniques that can help you prepare your business for the long haul.

Challenge 1: How to future-proof your business, in uncertain times

In 2020, modern cloud technologies made it possible for businesses to continue operating throughout the worst health and financial crisis in living memory. 

Over the past few months, employees have relied on the cloud to connect with co-workers and remain productive, even when unable to physically access the office, potentially for months at a time. 

Now, many employees are tentatively returning to their places of work, but the current situation is still unstable. To help future-proof your business in these uncertain times, it’s vital that you’re able to transition to a remote working model, potentially with very little notice. 

Changing conditions may make it unsafe for your employees to travel to work and interact with their colleagues face-to-face. New restrictions and government guidelines could also make it impossible, or perhaps even illegal for employees to attend their physical place of work. 

Many countries around the world are also heading into the colder months, when illnesses such as flus and colds tend to spike. Many of these common ailments share symptoms with COVID-19, so your business could be facing the prospect of increased and extended absences throughout the winter months. 

Requiring your staff to self-isolate every time they show signs of a cough or elevated temperature could be devastating for your business. As a responsible employer, the health of your staff should always be your top priority, but you also need to remain operational. No-one wants to lose their jobs at the best of times, but with the global economy facing a potential downturn, you should strive to remain profitable so you can retain your loyal staff. 

By investing in modern, cloud-based technologies such as Microsoft 365, you can ensure your staff have access to the data and applications they need to work from any location. By implementing these technologies now, you can future-proof your business, even in these challenging and uncertain times. 

Challenge 2: Managing network performance amongst a distributed workforce

Network performance has always had the potential to make or break your digital business. However, with many employees continuing to work remotely, network performance has become even more crucial – and difficult to manage. 

It’s vital that your employees have access to the data and applications they need to perform their work efficiently, regardless of geographical location. 

By opting for a modern cloud platform such as Microsoft 365, your staff will have the tools and data they need to analyze network performance, identify connectivity issues, and optimize their experience. Some of these tools are designed to be used within corporate environments, while others can be deployed on personal networks, such as the employee’s home Wi-Fi. 

Microsoft’s suite of performance software includes the Network Connectivity tool. To access this tool, sign into the Microsoft 354 admin Center, and then search for “Network Connectivity.” 

Network Connectivity provides a detailed assessment and network insights for all locations discovered from your network telemetry, plus any locations you add manually. 

Microsoft also provides a network connectivity test that employees can use to measure the connectivity between their personal devices, the Internet, and Microsoft’s network.

By using these tools, your staff can analyze and troubleshoot their networks, and continuously identify ways to improve their connections to Microsoft 365.

Challenge 3: Making decisions as a remote team  

In these turbulent and challenging times, your IT departments and technologists need to be able to respond to changing circumstances, fast. 

Recently, Microsoft’s chief executive officer (CEO) perfectly summarized the situation, when he delivered Microsoft’s quarterly earnings report to Wall Street: 

“We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months,” he said. “From remote teamwork and learning, to sales and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security—we are working alongside customers every day to help them adapt and stay open for business in a world of remote everything.” 

In this climate, your staff need a quick and efficient way to discuss emerging challenges with their peers, agree on a potential solution, and then submit their proposal to senior staff members. 

If you’ve ever rushed through a proposal, only to then wait hours, days or even weeks for approval, then you’ll know how difficult it can be to drive change. Even under ideal circumstances where all parties are physically located in the same office, change can be a challenging and convoluted process. 

Now, many IT departments have the added complication of having to navigate change remotely, in a world that seems to be changing all the time. 

This is never going to be easy, but having access to a modern and reliable communication tool makes it possible. To help them drive change, many businesses have turned to Microsoft Teams. In April, over 200 million people participated in a Microsoft Teams meeting in a single day, and Teams now has over 75 million daily active users. 

If you don’t fancy using Microsoft Teams, then there’s plenty of free alternatives available, including Slack and Zoom. However, Microsoft is offering a free six-month Office 365 E1 Trial that includes Microsoft Teams, so there’s never been a better time to try Teams. 

Once you’re up and running with Microsoft Teams, we have 6 productivity hacks that can help you get the most from your free trial, including automatically recording your meetings, saving time with slash commands, and installing Microsoft’s AI-powered Who-bot. 

Regardless of whether you opt for a modern communication platform such as Microsoft Teams, or popular solutions such as Slack and Zoom, these communication tools are essential for making the decisions that’ll drive your business towards success in an unpredictable economy.

Challenge 4: Keeping control of your data and applications 

Remote working has always posed a huge threat to your business. 

Even before the pandemic, the rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) left many businesses concerned they were losing control over their data, and a single lost or stolen mobile device had the potential to spell disaster for your business

Now, after months of remote working there’s the danger your employees may be storing more sensitive company data on their personal devices than ever before. 

This extended period of working-from-home has also blurred the lines between corporate and personal property. When you access your company email account and your personal Gmail on the same laptop, it’s easy to view them as equal. There’s a danger that your employees may be subconsciously treating your confidential customer data and corporate applications, as their own property, and not taking adequate security precautions. 

Many malicious third parties have noticed this trend, and are seeking to exploit this merging of work and home life. We’ve already seen a 20% spike in cyberattacks, as hackers used the COVID-19 pandemic to their advantage. 

To help businesses keep control over their corporate data, we’ve published the following how to guides: 

  • Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Studies have found that MFA can protect your organization against 99.9% of password-based security breaches. In this tutorial, we show you how to implement and enforce MFA across your organization. 
  • Block legacy authentication. Even with MFA in place, hackers can potentially use legacy authentication to bypass all your MFA protection. In this post, we show how to disable legacy authentication across your organization, which is our recommended approach. However, if this isn’t practical for your organization, then we also cover disabling legacy authentication for specific employees, using Conditional Access. 
  • Protect against password reuse. Password and username reuse was implicated in 80% of 2019’s hacking-related breaches. By taking steps to prevent password reuse, you can ensure that unrelated sites, apps and services don’t put your business at risk. 
  • Implement a Role Based Access Control (RBAC) model. 74% of data breaches involve access to a privileged account. By ensuring your staff only have access to the permissions they actually need, you can minimize the attack surface and reduce your chances of falling victim to a devastating privileged access breach. 
  • Say goodbye to passwords? Even the most complicated password is vulnerable to attacks such as keystroke logging and phishing. While it may seem like a strange concept, there is evidence to suggest that your business might be safer without passwords. In this tutorial, we discuss FIDO2 passwordless authentication, and why your business might benefit from it. 

By following the tips, tricks and advice in these tutorials, you can ensure staff continue to meet all of your security best practices, even when working remotely. 

Challenge 5: Managing increased IT support requests

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift to remote working was sudden and unprecedented. This left many businesses with little time to prepare, and may have even required staff to switch to unfamiliar devices, apps, services and remote working procedures. 

With events unfolding rapidly, dramatic changes were often implemented with little or no formal training. 

If your IT department hasn’t experienced a huge surge in support requests, then you’re one of the lucky ones! For IT departments who are already struggling with the day-to-day challenges of supporting a completely remote workforce and navigating a volatile and changeable situation, an increase in support requests has the potential to become completely overwhelming. 

Even if your staff are now comfortable with their new remote working setup, they may still be contacting your IT department more frequently than usual. 

When they’re physically present in the office, many employees naturally consult their peers before raising their technical issue via official channels. However, with many people still working from home, it’s not possible to simply ask the person sitting at the desk next to you! This breakdown in communication may result in staff contacting your support desk for problems that could have been resolved via an informal chat amongst peers. 

If IT becomes your staff’s first port of call for all technical problems, then this can dramatically add to your IT department’s workload. 

By providing access to modern, reliable communication tools you can encourage co-workers to support one another with minor technical queries. Alternatively, you might consider creating a remote working wiki, which contains all the information your remote workforce needs. 

You can also dramatically reduce the total number of IT support requests, by giving staff the power to resolve their own technical issues. By enabling Self-Service Password Reset (SSPR) you could potentially slash your IT help desk calls by up to 50%. Alternatively, you could setup FIDO2 passwordless authentication, which will save your IT department from all those time-consuming password reset requests. 

What next?

At Systems Assurance, we’re convinced that digital transformation is key to post COVID-19 economic recovery. If your business is going to navigate these challenging times, then we recommend investing in remote working tools and cloud technologies, and taking steps to support your staff’s emotional and mental wellbeing

Do you have any questions or concerns about remote working tools, platforms and procedures? Our team of IT experts will be happy to discuss your unique requirements, and come up with a digital transformation plan that’s tailor-made to suit you.

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Let us help you migrate to the cloud, with 6 months free access to Office365 plus a guided migration led by our team of specialist engineers. 

Speak to a member of our team today 0114 292 2911 or email sales@systemsassurance.com if you need any assistance.

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