The digital workplace brings constant change, innovation, and technology updates. In this new work environment, employees must be agile and innovative to meet customer expectations for a superior experience, and organizations must empower employees to make the right decisions and find new business opportunities.

The challenge for organizations is to attract and retain the right people with the right skills for the digital workplace—and give them the right digital tools to boost their productivity. 

The benefits of moving to a digital workplace far outweigh the costs. These benefits include attracting the best talent; increasing employee productivity, satisfaction, and retention; and using cutting-edge communications tools. For the organization, the digital workplace breaks down silos and other barriers to employee productivity. At the same time, digital transformation brings more significant information security challenges, such as increased vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Digital Workplaces

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to accelerate their shift to a digital workplace and remote work. Data from McKinsey estimates that COVID-19 has pushed companies to jump five years forward in digital adoption. In that survey, 70 percent of executives said that COVID-19 is accelerating their pace of digital transformation. Furthermore, 71 percent of respondents said that communication and collaboration tools would become more important for their organization, and 70 percent said that greater use of virtual conferences and meetings would lead to a decrease in business travel.

In the era of COVID-19 and beyond, employees need the technologies and processes to enable remote working and mobile productivity. One essential step to enable remote working is to digitize business processes, such as using digital documents and signatures. Another step is to ensure remote workers can access internal systems securely, such as through a virtual private network (VPN). Moreover, cloud services, if secured properly, can enable access to corporate resources. Collaboration tools are also essential, such as public and private messaging, employee status indicators, screen sharing capabilities, web conferencing, and document sharing and editing platforms.

In addition to technologies, policies should be put in place to improve employee productivity, such as setting work-life boundaries and providing more flexible work arrangements. According to a June 2020 survey of 120 U.S. executives and 1,200 U.S. employees by PwC, 83 percent of employees want to work from home at least once a week, while 55 percent of employers expect to continue remote working in some form after COVID-19. Employees cited difficulty collaborating with other team members, and problems balancing work with childcare and other home duties, as the biggest obstacles to productivity in working from home. To be more productive, employees said they need better equipment to enable remote working, greater flexibility in work hours, clear rules about when employees need to be available, and help manage workloads.

With this surge of remote working, information security needs to be top of mind for executives and employees. In fact, 53 percent of executives said that they were instituting better security policies to support remote work. A majority of executives said that they are providing greater flexibility in work hours, better equipment, and better mobile experience for work applications and data. “Employees will not be returning to the same office they left behind. Everyone will need to find new ways to connect and collaborate,” the PwC report concluded.

Zero Trust and Digital Transformation

In today’s working environment, organizations face the challenge of dealing with the security risks posed by mobile devices, remote workers, and cloud applications—while also promoting innovation and productivity. Cloud computing is a crucial enabler of digital transformation. Using the cloud, organizations can reinterpret customer experiences, business models, data strategies, product innovation, and employee productivity.

The cloud-enabled digital workspace allows employees to access their apps on any device in real-time from any location, regardless of where the data is stored. In this new environment, it is becoming clear that the perimeter-based security approach is not working, and it costs organizations time and money that could be better used in creating and innovating. Yet, organizations continue to spend billions of dollars on perimeter-based technologies, according to Torsten George, cybersecurity evangelist with Centrify.

A zero-trust approach can ensure that information security is protected in a digital workforce with mobile devices, remote working, and cloud computing. Developed by former Forrester Research analyst John Kindervag (now with Palo Alto Networks) back in 2010, zero trust is a security framework in which every person and every device is verified before connecting to internal systems.

“Business and IT leaders are used to hearing a narrative that revolves around the idea that internal networks can be trusted and external networks cannot be trusted. So, once a person using the network is verified, everything is fine. We’ve injected this concept of trust into digital systems, but it should have never been there because trust represents a vulnerability for digital systems,” Kindervag explained in an interview with Security Roundtable.

“In a zero-trust world, there are no trusted devices, systems, or people. This doesn’t mean that people are fundamentally untrustworthy; it means that they generate data packets that appear to be coming from them—and sometimes it isn’t them ... Instead of examining the user’s physical location or the originating network, a zero-trust framework examines information about the device, its current state, and who is using it.” 

A zero-trust approach can help organizations address the challenges of securing sensitive data and integrating cloud-based applications without disrupting productivity.

Identity Governance and Digital Transformation

The right identity governance and administration (IGA) solution can help an organization implement a zero-trust framework to enable the digital workplace. IGA bolsters the zero-trust security model by managing access based on profiles of users, devices, and services. It provides visibility into user identity and privileges, and it controls access to apps and data, thereby minimizing damage from attacks.

IGA also provides visibility into cloud-based applications. For example, if an organization has an internal customer relationship management (CRM) solution and wants to move to Salesforce, it needs visibility into who has access to the CRM and the terms of that access. In addition, the organization would want to control Salesforce access in one central location using an identity access and management tool that authenticates users and authorizes employees access.

An IGA solution can automate provisioning and deprovisioning for the joiner, mover, and leaver scenarios. The joiner scenario is when the employee is first recruited, the mover is when the employee moves to another position within the company, and the leaver is when the employee leaves the company. By automating the process for each scenario, organizations can avoid mistakes often caused by manual processes. These mistakes can lead to additional costs as well as security breaches.

IGA also provides a role-based access policy. The access granted is based on the role that the employee performs in the organization. He or she is only allowed the access required by that role. When the employee changes roles, the access changes accordingly.

Identity Solutions’ approach centers on the IGA-enabled zero-trust system. We can advise you on the best-fitting software solution to improve security and streamline workflows. With our assistance, you can evaluate what employees, vendors, and others are doing on your systems. Identity Solutions assists you in the execution and management of your workflows, access policies, and security program and makes you compliance-ready. We have experts that can organize your systems so that the right people get the right access securely. 

In the continually evolving digital workplace, the combination of zero-trust security strategy and a robust IGA solution is the way to go. Identity Solutions will be there to help you along the way. It’s time to get serious about your organization’s security—schedule a consultation today.

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