How IT Can Effectively Manage the Remote Workforce: 5 Best Practices You Can Follow

06/12/2020 by: The SunView Team

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As we transition to a post-pandemic climate, digital transformation is a topic that has only been heightened as organizations adapt to a rapidly changing landscape. Whereas not so long ago IT Service Management (ITSM) was often viewed as a necessity, but not prioritized, in lieu of more revenue-driving investments, now it’s being pushed to the forefront as a means to maintain critical business continuity and support the sudden massive shift to a primarily remote workforce.   

It should be a top priority for organizations working through this crisis to do everything in their power to support their remote employees by establishing IT best practices and procedures that help to maintain operations and keep the remote workforce productive. 

Read on for five IT best practices for managing a remote workforce. 

1. Equipping Your Team

Right off the bat, you’ll need to make sure your remote employees are well equipped to do their jobs. Provisioning essential hardware and software like laptops, mobile devices, monitors, videoconferencing cameras, and applications – or even home office furniture; should be a top priority for getting employees up and running quickly from their remote locations. 

With the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, many organizations quickly realized they were not prepared to manage the sudden onslaught of equipment provisioning requests in a timely fashion. Simply having a process in place for equipment procurement may not be enough. Skagit County was able to leverage ChangeGear’s ITSM workflow automation to quickly manage the ordering of large quantities of laptops to support their remote employees, as well as get real-time tracking from order status through setup.  

Consider implementing process automation for ordering and provisioning equipment that allows IT staff to quickly order equipment in bulk. Not only will this save them time and work effort, but it will help to reduce human errors that often come from too much form field data entry. 

2. Preparing Access to Tools and Systems

As important as provisioning equipment is, managing access for your employees is perhaps even more critical when supporting a remote workforce. You will need to provide access and permissions for the tools, services, and systems your employees need to keep them productive while also managing any security concerns that may arise from permitting remote access connectivity.  

First, you should take inventory of your organization’s most critical systems for which you will need to manage user access. Reference your hierarchy of roles and permissions, and consider the potential risks of opening them up to remote VPN connections or user-owned devices. If you don’t already have a scalable VPN plan in place, be sure to carefully consider the scope and resources it will take to implement one. 

You should also consider managing common service and application access requests via a Service Catalog. An effective ITSM solution can automate these requests by pre-approving access for users based on role or job title. Providing users a streamlined self-service experience helps to reduce workload for service desk staff and enables end users to faster find knowledge and request services. 

3. Making Support Available

As face-to-face interactions become less commonplace in light of the COVID-19 crisis, collaboration must be a top priority to maintain a smooth working environment. For the service desk, this means working extra hard to quickly resolve remote employee requests and incidents, and maintain a constant stream of communication and knowledge distribution across the organization. 

ITSM best practices play a key role when strategizing how to make support available to your remote workforce. Whether your users are on a web portal, using a mobile device, chatting with a virtual support agent, or communicating through email; an effective ITSM solution gives users multiple ways to access their support services. Consider auditing the various channels and technologies your end users prefer to use when interacting with the service desk, and deploy necessary solutions to manage them to best suit the needs of your remote workforce. 

Additionally, consider promoting and distributing knowledge base articles across the organization to gain maximum coverage. This can be in the form of intelligent search functionality that gives users recommended articles based on keywords or a solution’s effectiveness, internal portal sites with pinned resources, announcements, FAQs, and tutorial videos, or even chatbots that recommend common solutions to users before they submit their requests.   

4. Managing Corporate Policies and Procedures

It’s very important that your IT’s internal corporate policies and procedures reflect the realities of supporting a remote workforce. For example, let’s say that it may not have been part of company’s policy in the past to allow employees to use their own laptops or mobile devices when accessing the corporate network. However, such stringent policies may need to be flexed to provide employees a viable solution for working remote. Perhaps it’s necessary to allow users to work from their own devices, with the limitation that all work email communications are only accessible through an encrypted VPN. This provides a flexible middle ground that meets both employee and IT security needs.  

Look carefully through your established policies around BYOD, access to outside corporate networks, user group permissions, physically shipping hardware to remote locations, etc. Consider the risks associated with adapting your corporate IT policies, and work to make strategic changes that maintain security while better supporting a remote workforce. 

5. Monitoring and Adapting

Now that you’ve fully made the shift to a remote working environment, you shouldn’t forget to monitor and track your staff and employees’ experiences. In order to maintain maximum productivity, you’ll want to keep tabs on service desk trends and patterns that affect your organization’s system and services infrastructure.  

For example, noticing an uptick in engagement metrics for self-service may correlate in a reduction of low-level requests for the service desk. This is a positive trend. If there are worrisome trends, such as slower response times or spikes in incident tickets, you’ll need the visibility to spot them quickly so you can work proactively to resolve them. 

Consider an ITSM solution that provides near real-time visibility across organizational departments. Your staff should make use of dashboards and reporting capabilities to keep close tabs on KPIs that may signal potential issues for your remote employees. 

While the challenges of a post-COVID-19 world may seem overwhelming, it’s clear that organizations are able to successfully adapt and evolve to support a remote workforce with the right planning, process and best practices to execute.

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