Business Continuity Planning: Responding To The Covid-19 Crisis
Julie Bishop, Founder and CEO of IT Naturally, speaks to psd about the business’s response to Covid-19, the reality of putting a business continuity plan into place and the lessons learnt along the way.
Covid-19 has resulted in many businesses having to drastically change the way they work. Did IT Naturally have a business continuity plan in place?
Yes, we had a business continuity plan which we dusted off. We started reviewing it about two weeks before government advice to work from home, and one of the things we realised was that we didn’t have enough equipment for everyone to take home. We have a 24/7 service desk and found we had enough for our people on shift, however we needed to purchase a number of laptops to supplement this. We bought network cards to install onto the desktops so that employees could take a desktop home and use that wirelessly. We installed additional security, on to the machines and people are able to use them as personal devices.
We asked everyone to work from home a week before the government instructed, as one of the service desk team had a temperature. We still don’t know whether they had Covid 19 or not, but because everybody was working in very close proximity, we thought it was wise to send everyone home.
Once remote working was underway, did you identify any issues that hadn’t been covered in the plan?
We are a cloud-based company, we do not have any applications on site and we are completely paperless. During the first couple of days there were a few blips – people all around the world were using Microsoft Teams which resulted in a few issues, but Microsoft increased capacity and we’ve had no problems since. Beyond that, everything has worked extremely well.
One of the things which hadn’t been considered in the continuity plan has been working with children home from school. For people that are on nightshift it can be very difficult to work at home without disturbing their families.
One of the members of our team does not have Wi-Fi so we needed to supply a Wi-Fi dongle, but, working from home has worked so much more smoothly than we ever imagined it would, though we do miss the social interaction.
As a business, have you had to change anything about the way you work?
These are strange and unprecedented times. We have made sure every team has a daily meeting to ensure that we are all coping well and feeling part of the team. We have a daily leadership meeting early in the morning and each team has their own meeting following this. We have found that people have had ups and downs at different times. My business partner and I have both had days that we found tricky, so we are asking everyone to be open about when they are experiencing problems so that we can support them through it.
We also realised some people, were spending all day at their computer without taking a break. We instituted a compulsory lunch hour – no new meetings are to be set up between 12pm and 1pm every day – so everyone can take that time out. We have also made it clear that if people need to block out time to spend with their children or other family, we will respect that time. Some employees will do things with their children during the day and complete their work In the evening, because that works better for them. We are listening to our people to make sure that we can try to work around each person’s individual needs.
We realise many are missing the social side of the work environment, so we are using far more videos on teams to keep up that face to face contact. We have also introduced a social area where people are posting jokes and video clips.
Has the workload changed at all?
Initially it was very busy as a large customer was moving to home working for its office-based staff. Our help desk was hectic helping those who weren’t used to working remotely – setting up access and even helping configure home printers.
In parallel we have a migration to cloud project underway for a customer who is moving from an on-premise data centre to the cloud. This project has tight timescales for the customer to achieve large savings. We start every day with a ‘go/no-go’ meeting and it doesn’t end until that day’s servers have been migrated, sometimes the following morning.
We are very proud of how our team members are working extremely well together during such a busy period, balancing work with home life.
What have you learnt from this situation?
We are a cloud only company and everything for us is always online. This has made it much easier for us to carry on working as normal. We are a technology company with people who are excited by technology. We hope that there are other companies out there that we can help, enabling them to use technology far and wide. I think that now people know what is possible, many companies will never go back to the old ways of working.
We will, however, be thrilled when we are finally able to be together again.
Julie started her career in IT with the Metropolitan Police and has since spent most of her career working for Airlines. She was on the IT leadership teams at British Airways, Etihad Airways and then Cathay Pacific Airways. More recently Julie has, with a partner, launched a successful IT Infrastructure Company, IT Naturally. The company manages and transforms IT infrastructure and has been going from strength to strength.