The Virtual Workforce -Enabling Employees to

By Rick Owens, VP, Infrastructure & Operations, Sitel

Rick Owens, VP, Infrastructure & Operations, Sitel

For many years, organizations and business users have grown accustomed to the concept of Bring your own Device (BYOD), as more and more members of the workforce use mobile devices to blend work, life and recreation. It is not unusual to see young executives type long, technically detailed messages from devices that even include diagrams and other illustrations. The adaptation of technology to allow completion of complex job functions in innovative ways has given way to BYOL: Bring your own Location. The definition of “the office” has expanded beyond the four walls of an organization’s headquarters. The evolution of the global economy, the necessity to expand talent pools and the emergence of “follow-the-sun” business structures has inspired many forward-thinking organizations to reconsider the value of having all employees under the same roof and creating systems to allow work to be done from almost anywhere.

"We’ve taken varied approaches to access tools and data, depending on the particular application or data security requirement circumstances"

Wherever we are, we’re there:

At Sitel, a global call center outsourcing service provider, we created a BYOL environment that includes 120 office locations around the world and more than 3,000 employees who work outside of a brick-and-mortar office. From our customer experience agents to many of our top technical executives—who must be in consistent communication with one another—the Sitel team is spread out all over the U.S. and the world:

• Director of global networks: Omaha, Nebraska,
• Telephony and voice director: Newcastle, UK
• IT systems and servers director: Buffalo, New York
• Voice Architect: Madison, Wisconsin
• Work at home technology and virtual desktop director: Houston Texas

Additionally, our Operations Command Center (OCC) is based in Mumbai, with high-caliber engineers leading the monitoring, alarming and remediation of all systems. We have satellite OCCs in the Philippines and the UK. Although we do use office buildings to base our operation monitoring teams, all tools can be utilized anywhere to support business activities.

How we made BYOL work:

While many benefits can be enjoyed by instituting a BYOL environment, the challenge is creating solutions and instituting process and practices necessary to facilitate seamless, secure communication. In a BYOL environment, employees communicate through laptops, mobile devices, desktop computers, etc. This extreme communication viability is only accomplished by unique and secure management of networks, databases and communication assets. Many global organizations have dozens of offices worldwide, a number of employees working while on the road or at home full time. There are any number of security vulnerabilities that could impact regulations such as HIPAA/HITECH, EU Privacy Directive or PCI.

In creating our BYOL environment, we considered three core components: application and data access, secure connectivity, and end device enablement. Solving each of these areas involved typical technical concepts and solutions for multi-factor authentication. Additionally, we focused on extensive logging of attempted access and metadata about what was accessed, when it was accessed and how it was accessed.

We use things such as MPLS Net-bond connections from Data Center facilities to our vendors and partners. And finally, we often employ Virtual Desktop Interfaces (VDI) through technologies such as Citrix, VMWare and Amazon’s Workspaces. We’ve taken varied approaches to access tools and data, depending on the particular application or data security requirement circumstances. For example, we could just use Active Directory authentication for one situation or require additional factors like Fortinet tokens in another.

• Application and Data access:

At the application layer of a VDI approach, we adopted Microsoft’s O365 and enabled access from any OS including Microsoft, Android, and Apple - spanning desktops, laptop, tablet and handheld formats.

• Secure Connectivity:

In that past, the only connectivity option was VPN, but now Virtual Desktop along with web published applications protected by layer 7 Web Application Firewalls allows secure, authenticated access to individual tools. Security is paramount. At the onset of BYOD or the cloud, IT took a “can’t” approach, which still in some circumstances is warranted. However, we know that approach is not only outdated, but virtually impossible to enforce. BYOD and the cloud should be included in the business model and security initiatives should go hand-in-hand with how technology is used. Through a disciplined process and management of connectivity, communication and devices, PCI accreditation can be achieved.

• End device enablement:

Once connected, easy collaboration is a key to launching a successful BYOL environment. Using virtual desktop allows visibility to see who’s online at any time, if they’re available, in a meeting or have stepped away. Virtual phone numbers allow for phone calls to be fielded, regardless of location, and voicemail-to-text conversation allows for quick responses, regardless of format.

The business world will likely never evolve to a point of everyone working from home, but it is very clear that a growing segment will, moving forward. That said, at some point everyone will need to work from the road. For global organizations, multi-geographic collaboration is a non-negotiable aspect of their success. Creating a BYOL environment that securely enables fast communication makes an organization more efficient and allows business users to be productive whenever, wherever.