Company call centers and help-desks like this one at State Farm can get overwhelmed after the holidays. Today’s columnist, Raz Rafaeli of Secret Double Octopus, offers ways for organizations to better manage the post-holiday blitz of help-desk calls. State Farm Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

It’s always difficult for employees to settle back into work after the holiday season – and that especially holds true for IT professionals. As employees return to work after the holidays, they inevitably subject help desks with a barrage of new support tickets, while simultaneously opening up potential cybersecurity weaknesses. In 2021, companies will also have to deal with the lingering impact that COVID-19 has had on employee working environments. In response, this holiday season and beyond, enterprises need to take a proactive approach to minimize help-desk overload. 

Companies have to remedy today’s help-desk backlog because even as we grow closer to the prospect of an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise in remote work shows little sign of abating. In a recent Gartner survey, 47 percent of organizations say that they will let employees do their jobs entirely remotely regardless of the situation with the pandemic. Compared to the 5 percent of workers in the U.S. who worked remotely full-time pre-COVID-19, this marks a profound shift in how organizations will operate going forward – not necessarily good news for IT professionals.

Here are five tips for avoiding the help-desk backlog after the holidays that will help free-up their organizations to succeed in the long-term:

  • Go passwordlesss.

No one likes passwords, especially not IT professionals. First conceived in 1961, the idea that users should enter a memorized string of characters to get access to files or applications frequently puts security assets at risk.

For users, it also entails remembering passwords or dealing with repeated, often onerous, multi-factor authentication protocols. For IT teams forced to deal with thousands of passwords, the password juggernaut presents a constant human resources burden. Organizations need to finally think about going passwordless long-term. More than just a way of making logging into applications easier, passwordless authentication offers a more user-friendly login procedure to mesh with increased security and reduced upkeep.

By making access credentials centralized in one secure system, passwordless makes onboarding and offboarding new users as well as allowing access to new applications or dealing with changing access configurations simpler and safer. Passwordless authentication lets enterprises get new applications in use more quickly, remove a major cybersecurity weakness, and ultimately reduce the burden of password management that IT help-desks have to manage.

  • Make security awareness training job-specific.

A recent Cisco survey of IT decision-makers found that a lack of security awareness training emerged as the  biggest challenge for respondents who embraced long-term remote work. Whether through accidentally opening a phishing email or connecting to an unsecured network, employees are ill-equipped to navigate the security concerns that their “new normal” creates. Budget constraints and a loss of short-term productivity often hamper the ability of companies to deliver practical security training to mitigate this knowledge gap.

In response, companies should make the training specific, bite-sized, and engaging. It’s vital to give employees access to job-specific security awareness training that doesn’t take up hours of their time. With security awareness training tailored to how an employee works, companies can minimize system operational downtime and content becomes more engaging and relevant.

  • Roll out self-service IT support.

 

For organizations still using password-based authentication, letting employees  reset their passwords can dramatically reduce backlogs. Indeed, Gartner estimates that password resets account for up to 50 percent of all IT help-desk tickets and that each employee reset costs their company around $70. By allowing threat actors to impersonate employees through publicly available employee data, a password reset also creates a potential security weakness.

Self-service password authentication (SSPA) often becomes a more secure alternative. By letting enrolled users reset their passwords within an SSPA system, after first verifying their identity through a secured MFA methodology, companies can minimize help-desk involvement in password resets. Of course, in the long-run, companies will want to remove passwords altogether.

  • Simplify the company’s systems.

Overly complicated application stacks are a significant issue for many IT teams, especially when it comes to cybersecurity. Increased cybersecurity investment in recent years has created a proliferation of detection-centric solutions. The result? IT teams are often barraged with false threat alerts. Swamped with more data than they can deal with, this situation can quickly fatigue even the most well-resourced team.

Companies find that it’s more sustainable to assess what systems deliver a return on investment when it comes to security and productivity. They can apply this thought process across every type of system or platform an enterprise uses. From collaboration to communication, using less rather than more solutions reduces the number of applications the help-desk needs to support and naturally minimizes help-desk backlogs.

  • Prioritize and automate.

All support tickets are not created equal. In resource-constrained remote working environments, IT teams need to apply a triage system to tickets overwhelming their desk. Some incidents, such as user authentication, will always require immediate attention, while others, like mundane user inquiries, aren’t as urgent. To help manage the never-ending flow of queries, enterprises can leverage automation to support their IT help desk teams.

Companies can streamline repetitive requests into back-end services and knowledge bases with a virtual service agent or chatbot. Leveraging the power of AI and machine learning, automation can create a 24×7 service for dealing with minor queries, while automatically upgrading more urgent ones to help-desk staff.

With more than 69% of organizations allowing BYOD policies for employees, there’s a real risk that new employee devices received over the holidays could become tomorrow’s unprotected endpoints. To make safe, productive, and long-term remote working a reality, it’s vital for companies to take a refreshed approach to how IT support will function in a remote environment.

Raz Rafaeli, co-founder and CEO, Secret Double Octopus

Original article source was posted here