IT lessons learned in lockdown
As we all get used to the ‘new norm’ since Covid and potentially brace ourselves for a second wave, it’s a good time to reflect on the lessons we have learned in the IT world. If nothing else, Covid-19 has shown us that businesses need to have an infrastructure that embraces technology, something that can move with the digital needs of its workforce and ensure productivity is not affected by any major crisis that may come our way.
To this end we have put together our top 6 lessons learned from lockdown.
1. Working from home
Over the last few years there has been a general trend towards working from home, with people desiring more flexibility. With Covid-19 the mass change to homeworking was accelerated but ultimately clunky. The instantaneous need to be able to access the office remotely caused many internal IT departments to go into meltdown, resulting in long delays. Then came the issues of security and how businesses could ensure the privacy of the work that someone sitting in their bedroom was doing. Empty offices equate to busy phones and everything going through email servers; it has been essential for security and privacy to be increased.
Although no one could have predicted such an unprecedented lockdown and the need to shift your entire workforce to work remotely at such short notice, it is now clear that we need to make sure that our infrastructure going forward can facilitate changes to working patterns. It may be that we never see a full return to working in an office, and therefore it’s important that your team has the correct tools to be able to work from home, your IT department has the resources and support it needs, and that accessibility to files, systems and data is consistent and secure.
2. Zoom and other Video Conferencing
Once we all got over checking out our colleagues’ interior design skills, trying to work out which books they had on their bookshelves, and the impromptu visits from kids and dogs, video conferencing became a necessity for working life and therefore an IT essential. Virtual meetings are now no longer anything to be wary off, especially after 10 calls in a day! They give us a chance to still connect with our work colleagues, maybe in a more personal way, seeing them in their home environment.
It is important to ensure that your whole team have access to and can use the various digital platforms that you need to keep in touch. Try to ensure that you have a preferred platform that is the one consistently used and if needed get some training in place to develop your teams’ skills on using it.
Videoconference Bingo’ and other variations may be humorous, but they are perfect examples of the most common mistakes that people make.
3. VPN (Virtual Private Networks)
We had heard from some companies who struggled with their VPN over the first couple of weeks of lockdown. From it dropping out at inopportune times, to a long wait for a security team to activate an employee as existing processes required identity to be verified face-to-face. We have also seen some customers making huge investments as though VPN is the only possible option for remote working.
Remote work should be enabled by technologies like virtual private networks not hindered by them.
While VPNs played a huge role in the remote working landscape at the beginning of lockdown, we have found that they are not the only option around. We have seen more and more companies moving critical systems into SaaS platforms that are accessible directly through the web, removing the corporate network bottleneck. This has cut down on the complexity in getting employees access to what they need, when they need it.
Companies we have spoken with have found Ivanti File Director to be invaluable as it allows employees access to the files they need, without the need for VPN access, while still maintaining security of that data.
4. Flexible Working – Micro-Consulting Units
Along with the recognition that work can be done as well remotely as it can on-site, at MarXtar we have seen an increase in flexible hourly consulting (Micro Consulting Units – MCUs) where we support businesses with hourly blocks of consultants’ time. Rather than working in the larger, less flexible daily units we have been working in units of one hour.
Customers we worked with during lockdown realised that having a flexible pool of time to help them expand the use of their systems or to transfer knowledge in a controlled fashion could be far more flexible than the more traditional models. Not all companies can afford a large IT department with dedicated expertise in certain areas, it can be much more effective having experts on call to provide team extension when required.
5. Review your business model
There is nothing like a crisis to help showcase the areas of your business that do not work well. Unfortunately, it is during a time like this when you need them to be at their best.
Most companies coming out of lockdown will realise that they need to increase their spending in specialised digital infrastructure, including training for IT teams, automation, servicing equipment, disaster recovery systems and health checks on systems. Good business continuity plans will put more emphasis on the business needs, and good IT departments will use this crisis situation to build a strong case study to showcase what they really need as part of their IT infrastructure to excel.
Like all businesses during this time, we have had to change the way we work, and how we interact with our colleagues. The busy MarXtar office support team, and the on the road IT consultants who would usually be visiting customers, turned into a fully remote working team, juggling home schooling, illness, and pets! As a company we are lucky as we have always been set up to work remotely, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that we do all like to get together in the office.
As a Managing Director, I have learned that it is important to have people around you that you can rely on. Over lockdown my teams have had to work harder and longer to help support all our customers, and I’m grateful to them for the commitment and hard work they have put in, especially under such unprecedented conditions. In addition, hopefully my employees have learned that I will have their backs and protect the MarXtar family to the best of my and the businesses’ ability.
So, the lesson I would share with you is to make sure you have a strong team and that you respect and support each other.
With this pandemic it has been imperative for companies to find a way to still be competitive and accessible to their customers, whilst also showing some kindness and community spirit. This new era of technology needs to envelop the human aspect, the need to interact, and to be socially connected and inclusive. We need to be sure we are safe working in our own home and that technology can be governed, with maybe even new laws being put in place to protect remote working.
MarXtar delivers benefits by enhancing a company’s existing investments in technologies including Microsoft SCCM, Ivanti Service Desk, Ivanti Service Manager, Ivanti Endpoint Manager and many other vendor solutions. A worldwide services team with over 25 years in the industry and renowned for excellence, MarXtar combines best of breed vendor partners with its own developed software to enhance and extend the reach of traditional Systems and Service Management.