Is Your Company Ready for Remote Work Driven by Covid-19? 

"The unfortunate spread of COVID-19 is forcing many employees around the world to work remotely," says Bret Hartman, vice president and CTO of Cisco Security Business Group. "While necessary, this new level of workplace flexibility is putting a sudden strain on IT and security teams, specifically around the capacity of existing protections in place given surge in demand." 

Growing numbers of companies are asking or requiring employees to work from home. While many companies have encouraged employees to work from home in recent years, many more have not. Working from home calls for remote working policies to maintain an adequate level of security and protection from cyber attacks.

High on the list of challenges is the question of what devices are to be used from home. Some employees will use their own computers and they likely will not be set up with proper safeguards. IT people will have to configure them. But it may run deeper than that. If a company has not encouraged remote working previously it probably has not established secure connections to its servers that the employees can use. These will be needed to enable many of the employees to do their work. They may have to be set up on a crash basis – never good.

In addition, homes have been setting up a variety of systems for various devices, such as security alarms and cameras, treadmills, refrigerators with little regard for proper security. Use of computers on home networks to access corporate networks is rife with risk.

Companies such as Cisco have been running hard to try and provide the support needed to implement work-at-home policies quickly. A daunting challenge.

Augmented Intelligence may be a Practical Solution

Since Artificial Intelligence has been expanding rapidly in capabilities, there has been a growing line of thought about AI replacing human jobs. In some cases this is happening. According to Gartner group, many businesses are looking to augmented intelligence to improve human job performance rather than having AI replace humans.

Augmented Intelligence is defined as the use of AI by humans to provide better information to make decisions. One example would be in the field of data analytics, where AI can offer more complete analysis of big data in order to strengthen the basis for decisions. Car mechanics can use AI systems to provide information on a car, such as history of similar cars, past usage patterns and factory information all brought together in a form focused on the particular issue at hand. Or a company can use AI to go through data on customer preferences together with product features in order to provide carefully chosen options to be offered to customers. Clothing companies are using this approach. 

AI used in an augmented approach can be less costly and less disruptive than replacing humans.

"’In reality, augmented intelligence is designed to work alongside people to unleash the combined power of technology with human intelligence and empathy,’ states Leroy Farrell, vice president and general manager, engineering service and solutions, at photography and film technology giant Canon USA.” Check it out here.

ESG Reporting Now Center Stage

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting by corporations was once of interest to a small group of investors and others. Now, with the growing interest in environmental concerns, ESG has become a major area of interest. Companies have long had to report to their investors, but according to Chris Ruggeri, national managing principal at Deloitte, in reporting on Deloitte’s recent CEO survey, “CFOs and IROs have a growing list of stakeholders beyond Wall Street: customers, employees, vendors, regulators, philanthropists, social responsibility monitors and others who want to know how their company’s strategy and financial performance are benefiting their community and the world at large.”[1] 

According to a report from Morgan Stanley, the number of S&P 500 companies publishing some form of ESG disclosure increased from 20 percent in 2011 to 86 percent in 2018, a massive change for companies. And stakeholders are making use of the information by broadening the range of metrics used in evaluating corporate performance. This is consistent with the recent statement of the Business Roundtable on the purpose of a corporation, which can be found on its website. It broadens the purpose of companies well beyond simply making money, although that is of course still central and very important, but does include the idea of supporting the communities in which they work, respecting the people in their communities and protecting the environment by embracing sustainable practices across their businesses.

High flying rhetoric to some, perhaps, but it is signed by 181 CEO’s and the Roundtable is a very influential source.  

[1] IR Magazine, “Activism, guidance and purpose: The IR issues on the minds of CFOs”, Chris Ruggeri, Feb 19, 2020

CPA Founding Partner

Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), one of the largest national accounting organizations in the world, has chosen to become a founding partner of ThinkTwenty20.