The shift to remote and hybrid work marked a significant change in how teams connect. In 2021, Gartner reported a 44% rise in collaboration via apps since the COVID-19 pandemic, and workers said they spend just 33% of meeting time in person.
In a hybrid workplace, collaboration apps play two crucial roles. The first is to help team members overcome the physical distance between them to collaborate effectively synchronously or asynchronously. The second is to help make data and projects available so that employees can access everything they need to work no matter where they are.
Achieving both of these goals takes a variety of apps, each serving different needs. IT must be diligent in ensuring your company’s IP, privacy, and confidential conversations are adequately protected as they travel across these apps in your tech stack that connects in-office and remote workers.
To make hybrid work successful, IT must balance security and user experience. When software is difficult to access and use, adoption falls off, slowing collaboration and pushing users away from provisioned tools and into the realm of shadow IT. And if this goes on for too long, tool sprawl will make collaboration more challenging and less secure. This is why IT teams must take a few critical steps in implementing solutions that keep hybrid work secure.
Understanding your users and their needs in a platform
When IT learns that a new app is gaining traction in their business, they should adopt a human-centered approach to ensuring its adoption is secure and learn from its users. Why do users feel they need it? What data is stored in it, and where? Will it be used internally, or will external contributors be invited to collaborate? These questions will help determine whether the app can achieve its purpose while protecting company data.
Once IT has gathered information on business needs, it can bring value to users by focusing on the areas where security and experience align. New apps should be integrated into Just In Time (JIT) provisioning tools that provision licenses for users when they need them. They should also be integrated into TFA platforms that verify identities and make access easier and more secure. Finally, adding them into Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) systems will help keep them secure across devices, which is especially important in hyper-mobile hybrid work environments.
Feeling confident in your vendor’s practices
Before deploying any app and integrating it into your tech stack, you should feel confident in the vendor. At the bare minimum, apps should encrypt data in transit and at rest, and certifications for SOC2 and ISO27001 indicate the vendor has defined processes for security from a technical and personnel standpoint and should be considered “musts” for storing your corporate data. They should also be GDPR compliant, which requires the ability to segregate data and store it in appropriate geographic regions.
When vetting a vendor, you should go a step beyond taking certifications at face value. Ask specific questions that you feel are important to your company. What happens when employees offboard the company? What steps do they take in physical security? Do you offer Data Loss Prevention? You can learn a lot about a vendor by how they answer these questions and by how willing they are to invest in your trust by answering them.
Monitor trends to stave off shadow IT
Every so often, a new category of enterprise app truly goes viral because it unlocks new capabilities or offers a vastly improved experience over older ways of working. Such a movement occurred a decade ago when messaging rapidly exploded to replace email as the preferred tool for internal communication, and continues to happen today. To keep up, IT must operate under the assumption that early adopters in your company will eagerly find and use these tools, whether your organization knows it or not. IT should continuously monitor the market and work proactively with business teams to find apps that expand their collaboration capabilities while also meeting stringent security expectations.
Visual collaboration has been one of those emerging technology categories transforming hybrid work for the last two years. Gartner predicts that by 2024, visual collaboration applications will be the center of 30% of meeting experiences, enabling collaboration equity to drive interactive and dynamic engagement.
These whiteboard tools help drive engagement during hybrid meetings and help teams create artifacts of conversations that they can take with them and access from anywhere. With this trend currently exploding, IT has an opportunity to improve innovation by vetting and selecting a secure visual collaboration vendor and standardizing it across the organization.
Build a hybrid-first tech stack
The transition to hybrid work requires collaboration across an organization to be successful, and IT’s role is one of the most important. The technology you choose for your team will impact their productivity, engagement, and ability to innovate. And that technology must be as secure as possible to protect your company from threats and other vulnerabilities.
To be successful, IT must design its tech stack with a hybrid-first approach to security and user experience. A tech stack built for hybrid work will support work in an office setting, but one made for in-office collaboration won’t necessarily transition easily to remote or hybrid environments. And in an unpredictable world, all organizations should be ready for these transitions to occur with little warning and strive to minimize their impact on engagement, productivity, and security.