It’s difficult to avoid the clichés doing the rounds on this: ‘unprecedented’, ‘extraordinary situation’, ‘uncertain times’, ‘the new normal’, et al but we’ll try. We all know the score and have lived it since March, on Teams, Zoom and the rest.  Like many, we’re now in a hybrid working situation, part from the office and part from home.  So recognising that, we’ve come up with some positive changes as a consequence of what we’ve all been through:

 

  • homeworkers for free

  • flattening the cost

  • security and DLP

 

All of the above have been duly considered and designed to help our customers cope better with the changes we all face.

 

Let’s start with ‘homeworkers for free’. 

 

Like everyone else, and better than most to be fair, we’ve moved out of lockdown into a hybrid working model.  We did this quite effectively before COVID and now we’re just doing more of it. Recognising that our customers are doing that too raised the question of how we best support that, and them. 

 

As with most IT service providers our support typically stopped at the organisation network, i.e. the LAN and WAN. Going beyond that is a challenge – we don’t manage the connectivity, we don’t control the home router and we lack some visibility, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to help as many more customers adopt home-working as a norm.

 

To do that effectively we needed to make some changes to our tools and methods so we’re pleased to announce the introduction of livestream support.

 

 

                                                                 

 

Using a new and additional remote support tool we can now follow a support request directly to a homeworkers mobile phone via a secure SMS link and use their phone camera as our ‘eyes’ to guide them through a technical support issue.

 

We can’t really give a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to things beyond our control, like the home router, home Wi-Fi etc but we can troubleshoot, guide and assist on a best endeavours basis as part of our support services.

 

Could we charge for that?  Possibly, but in the current situation that simply doesn’t seem right, so we’re including it as a free addition for every service contract customer.

 

We do though need to be really clear on this; livestream support is for business purposes only, so please don’t ask us to help fix your Xbox, Facebook account or Netflix subscription.

 

Next up, flattening the cost.

 

As a country we face some difficult economic times ahead and most organisations will re-think budgets and commitments.  Recognising that technology keeps things running we’ve thought through some measures to help on that.

 

Traditional capital purchase remains the preference for many but this is changing quickly as service models allow more flexibility.  Put simply, many organisations are moving to subscription rather than purchase and that isn’t just software; hardware is moving in that direction too.

 

We have existing lease and DaaS schemes in place and these work effectively for many customers but our global partners have now reacted to the changing circustances, quite positively in some cases.

 

 

For example Dell’s new 0% offer isn’t solely confined to Dell equipment and services; it can include other brands and services too providing that the Dell content is at least 35% of an agreement.  That’s tremendously flexible and a great way of spreading cost over time at zero interest.

 

Currently some local authorities are offering matched 50/50 funding on grants for digital transformation and some of these are even retrospective for IT projects since March 2020 – please check with us for eligibility.

 

 

 

Another new option we’ve been working hard on is zeroC, which we’ll launch as a joint initiative with our partners S2S on September 1st 2020.  This is a totally new and different way to purchase IT endpoints (laptops, desktops, tablets and mobile). It will save up to 50% of endpoint total cost of ownership (TCO), improve asset management, security and licensing, and it will help save the environment too.  Stay tuned for that launch because it’s a real departure.

 

 

Finally, but by no means least, security – a consistent theme for us over the last few years and we’ve written extensively on the subject.  So without re-hashing all that, we have a clear intent to continue to advise and help our customers to secure their IT properly and especially now that cybercrime has pivoted so quickly to exploit the situation and is actively targeting homeworkers. 

 

Our principles of tiered security have never been more relevant.  Nor has our advice on independent testing and remediation.  Most risks can be overcome centrally but the endpoint is now an elevated risk and we’re going to put much more focus on that in the coming months, as well as the inherent risks of data loss prevention (DLP), ransomware, phishing and security awareness.

 

 

The future?

 

So is remote or hybrid working a generational switch? Early indications are that it is, with organisations quickly coming to terms with remote working routines and collaboration tools such as Teams, Slack, Zoom, Mondays and the like.

 

A recent report published by Gartner on the future of work shows a significant shift towards homeworking post COVID-19 and highlights how organisations can still be highly effective remotely without productivity suffering.

 

 

 

Large tech has been the fastest to respond, with companies such as Facebook and Twitter declaring ‘work anywhere’ policies as permanent fixtures and Twitter going so far as to close some offices permanently.

 

Other organisations have indicated similar intentions with Barclays CEO. Jes Staley, declaring that “putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past”. Only last week Fujitsu announced that it’s going to halve it’s office space and its ‘Work Life Shift’ programme will offer complete flexibility to 80,000 workers.

 

 

 

Aside from pandemic there are a number of drivers at play here. 

 

Hybrid working appeals to the increasing millennial working population, for whom flexibility, virtual collaboration and a ‘work anywhere’ ethos have become key factors in employment decisions. 

 

Many organisations have woken up to the fact that you simply don’t need as much commercial space for all employees in the future and are actively calculating the potential savings that could be realised.

 

With much less commuting the environmental benefits can’t be ignored either.

 

So what’s lost by being fully remote? Does collaboration suffer and can a sense of teamwork be maintained?

 

Never seeing your colleagues other than on a Teams call doesn’t feel right. By and large most people want to actively meet up, in-person, and a conversation is definitely more free-flowing and natural when together. It’s the frequency of physical meetings that is in question and that’s why adopting a hybrid work environment may win out.

 

COVID-19 has created a lot of economic losers, with stressed sectors including traditional retail, travel and hospitality suffering badly, terminally in some cases. From the beginning of 2020 the world went through the biggest business continuity test ever and whilst many passed the test, the economic aftermath will continue for a while to come, with some businesses, predominantly online, being clear winners and commercial property being another possible loser in the time ahead.

 

So, whilst these are early days, the move to hybrid is less than theory, moreoever it feels progressive, sensible and almost inevitable.

 

If you're moving over to hybrid working, contact us to find out how we can help.