The adverse effects of the COVID 19 pandemic have jolted businesses out of their comfort zone to reanalyze their disaster preparedness plans. In a bid to stabilize, mobilize, and return to normalcy, organizations have redirected their efforts towards implementing tools and policies that help mitigate risks triggered by the crisis. These risks include unexpected downtime, low revenue, business continuity interruption, budget outruns, workforce safety, among others. 

According to PwC, organizations must focus on 6 key areas:

> Crisis Management and Response

> Workforce

> Operations and Supply Chain

> Finance and Liquidity

> Tax, Trade and Regulatory

> Strategy and Brand

 Keeping those key areas in mind, the following IT tools and policies will help businesses mitigate risks associated with the ongoing and future crisis:

Critical IT Tools every business needs

1) Resource management tool

The volatile and competitive market has put businesses at stake, and even high performing organizations are grappling to protect their profitability and achieve sustainable growth. To overcome these challenges, resources, which are the biggest investment for most businesses, must be efficiently managed. A sophisticated Enterprise Resource Management (ERM) tool can future proof your business by utilizing enterprise resources most efficiently and intelligently. 

Resource management applications centralize information of all enterprise-wide resources into a single source of truth, thus eliminating all silos within your organization. This, in turn, gives clear visibility of all your resources across multiple verticals like business units, locations, or domains enabling competent resource allocation. Forecasting and capacity planning provide insights for pipeline and future projects to prevent last-minute drills, and over/under the allocation of resources. Also, business intelligence provides customized reports for making informed decisions. Unlike spreadsheets and other outdated legacy tools, ERM software seamlessly integrates with your existing systems and eradicates ambiguity and chaos that could crop from double data entry.

2) Online collaboration tools

Studies have shown that online collaboration tools increase productivity significantly. When your teams are geographically dispersed, getting everyone on the same page and ensuring everyone is updated about the latest project developments can become an uphill task. This is when a collaboration tool comes handy not just for remote work, but also as a means for in-house teams to keep up with incoming tasks while managing workflows.

Whether it’s uploading documents, sending notifications and updates via email, running effective meetings online, or communicating efficiently between team members, collaboration tools help you achieve that and more. The market is flooded with online collaboration tools, so it’s wise to choose one that fits around your business needs and work effectively with remote teams in particular.

3) Telepresence technology tool

Telepresence has enhanced remote work collaboration by enabling surreal interactions between scattered teams as if they were physically together. Telepresence technology means having an electronic presence elsewhere, regardless of the team member’s location. The way multiplayer online virtual games have transformed the way online gamers interact, telepresence has reshaped the way cross-functional and remote teams communicate. 

Realistic high-quality HD video ensures remote team members are visibly engaged, focused, and alert in a telepresence enhanced meeting. Facial expressions and body language constitute an important aspect of enhancing human communication. So whether it’s adding persuasiveness to a sales presentation, or fostering trust to help reach goals faster, telepresence does it all. 2D, robotic, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and the recent True Holographic (as seen in Star Wars), this multi-billion dollar trend has disrupted business management and collaboration alike. 

4) Social media management tool

More than half the world’s population are active social media users. So it comes as no surprise that businesses can use it as a medium to connect better with customers. While companies are churning out amazing content for Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter posts, the efforts and investments are futile if you don’t monitor their impact and influence effectively. 

This is why a social media management tool can come very handy, especially while working remotely. They help marketers save time, stay organized, and optimize their efficiency. Since managing multiple social media handles separately is exhaustive along with the fear of losing brand consistency in the process, having a single platform that lets you schedule, manage, and aggregate all social media accounts scores major brownie points. 

Now that we’ve listed a few handy tools, lets next look into the critical IT framework to regulate the usage of these tools at the workplace.

Critical IT Policies

Critical IT Policies

1) Business continuity plan

COVID-19 pandemic has caused major setbacks to organizations worldwide. Without a recovery or backup plan, businesses are grappling to resume normalcy and keep pace with the competition. A business continuity plan or BCP is important, and every business should have one. It helps prepare for a crisis and continues to function even after the disaster ceases to impact. 

By minimizing recovery time BCP helps businesses quickly get back on track. It typically includes instructions and procedures that an organization must follow when a disaster strikes. BCP not only covers business processes, but includes human resources, assets, and business partners as well. Proposed actions should comply with the existing workplace relations and health and safety frameworks. Invest in a BCP that includes a business impact analysis, incident response, and recovery plan.

2) Remote work policy

As remote work is the new norm and also the future of work, organizations must have a remote work policy in place. It is not just necessary for organizations who just shifted to remote work mode, but also for those who have been actively working in remote mode before the crisis began. Remote work has a plethora of benefits for both the employer and the employee. So, enabling remote work is a way of showing your employees you care about their work-life balance and trust them to be autonomous. 

Instating a clear policy helps remote employees work productively from anywhere irrespective of the situation. It should include guidelines and principles of remote working, right tools, best practices, clear expectations and boundaries in a remote set up, and legal rights of remote workers. Unlike a standard workplace setting, one can’t peek inside a remote worker’s cubicle to see what they are up to. 

A remote policy entails clear deadlines and goals for employees. That along with clear communication reduces the chance of missed deadlines or work quality compromises. By establishing a clear policy about remote work, you ensure both your employees and your business reap the rewards.

3) VPN usage policy

As the number of remote workers continues to rise, cybersecurity becomes a growing concern for businesses especially when workers are using personal and public networks. In a recent study conducted by OpenVPN, 90% of IT professionals reported remote workers are at cybersecurity risk and 70% of telecommuters, in general, posed a higher risk than their onsite counterparts.  

Some of the most common cyber breaches for remote workers include phishing attacks, remote desktop account attacks, and distributed denial of service (DDoS). Signs like the appearance of new programs you don’t remember installing, your computer is slower than usual, or losing control over keyboard and mouse could be red flags of a possible cyberattack. Unfortunately, many employees are not able to recognize these cues as cyber breaches and shelve them aside as hardware malfunctions. 

Virtual Private Network or VPNs enables employees to secure access to an organization’s internal network and data, irrespective of the location. Since access to internal resources using a VPN comes with accountability to uphold network security along with safely and equitably utilize and protect company resources, establishing standards and policy for the same is beneficial.  

4) Risk management policy

Every organization is at the risk of facing unforeseen threats like accidents, natural disasters, legal liabilities, or even strategic management errors that drain costs or worse, cause it to permanently shut down. Risk management enables organizations to prepare for the unexpected by narrowing risks and extra costs before they occur. Like for example, cybersecurity and data breaches and risk management strategies to alleviate them have become a top priority for digitized companies. Therefore, a risk management policy that includes processes for recognizing and controlling threats to the company’s digital assets is indispensable. 

Risk management includes the practice of addressing and handling threats in the form of cybersecurity attacks and compromised or lost data, to the organization. The process of establishing appropriate risk management guidelines is critical to ensure that company operations, productivity, and reputation do not suffer an adverse impact. It covers employee safety, protects resources from potential harm, insurance needs to save on unnecessary premiums and minimizes legal liability while ensuring the stability of business operations are not jeopardized.

Over to You

The aforementioned IT tools and policies will help your business resurface from the grim times and get back on track faster than it normally would. These critical must-haves will not only mitigate the present damage but also help future proof your business for the long haul.