Before sharing the 7 considerations, I want to share a use case of a law firm we recently worked with to help them find their long-term work from home solution.
Recently the Whitehat team met with a law firm ready to make a change.
COVID sent everyone home in March with a laptop and no real way to execute on their particular brand of magic for bringing multiple team members together with diverse expertise in collaboration to solve problems for their clients. Far closer to March 2021 than March 2020, and still largely sequestered, not really sure when this COVID thing is going to end and unable to fully execute on their core collaboration strength, the desire for change in the office was tangible.
Their Work from Home solution was really just a bunch of individual solutions cobbled together, designed to work for a few weeks to a few months, max. With seams entirely on display and firm culture beginning to slip, the leadership team began reaching out to their contacts, trying to determine what to do to fix the situation.
"You just need a VPN; they are free, and you can connect to the office securely."
"Get GoToMyPC. It's inexpensive and will get you by."
"Build out a VDI environment."
"Just get a subscription to Zoom. Problem solved. Oh, and get DropBox to share stuff too big for email."
Thinking more about getting by than getting a long-term solution in place, they tried it all. Some of it worked, but their collaboration superpower and seamless operational workflows were gone. The process for efficiently handling client billing? Gone. Ability to reconfigure teams based on caseload to ensure the right skills were engaged in the right internal conversations. Now manual and over.
Work from Home was not working. They needed to replicate what they were good at in a virtual way to get back to what they were known for, or as close to it in a world with COVID.
After all the advice and discussions, they realized what they really wanted might not exist. They wanted a single integrated solution that would allow them to get back to practicing law instead of the Google search pilots they had become, trying to piece together something that would work more than doing work. They were looking for Work from Home, but their journey led them to Work from Anywhere.
Cloud-hosted virtual desktops eliminated the expense of buying servers and more IT infrastructure, solved the concern of client data getting out in the wild, reduced the need for specialized technical expertise, and protected the firm from whatever computers staff might use from wherever they chose to work. All on a month-to-month agreement for ultimate solution (and pricing) flexibility.
Zoom was bundled in as the meeting platform of choice simply because everyone at the firm was already familiar with it.
Citrix ShareFile was added to allow staff to send and receive large files, collect eSignatures, setup workflows across geography to replicate what they had previously, and allow team members the ability to collaborate on documents once again.
With the addition of the Microsoft Office suite and a handful of key applications, the firm had a digital version of what they were forced to leave behind in the office.
Every team member got to pick the kind of computer they wanted to use. Zoom worked well in the VDI environment, allowing them to connect with each other and clients seamlessly through their virtual desktops. What Zoom could not cover, Citrix ShareFile did.
Phone calls could be answered or made from an application on both the virtual desktop and their smartphones.
Integrated basics like data loss prevention, advanced eDiscovery capabilities, backups, patching, and even temporary computers completed the solution. They were back!
The previous cobbled together solution technically worked but was painfully slow, reducing the amount of work that could get done in a day. There was no integration, so it was a serious productivity killer to bounce between different cloud applications and spot solutions to get through the day. Transfer calls? No, hang up and call this or that person directly.
Fast forward to today, every employee has their own hosted virtual desktop with the specific applications they need, based on role, to do their jobs. All accessible on an Android phone, Apple iPad, MacBook, PC, laptop, Linux thin client, public kiosk, or whatever that computer is under the desk at grandma's house. They have a solution that restored the best parts of how they worked as a group and duplicated the experience virtually. A true Work from Home success!
Here are 7 considerations for a long-term work from home solution:
#1, Start by looking at the tasks end users need to perform themselves and with each other to successfully complete the work that keeps you in business.
#2, Can you replicate your workflows in a Work from Home world, or do changes need to be made, or roles redefined to maintain the magic?
#3, Pay special attention to roles that require heavy collaboration to be effective. How will you replicate a work environment that is conducive to allowing the team to play to their strength?
#4, One-off purchases or subscriptions to fill a key gap in your Work from Home strategy may make sense. Just be wary of implementing too many one-offs at the risk of destroying the productivity you are trying to protect.
#5, How do employees ask for help in a Work from Home environment? There can be a new set of professional, personal, and health issues that can come into play that the old rules may not address.
#6, Think integrated, simple and practical. Working from Home can introduce as many barriers to work as benefits, depending on the living situation of employees, try not to complicate already complicated issues with solutions that are impractical for employees working from home.
#7, Security. How will you open up your network to allow employees the ability to connect and work while still protecting company data in a measurable way?