Effective data management in the dispersed workforce

By Andrew Carr, Managing Director, Camwood.

  • 2 weeks ago Posted in

Despite the mixed signals and evolving narratives, evidence strongly suggests that remote work, in some form, is here to stay for a significant portion of businesses. Recent data from 22 May to 2 June 2024 reveals that 14% of UK workers exclusively worked from home, while 26% adopted a hybrid approach, commuting to work occasionally.

 

While remote and hybrid working arrangements provide numerous benefits in terms of employee flexibility and work-life balance, one critical concern that decision-makers may overlook pertains to data security and access challenges faced by remote workers. From a company’s point of view, identifying these challenges is crucial to maintaining efficiency, ensuring compliance and reducing the risk of data breaches. Understanding and addressing these issues proactively can safeguard sensitive information and uphold organisational resilience in the face of evolving workplace dynamics.

 

Challenges in modern data management practices

Today, many organisations are turning to Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive for their convenience and collaborative features. However, this often leads to issues such as document proliferation across various sources. Employees might end up emailing files back and forth, each with their own naming conventions, which complicates data accessibility and version control. If they continuously save duplicate files, it can lead to issues with data storage, increasing storage costs and complicating data management.

 

Duplicated efforts not only impact productivity but also pose a security risk if sensitive information is inadvertently stored in multiple locations, increasing exposure to unauthorised access and data breaches. This highlights the need for centralised data management solutions that allow seamless collaboration on shared datasets. Most medium to large organisations will have a centralised policy, but the problem stems from its lack of enforcement and policing. The enforcement element often comes in when it’s too late and data has already been breached, prompting an audit.

 

In addition, organisations still rely on legacy systems that have been built over many years, which further compounds data challenges. These legacy systems are often not optimised for cloud storage, making it difficult to seamlessly integrate with modern data handling practices. The outdated infrastructure may also not comply with current security protocols, leaving organisations vulnerable to potential breaches and cyber threats. Recent studies highlight these concerns as more than 8 in 10 UK businesses believe hybrid working increases the risk of a data breach while nearly a quarter (23%) cite hybrid working as their top data breach threat.

 

A cultural shift

Effective data management in remote and hybrid work settings involves more than just technological upgrades. First and foremost, organisations must prioritise ongoing education and awareness initiatives to ensure staff understand the proper protocols for storing, accessing, and sharing data securely. While initial onboarding typically covers HR, security and data policies, the frequency of re-education is rarely what it should be. As businesses adopt new software and technologies like artificial intelligence, these policies should evolve accordingly and be communicated regularly. That way, employees using, for example, ChatGPT remember that it learns from the data it ingests so they mustn’t include any sensitive information in their prompts.

 

In fact, JPMorgan Chase has recently announced that all its new starters will be given training on prompt engineering from this year to equip them better for the AI-driven future. The largest US bank already employs six times more AI staff than the industry average. By incorporating comprehensive AI training during onboarding, the bank ensures that its staff are well-equipped to handle and utilise these advanced tools effectively and securely.

 

Despite implementing security measures like multi-factor authentication and secure VPN, the awareness of what constitutes acceptable data practices once outside the corporate network often lacks among staff. It is important for every individual to understand and consistently adhere to centralised data policies to mitigate risk effectively. By fostering a culture of continuous learning and accountability around data management, organisations with a dispersed workforce can bolster their cyber-defences and ensure data integrity.

 

Harnessing data insights

In addressing the complexities of data management within dispersed workforces, organisations must first achieve comprehensive visibility and understanding of their data landscape. This involves knowing the quantity of data, its locations, classifications, access histories, and suitability for different storage types. By partnering with data services providers, organisations can streamline these processes, leveraging metadata tagging and labelling to transform disparate and unstructured data into a cohesive and usable resource.

 

This foundational step enhances data accessibility and prepares the groundwork for advanced applications such as AI. Moreover, implementing managed data services enables organisations to establish robust data pipelines, facilitating continuous utilisation and refinement of data insights. This strategic approach empowers businesses to drive informed decision-making and maximise the value of their data assets in an increasingly data-driven business environment.

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