We all know too well that IT teams are under increasing pressure, as accelerating digital transformations and a rise in cyber threats has coincided with a global skills gap. In 2021, 3 in 4 IT leaders reported skills gaps in their departments. As recruitment can be a slow and costly solution, many organisations are looking to boost the productivity of their existing teams in order to meet the demand.

As such, Cyber Protection Magazine spoke to nine technology experts this World Productivity Day, to get their tips on how to motivate and get the most out of their workforce and help to increase productivity in the sector.

Embracing automation

For many organisations, a key way to support the productivity of struggling IT teams is to embrace automation, using technology to reduce their workload. For example, cybersecurity teams are often overwhelmed with the number of alerts they receive, which reduces their ability to respond efficiently.

“With teams often time poor and overstretched, security leaders should look to automation tools and machine learning-based analytics to help free up teams and allow them to focus on what matters most – fortifying their organisation’s cybersecurity defences to detect and prevent breaches,” explained Samantha Humphries, Head of Security Strategy EMEA, Exabeam

“Empowering employees with security tools and resources can help boost analyst team productivity, rewarding them with better management software and visibility into all of the alerts, and channel focus on specific types of alerts that demand time and expertise. To paraphrase George Orwell’s Animal Farm, ‘all alerts are equal, but some are more equal than others’… investing in the right technology can help reduce the risk of burnout, improve productivity, and ultimately help security professionals spend time on the alerts that really matter.” she adds.

Gregg Lalle, SVP of International Sales and Strategy at ConnectWise agrees that automation can be a key tool: “Automation software is crucial for organisations that want to rise to the occasion while keeping their internal operations running smoothly. When looking to minimise chaos and drive efficiency, many MSPs are turning to professional services automation (PSA) software to serve as a single source of truth across all integrated apps. Using a PSA solution to automate workflows not only improves staff productivity, it also enhances the customer experience by clarifying accountability and giving clients a more effective way to communicate with your teams.”

“Businesses and their employees are under pressure to be as productive as possible. In order to do so, many look to utilising as-a-service tools that can automate time-consuming tasks, as well as improve collaboration and communication,” adds Michael Queenan, CEO and Co-Founder of Nephos Technologies. “This World Productivity Day, we encourage businesses to evaluate which time-consuming tasks are overwhelming their employees and operationalise them to restore productivity and reap the benefits that will deliver.”

Automation can also ensure that security doesn’t become a drain on productivity in the wider business world. As Paul Farrington, Chief Product Officer at Glasswall explains: “Businesses can’t afford to be held back by manual security checks, so it’s crucial for IT teams to consider the latest security technologies that can provide round-the-clock, automated protection that doesn’t negatively impact productivity, and consequently business growth. For example, Content Disarm and Reconstruction (CDR) is a simple approach that allows employees to open every file and attachment immediately, uninterrupted and without the risk of them containing hidden malicious files.”

Connectivity and collaboration

As well as using technology to automate tasks, it can also be used to improve day-to-day work. The right tools are crucial. Particularly in the days of hybrid work, technology is a vital part of ensuring that staff can connect and work together from wherever they are.

For example, Neil Jones, Director of CyberSecurity Evangelism at Egnyte outlines the benefits of investing in security solutions that allow secure cloud-based collaboration: “Through deployment of a cloud-based data governance solution, users can collaborate securely on sensitive data in the cloud. Their content can still be accessed from anywhere via their preferred devices. Freely managing and editing documents and contracts is not infringed upon, which enables business continuity. Integrating collaborative business apps like Microsoft Teams, Slack, and DocuSign helps to build productivity.”

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“Connectivity is something we take for granted,” adds Joel Reid, UK&I VP/General Manager at Axway.  “We’ve come to expect it and depend upon it heavily. But how is it that we can access emails on our phone, download maps, shop online and have orders delivered the same day to our doorstep?  The answer is API – application programming interfaces. APIs are the building blocks of brilliant digital experiences and have become vital tools for business growth and technological agility. In short, they enable different services to interact and complement each other, opening the doors to a host of engineering and business possibilities. If APIs are not the poster child for World Productivity Day I don’t know what is!”

Preparing for the worst

When it comes to maintaining productivity, businesses don’t just have to consider day to day tasks, they also have to be prepared for the worst. In a golden age of cybercrime, the increase in cyberattacks can be detrimental to productivity. In fact, Christopher Rogers, Technology Evangelist at Zerto a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company states, “Recent reports have demonstrated that the cost of downtime is almost 50 times greater than the cost of the ransom itself, with the cost now averaging $274,200, compared to the average cost of the ransom which comes in at just $5,600. This is unsurprising when you consider that businesses can endure a staggering 21 days of downtime after an attack.

“Businesses must pre-emptively not only expect an attack, but bolster their ability to recover quickly and minimise disruption and data loss. Protection alone is not enough, A recovery plan is critical for every cyber strategy. Productivity may be the key to success, but IT resilience could be the key to productivity”.

The human element

Whilst investing in the right technology is vital for boosting productivity, it’s important that organisations continue to prioritise people. “Senior management teams should consider how they can implement positive changes to enable these IT heroes to be more productive in turn,” argues Sascha Giese, Head Geek at SolarWinds. “Typically this means more training, resources, and opportunities to drive their careers onward and upward. With the last couple of years reinforcing exactly how vital our public sector services are to us all, World Productivity Day reminds us organisations should ensure the IT teams keeping the lights on for everyone else are given what they need to boost their productivity and continue making a difference.”

Another way to support staff is to continue to offer hybrid and flexible working. “Data from the 2021 Census revealed that 85% of employees currently working from home wanted to have a hybrid approach in future where they can work both from home and in the office. The findings also showed that ‘improved staff wellbeing’ was the main reason for businesses planning to make remote working a permanent part of their company policies.

“This approach not only supports employees with multiple responsibilities – such as parents, grandparents, or carers – but it also promotes a better work/life balance for all employees. Ultimately, workers who have the flexibility they desire are going to be happier at work, reducing their stress levels and improving their productivity overall – it’s a win-win scenario” posits Steve Turner, Chief Operating Officer at Totalmobile.

Kathryn Barnes, Employment Counsel EMEA at Globalization Partners agrees. “You get more out of your employees when companies work flexibly, that’s been proven time and time again. Indeed, recent research from PowWowNow found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of UK employees feel that they would be more productive if they could spend time working flexibly, with 40% of decision-makers agreeing that the biggest benefit experienced during lockdown was being more productive due to the absence of their commutes.”

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