Managing data when work happens anywhere

Work no longer has to happen at the office. People can be productive even if they are far away from their desks.

The ability to work remotely is overtaking traditional perks such as a nice canteen or casual Fridays. A 2022 Gallup survey supports this change, revealing that the majority of 13,085 U.S. employees listed pay, benefits, work-life balance and doing what they do best as their top priorities.

“The business world was a bit sceptical and suspicious of working remotely,” says Wade Calenborne – Chief Operations Officer at Sithabile Technology Services. “But those attitudes have changed in a big way. We once treated it as a perk to award to your best employees. Now we know it’s a better way to create happy employees and cohesive teams. Even a simple thing, like not having to physically attend every meeting, has been a huge benefit and one that people will fight to keep.”

Remote Work’s Data Risk

Those Gallup findings often rely on the ability to work from different places—not just remotely but even inside a company campus—and access company resources from anywhere. Yet providing that convenience can create big problems.

“The obvious problem with remote working is that from a risk and security standpoint, you can lose control. People copy and share files, remote devices are more susceptible to attacks or getting lost, and you weaken your data environment overall. That also impacts your ability to digitally evolve and adopt competitive services such as analytics and artificial intelligence, not to mention effective governance, policy and audits.”

Beyond those concerns, poor data management harms collaborative work. If you don’t have a handle on your data, finding proper file versions or organising team groups with shared access becomes harder. And if your data management is too draconian, it inhibits access and encourages people to find workarounds that lead to new risks and inefficiencies.

Manage data in the remote era

Balancing data management and remote working is one of the main challenges for connected organisations. There are several things they can do:

  • Create a data strategy: Data management is complex, so it must be guided by a strategy that covers business and technical needs. The types of data and their uses, governance, compliance, and security needs all fall under the strategy.
  • Audit the data: Know what data the business has, categorised by factors such as purpose, owners, risk level, and access priority.
  • Audit the infrastructure: Data storage is essential yet often a cost centre, so know what storage is available and whether it’s sufficient for the data strategy and types. A crucial distinction is between hot, cold and archived data, and hosting such as company-owned servers or cloud storage.
  • Profile users: Identify different user groups based on their data access needs, including their roles and access requirements. For example, a financial executive who travels frequently may need access to sensitive data via their phone and the internet, which could pose serious risks but substantial business benefits.
  • Select appropriate tools: Data management and sharing is a wide field, so select the right tools once all the needs and user groups are clear. Data software ranges from file sharing and collaboration suites to content management platforms to data loss prevention solutions. They can be on-premise, based in the cloud, or be a hybrid of both. Such tools can also inform choices for other software, such as identity and device management.
  • Bring it together: With a grasp on strategy, data and user profiles, and suitable software, companies can integrate everything into a single environment, reducing risk by managing user access and file-sharing policies, and providing specific tools to specific employees such as team leaders.

Following this process can be daunting, and Calenborne advises enlisting the support of a partner that specialises in data environments:

“Companies make a mistake by getting the technology first and forcing everything else to fall in line. They can easily lose sight because of how much data they have and the pressure to make that data useful. An experienced data management partner will help identify the best choices because we have a lot of experience working with different clients and vendors. We know what’s possible, we listen to what you need, and then bring the two worlds together. It’s different for each business, but there are many overlaps that will save a lot of time and effort.” 

Remote working can be fantastic for productivity and employee morale. It also puts data management and access under the spotlight. Since no modern company can move forward without proactive and productive control over its data, remote working is an opportunity to modernise.

Help your people and data work from anywhere, and you pave the way to more productive employees, better business intelligence, and a truly 21st-century organisation.