Evaluating policies, procedures and systems to be better prepared in 2021
Applied Connective offers business owners recommendations, predictions for the coming year
Albion, Neb. – (FEB 2021) The events of 2020 forced business owners to make significant changes rapidly, particularly when it came to supporting employees working remotely. This put many businesses into reactive mode, making decisions just to get by rather than thinking long term. In an effort to pivot into proactive mode and position themselves for a smoother year in 2021, business owners need to evaluate their internal policies, procedures and technology systems.
Applied Connective Technologies, headquartered in Albion, Neb., with offices in Norfolk and Columbus, has a unique vantage point into their partners’ business operations as a managed technology service provider. They met with a number of Nebraska-based businesses in recent months for lunch planning sessions to discuss pain points, evaluate current technology systems and provide recommendations accordingly.
“Monitoring and managing the inner workings of our partners’ business operations provides us unique insight into what works best,” says Ed Knott, owner of Applied Connective. “After working with hundreds of businesses, SMBs, hospitals, schools and county governments, we’ve developed a pretty keen understanding of what solutions are vital for businesses in this, as they say, ‘new normal.’
He continues, “It was a difficult year for everyone, and we hated to see otherwise successful businesses struggling because they didn’t have the right tools. So we wanted to meet with our own partners to see how we could help. We discussed what they’re currently doing, how to adapt if needed and what to anticipate in the year ahead and then offered recommendations based on our insights as well as trends in 2021.”
In these virtual and in-person meetings, the framework of the conversation was based around these pillars:
Evaluate and develop policies and procedures related to supporting a remote work force; then set up a clear communication plan to employees.
Set expectations on how remote workforce effectiveness will be evaluated.
Discuss and address the business’s cyber security posture and identify practices to mitigate risk.
Ensure the business has the right systems, processes and technologies to successfully support its remote workers.
Determine a transition plan to ensure the business is set up for the long term.
“We took Applied Connective up on their offer to sit down and discuss 2021,” says Genoa Community Bank IT Officer Julie Connelly. “We discussed a few of the hurdles we faced (and lingering problems we continue to face) as a team due to Covid. Ed, Will and Jarod noted some areas of vulnerability, identified a few redundant tools we could consolidate to save money and walked us through a few tweaks to help us get more out of our technologies. They also offered some ideas on how to shore up our cyber security, especially while this pandemic has increased the number of scams.”
For business owners looking for guidance on technology platforms that offer great value and resolve many common pain points, Applied Connective experts outline a few top options along with some additional security tips.
Struggling with security?
“When businesses have employees accessing company resources, such as servers, from personal computers and unknown networks, it can present real security risks,” says Applied Connective IT expert Jarod Dendinger. “Cyber threats such as malware, ransomware and data breaches are running rampant and on the rise, impacting numerous businesses in our area and resulting in downtime and lost profits. Every environment is unique and may require a non-traditional approach to ensure it is secure, but typically best practices will still apply no matter your size or needs. For our needs, we leverage Microsoft Azure, partner with a Security Operations Center (SOC), and use a Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) agent at Applied Connective, but there are different options available to meet your unique needs.
“Regardless of a business’s size, it can be said across the board that business owners absolutely must focus on gateway security and endpoint protection,” Dendinger stresses. “In today’s environment it is extremely important that your team has at least some degree of cyber security awareness training. We always want to be sure we’re reinforcing the basics: Make sure every one of your team members understands how to use multi-factor authentication (MFA), a virtual private network (VPN) and a reputable password manager. Do not neglect software updates, do not conduct business on public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks and do not click or engage with suspicious emails. These are simple but critical standards for your team to uphold in order to protect your business from cyber threats.”
Struggling with communication?
ACT Voice Manager Will Zoucha says, “Mobile phones are great, but get the most out of them by integrating a solution that allows for greater accountability and transparency.” Working with phones for 10+ years, Will knows what works for connecting a mobile workforce and is impressed with a few front-runners for such a scenario. “We recommend finding a cloud-based platform that’s robust, user friendly, and mobile, like Zultys. It’s great because of its per-user pricing and simple mobile integration that ensures your entire team is reachable any time from anywhere. With the mobile app, the whole team can stay connected, chat, file share, and see who’s online, and the ability to leverage status updates leaves no excuse to miss one another.”
Struggling to stay connected with the team and collaborate securely?
Knott weighs in, “This is the big one. Every business has had to navigate this problem.” He punctuates the point adding, “On top of feeling disconnected due to distance, radio silence from the team can really make productivity plummet. We highly recommend a team collaboration platform like Microsoft Teams. In fact, we’ve used it ourselves every single day for years to connect our workforce, since we have employees working on various job sites and from different offices daily.
“Teams has allowed us to communicate (instant message within channels, divide into smaller group chats, jump on a quick video call), collaborate on projects without skipping a beat (secure file sharing, real-time document editing) and calendar share (create meetings, join conference calls, and share schedules). It’s the central hub of communication for our organization.”
Struggling to stay on the same page?
Applied Connective Operations Manager Brigitte Burbach offers her expertise. “When your team is unclear on expectations or a plan hasn’t been laid out, your business experiences needless (and costly) downtime while ill-equipped employees attempt to get back online. Establish clear but comprehensive policies and procedures, accounting for all possible scenarios, and walk through them with the team. At bare minimum, you should identify your essential personnel and ensure they have the equipment they need, e.g., PC or laptop, docking station and monitors, cloud-based phone solution, a VPN. If you’d like some assistance in developing your policies and procedures to set your team up for success, we’re just a phone call away.