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Access to tools, systems and information for remote working

People working remotely need their usual tools to do their work efficiently. New tools for remote collaboration and communication, and the skills and knowledge to use them are also required.

Access to tools for collaboration

Remote workers have diverse work needs. Some may work independently and need minimal communication options. Others may heavily rely on collaboration with internal or external stakeholders. When people are working remotely, new digital tools are needed to support collaboration.

Aim to provide a variety of tools for staff to use. This allows flexibility and adaptability to work and collaborate with others. It also ensures staff have back-up options, should access to one tool not be available or not used by others.

Consider how interoperable or compatible the tools provided other with other teams, organisations or key systems such as email, calendars and information management systems.

Cloud-based tools for improved accesss

Cloud services and applications offer great benefits to organisations and are a convenient way for remote workers to access the tools they need. The New Zealand government has a Cloud-First policy in place.

Organisations must assess the risk of every cloud application they use.

Access to legacy systems

Legacy systems are tools or software that are out of date, yet still in use. Ensure that remote workers can access legacy systems if they need to, and look at how the organisation can secure and control that access.

Often, legacy systems can be harder to protect and make policies for compared to more modern systems. Some legacy systems become incompatible with portable devices over time and cannot be loaded into new devices.

Enabling remote working throughout an organisation might serve as a change case for retiring legacy systems. Consider this as part of the larger, organisational digital roadmap.

Legacy systems  CERT NZ

Digitised workflows and access to information and data

The requirement to work from home during COVID-19 gave organisations insight into which information and work processes are digitised, and which still need to be. These may relate to important ‘back office’ systems or to the functions of an organisation.

Organisations should consider the level of impact this has on remote working, efficiency, and information security, and plan to address this over time.

For example, consider if there are data sources within your organisation that need to be accessible to many people and how this can be achieved without being in the office or defaulting to emails to share information.

When work is being done remotely, paper-based information creates additional information security risks. Consider if this needs to change.

Digital information management and access

Good information management practices and systems are key to success when workers are in different locations. Having a well-used enterprise information system became a higher priority for some agencies when many staff began working remotely during COVID-19 lockdowns.

There are practical, security and privacy considerations when an organisation decides how remote staff access, manage and save information. For example, consider:

  • If a worker loses internet access, is it ok to save information on their physical device?
  • If they can’t connect to the organisation’s network, is there a cloud-enabled platform they can save information to?

Organisations should also think about how their information management system will be used with new collaboration tools (like MS Teams, Zoom and alternatives) and how interoperable these need to be to support good practice. For example, consider:

  • If documents can be shared and stored on a digital collaboration system, must they also be filed in the organisation’s information management system? If so, is it easy to do?
  • Can staff access one system from the other?

Skills and knowledge

Learning and development can help support an organisational move to remote working. Think about the various parts of the agency that might need to learn new skills.

Some examples include:

  • upskilling for ICT and support teams to deliver new forms of technology setup
  • better technical knowledge for remote workers to understand how to boost their connectivity at home and solve some problems with accessing organisational networks and systems
  • learning programmes to build confidence in remote collaboration that support workers to make best use of available tools, and create awareness of how to use them and any new actions or protocols required
  • upskilling for workers to use digital tools for consultation, engagement, workshops and conference-style events
  • support for managers to use digital tools to support and manage staff and work, and understand how remote working impacts workers differently
  • learning for leaders and responsible managers about the technical implications of a remote workforce.

Architecture for remote working

An organisation’s architecture will be unique to their needs and configuration they may rely extensively on cloud services, or more on their own infrastructure and business applications.

Ensuring that an organisation’s architecture can support remote working will need to be considered as part of the organisation’s wider digital road map and architecture.

Features to consider include:

  • which applications and information people will need remote access to
  • how to ensure information remains properly protected
  • which on-premise applications might be better provided as a cloud service
  • how legacy applications can be accessed securely by remote workers
  • how collaboration and communication is supported
  • whether and how zero trust principles will be applied.

Zero trust architecture has benefits for remote working

Ready for remote following an incident access

Organisations that have invested in software-as-a-service (SaaS) rather than locally installed office productivity applications, and that have a higher level of adoption of cloud computing are generally better placed for remote working. Having more digitised workflows and information also makes a difference to readiness. If organisations do not have these in place, business continuity plans may need to consider a wider range of issues.

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