The three stages of the work from home transition
In this episode, Paul and Dave welcome Ty, Smart Dolphins Virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO) onto the podcast. They uncover what they have identified as the three stages of the work from home transition. They talk about collaboration, business continuity, productivity and cybersecurity. They paint a picture of the workplace of the future-one that is no longer confined to the four walls of an office and unpack the competitive and cultural advantages of embracing the cloud.
If you are completely bound to the four walls of your office that might become a problem one day for all kinds of reasons. And even if it doesn’t become a big problem all of a sudden, it might just mean you’re a little bit slower or the way you deliver your services might be perceived as not quite as up-to-date as some of your competition.
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Paul: Welcome to the podcast today, my name is Paul homes, I am the lead trainer here at Smart Dolphins and I’m here today with the President of the company, Dave Monahan. Dave, how are you today?
Dave: I am excellent, thank you, Paul.
Paul: Outstanding. Joining as a guest today is Ty Hedden who is one of our virtual chief information officers here at Smart Dolphins. Ty, why don’t you give us the 20-second synopsis of what a vCIO does.
Ty: Hey Paul. So, a vCIO is essentially an outsourced CIO. So, where many smaller companies don’t have that C-level/technical consultant within their own team I help fulfill that role at Smart Dolphins by plugging into other roles.
Paul: There we go, and of course welcome to the podcast. I put you on the spot right away.
Today we’re going to be talking about the experience we’ve been through– really the experience that the businesses and organizations that we work with have been through around this whole covid-19 pandemic situation. The big concerns that came out of the survey that Smart Dolphins ran, as well as touching on some business topics, like staffing and revenue, but also when it comes to the IT topics, things like business continuity, are our backups good? What happens if our server goes down?
Collaboration is a big one as well. Like, how are we getting our staff working together and then of course, security is huge I think for a lot of people, just a huge gray area. And so, I’m hoping we can shed some light today around that and hopefully, crack that open, for people who are listening, get them thinking about things that they haven’t. But I think, it’s probably good to just dial it back and look at what’s happened over the last while very methodically. And I think when we’re doing that, what we’re talking about is that first stage. Ty you referred to it as a stage one which was that initial rush: we have to get people working from home, we have to get them out of the office, and we have to get them home and working fast. With my clients, it really exposed some of the technology deficits for many of them, where they didn’t have really good password policies in place, they were maybe dragging their feet a little bit on some of the modern security features. They’ve been around a while and it really impacted their ability to get people operating quickly. So, I don’t know if you had some thoughts, as well around or maybe some anecdotes around that first stage when people were rushing to get home.
Ty: Yeah, that first stage was really a measure for many businesses. It gave you an almost immediate sense of where your IT is and how modern it is and it put you into one of a few categories. One category that we saw was just having to scramble, realizing that your technology is older and it basically confines you to the four walls of your office: you need to come into the office, your files are stored on a server in the back room, and as soon as you walk out the front door, or try to do something away from a server, your experience and your efficiency changes dramatically, you’re kind of locked into that environment.
We saw other businesses though that we’re sort of in this more hybrid world where they had started making steps toward modernizing, i.e. moving more data in the services like OneDrive or SharePoint, maybe dipping their toes into Teams a little bit. So, being able to easily collaborate and do some meetings, but being a little bit tied back to the office still, maybe they’ve got a database that just doesn’t have a cloud-hosted version hosted yet. Kind of being halfway there having to make some adjustments, but more or less being able to move people within days to home.
And then we saw another subset which was the modern office. And for those it was a much different experience. We had some organizations where they were basically a 100% prepared for this and other eventualities. They can just shift to home and the experience is almost entirely the same as being in the office and they’re independent of that space. And that was really cool to see because for us, I think it just really reaffirmed that that’s the way things are going, and for a bunch of reasons it makes sense to get prepared for that one.
One is for disaster recovery. I think in the past, many businesses have thought of fire, flood, server failure.
Paul: No one had pandemic on their radar.
Ty: Exactly and we had planned for those things for a long time, but this wasn’t any of those things and I think it had an even more profound effect than some those events might have had.
Paul: That is a really good point actually because, of course, I’ve also been a vCIO at Smart Dolphins. And when we talk about disaster planning, I can’t remember ever using the word pandemic or global pandemic as one of the things we were preparing for and the way you would prepare for that from a business continuity perspective, is very, very different as well.
We live in an earthquake zone, right, so we’re probably going to see an earthquake at some point, right? It’s just really obvious. And floods happen all the time. And if your server room is in the basement and you get computer equipment on the floor, well that’s a problem, right? And so we would talk about that sort of stuff.
I know Dave you probably have a birds-eye perspective too, from Smart Dolphins. I know from my experience, I was already working one day a week from home, and so I was set up pretty good already. I’ve since gotten myself set up a lot better at home. I know it was fairly seamless for most staff, but there was definitely still even a few quirks because of some legacy things at Smart Dolphins as well.
Dave: Sure, I just want to come back to business continuity because I think we often use those examples and people literally think about those things with like “I don’t care about an earthquake. The Island is going to sink.” So, they’re not sort of connecting to…Well, there’s all those unknown risks… “Oh, well, I don’t care about pandemic.”
Paul: And, Dave, I think you hit it spot on because any disaster that you talk about is the disaster that somebody can find a good reason not to care about. And most disasters of course, don’t involve the end of the world, they involve making things more difficult. But usually the world carries on. And so, if there’s a big earthquake on Vancouver Island, the chances are pretty good the island isn’t going to sink into the ocean and that you might have to open your business, two or three days later, right? So, anyway.
Dave: These things can also be thought of positively. I think a lot of people are, it’s probably a topic will get into more depth, but it isn’t just about bad things, it’s this general idea of being flexible and mobile isn’t just about the disasters. To speak to Smart Dolphins, I think we were well-prepared where we tripped up is not having thought through the logistics of people. Not everybody has a spare room. So, I think some people struggled with the dog or the kid or the… That’s common…A lot of that stuff you can’t necessarily plan for, but I think technically, we were pretty well set–up. I think we made the call and the next day everybody was at home and had been using Teams for a while, so it was really easy to connect to everybody. It was quite smooth. I don’t know if our clients even knew we had sort of shifted. We communicated it a few days later, but we are sort of seamless to them. So, we’re eating our own dog food. I guess that is one way to think about it.
Paul: Well, in many ways, I think we responded more quickly as well, which was great. I’m a bit of a worry-wart as Dave and Ty know now well. I was sort of like, “Hey, we have to get moving ahead of the curve on this stuff.” And so thankfully, I’m really glad we did that because when the mad rush happened, we were already operating by and large, from home and having people in a good spot to help our clients through the rush right.
Dave: And that really allowed us to do it early. If it meant a big project to get us functional, that would have maybe put us at more risk.
Paul: And yeah, it would have been a dreadful experience for our clients, and I think the amount of love that poured in from our clients during that process was…I’ve never seen anything like it. Just because everyone was worried, and we were just able to help them so quickly, so that was huge positive experience.
So, that was Stage one, right? Everybody is now working at home with their dog and their cat interrupting them and trying to figure out how to have meetings on Teams and Zoom and all the different weird things. Maybe going from four monitors down to a laptop monitor or something, right?
So, stage two I think, we could characterize as getting people working well from home and that’s a completely different animal. You can get people working, but maybe not so ideally.
Ty: A couple of things that stand out to me is that at stage two, they are really beginning to make a plan and commit to moving in that direction as well. It doesn’t mean that you are necessarily even acting on all of those changes yet. You’re definitely picking away at them. But you’ve got a roadmap in place and you know what your technology is going to look like down the line. One scenario that I often use to help people envision what that would look like is: what if you started the business tomorrow from scratch, right? And there was no legacy, you didn’t have anything. What would you put in place? What services would you need? Right?
And I think the reason that that exercise is important is because that’s what new competition is going to be doing. If you have a new competitor that starts up tomorrow, today, they can essentially they can wave their credit card at a few different companies and a few different subscriptions. They can sign up for Microsoft 365 and a couple other services, and they basically have built their IT infrastructure with a predictable operational cost and they’re super flexible… Right out of the gate. So, they’ve already got that business continuity in place and they’ve got predictableIT costs and they’ve got mobility. So, we have to be driving toward that. So, stage two, you’ve probably got some of that in place but you’ve got a plan and stage three you’ve almost fully acted on that, but stage two we are kind of pulling things apart right? We’re getting to the point where we’ve got a few things left. Maybe it’s that database or that custom software that you had written 10 years ago, and we’re figuring out what’s next, how do we either improve that and modernize it, or how do we dump it and go to something that’s more appropriate today?
Paul: It’s so important that leaders really digest the message here. I’m giving a presentation called “The workplace of the future AKA right now.” But one of the lines in my presentation is: your competitor is one cloud service away from popping into existence and if you’re sitting there with your on-premise server, and some custom application nobody really likes and a legacy of a whole bunch of mess in your IT infrastructure and you’re just struggling to grind through that. Meanwhile, along comes a competitor that none of that matters. And what’s interesting, too, from a business management perspective is, we’ve experienced this, right, as a lot of these companies, including Microsoft have moved over to a subscription model software–as–a–service. There’s been a lot of resistance from businesses that have been around for a long time because they used to buy their software and then they would run the same they buy Microsoft Office licenses they’d run them for four, five, six, ten years and they would milk that license for every penny they could get. And the problems of course, which from a financial perspective, seem to make a lot of sense at the time. And maybe did, right? But the problem of course is that if that’s the approach you’re taking, you’re missing out on all the new features that are available through the Office 365 product for example and of course, you’re making yourself that much less nimble for the future.
And so I think these start-up companies that are going to be competing against you, they aren’t looking at these monthly licensing costs as a burden like, “Oh I have to pay monthly for this thing.” They’re looking at it as an advantage, a strategic advantage and I think the mindset really needs to shift on this. And I know I was kind of in that category myself, three, four or five years ago: “Well yeah, Microsoft, they’re kind of taking your money, because they got the subscription model, and if you bought the software, you’d probably get five years out of it, and you save a little bit of money doing that.” And my mindset on that definitely shifted probably two, three years ago. But I think a lot of businesses still think that way, they’re still stuck in this cloud service, software-as-a-service is a way of software companies making more money from me as opposed to really keeping you up–to–date, keeping you with the latest versions of things, and then being able to add those new features.
And I think the one huge thing for Microsoft Office 365 in particular, is Teams, right? Just this collaborative workspace, that literally didn’t exist when Office 365 came out. That I think is absolutely good. And I thought this even before the pandemic but especially since. I think we’ve seen a quantum leap and this is absolutely the way people are going to work in the future and the way certainly Smart Dolphins and a lot of companies we work with, they’re already working this way and they’re moving towards working that way and just the benefits in the efficiency of doing that. So maybe talk a little bit about collaboration in some more detail.
Ty: I want to just quickly touch another point you made there, as well. And that was around the perception of cost for some of these subscription services. And I think there can be a little extra pain in Stage two, and I think that’s why there’s some resistance because often at this stage you are going to working in a hybrid environment, and maybe for a little while. So sometimes people are a little resistant to incurring the cost of say Microsoft 365 for every user when they know that they’re going have to run a server for a little bit and maybe they’re going buy some hardware, some licensing, so it can be a tough place to be. But the main point is that we have to make a plan to get out of that place. It might mean that in the short-term that you’re kind of living in both worlds and you’re absorbing some of the costs of both worlds but we can’t just stay static because we won’t evolve and what will happen is competition will. And all of the sudden, like you mentioned, you’ve got those new businesses out there that are super flexible. They don’t worry about hard drives dying, it doesn’t matter if a pipe bursts in the office, because there isn’t a server to be damaged. Everybody gets to work from home or around the world, they can just instantly do that and they’re also insulated from other things. They get the advantages of much more robust security that things like Microsoft 365. Things like ransomware, that sort of stuff isn’t really a factor for them. That’s kind of the tough part of that stage. I definitely feel for businesses, but we have to make sure that we have a path in place, and we’re kind of ready to deal with a bit of that short-term pain or short-term cost and long-term it’s going be a much more competitive.
But yes, collaboration is one of the biggest components of this new modern IT. And for us, we’re living in Teams right now. Much of my day is spent either with clients doing face-to-face meetings in Teams or internal meetings. It’s allowed me 1) to maintain my sanity through all of this while I can’t see a lot of these people in person, I can still work fairly naturally with our internal teams. It’s also helped you to find my communications quite a lot. We’ve basically done away with internal email. External email is a little different. That’s going be around for a long time. But internally, we have these sort of natural conversational situations. Instead of like an email train, which is just, it’s a little messy you never quite know if people are going to get back to you. The cadence of it is just, it’s not predictable but in Teams, I find it’s kind of like the next best thing to being in the office with everybody. I love it, in particular, for the meetings I do, where I can just pull up a spreadsheet and work on it in real–time with a co-worker because it’s kept in OneDrive, and all of these things just work together. That’s what collaboration is– it’s being able to work naturally with all of the different assets you have, all of the different data you have. And not having to overthink it. It’s a system that just works well and let’s us communicate. And I think Teams for us has been a huge that way.
Paul: Well, and I think I really started to appreciate only in the last probably few months just how brilliant the file collaboration component is because (anybody listening) you might be familiar, with this. You create a Word document, you email it to six people, you get a bunch of feedback, you get 17 people working on it, you don’t know where it’s been forwarded–it just creates this messy inbox nightmare. And file collaboration in Teams. You just load up the document, you can have a conversation about the document that’s saved forever, you can edit that document, you can look back at the revisions of all the edits and who edited what. I mean, it’s just so brilliant. And then when you’re finished, you don’t even have to email it to the customer, you can just share it, right from where it lives. And email is just awful to do collaboration on so I can’t think of a worse solution to collaborate on files then emailing it to people yet here we are. And yet, probably most of the rest of the world is still stuck in that email death spiral with their file collaboration. So, it’s huge. Dave sorry, you were going jump in the end.
Dave: It’s you started talking about the competitive challenges and it’s sort of like the stick, but I think what we’re talking about now is the carrot. I am fairly positive person and I like to not worry too much about our competitors and more think about what’s the opportunity for our mission, our culture, our people, and I think the main difference that we’re seeing now from five years ago when people weren’t as concerned about upgrading their Office suite, for example, is that those were just features for the individual but these things we are talking about now are operational changing things that change the whole company and change the internal email example is a perfect example, moving to Teams. It’s a perfect example of that and so much more impactful than “great, my new Word has some feature that might be great, but only one or two people in the company to use it” versus “we’re moving away from our internal email to Teams.”
And I think a lot of people, at least from my experience talking to people, it’s more about the how. They are very interested to make these changes but that they don’t necessarily… And I guess it’s a little bit self-serving. A lot of people just don’t have that IT plan, or have an idea of how to get through this and it isn’t easy. I think Ty mentioned plugging a credit card in and there is a degree of doing that, but it can be a very dangerous road in a lot of ways, and so making sure, your navigating this complexity especially from a legacy…So I think that’s where a lot of people get stuck.
Paul: There’s definitely a DIY mentality that creeps into technology. We talked about this a little bit before. And I used to run a web design company and I remember my main competitor for most of the prospects I was working with had their nephew working from their basement or their bedroom. Because they can throw a website together, they have some software, they can do it and my answer of course at the time was: “fine get your nephew to do it. Let me know when you want it to professionally.” But there is a lot of similarity in terms of collaboration. I think a lot of people, they think…“Oh, we just have to dive in, we’ll just set it up. We’ll figure it out as we go. We’ll make mistakes, and we’ll have to re-do things.” And I guess you could do that or you could learn from the experience of people who have gone through it and who’ve organized it for several customers. So, obviously Smart Dolphins we do projects for implementation of Teams. And I’m sure, for anybody else listening, your IT company probably does the same thing. And I think getting that expertise ahead of time, especially in this stage three, which I’ve sort of called “the clean–up.” Once we’ve got everybody working from home? They’re working relatively well. Maybe now, maybe you’ve implemented Teams, but it’s a bit messy, and maybe you want to circle back and look at the way that’s set up, clean that up a bit. And definitely look at things like security.
I think the other thing that’s really a silver lining to this whole situation is it’s given people the opportunity because I’m being positive like Dave right now to really shine a spotlight on so many of their business processes. And the example I’ve given recently is: if you started your company today, would you choose the software that you use, would you follow the business processes, you follow now, would you have the same structure that you have in your company today? Knowing everything you know today? And I think even before the pandemic, the answer for a lot of companies was: “No, there’s no way, we would do it this way. We’re stuck with this anchor legacy of some old custom software or some software that nobody really likes.” That’s just dragging your company along. Meanwhile, there’s some fantastic Cloud solution that again those lean nimble competitors can come along and get started in your business don’t have those problems, right? And so how do you take your advantage which is an established company that has trust and great customers and everything else and move it towards that lean, that nimble, that competitive space. Ty, tell me how you are going do that?
Ty: Yeah, you touched on a couple of things there and the first one I wanted to comment on was these are great solutions and they do so many things and make them very simple. But yes, there’s a little bit more to it then waving the credit card. They’re easy to sign up for but they’re also very easy to roll out poorly and cleaning them up can be pretty challenging. There are things that you can do let’s say in Teams if you go and set it up and you name a bunch of Teams and add people to them that are very hard to reverse if you decide that that’s not the structure you want, right? We want to make sure that there’s proper guidance and that there’s a plan for this too. It needs its own roadmap. And we’re often dealing with situations where data is already not organized well and just moving it from one place to another, well you’re just transporting a mess, right. So it’s often a really good time to measure those business processes you talked about. If you have a business process that can only happen physically within your office with people there, we might want to revisit that and find out why. What happens if we need to shift the way we work, for example, right?
Paul: Well, you don’t need to lose that necessarily. I mean obviously in the short term you do, but maybe that’s a really great aspect that physical touch with your customer, or even with vendors or partners, right? You don’t need to throw it away, but you do need to establish viable alternatives.
Paul: And there’s going to be reasons other than the pandemic to do that, right? Sorry to interrupt.
Ty: No, that’s a perfect point.
Ty: Yeah, we’re not talking about eliminating the core things you do or how you show love to your clients or that sort of thing. It’s just making sure that the way you do things fits with modern IT, right? If you are completely bound to the four walls of your office that might become a problem one day for all kinds of reasons. And even if it doesn’t become a big problem all of a sudden, it might just mean you’re a little bit slower or the way you deliver your services might be perceived as not quite as up-to-date as some of your competition. But back to the point of how do we get there?
Yes, we want to make sure that we’re doing a bit more than just signing up and letting people run wild figuring it out themselves as they go. If our plan is only looking a few feet ahead of us, it’s going to fall off the rails. So I think having a really good roadmap in place for what we’re going to use and how we’re going to get people into it. And then also making a plan for how we’re going to have continual coaching and development of this. For us, that’s been really important. Even after more than a year of being in Teams, we’re continually refining and coaching our staff on the best way to use it to make sure we’re all using it in the same way. So, expectations are uniform, right? You know that when you communicate with a co-worker in a certain way through Teams or through email or whatever it is, you know what the expectations are, right? You know how to apply different urgencies and where data should and shouldn’t be both from just an efficient workflow perspective, but also security and privacy which is becoming much bigger. So it’s more than a technical plan, it’s a cultural plan. How are you going to get everyone to fit into it? It’s how your managers are going to oversee it. There’s a lot more to it than just plucking your data into a new system and installing it on people’s phones and laptops.
Paul: Well, a usage policy as well, everybody has an email usage, policy. Dave, do we have a Team’s collaboration usage policy at Smart Dolphins? We probably should. We have an informal one, but HR departments around the world should be scrambling to determine what is a good policy around usage.
I talk about this in some of the online training, I do, but it’s pretty high level. It’s like financial stuff. Make sure you’re following good protocols you’re not relying on it. Obviously, sensitive data, like health data or credit card numbers that sort of stuff, you should avoid collaborating with that data. But really beyond that, every individual organization that uses Teams should have a pretty clear policy about what the expectations are. I know we do, but is it written? I don’t know, maybe it’s not yet.
Ty: Sorry to cut you off Dave. Paul just identified a part of stage three and that polishing. It’s also the stage where you start to leverage more of your costs, especially within Microsoft 365. So for anyone who is not familiar office 365 has been around for I think nearly a decade now.
Paul: Has it really been that long?
Ty: It’s getting close. So, Office 365 was basically Microsoft’s answer to help people get away from having an email server in their office or from having a bunch of capital expenses for Office licensing every few years. So, it got your email into the cloud, you got your calendaring, a little bit of file storage and it got you onto predictable cost per month for Office Licensing which was awesome. But it didn’t include at the time a lot of the things that we now understand to be modern security and modern management. So, what Microsoft did in the last couple of years, is they brought in Microsoft 365, so that’s basically the successor to Office 365. It includes all the things like, hosting your email and calendaring and file storage and Teams and all that. But what it does is it brings in much more mature security and management. And the reason I’m bringing this up now is because Paul was just talking about that Teams use policy and handling data the right way, whether it’s got credit cards in it, or some other personal information. And where you can leverage Microsoft 365 much further in stage three are controls that allow you to not just have a written policy for your staff, but actually enforce with your technology. You can do things like preventing people from logging to any Microsoft 365 service outside of Canada or not on a managed laptop. You can tag data, so you can decide that anything that has credit card information in it gets a certain tag and that data gets treated a certain way. Like it can’t be put on USB drives or it can’t be forwarded via email outside of your team. That’s something you just can’t do with your server sitting in the back office. And you also just can’t do it with Office 365, right?
And the reason I bring this up is there’s often a bit of sticker shock when people realize that it’s about 25 / user per month. But when you’re in Stage 3 and you start leveraging all of those controls, you start to get a lot more out of it and you get to a place where those silly little things like accidentally forwarding the super sensitive document to the wrong person actually becomes a lot less likely. Or, I won’t name names but there was a medical testing company in Canada that recently had a pretty massive data breach, and what happened was they X-filterated the data they took the data from the company and basically exported it and threatened to release it. With these controls in place there’s a very good chance you can prevent that type of scenario. So I think that’s really important to start thinking that way because we not only have to tell our staff what they are or not allowed to do, but the expectations around privacy have changed significantly in the last few years. People expect that you are going to protect this data. We don’t just need to work efficiently in it and be able to collaborate within it, but we have to be careful on how we handle it.
Paul: Well, it’s the law.
Paul: It’s literally the law.
Ty: And those laws are still evolving.
Paul: And they are still valid in a pandemic.
Ty: Law follows culture. It’s always a step behind but those are still evolving and they’re very likely to become more stringent. It’s not just getting onto a platform that makes you way more flexible and mobile it’s one that allows you to treat your data and your assets in a way that society now expects that you will because we are much more accountable than we were in the past. And so, that’s where that 25 dollars a month breaks down even further and it goes beyond that. There’s even more you can do. It’s a constant process of polishing. There’s a stage four even further down the road, right. And people are going to get there and if you’re at stage one five years from now…
Paul: Or stage zero?
Ty: In a lot of cases, that’s going to be a dying business. That’s the reality of it.
Paul: I think the truth is that you’re not dying today. You have time if you’re an established organization, you have some time, but you do need to take some really proactive constructive action now so that you’re not in that situation. I don’t know when that’s going to be. That could be two years, it could be three years, it could be five years. Every business, every organization is going be a little different. But being proactive about… And I think your point on data protection is spot on, if you’re in an organization that deals with a sensitive health or financial data, and you have regulators already, and I guarantee you that regulation is not going to become less stringent over the next few years, it is going to become more stringent. So, why not get ahead of that curve so that when your competitors are scrambling to get ahead, you’re already there.
Dave: This feeds right into a point that I want to make. We’ve been talking about three stages and this “clean up” stage. I really think it’s important that people transition into what I would say is the next stage which is thinking beyond the next few months. A lot of things you are talking about speak to: what is the trend? How is culture changing? How is law changing? And getting ahead of these things, so getting proactive and evolving. So again, shifting more positively to “How can I get ahead of this and sure, beat my competition, but also use these things so, simplify my life for my employees.” That doesn’t happen in little increments of reacting as you go, you have to pause and think about where things are going over the next year or two and make sure you’re really sort of getting in that stage of things and changing things for the long–term.
Ty: I love the point you just made about making things better for your employees. And I think that’s often one that gets missed, right?
Dave: It’s huge.
Ty: My job, my work-life balance and my satisfaction is just so much higher. My stress–level is lower because of the mobility and flexibility, this is a great example.
Ty: We are working from home and have been for almost three months now. We have a child, we have lots of concerns around school and just everything, right? Going out the front door… Me being able to continue working and having a job and being able to do it efficiently and with flexibility has been massive. My job satisfaction is much higher than it would be somewhere else where maybe I’m really stressed because now I need to find a way to get into the office and grandma and grandpa have to come babysit and they’re not comfortable with that because we are stuck with this older legacy system. And I think people are looking for this more and more. People are a little more aware of what that work life balance looks like and the things that the company needs to have a place to allow that. If you’re trying to attract a new employee and they’re coming from another company where they have those systems in place, it stands out. So, you can make your employee’s lives much better just by having good systems in place.
Paul: Well, and I think it intersects with productivity as well. Sure, you got everybody working from home, right? When you gave your description earlier of someone working from home. I can’t remember the conversation was… “But I’m on my laptop with my 13-inch monitor, and I’m used to my three or four monitors on my desk at the office, and I’m not collaborating on Teams, I’m not having any meetings, I’m not seeing any faces. All I get as an inbox and I’m trying to do my work.” Am I really going to be a super productive person? I think I would literally go mad if I had to work in that environment for eight hours a day as compared to what we are used to. And maybe that’s just me being…
Paul: Probably a little bit. But as a result of this I’ve managed to be probably almost as productive than I was before. And we’ve managed to make some big decisions within the company to move in different directions and try some new initiatives of where some people are probably just sitting there staring a little screen going: “I hate my life.”
Dave: I love you guys, I’m really grateful you’re really happy. But it is a commercial interest too. It speaks to the productivity. So it’s not just this philanthropic cause. It’s good business because you are going to stick around and you are going to be more productive. And we’re raising our expectations as a society, so that speaks to the expectations that I think most people have now. This isn’t the 90s anymore or 2000s.
Paul: The olden days as we I call it.
Dave: So, I call it spoiled. But really, this is not something that’s out of reach, for most organizations if they prioritize it, right?
Ty: So that had a conversation this morning actually with a client and we were just talking about how their team is doing and how she’s been able to work at home and what that transition was like. And we got to the point when we were joking “well, we just had to go in the office and get our chairs because our chairs at home wasn’t great.” And that’s a really nice place to be. Their technology is supporting them and not hindering them. When you have to shift to home and your biggest problem is your uncomfortable chair that’s where you want to be, right? And for me, that just really stood out. That’s pretty neat that you’re in that place.
Dave: We’re talking about companies maybe getting stuck getting here. And I think people don’t like change naturally, humans struggle with change. So, there’s a cultural challenge there, and that’s why Paul mentioned new initiatives. We’ve really been putting a lot into training, training our clients and the community. That’s such a huge part. If you’re going to throw this new world at our people, you want it to be positive. And so I think that’s a huge missing piece. So that’s just one, self-serving plug, but I think it’s a critical piece to this.
Paul: Let’s transition over to security because Ty, I would feel terrible to get you on the show and not talk about security, because I know that your head works well in this space. You have so much knowledge to share. We talked about Teams being this great collaborative platform and like so many things now, you can have it on your computer, you can have on your tablet, you can have it on your phone, you can join a meeting on your phone, it’s all great, right? So, I download Teams onto my personal cellphone and I start accessing files on that and maybe I download them and save them or email them from my personal email. And then three months from now, I quit, or I am laid-off and all this data is sitting on my phone. How does the company control that data when it’s sitting on my personal cellphone? They can’t delete the application, they can delete the account, but what are they going to do about all these files that I’ve downloaded onto my phone, right? And so this is one of the things that I think people in that stage three need to be thinking about it. It’s locking it down. And I know Microsoft 365 has a fantastic solution with mobile device management to do that. But most of the world is just waking up to these realities now. And I know for a long time, it’s been a real struggle to get people to take security seriously. And the context that I like to put it in, is the doomsday clock. Dave and I are old enough to remember growing up in the 80s, we would watch the doomsday clock and see how close we are to nuclear obliteration. And I feel like in the security world we’ve been on the cusp of that for five plus years. It’s been 11:59 pm and nobody seems to notice or care. And so I guess there’s lot to unpack there but maybe I’ll just turn it over to you. How do we tackle this 900-pound gorilla?
Ty: Yeah, definitely, and I think you made a really good reference to the difference between Office 365 and Microsoft 365 and some other platforms…everything’s evolving. But we just didn’t have those capabilities in the past and they just weren’t on anybody’s radar. The example you gave is where you have an employee and you get them an Office 365 account and now they’ve got access to all the stuff which is awesome, right? But the problem is they have access to all this stuff. So, what they can do is essentially go home and log into Office 365 on their shared family computer that there kids are on, that their spouse is on. They can install Outlook right from there, the download thing is available. And now all the sudden Outlook syncs and they have got a complete copy of their entire mailbox on their own computer or maybe they installed OneDrive and they have your finance and HR data on the computer. And then maybe that employee leaves the organization, so they get their phone as well, everything synced on there. And we have virtually no control over that data at that point. And that’s a huge risk not just if that laptop is stolen, but we can’t track a past employees with that stuff.
So, Microsoft 365 brings in a whole bunch of controls. And you talked about that mobile application management. So, what mobile application management is this really neat tool where you have an employee, you add Microsoft 365 on the phone, they can get their email and their calendar and Teams, but what the organization gets is they get a little bit of control over the device, just enough. So, they get the ability then to just selectively wipe the company data from that device. And why that’s really important is in the past, typically you had sort of like an all-in or all-out management for phones where the company gets complete control of it and they can wipe the whole thing which is a big problem because most people have a personal phone, right?
So, with bring your own device, you want people to bring their phone to the office, you want to give them some email and Teams for chat. But as an employee, I don’t want you having complete control over that. I don’t want you to be able to wipe out my family pictures. And we’ve seen that scenario. So, with mobile application management, the company can hit a little button and it pulls Outlook and pulls OneDrive and all that stuff is gone, but family pictures all that sort of stuff that all gets left alone. And you never have visibility or control over their personal data. That’s for me is a huge step forward, right? And there’s dozens of other controls just like that, but the key thing is we’ve got to get the right tools in place, so that we can manage things correctly and have the right policies in place so if we don’t, we get left behind. So maybe you let somebody go, or they quit and now you’re in this very own awkward situation where maybe they don’t want to hand over their personal device for you to go through and move everything manually, or maybe don’t have contact with that person, what do you do? How do you guarantee for your clients and stakeholders that you haven’t just put them at risk? And not to be negative here but we have to think through these things because we have a responsibility to handle data carefully, right?
Paul: Well, and in the past, we built alligator-filled moats around people’s office networks. The last time I counted, we had nine different security protocols in place protecting people’s corporate network. We have DNS filtering, we’ve got these super powerful firewalls that are virtually impenetrable and this technology is amazing and all it takes is to install the cloud component and not think about the implications of that and suddenly that entire superstructure of security just leaks. And again, if you’re just sort of having occasional chats in Teams maybe it’s fine but as more and more data goes into these things people do need to be thinking about rebuilding the level of security that they would have on their conventional network into their cloud presence right? Because that to me is a huge danger. And probably a hackers payday, right? They just can’t wait to get in there and get all the very loosely protected data.
The other part of it too is just user awareness too. We’ve had this problem for a long time. We build these massive firewalls that just make everything virtually impenetrable from the outside to these networks, and then somebody gets an email that slips through, they click on the link, and suddenly they compromised the network from the inside out, and that opens up the whole and brings whatever the terrible things are that they’re going to filter in as a result of mis-clicking. And so there’s a user training component too, that I think a lot of people just aren’t really taking seriously.
The literal last point of defense is each individual user, not just whether they are connected in your office, but also when they are connected with these cloud services as well. So, do you have some thoughts on that Ty? How does a business owner underscore the importance of being vigilant when it comes to security?
Ty: I’d even argue that they are the first and last line of defense really. There was a term that I think another dolphin in the office coined or borrowed from somewhere that I really like. And it’s building the human firewall. And we really need to think of it that way as something that needs to be updated regularly as new threats come out just like we would with firewall hardware and we need to make sure it’s working. And people are engaged in security and data protection as well. They need to understand the implications of it both personally and to an organization and they need to care, right? So that’s really critical and that comes with ongoing training and I think just helping people really understand that this matters nowadays. It’s risk management. Just like if you had a taxi company, you would make sure that people have the right license, that they had the right training, they had their insurance, they were boneable, cars are well-maintained that type of stuff. You wouldn’t just put somebody in a car and send around the city and expect that nothing bad is ever going to happen. That driver needs to understand that things they can and cannot do and the risks that are there and those risks are going to change over time. It’s really integral now and if we’re not training our employees regularly than we need to find out why and get that in place.
Paul: Well, I think we’re just about out of time, I think another podcast for another day Ty where we can dig into everything on security because there is just so much to unpack here and I almost regret a little bit that we didn’t jump into it sooner. But I know every time we have a conversation about security, I usually walk away learning something I didn’t know the last time that we chatted. And there’s so many different ways to view to look at it, and I think at the very least, business owners leaders need to take 20 minutes and just do a birds-eye-view and ask themselves like, what are we doing right now that’s potentially compromising our security? And I don’t just think about it in terms of firewalls and IT data but think about in terms of business processes and policies and all of those other things. And I bet most organizations, most leaders would be able to find a couple of things in that little short period. And so maybe that’s a takeaway for today, and hopefully next time we have you on we’ll just dive into all sorts of security topics because I always really enjoy your insights on that Ty. Dave final thoughts?
Dave: Well, I think I have a lot of empathy for business leaders being one myself and I could see hearing all this being very overwhelmed. And I think actually one of the last points you made was that as a business leader I have to go out and analyze my network or something. I think it starts with the culture as a company and emphasizing this as a priority. We come from a place in the past where IT was important but it wasn’t so integral. So I think just shifting and understanding this isn’t just sort of another line item or some other task right, it is a major company priority. And you find the good people to get you through that again, maybe a little self-serving there but I think making sure that’s it’s communicated that this is a priority and doing and seeing things that are actually happening to make that happen or just coming back and listening to the podcast, and we’ll talk about some of the stuff more. We will break it down a bit more. There’s a lot more we could talk about here.
Paul: There’s a lot more we could talk about here, but it’s so funny you said that because I’ve been in the business now for 30 years and I remember in 1990 supporting people with their software and the one computer in the office was used for half a day by one staff member and it didn’t connect to the Internet or anything like that. It just did some small task. And here we are today, in the future, and we’re collaborating with video calling, we’re doing everything that the Jetsons we’re predicting we would be doing right, except for the moving sidewalks in our houses. I’m not sure why we didn’t get those.
Dave: You don’t have one yet?
Paul: Not yet, I am waiting Elon Musk to make that available to all of us. But that point is often missed. And I think if you’re a business owner that‘s been in business for a long time and the way you think about IT, the way you thought about it is as a sort of side thing. Well, now there’s no question no matter what business you’re in, IT plays some very central role in keeping the business running. And if we ever needed more evidence of that this pandemic has been the thing that’s really underscored that for sure. Ty, thank you so much for joining us today. Do you have any final thoughts or words of wisdom for an our any listeners?
Ty: Yes, to piggy back on Dave’s final thought there. It can be overwhelming right depending where you are there may be a little or a lot to do. If there’s a lot to do we’re not going to get it done overnight and that’s okay, but what we can do is we can get a plan in place, right? And start there. This is something that happens over weeks or maybe years but just having the plan in place, that’s not too bad and it’s not that scary and then it makes everything else a lot less scary as we move through it.
Paul: Well thanks again Ty, thanks again Dave, have a fantastic day and to all of our listeners, don’t forget to subscribe and thanks for listening, we appreciate any feedback you can give us as well. What would you like to see us talk about on this podcast?