Remote Work Covid 19

How to Continue Your IT Projects in the New COVID-19 Reality?

The world has changed recently. The borders have closed, many companies have switched, or are switching, to remote work. It may sound simple, but how to actually make this change in a way that is secure and keeps your business productive?

Key points:
  • What are the main challenges to address during this time?
  • How to efficiently set up a remote work environment and implement the appropriate practices?
  • Which tools can help you stay prepared and productive in the long-term?

At Predica, we have some frames of reference for the current situation. Still, I only know a few companies that had a chance to observe it first-hand.

Two years ago, our customer Maersk had to handle a cyber-security crisis. It wasn’t a health-threatening situation, yet it was similar in many ways to what we’re facing now:

  • Company operations became disrupted by an external event (a cyber-attack).
  • 100k+ people had to establish a new way of work.
  • The organization had to act to address immediate operational issues.

Based on this and other experiences, I prepared some guidance for you in these uncertain times. Here are the key challenges you will face and suggestions on how you can deal with them.

1. Communication

Communication is key. You need to be able to inform your employees of any changes and make sure they can reach the updates from any location.

We had three key challenges:

  • Q: How to channel and address questions our employees had around changes in work and projects?
  • A: We used Yammer and then MS Teams with dedicated channels and Live Events.
  • Q: How to keep everyone up to date with the latest policies?
  • A: We use a single Teams Channel where we post all communication to employees.
  • Q: How to make sure everyone stays up-to-date, working on their schedules from home?
  • A: Using all that Office 365 and Microsoft 365 have to offer: both tools and configuration.

Here are some additional actions which can help you:

  • Create a dedicated Teams channel and add everyone to it. Teams are provided for free for 6 months right now. If you are not sure how to get them, email us and we will help you.
  • Microsoft released a free Crisis Communication app for Teams. You can get it here.
  • You can address everyone using a Teams Live Event. This is what we did with our CEO and country GMs who addressed our employees over a Live Event. Here is a link to a page detailing how to use it.
  • Live Event recording is available online through Microsoft Stream – it is one of Office 365 services. Post the recording on a Teams channel after the event.

What if you don’t have Office 365? No worries. Microsoft makes Office 365 available for companies for free during this crisis for up to 6 months. Email us, and we will send you information on how to request it.

2. Keep the projects going

The next task after setting up proper communication is to make sure that the work doesn’t stop. How to do it remotely?

Here are the tools we use:

  • Project communication: Microsoft Teams – addresses chat, audio/video calls, file exchange, etc. (free for 6 months).
  • Task management: there are plenty of options. Planner integrated with Teams works, and nothing beats shared calendars. All options are explained here (again – they’re free or available in trial quickly).
  • Development projects: Azure DevOps provides an environment to work remotely across the entire project team, from product owners, project managers to development teams. It’s available online and can work with your on-premises servers (free for the first 5 users).
Ensure your business stays productive with a remote work environment

3. Remote access

You may already have on-premises tools for your employees to do everything they need to in their remote work, and the challenge is to provide them with secure access.

Here are the options:

  • Fast, no VPN required; Azure AD Web Application Proxy. It can publish your on-premises app to people working remotely in 15 minutes (Azure AD Premium has a free trial for a month). We use it with SharePoint, Power BI, various web apps.
  • If you need remote workstations – Azure Windows Virtual Desktop provides them. We see a massive spike in usage, email us if you need more details and help.

We recognize that not everyone uses Microsoft services – however, those tools work with 3rd party solutions as well. Here is an example of how they might help with Jira, a very popular tool.

4. Securing your resources

When adopting remote work, you need to stay secure. We understand it. Here are some tips:

  • If you have Office 365/Azure – MFA is FREE for all users. Read this guide and ask us questions if needed.
  • If you have an existing VPN, you can add MFA to it quickly with Azure AD – here are the guides for popular VPN providers.
  • If you use cloud apps other than Office 365 – you can still protect them with Conditional Access in Azure AD.

Those things work for us. Mostly, the entire process aligns with what Maersk embraced after the incident, and what other customers do in similar cases.

Stay safe and productive, wherever you are. Check out our rescue kit. Download

Think beyond the immediate situation

Maersk came out from the attack as a different company:

  1. Remote first. In applications, communication, it’s the way to work together.
  2. Re-thinking its approach to IT and applications. Not only technical but also in principles, such as whether to choose on-premises or the cloud for a particular task.
  3. The cyber-security approach turned around 180 degrees. You can’t assume it won’t happen to you anymore.

A lot of things will change. We all know the technology is there. How to make sure you are doing the right thing? The best way is to stay informed and take advantage of others’ experience and knowledge.

This is why I’ve decided that this post is the best way for me to contribute and help. I want it to be your source of information to drive this change.

You’re not alone

If you have immediate questions where we can help, please contact us. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

You can also take advantage of our Remote Work ‘Rescue Kit’ service, whereby we can assess your business situation and help you develop a plan of action for free.

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Key takeaways:

  1. The key aspects you need to consider during an emergency such as this are communication, keeping projects going, remote access and security.
  2. Using tools such as Teams and Yammer is an effective way to keep everyone at your company up-to-date on the latest developments.
  3. Microsoft and Azure offer a multitude of tools that can facilitate communication at your company (some of them are available for free right now) and increase your platform security. Contact us for guidance to find the right solution for your organization.

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