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Post-pandemic IT strategy; comfort, productivity, security

Mounir Jamil

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Post-pandemic IT strategy

While almost all industries where rattled by the advent of the pandemic – a commonality that they all shared was just how crucial tech is right now, and how it has acted as an enabler in 2020.

These strides in tech where what allowed companies to continue operations throughout lockdowns and enabled staff to work comfortable and efficiently from home.

This need for new tech, however, had a strenuous toll on IT departments globally forcing teams late into the night to roll out emergency solutions. All this was happening while global supply chains faltered and at some points even collapsed due to the pressure.

The strain was so intense, that every other company faced supply chain disruptions in 2020, causing IT buyers to pay a premium when it came to procuring the most basic equipment needed to keep business up and running.

Stepping into 2021, we try to learn from the several lessons the previous year has to offer and work on formulating a concrete post-pandemic IT strategy with a greater focus on the long term.

Making home more homy

When the pandemic first broke out, companies’ main focus was how to immediately meet needs and priorities such as keeping staff operational as they adapted to working from home.

Companies that mitigated the first wave of the pandemic are finally catching a breather – this will be a critical phase in planning ahead when it comes to accommodating for staff that are working from homes and making their stay more comfortable.

We can see that procurement priorities have changed from getting the basics towards meeting the needs of a broader workforce. Finally, wellbeing is becoming a bigger priority as well as we can see ergonomic office material on the rise as companies strive to create an ideal environment for the teams to work in.

In parallel, the needs for better connectivity at home, be it more reliable Wi-Fi or better sound and audio quality are also witnessing an increase. We can see that this IT strategy post-pandemic will prove to be useful on both the short and long run.

Maximizing productivity

It’s not just hardware that requires greater consideration, though. Hastily thrown-together collaborative systems, that got employees through the early months, need to be reviewed. Are those combinations of cloud-based video conferencing and email systems helping employees get the job done, or have elements started to inhibit productivity? Is a more joined-up workflow required to fit the way employees want to operate?

Hardware is one side of the equation, but that leaves out software such as applications and systems that have been quickly adopted to meet the needs of the pandemic.

The systems that got us through the first months of the pandemic need to be seriously reviewed. Some questions we might ask are whether these combinations of cloud-based video conferencing and email systems still helping in getting the job done? Are certain elements proving to be bottlenecks or are they hindering productivity? Is a more synchronized workflow needed to meet new needs?

This is the best time for IT leaders to evaluate the efficiency of the systems they currently have in place, while considering new alternatives that bring new features to the table.

Security, security, security

Another priority on many IT directors’ to-do list is security. Companies that rushed to equip employees with computers, and provide remote access at home, will need to ensure that no corners were cut in the process – and that critical functions remain secure.

A major theme following us from 2020 and expected to shine even brighter in 2021 is security. An effective post-pandemic IT strategy needs to take into account security as a core competency.

2020 witnessed a tremendous rise in cyberattacks during lockdowns, with perpetrators aiming at the weaker and laxer security systems. In a preventive approach, IT departments should pair up with HR departments and work in bringing security awareness trainings.

Organizations will also need to revise their endpoint security controls, however, to bolster perimeter defenses. With large numbers continuing to work remotely, mobile device management (MDM) solutions may be needed to authenticate users, and check that anti-virus, firewalls and software patches are up to date.

MDM can also prove to be very useful for storing information in the correct place, enabling appropriate backups to take place and keeping disaster recovery protocols in check.

Whatever the post-pandemic IT strategy implemented, IT leaders should bear in mind the time they need to roll out new systems or features, how these new roll outs will work in conjunction with other systems, and most importantly flagging any security compromises.

Junior social media strategist with a degree in business. Passionate about technology, film, music and video games.

MedTech

Sleep therapy device raises over $315.38 in crowdfunding

Karim Husami

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A UK-designed sleep therapy solution with global ambitions raised over $314.21 in the first week of a Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign.

SleepCogni, a portable device with data support for people suffering from insomnia, has so far attracted funds from 157 different investors in this latest fundraiser that combines venture capital investments and crowdfunding.

The firm’s latest lenders include Chasnay ​​Capital Investments, a new private investment fund founded by three former senior executives from General Electric (GE) Healthcare.

Co-founded by Sheffield-based entrepreneur Richard Mills, who has personally suffered from sleeping disorders, and Dutch chronobiologist and sleep expert, Dr Maan van de Werken, said the device allows users to self-manage their insomnia, a condition which affects one in three people across the world.

“Our successful crowdfund campaign builds on the momentum of last month’s FDA registration and the completion of clinical trials where SleepCogni achieved extraordinary results reducing clinical insomnia in just seven days.”

Reinaldo Garcia from Chasnay Capital Investments added: “We’re excited by our investment into SleepCogni for many reasons: its patented technology and clinically validated solution addresses an unmet need in the global sleep aid market, and the company is backed by an excellent team. As experienced global senior leaders with a proven track record, we can add value in this next exciting stage of the business and help SleepCogni scale on a global level.”

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Pfizer vaccine efficacy falls to 84% after 6 months

Hala Turk

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Pfizer and BioNTech published on Wednesday new data indicating their COVID-19 vaccine efficacy decline from 96 percent to 84 percent over six months.

These numbers are regarded as a big motivator to the drug makers currently developing a third “booster shot” to target the Indian Delta variant. 

The released data shows that the antibody levels are much higher against the Alpha coronavirus variant and the South African Beta variant, after a third dose.

Based on the figures, the efficacy “declined gradually” as it dropped from 96 percent during the first week to around two months after receiving a second jab. The dose’s effectiveness then plummeted to 83.7 percent four to six months later with an average drop of 6 percent over the last two months.

The findings may be considered by U.S. health authorities in deciding when the pair’s booster shot might be needed.

The data, which involved tests of 23 people, was published by Pfizer and has not been peer reviewed by the scientific community.

The announcement of the data and was released on the day of the company’s earnings call.

During the call, Mikael Dolsten chief scientific officers described the new data on a third dose of vaccine “encouraging.”

“Receiving a third dose more than six months after vaccination, when protection may be beginning to wane, was estimated to potentially boost the neutralizing antibody titers in participants in this study to up to 100 times higher post-dose three compared to pre-dose three,” Dolsten said in a statement.

Despite Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech’s booster shot plans, both Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a joint statement highlighting that Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this moment in time.

The statement noted that FDA, CDC, and National Institutes of Health (NIH) are engaged in a science-based process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary.

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Google delays return to office, mandates vaccines

Associated Press

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Google delays return to office, mandates vaccines

Google is postponing a return to the office for most workers until mid-October and rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone to be vaccinated once its sprawling campuses are fully reopened.

The more highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is driving a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Google’s Wednesday announcement was shortly followed by Facebook, which also said it will make vaccines mandatory for U.S. employees who work in offices. Exceptions will be made for medical and other reasons.

In an email sent to Google’s more than 130,000 employees worldwide, CEO Sundar Pichai said the company is now aiming to have most of its workforce back to its offices beginning Oct. 18 instead of its previous target date of Sept. 1.

The decision also affects tens of thousands of contractors who Google intends to continue to pay while access to its campuses remains limited.

“This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it,” Pichai wrote.

And Pichai disclosed that once offices are fully reopened, everyone working there will have to be vaccinated. The requirement will be first imposed at Google’s Mountain View, California, headquarters and other U.S. offices, before being extended to the more than 40 other countries where Google operates.

“This is the stuff that needs to be done, because otherwise we are endangering workers and their families,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University and a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. “It is not fair to parents to be expected to come back to work and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with unvaccinated people who could be carrying a potentially deadly virus.”

Because children under the age of 12 aren’t currently eligible to be vaccinated, parents can bring the virus home to them from the office if they are around unvaccinated colleagues, Wen said.

Various government agencies already have announced demands for all their employees to be vaccinated, but the corporate world so far has been taking a more measured approach, even though most lawyers believe the mandates are legal.

Delta and United airlines are requiring new employees to show proof of vaccination. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are requiring their employees to disclose their vaccination status, but are not requiring staffers to be vaccinated.

Less than 10% of employers have said they intend to require all employees to be vaccinated, based on periodic surveys by the research firm Gartner.

While other major technology companies may follow suit now that Google and Facebook have taken stands on vaccines, employers in other industries still may be reluctant, predicted Brian Kropp, chief of research for Gartner’s human resources practice.

“Google is seen as being such a different kind of company that I think it’s going to take one or two more big employers to do something similar in terms of becoming a game changer,” Kropp said.

Google’s vaccine mandate will be adjusted to adhere to the laws and regulations of each location, Pichai wrote, and exceptions will be made for medical and other “protected” reasons.

“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Pichai explained.

Google’s decision to require employees working in the office to be vaccinated comes on the heels of similar moves affecting hundreds of thousands government workers in California and New York as part of stepped-up measures to fight the delta variant. President Joe Biden also is considering mandating all federal government workers be vaccinated.

The rapid rise in cases during the past month has prompted more public health officials to urge stricter measures to help overcome vaccine skepticism and misinformation.

The vaccine requirement rolling out in California next month covers more than 240,000 government employees. The city and county of San Francisco is also requiring its roughly 35,000 workers to be vaccinated or risk disciplinary action after the Food and Drug Administration approves one of the vaccines now being distributed under an emergency order.

It’s unclear how many of Google’s workers still haven’t been vaccinated. In his email, Pichai described the vaccination rate at the company as high.

Google’s decision to extend its remote-work follows a similar move by another technology powerhouse, Apple, which recently moved its return-to-office plans from September to October, too.

The delays by Apple and Google could influence other major employers to take similar precautions, given that the technology industry has been at the forefront of the shift to remote work triggered by the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Even before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March 2020, Google, Apple and many other prominent tech firms had been telling their employees to work from home. This marks the third time Google has pushed back the date for fully reopening its offices.

Google’s vaccine requirement also could embolden other employers to issue similar mandates to guard against outbreaks and minimize the need to wear masks in the office.

While most companies are planning to bring back their workers at least a few days a week, others in the tech industry have decided to let employees do their jobs from remote locations permanently.


SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP)

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