Coronavirus: Tech lessons learned

Since the lockdown began on March 24, UK tech workers have shown that they can adapt and develop new processes very quickly to enable many people to remain productive during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The ITam Review recently ran a Crisis Management Zoom conference looking at what organisations have done to keep in business during the pandemic. David Foxen, founder & principal consultant, at SAM Beast Consulting, discussed how the global fund management firm he worked for handled the Asia-Pacific region before Coronavirus hit Europe.

At the start of the Coronavirus crisis, the company created a traffic lights system to identify staff that had underlying health issues that made them more susceptible to Coronavirus. Those classified as blue worked from home; the yellow and red groups worked two weeks in the offices and two weeks at home in order to maintain an onsite presence. Before the full lockdown, staff were asked to check they had the IT equipment needed to work from home. He says, initially before full lockdown, the IT ran a skeleton team to keep things running, such as ensuring people who remotely logged into their desk PC could continue to do so.

Little things matter

What is interesting from Foxen’s experience is the little things that suddenly become a major problem…and pose an ethical dilemma. What happens if someone forgets their laptop’s charger or their headset in the office? Do you put someone at risk, to travel to the office to get the hardware; should a new one be sourced and delivered to the employee’s home or should they be asked to purchase something themselves and claim back expenses?

Then there is the practical challenge of ensuring everyone has a laptop. Is the corporate device fully patched? Has it ever been connected to the home Wi-Fi network?

While the IT team did have requests for high-end laptops and iPads, it soon became apparent that people could usually get by with older stock devices IT kept. Foxen says: “It takes a pandemic for the message to get across  that you can recycle old stuff. They still work. You don’t have to buy expensive laptops.”

As the lockdown continues, companies with contractors and where staff are being furloughed, will need to adapt the leavers and joiners process. Foxen and the IT team needed to consider how to ensure corporate devices were being returned.

All of this points to having a comprehensive inventory management database. It may not seem as a top priority, but knowing where every piece of IT equipment is should be part of any business continuity plan.

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