BizTech Magazine - Technology Solutions That Drive Business en 3 Tech Lessons Smart Businesses Learned in 2020 <p>We tend to learn a lot about ourselves during our most challenging periods. While nobody can blame b­usiness and IT leaders for being happy to see this most trying of years end, it is also worth considering what we’ve learned in 2020 — because the most successful organizations will apply those lessons for years to come.</p> <p>First, we learned that not only is mass remote work possible, it has its advantages. Contrary to fears that workers would accomplish less at home, most employers say their teams have been more productive, and more than happy to skip their commutes. Corporate cohesion didn’t seem to suffer either. The <a href="">collaboration tech</a> that businesses deployed, or were already using, handled the increased scale without a glitch, according to businesses we spoke to.</p> <p>Second, we learned that businesses that embrace decentralized structures are simply better prepared — not just for once-in-a-lifetime events like a global pandemic but, really, for the modern world. This issue is thick with examples of businesses using technology to do just that.</p> Ryan Petersen Black Friday: What Retailers Need for Superior BOPIS <p>Retail-based online pickup strategies were <a href="" target="_blank">already gaining steam</a> before COVID-19 hit, but social distancing restrictions sent them into overdrive. With the holiday season ramping up, curbside pickup and the option to buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) are important part of retail strategy. <a href="" target="_blank">Recent research</a> shows that roughly half of shoppers plan to increase their use of contactless pickup methods this year.</p> <p>Omnichannel strategies are still new for many retailers, who found themselves learning the strategy on the fly, says Carlos Aragon, vice president at market research firm <a href="" target="_blank">Ipsos</a>.</p> <p>“Retailers that had been slow to go with the pickup option, whether BOPIS or curbside, hit the panic button and just stood up a program of some sort really quickly,” Aragon says. “And in some cases, that went OK. In a lot of cases, it was a minor catastrophe, but maybe better than nothing.”</p> <p>Aragon recently helped produce <a href="">“The ‌</a><a href="" target="_blank">E-Commerce Experience Report</a>,” which captured data from a two-pronged study on curbside pickup. The research found that interest in curbside pickup has increased for 78 percent of shoppers in the months since COVID-19 began, but 69 percent of the 2,000 U.S.-based respondents said they expect to continue using the service indefinitely. This indicates that not only might we see the crowds shift from inside stores to outside this Black Friday but that retailers should build their pickup strategies for the long haul.</p> Ernie Smith Identity and Access Management Puts Companies in Control of Their Networks <p>When the COVID-19 pandemic sent workforces home in the spring, many businesses struggled to adapt. At <a href="" target="_blank">FinancialForce</a>, however, the experience was “completely seamless,” says Richard Hall, senior director of IT.</p> <p>“We literally made no changes,” says Hall. “Everyone took their laptops, went home and carried on working globally. The only thing we’ve had to deal with is more people knocking coffee onto their computers. Nothing to do with IT infrastructure.”</p> <p>One vital key to this simplicity: ­<a href="">identity and access management </a>(IAM) technology, which the company, a provider of business finance solutions with headquarters in San Francisco and offices across Europe, uses to ensure that those seeking network access are who they say they are.</p> <p>Chief security officers and other corporate IT leaders need to know exactly who is on their networks and what applications they’re accessing. In this era of remote work, that awareness has never been more critical, experts say, because virtually no one is using the supposedly trusted office <a href="">Wi-Fi</a>.</p> <p>For that reason, “the adoption of identity and access management tools has accelerated,” says Sean Ryan, a senior analyst at Forrester serving security and risk professionals.</p> Erika Gimbel Mobility Device Management: The Right Solution Makes It Easy <p>The push toward <a href="" target="_blank">mobility</a>, accelerated this year by the coronavirus ­pandemic, calls for employee and c­ustomer en­gagements that are flexible enough to shift between a variety of channels: in the field or onsite, in person or purely digital. The one ­constant is that engagements are fluid, with modes and best practices changing as organizations and technology evolve.</p> <p>“What organizations need most of all is a flexible architecture that can support various setups, be it the remote office worker, the field service technician in remote locations or retail workers,” says David Krebs, <a href="" target="_blank">VDC Research</a>’s executive vice president for enterprise mobility and the connected worker. “Having a centralized platform that can address the unique access, security and support requirements of each of these scenarios is what organizations are working toward.”</p> <p>Most companies’ mobile strategies seek to address multiple objectives, including business and IT flexibility, organizational objectives, employee support and concerns such as cybersecurity. Ideally, a mobile solution facilitates these goals while reducing the burden on IT teams.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Edward Rose &amp; Sons</a>, a real estate development and management company based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., that specializes in multifamily and senior residences, depends on onsite leasing agents, maintenance staff and construction crews.</p> <p>As the company’s portfolio grew — it now has more than 140 locations in 15 states — paper-based workflows slowed down employees’ productivity. With a goal of increasing efficiency and scalability, the company chose the <a href="" target="_blank">MobileIron Cloud</a> enterprise mobility management platform. Among other objectives, Edward Rose &amp; Sons wanted a solution that could support its use of the <a href="" target="_blank">Apple Device Enrollment Program</a> for <a href="" target="_blank">iPads and iPhones</a>, a deployment that’s grown from about 600 devices to 1,600.</p> <p>“We’ve more than doubled our device footprint from the beginning, yet our workload really hasn’t changed that much,” says Levi Johnstone, who leads the technology engineering team.</p> Amy Burroughs Enabling Smart Security Management with SecureX <p>Remote work has drastically changed the security needs of businesses. As operations have moved to devices off-premises, endpoint security has become more important — and more complex. Watch experts from <a href="" target="_blank">Cisco</a> and CDW discuss the benefits of having a simple, integrated security solution like SecureX.</p> It’s Time for Business to Plan for Reopening Offices <p>Today, as most organizations continue with their remote work environments indefinitely, many are wondering when things will ever get back to what was recently considered “normal” — or whether the current status is the new normal.</p> <p>In business, the only constant is change. Who would have guessed in January that the year would unfold as it has? So, while I won’t make any predictions, I will note that as long as businesses are following applicable laws, they are free to build their own workplace styles without merely choosing between the way things recently were and the way they currently are. There’s plenty in between.</p> <p>For example, some organizations have already begun reopening shared workspaces, limiting occupancy to key staff or implementing rotations that include most employees coming in on different days. While businesses and workers have discovered this year that collaboration is possible without colocation, it seems likely that more offices will reopen to more employees over time.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong><em>MORE FROM BIZTECH: </em></strong><em>Steps small businesses should take when preparing to return to the office.</em></a></p> <h2>Businesses Must Make a Plan to Return</h2> <p>Some businesses may choose to stay fully remote permanently. For everyone else, now is the time to make a reopening plan. Just some of the key questions include: Under what circumstances should we reopen? How many people will be in the office together simultaneously? What technologies should we have in place to increase everyone’s safety? How will we continue to manage remote workers, given the ­likelihood that many workers will remain offsite much of the time?</p> <p>According to an <a href="" target="_blank">Enterprise Strategy Group</a> report, 61 percent of knowledge workers are concerned about their own personal health, but 25 percent still want to return to their offices.</p> <p>Businesses must demonstrate to their teams that they take their well-being seriously and are working hard to protect them.</p> <p>In its advice to organizations on reopening, management consultant <a href="" target="_blank">Deloitte</a> recommends that as organizations think through reopening plans, they should consider not just the physical workplace but also the work itself and the specific workers. Businesses should determine which roles and work need to return to the workplace to be effective, as well as the type of work that needs to be done in person.</p> <p>That seems like a sound starting place as businesses consider who returns to the office and when, while plotting out the tactics they’ll deploy to keep people as physically distanced as possible throughout the workday.</p> Norm Lillis In a Year Like No Other, Collaboration Tech Solutions Shine <p>Early this year, IT leaders at <a href="" target="_blank">Freddie Mac</a> were working to ensure that tools like <a href="" target="_blank">Microsoft SharePoint</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">OneDrive</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Teams</a> could support any employee who needed to work from home in case of an emergency. Little did they know that just a few weeks later, the secondary mortgage market giant would need to enable every one of its employees to work remotely in response to the coronavirus crisis.</p> <p>“The foundation was all in place,” says Chris Mauritz, vice president of infrastructure and end-user services for Freddie Mac. “Then, in the middle of March, with a day or two of notice, the IT department got the word that this was getting more serious than we thought. The business asked if we could go to a fully remote solution. Literally, over the course of a weekend, we got to a place where 95 percent of the company was working remotely. To be h­onest, I expected there to be complications with scaling so quickly at that level. I was pleasantly surprised at how simple and seamless the transition was. It all just plain worked.”</p> <p>It’s an experience that was mirrored all over the business world this year as companies shuttered their physical offices in response to the coronavirus and millions of employees retreated to the safety of their homes. Use of collaboration tools skyrocketed, and many companies have reported that the solutions have held up remarkably well under the strain of dramatically increased demand. With so many workers experiencing how valuable collaboration solutions can be, it seems likely that use will remain high, even when the business world returns to normal — whatever that may look like.</p> <p>“It’s really shocking,” Nick Barber, senior analyst for Forrester, says of the rapid adoption of collaboration tools. “Back in January, we couldn’t have known any of this was coming. As companies shifted to work from home, all of a sudden the spotlight was thrown on these collaboration platforms. Companies realized that they needed to deploy a collaboration platform if they didn’t already have one, or else their employees were going to figure it out for them.”</p> Calvin Hennick Cisco Umbrella Defeats Cyberthreats with Actionable Intelligence <p>Threats continue to increase in frequency and sophistication, and businesses must ensure consistent security for all users, especially in today’s all-remote work environments. It is the duty of IT leaders to bolster existing IT security capabilities.</p> <p>One tool all organizations can leverage is a cloud-based platform that s­afeguards users from malicious and nefarious websites as they navigate the internet. <a href="" target="_blank">Cisco Umbrella</a> is touted as a first line of defense for such a purpose, and my testing revealed it does an outstanding job helping users avoid internet threats. It also can assist agencies in pinpointing compromised systems with real-time reporting.</p> <h2>Get Actionable Reports From Cisco Umbrella</h2> <p>Cisco Umbrella’s real-time security and activity reports are among the satisfying aspects of the software. They drive visibility and actionable intelligence — a big help if users bypass virtual private networks when working from home — and can help businesses avoid network security blind spots.</p> Carlos Soto How to Revoke Azure Active Directory Tokens from Expired Users <p>Do you have an on-premises Active Directory environment syncing to <a href="" target="_blank">Azure Active Directory</a>? If so, you may have run across a frustrating problem: An on-premises AD user license has expired but that user can still access resources on Azure AD. As long as you’re on a Windows 10 computer with the Remote Server Administration Tools and the Azure PowerShell module installed, you can remedy this security risk by finding all expired AD accounts and revoking them.</p> <h2>1. Find Expired Accounts of Your Users</h2> <p>The easiest way to find expired AD user accounts is by using the Search-AdAccount PowerShell cmdlet. Open up a PowerShell console and run Search-AdAccount, limiting the scope to only expired user accounts: <strong>$expiredUsers = Search-ADAccount -AccountExpired -UsersOnly</strong></p> <h2>2. Disable the Users' Expired Accounts</h2> <p>Create a PowerShell “foreach loop” to disable each expired user account found. The following code passes each user account saved in $expiredUsers to the Disable-AdAccount cmdlet and attempts to disable each one: <strong>for each ($user in $expiredusers): {$user | Disable-ADAccount}</strong></p> <p>If you’d rather not be prompted each time when disabling a user, use the parameter and value <strong>-Confirm:$false.</strong></p> Adam Bertram CDW Tech Talk