How to Power Remote Workforce Productivity from Within ITOps

The distributed workforce is here to stay. As the dust settles from the transformation of the modern workforce in recent years, no other group is more aware of the shift to remote work, or shares more responsibility for the productivity of this population, than ITOps.

IT teams were not only at the front lines as users were hastily migrated to remote locations from their four office walls, but day-to-day roles have shifted to a new reality as a large percentage of users have gone permanently remote or hybrid.

Keeping this new breed of users productive, happy and incident-free, wherever they may work, has become an immediate priority.



Protecting Productivity Falls on the Shoulders of IT

While the migration to the modern workforce enables greater efficiency and flexibility, it also sets the stage for new complexities that can act as roadblocks to productivity (think numerous tools, multi-cloud, BYOD… you get the idea), and underscores the urgency for scalable, secure, reliable ITOps.

IT teams are almost squarely responsible for powering this productivity. That’s a lot of pressure, and getting the right strategy, tools, and processes can make a significant impact.



Tips and Learning for Modern ITOps

As a 100% distributed company (we view our home office as our headquarters), we can share insights from our own in-house successes and challenges along this journey. We’ll also share some tricks of the trade from our industry peers.

Technological considerations

When investing in tools to support a decentralized workforce, consider the following:

  • Choose tools that elevate collaboration and workflows. Tools that enable key stakeholder synergies and communication drive operational efficiencies and quicken the pace for innovation. Think Slack or Teams for communicating, Airtable or Jira for project management, Zoom and Webex for virtual meetings, and GitHub or Veracode for collaborative code hosting to support your distributed users.

  • Integrate to optimize your tech stack. Integration of your existing, and future, technologies not only optimizes your investments, but can open doors to new data insights, enhanced capabilities, and collaboration. First, take a step back and assess your current tech stack. Do these technologies already work together, are they OS-agnostic, and what future integrations can they play a part in? For example, if you’d like your device data tied to other data sources, will these sources all integrate?

  • Keep it simple and standardize. The transformation of today’s modern workforce includes a plethora of “solutions” implemented in haste, opening the door for misconfiguration, incompatibilities, and slowed productivity. By standardizing technologies across your organization, you can simplify your user environment with less to learn and manage for your IT teams.

  • Up-level your view. You can’t address what you can’t see. Tools that integrate and expand your view can provide centralized insights across IT environments (hybrid, multi-cloud, etc.), enabling more informed decision-making and simplifying process workflows with access to the same comprehensive data. With Automox integrations you can make faster and more accurate decisions through improved data visibility. Our integration with Splunk, for example, enables you to view consolidated event, software, and Automox device details through a single Splunk dashboard.

  • Lock down access and control. Too many cooks in the kitchen? Access creep? Lock it down. Simplify who has access and control with technologies that enable you to streamline roles and permissions.

For users and employees:

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) remains one of the best authentication controls by requiring more than one credential to authenticate a user. Even some major service providers, such as Salesforce, are insisting their customers use it.

  • Single Sign-On (SSO) quickly provides your users access to designated cloud and on-premise apps. With SSO, getting company-issued apps in the hands of your users can be done quickly and efficiently. At Automox, we use Okta for our employee access to apps in-house and company-wide. For your IT and security teams, Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) solutions provide staff permissions based on their roles, enabling them to focus on their specific responsibilities. Global Zone Management, for example, is our form of RBAC that enables access based on levels of authority or responsibility.

  • Automate, automate, automate. Automation holds the key to driving greater agility, security, and visibility, enabling IT to manage more with less effort and reducing the amount of downtime needed for IT maintenance – all great for productivity! Don’t forget to leverage custom scripts, which can further expand your automation capabilities, for tasks such as installing and configuring software updates on endpoints and for performing tasks like fixing misconfigurations and closing ports. Automox Worklets, for example, are reusable units of work based on simple PowerShell or Bash scripting that can create, automate, and enforce any custom-scripted task.

  • Remove unauthorized technologies and apps. Unsanctioned apps and BYODs are a significant threat vector and are a critical weakness for IT as employees are using their own devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) more than ever before. Deploy tools that can help improve the visibility and removal of rogue apps and hardware. Automox Worklets can help with pre-scripted tasks to remove rogue apps and devices across your organization.

  • Think cloud-native when addressing cyber hygiene. As many organizations rushed to implement technologies to support their growing remote workforces, cybercriminals jumped on the opportunity as well. Patching devices is your first defense against a cyber attack. But legacy solutions have been holding some teams back, as they’re unable to keep pace with the endpoint vulnerabilities often caused by a distributed workforce. Look for cloud-native, multi-tenant endpoint management solutions that can address all of your endpoints in real-time. Automox uses a zero-maintenance cloud architecture that can scale across your diverse and global endpoints.

General considerations

Outside of these technology findings, we’ve surfaced a few more insights that we were thought worth sharing:

  • Elevate ITOps and business alignment. ITOps is finally being recognized as integral to business success and is well-positioned to contribute, as both stakeholder groups have vested interests in the protection and productivity of their users. As the business side is ready to listen, use this opportunity to drive your IT agenda and future investments. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for an executive sponsor for critical IT requests and projects. These efforts seem to move more quickly when VPs or the C-Suite are tied to their success.

  • Motivate employees to be productive. Seek efforts to keep your users productive and engaged. The inclusion of remote office stipends can have a huge impact for your users. For example, Automox offers a home office stipend through Benepass, which has gone the distance in keeping our employees productive. Is the lack of multiple monitors slowing productivity? Quickly resolve this blocker with stipends and keep your employees happier in the process.

  • Keep top IT performers happy and avoid burnout. The impact of good (or poor) ITOps is more apparent than ever to the organization, and their users, as they work in these new environments. With the past several years exacerbating an already tight labor market, retaining your top performers should be top-of-mind, and can be accomplished through:

  • Incentivize IT. Reward milestones such as SLAs, continuous uptime, etc., and continually incentivize your IT teams to continue their exceptional work.

  • Empower IT. Provide your teams not only with the authority to make decisions, but with tools that enable them to do so strategically. Tools that can reduce IT cycles, keep their jobs out of the “grind,” and ensure their places of authority can go a long way in retaining your key team members.

  • Avoid burnout. While user productivity is top of mind, don’t lose sight of IT burnout in the process (because without them, productivity is at risk). Offer mental health days, set no-meeting days, etc. to keep your team from looking elsewhere when times get stressful.

  • Check in with other teams outside of ITOps. Your infrastructure may appear to be running smoothly, but are patches ill-timed and causing user disruptions? Are relevant systems down during heavy online sales windows? Again, you can’t address what you can’t see, and quick conversations with other teams within the organization can offer insights from different perspectives.

  • Up-level employee communication and onboarding. Gone are the days of IT and HR working down the hall from each other. With so many organizations now working remotely, the first day of a new job now often includes sitting at home – alone. This experience in itself can reduce productivity. Being distributed requires new employee onboarding and information-sharing methods, and over-communication is key. Employee handbooks, for example, are making a comeback. At Automox, our handbook is the end-all-be-all. Got a question? You’ll likely be asked if you read the handbook first. Why? For efficiency, employee synergy, and alignment, we all use the same source of information. It works!

  • Seek help. The complexities of a distributed workforce may be too large for your ITOps to effectively manage alone. Consider an MSP whose skills and expertise match your organization’s gaps. Considering a new framework to address growth and security, such as Zero Trust? Ask others who have already implemented it. Don’t reinvent the wheel if it has already been done.

On the flip side, are your existing outsourced IT relationships still valuable? Have they helped your organization along with the transformation to a modern workforce, or have they taken more of a back seat? This is the time to take a hard look at your ROI.

It’s no secret that it takes tremendous work to effectively manage, maintain, and support a distributed workforce’s productivity long-term.

At Automox, we’ve separated ourselves from the pack by finding ways to operationalize and optimize distributed workforce productivity while improving our business outcomes. This didn’t happen without missteps and stresses, but after all hands got on board, we came out on the other side as a well-oiled, distributed-workforce machine and have landed a designation as one of the 100 Best Remote-First Companies to Work for in 2022.

Providing the right support at the right time to ensure productivity has been a constant goal of ITOps, exacerbated as workers have flown the corporate coop to work from their own remote roosts.

Challenges are unavoidable, but the benefits of improved efficiency, the ability to tap into global talent pools, and enabling improved work-life balance are undeniable.

With the right tools, processes, and support, your ITOps team can take a leadership role in driving the success and productivity of a distributed workforce forward.



Automox for Easy IT Operations

Automox is the cloud-native IT operations platform for modern organizations. It makes it easy to keep every endpoint automatically configured, patched, and secured – anywhere in the world. With the push of a button, IT admins can fix critical vulnerabilities faster, slash cost and complexity, and win back hours in their day.

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