Like many businesses throughout the world, we’ve been forced to adjust quickly to the challenging and complex scenario in which we all find ourselves as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Our team has been working hard to support our customers in any way possible as they’ve attempted to respond to this unprecedented situation, while we’ve also taken whatever steps we can to ensure the ongoing safety of our own team while striving to deliver an uninterrupted service.
As you’d expect, the last few weeks have seen an exceptional spike in call volumes for our support team as well as an increased workload for our technicians and engineers. Clearly, the main focus for us all is ensuring the safety of ourselves, our family and our friends while also doing what is needed to support the real heroes – those working on the front line in the health service and other key areas.
That being said, I believe that there are lessons we can all learn from this experience, and that includes how we realise the full value of the investments we’ve already made in technology, as well as the important role IT can play in the long-term business strategy.
The first real impact on Highlander was when we noticed some customers begin to place significant orders for new hardware and peripherals, with a view to facilitating a mass home working strategy.
From this point on we took the steps needed to facilitate those enquiries while also making sure that everyone, both our customers and other businesses within our community, were aware of the need to speak with their IT provider to ensure that they were properly prepared to deal with an evolving situation.
Some already had robust disaster recovery strategies in place and were able to action these as and when required with minimal assistance from us. Equally, many of our customers were less equipped and as a result required more in-depth assistance, something that was especially challenging in the volumes and time frames required.
To put things into perspective, we’d expect to typically log around 400-500 support calls every week, but in recent weeks that level has increased to around 700-800 with 1,000+ at peak periods.
Our team really stepped up, working around the clock to help customers prepare for home working, setting up cloud-based phone systems, security solutions and collaboration tools to meet tight deadlines. We were even able to onboard new customers in under a day and get them set up for effective remote working.
When the dust has settled and the time is right to do so, I think it’s important that business leaders and decision makers take time to analyse their experiences and preparedness for the unexpected.
For us, the importance of strategy in readiness for this type of eventuality has shown itself to be key. Establishing a clear disaster recovery and business continuity plan, that ensures access to the technology and tools you need, will alleviate much of the stress many have experienced. This can be as simple as making sure everyone has an up-to-date client device, or implementing larger scale changes such as cloud backups and cloud-based phone systems to provide greater levels of flexibility.
There’s also real value in consistently reviewing your home working measures to reduce any unexpected issues. Here at Highlander, our business is run using NetSuite’s cloud-based ERP, so we were well prepared to begin home working even where critical business systems were concerned. Even then, we encountered unexpected challenges as many of our team began home working for the first time, so in future we’ll make sure we take time to test these processes at regular intervals.
Above all else, I hope that we will all now see the real value of not just the technologies available to us, but the experience, expertise and advice of the real experts who are at the heart of IT providers and partners such as ourselves. For some, especially those less tech-savvy, IT has perhaps been seen as somewhat of a necessary evil. Something forced upon them that causes a major headache and sometimes unwelcomed costs, especially when it doesn’t work the way they want. Some of our customers have chosen to ignore measured advice in the past and in all truthfulness have been the one’s caught out the most.
It’s important to remember that there are people behind IT, and we all have to put our trust in them. It’s been so pleasing to see and hear how much positive feedback and gratitude our team has received from our customers. In some cases, they simply couldn’t have carried on operating without our intervention, and as Managing Director I’m delighted with what our incredible team has accomplished. They can be proud of what they’ve done in their new role as key workers.
Moving forward I hope that IT, especially those with the talent and knowledge to implement real change, will begin to play a more prominent role in shaping long-term business strategy, especially at a time where many businesses are looking to undertake new projects and explore opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
If you’re looking to explore any new opportunities, or would like to make more of your investment in existing tools and technologies to facilitate your home working strategy, we are always willing to be involved in these conversations and are here to help when required.