There is an incredible amount of literature about the post-COVID workplace. Some companies have already sent their employees back to the office where allowed, and others are considering not renewing leases, instead preferring to invest the money in off sites and employee happiness.
Wherever your company lies on the gamut, IT Operations will inevitably change for the good, and better. What might this look like, and how can you prepare?
Recognise the criticality
Many businesses apply a one-size-fits-all approach to IT when the reality is there are a handful of business processes, and associated systems, which will cripple a business if interrupted.
Review your business continuity strategy and check that you recognise the most critical systems and processes. For instance, your finance expenses process can probably wait a few days, but if payroll doesn’t run, people get upset pretty quickly.
Don’t be dependent on Service Level Agreements
I see many big businesses that outsource the problem to a third party. Here’s the thing: you can outsource work, but if something goes wrong, your only protection is the contract, and trust me: the outsourcer is an expert in contracting, and it is nearly impossible to get any remedy. In one situation I saw, the outsourcer countersued for breach of contract and won.
When you consider outsourcing, you need to take control of how the provider services the contract.
The same applies if you use Software as a Service (SaaS): you need to understand how the vendor provides support and hold them to the same standards you would if you were delivering it yourself.
One issue that occurred with several businesses during COVID-19 was that they had a large number of employees in a single office. Concentrating IT Operations into a single location is an unacceptable risk: if an outbreak were to occur, it might be impossible to keep critical business processes running.
The sensible approach is to spread the risk between multiple locations and even countries. With modern technologies, this has never been easier.
I talk about this a lot, but there are a ton of IT Operations tasks that are easily automated, and organisations must look at this urgently. It is entirely unacceptable that a repetitive task could be automated, and is not.
Not only does this risk your business, but it also is a terrible waste of human capital, which can focus instead on innovation and business transformation.
Besides, bots are excellent at repetitive tasks and are happy to do them all day long, completing thousands of times more checks than a human could ever do.
I believe there will be a trend towards insourcing the operations of critical business processes. Many outsourcers found themselves unable to support businesses during COVID-19 because they didn’t have remote working capabilities.
For non-critical processes, this might be fine, but if you are unable to pay suppliers or ship product, you might want to think about taking control.
Home Working Fridays
You might want your workforce to get back to the office, but there is a huge advantage to doing a home working day: it will ensure everyone is out of the office, and the business can still run.
Too many businesses found themselves scrambling to put remote working in place for thousands of employees. Some companies tied up teams of people for weeks, ensuring that employees could work remotely.
One of the issues which most businesses have not solved is the issue of safe home office working. One well-known IT company was the recipient of a lawsuit from former employees who found themselves unable to work for life, due to chronic Repetitive Strain Injury.
A quality work environment is straightforward to ensure in an office setting, but almost impossible to police at home.
Smart employers will create guides for home working and ensure that people have the right screen height, keyboard, and chair. They will use HR resources to check in on employees and make sure they have what they need to stay healthy.
Companies like Zoom saw considerable increases in usage, but most businesses use Zoom as a band-aid and not a strategy.
I can’t recommend a strategy of implementing real collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack and implementing them well.
For example, in an IT Operations use case, it is possible to integrate Slack into Freshdesk and Jira, so an incident coming in can be routed into a chat channel and directly into the bug system.
I believe there will be significant COVID-19 benefits to the workplace, many of which are well overdue.
We can drive efficiencies in IT Operations with automation, better tooling, and give people more exciting work to do, as well as flexible work locations. Let’s make sure we take the opportunity before life goes back to normal!
John Appleby, CEO at Avantra.