In the few weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic announcement, several countries have imposed a complete lockdown to restrict the movement of people and goods. The move has not only changed our lives but also changed how businesses operate. Stricter governance and shutdown of physical movement has placed a great strain on businesses. In response to the pandemic, several business leaders are considering remote work as an option for their employees. At this stage, there is no way of predicting the short-term or long-term implications of COVID-19 for businesses.
Amid a pandemic, how can CXOs ensure business continuity?
During this evolving scenario, businesses have to be proactive and quick in their decision-making to ensure business continuity. Organizations have to rethink their business continuity plans (BCP) and align it to how the pandemic would affect their businesses from the perspective of governance, risks, audit, assurance, and reporting. While it is a general practice to establish remote working policies in advance, in times of crisis a lot of factors can go against your plans. Remote working teams are particularly vulnerable to communication, technology, and security risks. But how are teams addressing the challenges of remote working?
1. Alignment to work timings
In this age of global businesses and 24/7 connectivity, time differences don’t seem like a challenge for companies. But during a lockdown, it is normal for time differences to impact operations. Without an immediate response to work queries, business functions can be severely impacted. Encourage your team to adhere to business hours, login at the start time and complete their scheduled work within the working hours. This way they have a distinction between office and home hours. The distinction would help in being mindful of other remote workers.
Work within the business hours
2. Business Delivery
Currently, BCP is at the top of the mind for every CEO. But, despite careful planning, many organizations are not technologically prepared for a large remote environment. The key to a BCP plan success is testing in advance as part of annual BCP testing. But during a pandemic, there isn’t enough time to test everything.
Most businesses are adopting collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, to enrich their communication and bridge the gap. While the platform is built to deliver seamless communication and collaboration, most companies are yet to implement it across their remote workforce. Even before India’s lockdown announcement we had leveraged this idea of installing Microsoft Teams and creating pseudo user names for the associates thus enabling them to login remotely. A Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) access trial run was performed with only a few associates. With the lockdown in effect, teams had to be mobilized to their respective hometown during the weekend. Maveric continued its assistance by running another trial with teams across remote locations to assess business continuity. This helped the client in ensuring that the lockdown did not affect essential business operations.
Adopt collaboration tools
3. VDI/Network issues
Every VDI deployment comes with its own set of problems. From network failures to application performance to user management and user overload, managing VDI can be a pain. But advances around containerization are helping organizations to balance end-user flexibility and centralized controls. To help organizations, Maveric developed a handbook for common VDI issues and solutions. A four-member specialization team was formed to streamline all VDI-related issues and resolve issues with quick turnaround time.
Handbook for common VDI issues & specialised team to resolve issues
4. Communication Strategy
An effective communication strategy is essential for any organization, even more so while working remotely. Business leaders have to focus on streamlining all modes of communication that go beyond traditional management techniques. A fluid workplace is beneficial to remote workers and provides autonomy. But with autonomy comes the challenges of accountability.
While at work, internal communication is managed through instant messages, emails or face-to-face meetings. Adopting the same technique for remote work brings in the challenges of work allocation and ‘face-time’ with business leaders. Further, teams have to have key personnel in place to support the functions and maintenance of work allocations.
To simplify communication, Maveric implemented a hierarchy of reporting. Based on work streams, for a small group of associates, a single point of contact (SPOC) was assigned.
- Start of day calls between the associates and SPOCs was arranged.
- Utilization of communication apps like WhatsApp was used extensive to communicate issues and SPOCs to guide them accordingly.
- End of day catch up calls to reflect on the day progress, improvisations was put in place.
The SPOC in turn report to their managers.
Maveric was able to assist clients in setting up an effective external communication protocol that addressed work allocations and status reports. The team established a start of day work allocation channel to effectively communicate tasks and deliverables for the day. A shift-timings based schedule was implemented to ensure business continuity across time zones. Associates send in their end-of-day Daily Status Reports (DSR) on productivity, downtime etc., for business leaders to assess.
Communication simplified by hierarchy of reporting and DSR calls
- IT Governance
In a rapidly evolving business environment, business leaders are forced to rethink their governance strategies. The pandemic is putting governance models to the test. While modern digital organizations are quick to adapt, others are still figuring out how to get started or put the right governance in place.
Business leaders have to implement tools or governance policies to measure work progress, without invading an associate’s privacy and time. One way to achieve this is by tracking day-to-day assessments with an automated tool.
Maveric developed a productivity measurement tool that can be accessed by any user to report their day-to-day productivity. The tool helps in measuring user’s workday, for example, it compares an associate’s logs for the complete day to the count of deliverables assigned to the associate. It also tracks downtimes.
The main purpose of the tool was to
- Track the productivity of individuals – Gave individuals an accountability of their time management and show case their productivity of the day.
- Track downtime faced by associates – by grouping the hours of downtime because of VDI issues/network issues, highlight the need to fix the issues.
- Helped in preparing DSR reports – the raw data is converted to create DSRs.
To complete the exercise, a fortnightly call was set up with Maveric’s leadership team to ensure smooth governance.
To ensure accountability, appropriate security control and process need to be in place. Maveric supports its clients by sending DSRs on the progress for the day. A fortnightly call was set up with Maveric’s Delivery leadership team to assess on-going governance policies.
Productive measure tool – an automated tool to measure and track productivity
- Infosec Governance/Security
As we continue to experience a shift in work practices, information security is a top priority for CISOs. While the world settles into the lockdown, hackers and other malicious actors are capitalizing on the fears and panic of unsuspecting victims. A surge of phishing activities, surrounding COVID, have prompted governments and global organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue safety warnings. At this juncture, CISOs must implement a strict or zero-trust policy in place to secure their systems and their remote employees.
Another major concern for remote work is the increase in shadow IT. Any effective business continuity plan would include critical IT resources, approved vendors, and other commercial services to meet business needs. Employees need to be able to access these resources under a secure VPN with 2-factor or multi-factor authentication (2FA/MFA). Organizations, on the other hand, should test application for remote access, patching, and hardening systems.
In the current environment of uncertainty, we at Maveric are working to ensure continuous support for our clients. We have learned from our past IT challenges and understand the importance of IT stability and flexibility, especially for remote work. To all our readers, we hope you stay safe, healthy, and indoors.
A strict or zero-trust policy in place to secure the systems and remote employees