Author: Gary Hibberd
Date: 9th June 2020
When Boris Johnson announced ‘lockdown’ on March 23, many people were in the fortunate position to have prepared and were ready to work from home.
The bedroom, kitchen, front room, conservatory and even the garden shed were quickly transformed into the new office space.
But while many office workers began to get used to this ‘new norm’, there were (and are) teams of people travelling to their place of work to carry out essential work. I’m not talking about the essential workers we hear about on the news; I’m talking about the IT support workers, who were there to support the IT infrastructure to ensure your remote workers could continue to be, well, remote.
Keeping the lights on
Having spent 35 years in the technology space, I may be biased here, but I’ve long believed the IT function doesn’t get the praise they deserve.
– Everything going well? No one knows you exist.
– Servers and systems down? It’s all your fault.
All of this, despite having budgets cut, resource and training challenges, an increase in diverse systems and technology, and of course an increase in cyberattacks.
The IT team, in-house or not, are an essential part of the business helping to keep the lights on. And in some cases, literately keeping the lights on! As many organisations still have large internal infrastructures, a lot of time, expense and travel is required to ensure things run smoothly, and your operations are not affected by the lack of ‘on-premise’ support.
In some situations internal IT staff had to be furloughed, which of course places additional risk on the rest of the business as there is no one there to provide support, should something else happen.
A New Norm = The New Office
As we begin to move out of the current lockdown and see some easing of the restrictions, we’re all going to have to re-think what our office (and IT infrastructure needs) will look like. Perhaps you’re already thinking about making remote working a part of your culture. After all, do the development team need to travel, via public transport, to an office, for 9am so that they can develop the latest App for you?
I have already spoken to a number of people who run small, medium and even large organisations who have all stated that they are already looking very carefully at how people quickly adapted to the ‘new norm’. How can they help people work remotely, while still ensuring they feel part of the team, is one of the challenges they face.
Covid19 has not been fun for anyone. Thousands have died, families and communities have been affected, and entire industries and sectors have been affected. I will leave the empty platitudes to the Government, but for us, as business leaders and owners, we need to move forward positively and look at what this crisis has given us, and what we need to do next.
The BIA Process
Part of this self-awareness and internal analysis must include a review of working practices and processes. Do we need our staff to commute on public transport for meetings which could easily be held via video conferencing? Do we need large office spaces? Can we reduce costs by reducing our square-foot requirements? Do we need on-premise IT infrastructure? Can we outsource some of our support requirements? Who do we need to have in the office? How many people need to be here?
I’ve looked at these kinds of questions for many years, through the lens of Business Continuity (BC). Perhaps you have too? If you haven’t, maybe now is the time to conduct that Business Impact Analysis (BIA) that you’ve been putting off.
Conducting a BIA will give you a clear understanding of what resources you need when you need them, and what the impact would be should you lose them.
From there, you can build out your BC Strategy, which in turn will determine such things as alternative working practices, outsourcing your IT Infrastructure, and Data storage requirements.
Completing a BIA doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply sit with a pen and pad and answer the following questions;
– What does ‘normal’ look like? (i.e. How many people in X department?)
– What systems are critical to us (i.e. you couldn’t survive beyond a week without them)
– What would the impact be of losing X department for 1 day, 1 week, 1 month?
– What would the impact be of losing X system for 1 day, 1 week, 1 month?
– What would ‘business survival’ look like? (i.e. Minimum number of people in X department, to ‘keep the lights on’)
– How quickly would you need X department back up and running? ( e.g 1 day? 2 days?)
– How quickly would you need X system back up and running? ( e.g 4 hrs? Immediately?)
– Who are our critical suppliers? And how you cope if THEY were couldn’t provide services for 1 day, 1 week or 1 month?
From here, you can build out your strategy. You may find that you need to re-think your IT infrastructure support requirements. Perhaps looking at outsourcing support or data storage to a DC, or you may need to re-think your working environment; Do you need all those desks and floor space?
Completing a simple BIA like this can highlight what you need when things go wrong. But more than this; It can potentially save you money.
As we go ‘back-to-business’, I think we need to go ‘back-to-basics’ and ask ourselves if the way we have been working has been working against us. We need to ask ourselves if there are better, more efficient and more cost-effective ways of working.
If we simply return to the ‘old-norm’, then I believe we are missing an incredible opportunity to improve on what was there before, and that would be an astonishing waste of all that we have been through.
Let’s not miss the opportunity.
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