The Coronavirus outbreak has made all of us realise how vulnerable we can be to an unexpected event which is almost impossible to plan for from a business perspective. Many businesses are now struggling to work out how they can continue trading in the current climate and are trying to implement working from home. However, there is more to it than this, and I have tried to set out in this brief blog how this can be achieved and, in many cases, cost effectively and quickly.
We have been incredibly lucky with our business. We provide 24x7 Managed Services from our Cambridge offices and when we were setting up the service two years ago, we were also working with two clients upgrading their infrastructure. Both had separate catastrophic business failures which were completely beyond their control, but we helped both of them restore their services quickly.
At the time, we vowed that we would try and ensure that our service centre would be as resilient as possible so that we could continue trading and offer the same level of service to our customers even if we had a building failure/ a mass bout of sickness etc.
So, we set about changing our technology, but just as importantly our working practices so that if we did need to switch, we could do so really quickly. The following were some of the steps that we took, but most importantly we started with the ambition to trade and provide our services as normal. We also needed to make sure that our staff were familiar with different ways of working and that the systems and processes were in place.
1) Agree on the business strategy
It’s really important to understand that this is not a “working from home policy” but a business continuity plan to ensure that normal day to-day operations can continue. That means you need to look at all of the business processes and what can be done to ensure they all work remotely and there aren’t “single points of failure”. The business leaders also need to understand and support the strategy. Additionally, its vital to alter the mindset that even during difficult periods, staff need to be trusted and can be very productive even if they are not in their normal work environment.
2) Adopt a “Cloud First” approach
There will always be a small minority who are “anti-cloud” and cite security issues, but so many applications are cloud enabled now that it makes things much easier and simpler to set up and by the way, even government and defence use the cloud now. It is just as important that accounting packages and ERP systems are cloud based on other traditional IT systems and applications. For example, its no use trying to run your sales ledger from home workers if you have an “on-prem” accounting package - You won’t be able to get your invoices out properly or to track VAT.
The same applies to CRM - managing your customers and being able to help them is a key area that you will need to address if you start working remotely - again, being cloud based is a pre-requisite for a successful transformation!
3) Have the right management systems in place
The old adage about “what you can’t measure you can’t manage” is never truer at this time. Having great systems in place (again cloud based) to ensure that you can manage your customers and your staff even if you have no direct physical contact with them is vital. We invested a lot of time and effort bringing different systems together so that we got a true picture of our customer experience and how we are performing as a business.
4) Empower your staff
Your staff are your most valuable asset. Listening to the news I have felt desperately sorry for both business owners and workers who are having to resort to desperate measures. Let’s not forget that the vast majority of people do want to work and are struggling with family and serious health problems at this difficult time. Being able to allow your staff to work from home and still serve customers or send out invoices whilst they still look after children, partners or elderly relatives is a huge reliever of stress and allows both employers and staff to carry on working as normally as possible.