COVID-19 has exposed the good, bad and ugly side of information technology (IT). Technology has enabled people to work remotely, education to continue and families to keep in touch. At the same time, it has exposed areas where technology challenges make these same things difficult, especially where jobs have the potential to continue remotely but the technology hasn’t been implemented. Finally, on the ugly side there can be issues ranging from new risks, fraud, data security and disengaged workforces.
Information Technology has been a part of many businesses for decades and it has often had a deep and complex legacy. This can be old systems, processes that rely on paper, manual integration between systems and centralised reporting. On the desktop side, they have a mix of hardware, incomplete operating system upgrade projects, legacy VPN solutions, security tools and a variety of clever (read undocumented) workarounds. All this is managed by a team who are stretched for time and have a limited budget.
Good, Bad and Ugly
The overwhelming feedback from organisations I have spoken to is that cloud technologies have been an enabler and have made working from home easier than for those with on-premises solutions. Some of the common reasons are:
• Easier access to document content.
• Good meeting and communication tools.
• Low effort to onboard additional users.
• Device independence and mobility.
The transition to working from home wasn’t always smooth. There are the human challenges of how to work effectively from home, but also numerous technical and supplier challenges, including:
• Buying new laptop hardware – many suppliers ran out of stock.
• High support workload will large numbers of people needing extra help.
• Poor internet in some locations. ADSL and Rural Broadband.
• Less than idea home working environments.
There is another group of people who move quickly when a crisis occurs, hackers and scammers. Fake invoices and a wide variety of COVID19 related scams and hoaxes are doing the rounds.
User Adoption and Other Challenges
In addition to the technology challenges, there are other factors that influence the ease of transition to working from home. User skill level, existing experience with remote working, the type of job a person has, and the organisations culture are also significant factors. The Office 365 usage stats back up the increase in adoption / usage and transition to cloud technologies. Comparing Microsoft Teams usage over the lockdown period, shows a sudden increase in usage for many of our clients. Many started rolling out Teams prior to the lockdown but then rapidly onboarded large numbers of users the week of the 14th March. Microsoft added over 12 Million new Teams users the same week.
It’s not just office productivity and collaboration tools that made the transition easier. For businesses and organisations that are still operating being able to keep non-essential staff working from home is important. Access to ERP, CRM, Payroll and other line of business systems is important and cloud or web-based systems make this easier in most cases.
There are challenges, especially where process requires physical paper, people don’t have access to technology, jobs require physical presence, supply chain challenges, etc. Organisations are learning to meet online, finding new ways to work together and engage with customers and suppliers over fibre broadband rather than in-person. It takes time to adjust and while we find our feet collectively, our working relationships grow.
IT also has challenges and new things to understand. For everything from selecting systems, solutions architecture, licensing, device choice, security, mobile device management, voice and data services, IT must think differently. The good news is senior leadership will be acutely aware of the importance of the investment and value it brings.
COVID-19 is a catalyst for change. It shines a light on every business, highlighting the good, bad and ugly. Our challenge as a community is to rise to the challenge, learn from the experience and create a great digital workplace.
Our team at Stratos has extensive experience developing and supporting solutions that support remote working. Intranets, workflow solutions, custom web-based line of business software and custom mobile solutions.
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