Cast back to mid-January when everything in the world seemed normal. People went to work, children went to school, high street shops, restaurants and pubs bustled with trade and supermarket shelves were full of plain flour and toilet roll. Then, news reports of the newest strain of Coronavirus began to flood our television screens and social media channels; 580 active cases of Covid-19, primarily based in China. At this stage it was an unknown entity, a threat that most of us never imagined would make its way into our homes and infiltrate our lives.
By late January, the first cases of the virus were identified in the UK. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a pandemic on the 11th March. The country was under threat, economically, financially and more alarmingly, people’s lives were at risk. Below is the story of the approach we took with one of our clients and the ways in which we have both acclimatized and embraced the present changes within their business infrastructure to help them keep working during this pandemic.
As part of continual service improvement, there were various requirements put in place a number of years ago which needed to be considered to enable remote working such as Direct Access, MFA/2FA and ensuring laptops were available for all staff. We were therefore confident that from a security point of view, the client’s staff were able to work safely from their homes.
Our service manager raised the concern of the pandemic with the client on the 28th February. The initial approach was to assess the areas that would require attention and ensure that we were prepared for all possible outcomes. The primary target was to ensure that the client’s employees would be able to continue their roles through remote working.
Four key questions were raised:
- How would individuals contact the IT team if all staff are working from home?
- How would the IT team continue to provide a high quality service to the staff?
- What training would staff need to enable them to work from home?
- Do the staff have the necessary equipment to work from home?
Following the initial assessments with our specialist teams, several actions were defined:
- A review of the client’s current telephony system license
- The redirection and routing of the client’s IT support number to the Waterstons service desk
- The forwarding of Direct Dial numbers for staff to their mobile telephone devices
- Ensuring all staff were comfortable using Microsoft Teams for communication
- Completion of a full test of remote working on 12th March
With a rapidly changing situation and a vast increase in cases of Covid-19, it became vital that we completed the above actions as soon as possible. The remote working test which we carried out proved a huge success and assured the client that their staff would be able to work from a home environment should the need arise. Following on from this test, we also accomplished the following outcomes:
- A clear and transparent communication was sent out by the client to all staff on how they can work effectively from home
- Reinforced guidance on remote working and how to contact IT Support was provided
- A routing group was enabled for the IT Team so calls could be diverted
- The forwarding of Direct Dial numbers to mobile devices was enabled
At this point, on 12th March, we had successfully addressed the four initial key questions and provided solutions to allow the client to continue to operate. Coincidentally, it was on this day that the Government increased the pandemic risk level from moderate to high.
We were ready!
Following a successful 'Approach' phase, on 16th March the client took the decision to enforce remote working across its entire workforce. This was a big transformation for many staff who’d been used to working in an office environment. The morning routine, the journey to and from work, catching up with colleagues over lunch, all the structure and familiarity had suddenly been removed. But from the client’s perspective it was business as normal, or as normal as could be achieved under the circumstances. When required, staff received incoming calls directly to their mobile phones and the benefits of collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams increased daily as people became more acquainted with communicating through a technological interface as opposed to a physical interaction. The support from the IT team continued as normal and any onsite visits for emergency items and project work were handled separately with an approved risk assessment.
In these circumstances you would always expect an influx of support calls. For Waterstons this increased considerably with all clients changing to a working from home policy. As in any emergency, Waterstons pulled out all the stops to ensure each service was maintained for all clients.
In the weeks that have followed, the Covid-19 pandemic has spiralled in ways that we never envisaged. Society has changed immensely with the current lockdown rules, albeit temporarily. We are instructed to stay at home and as a result a huge proportion of the population have been furloughed or advised to work remotely where possible. Fortunately for our client, this possibility has been realised and the new ways of working have been accepted and adopted in a very positive manner. The flexible approach to our support models and the use of collaboration tools has helped to deliver the modifications we have implemented. It has allowed a high level of continuity across a business and has kept over 200 members of staff working effectively for the client. Although this is a difficult and unforeseen time, senior managers for the client have also welcomed the changes and are contemplating using similar structures to offer a future of flexible working opportunities.
What we have accomplished is at the heart of what Waterstons strives to achieve. We value the client’s business resilience, digital transformation and future workplace ethos.
How can we help you?
Working in partnership with you, our Managed Services team ensures all the people, processes and technology are in place to deliver an IT Service to keep your business doing what it does best. Our consultants will integrate seamlessly into your business to help make influential decisions about your IT service, whether it be fully outsourced or with a delivery team based on-site full time. When you work with our Managed Services team you are also gaining access to the full breadth of Waterstons' specialist expertise. We strive continuously to find ways to improve the services we provide and ensure risks and security concerns are managed accordingly, whether this is enacting a business continuity plan or reacting to a pandemic situation, we are here to help.