home worker

Governing Home Working

I had the pleasure recently of leaving my home office and driving to a TV studio to be interviewed by Alfresco CEO Jay Bhatt.  A chance to take the mask off and reconnect, albeit in a limited and safe manner with another person was quite literally a breath of fresh air. Both during and after our on-camera discussion I thought about our industry being too aggressive about the positives of remote working and less sanguine about its genuine drawbacks. For sure the future will have more people working from home, but let’s not forget those that can’t or don’t want to work from home. Some of the over-optimism comes from the fact we already work in a bubble and what is normal in the tech bubble is abnormal in other sectors. Moreover, though the tech sector is a vital component of today’s commercial world, the vast majority of workers are not in the tech sector. They live in the ‘real world’.

Commuting to the office is not just something employers wanted, it is something many workers wanted and needed as not everyone is comfortable with their home lives being conflated with their work lives.  Add to this the fact that many workers don’t spend all day in offices, they are in the field working with facilities, products, customers, and citizens. Either way, there will be more home and hybrid working environments, that’s a given. As such, our information, collaboration, and process management systems will all need to be adapted to manage a much more hybrid environment, issues such as governance, though long ignored will need to be addressed.

Information Governance has always been a critical activity but in reality, few do it well. The pressure to manage and secure access to information will increase substantially over the coming months and years. Systems designed to restrict access to information often assumed workers would be situated in secure environments (the office). Those workers are now accessing that same information or at least trying to, in insecure home environments. This is not just a potential problem, it already is a problem, employees working from home are viewing sensitive information in non-secure situations and are in direct conflict with regulations such as HIPAA and GDPR. The Covid-19 crisis may mean the world is turning a blind eye, but that won’t continue.

We can argue the merits of access security in Box versus Microsoft – OpenText or Alfresco versus IBM till we are blue in the face, but the fact is that almost all information management vendors provide this kind of functionality – but its not used well at all by end-users. Yet access security is essential, and today there is very little granularity applied to access from home, rather the inclination has been to give access to everything to home workers. As my friend, Rich Lauwers pointed out to me, at a minimum that firms use their VITAL records designation as a filter for providing remote access and establishing business ownership for knowing what to grant access to. He is right but how many firms even that designation in place?

Governance has never been a hot topic, or rather it has been briefly and repeatedly – typically after any major financial or criminal situation hits the headlines. This time around the focus on Governance needs to be sustained, and much of it can be automated. But truly getting a grip on information mountains and tidal waves will take a long time. Short term fixes will need to be undertaken even if that is just to ensure that the remaining, distributed and new workforce post-pandemic doesn’t continue to cross uncrossable lines. Be those lines secure access to information or managing the dog, cat, or unexpected neighbor whilst on a Zoom call.

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