The Big Pause – Lessons learned in lockdown.

By Mark McGinn 20th July 2020

I’m really aware that for some time we have been quiet on the social media front. I’d like to call it our big pause, not that we’ve stopped working, in fact the MarXtar team has been busier than ever, but we have just taken a moment to reflect on what has been happening and how the world has changed from a business perspective, plus it seemed important to direct our energies into our customers who needed support during this strange time.

Like everyone we are adjusting to the ‘new norm’ and are slowly finding out what that looks like, for us and our customers.  For us, at MarXtar we have been lucky since, as a consulting IT company, working remotely and from home is something that has been part of ‘our norm’ from the beginning. As a business we have been able to sustain business continuity and have seen a substantial increase in productivity.

In this pause we have had time to take stock over our business processes and what matters to us as a company. I am pleased to say we have formed an even stronger partnership with Ivanti, becoming their only Elite partner in the UK. The Ivanti Delivery Partner Program has been established to provide customers greater access to needed professional services that will result in successful engagements and help drive growth for both Ivanti and its partners. This partnership harnesses the services, sales, and delivery skills of the Delivery Partner ecosystem, resulting in effective scalability and greater coverage. Read the full press release here

Apart from our new and enhanced partnership with Ivanti, we have put together our top 5 lessons learned from lockdown,

  1. Working from Home

Over the last few years there has been a general trend towards working from home, with people desiring more flexibility. With Covid-19 the mass change to homeworking was accelerated but ultimately clunky. The instantaneous need to be able to access the office remotely caused many internal IT departments to go into meltdown, resulting in long delays. Then came the issues of security and how businesses could ensure the privacy of the work that someone sitting in their bedroom was doing. Empty offices equate to busy phones and everything going through email servers; it has been essential for security and privacy to be increased.

Lesson learned:

Although no one could have predicted such an unprecedented lockdown and the need to shift your entire workforce to work remotely at such short notice, it is now clear that we need to make sure that our infrastructure going forward can facilitate changes to working patterns. It may be that we never see a full return to working in an office, and therefore its important that your team has the correct tools to be able to work from home, your IT department has the resources and support it needs, and that accessibility to files, systems and data is consistent and secure.

  • Zoom and other Video Conferencing

Once we all got over checking out our colleagues’ interior design skills, trying to work out which books they had on their bookshelves, and the impromptu visits from kids and dogs, video conferencing became a necessity for working life and therefore an IT essential. Virtual meetings are now no longer anything to be wary off, especially after 10 calls in a day!  They give us a chance to still connect with our work colleagues, maybe in a more personal way, seeing them in their home environment.

Lesson learned:

It is important to ensure that your whole team have access to and can use the various digital platforms that you need to keep in touch. Try to ensure that you have a preferred platform that is the one consistently used and if needed get some training in place to develop your teams’ skills on using it.

‘Videoconference Bingo’ and other variations may be humorous, but they are perfect examples of the most common mistakes that people make.

  • VPN (Virtual Private Networks)

We have heard from some companies who have struggled with their VPN over the first couple of weeks. From it dropping out at inopportune times, to a long wait for a security team to activate an employee as existing processes required identity to be verified face-to-face.  We have also seen some making huge investments as though VPN is the only possible option for remote working.

Remote work should be enabled by technologies like virtual private networks not hindered by them.

Lesson learned:

While VPNs played a huge role in the remote working landscape at the beginning, we have found that they are not the only option around. We have seen more and more companies moving critical systems into SaaS platforms that are accessible directly through the web, removing the corporate network bottleneck. This has cut down on the complexity in getting employees access to what they need, when they need it.

Companies we have spoken with have found Ivanti File Director to be invaluable as it is allowing employees access to the files they need, without the need for VPN access, while still maintaining security of that data.

  • Flexible Working – Micro-Consulting Units

Along with the recognition that work can be done as well remotely as it can on-site, at MarXtar we have seen an increase in flexible hourly consulting (Micro Consulting Units – MCUs) where we support businesses with hourly blocks of consultants’ time. Rather than working in the larger, less flexible daily units we have been working in units of one hour.

Lesson learned:

Customers we worked with during lockdown realized that having a flexible pool of time to help them expand the use of their systems or to transfer knowledge in a controlled fashion could be far more flexible than the more traditional models. Not all companies can afford a large IT department with dedicated expertise in certain areas, it can be much more effective having experts on call to provide team extension when required. 

  • Review your business model 

There is nothing like a crisis to help showcase the areas of your business that do not work well. Unfortunately, it is during a time like this when you need them to be at their best.

Lesson learned:

I think most companies coming out of lockdown will realise that they need to increase their spending in specialised digital infrastructure, including training for IT teams, automation, servicing equipment, disaster recovery systems and health checks on systems. Good business continuity plans will put more emphasis on the business needs, and good IT departments will use this crisis situation to build a strong case study to showcase what they really need as part of their IT infrastructure to excel.

  • People

Like all businesses during this time, we have had to change the way we work, and how we interact with our colleagues. The busy MarXtar office support team, and the on the road IT consultants who would usually be visiting customers, turned into a fully remote working team, juggling home schooling, illness, and pets! As I said at the beginning of this blog, we are lucky as we have always been set up to work remotely, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that we do all like to get together in the office.

Lesson learned:

As Managing Director, I have learned that it is important to have people around you that you can rely on. Over lockdown my teams have had to work harder and longer to help support all our customers, and I’m grateful to them for the commitment and hard work they have put in, especially under such unprecedented conditions. In addition, hopefully my employees have learned that I will have their backs and protect the MarXtar family to the best of my and the businesses’ ability.

So, the lesson I would share with you is to make sure you have a strong team and that you respect and support each other.

In Conclusion

If nothing else, Covid-19 has shown us that businesses need to have an infrastructure that embraces technology, something that can move with the digital needs of its workforce and ensure productivity is not affected by any major crisis that may come our way. With this pandemic it has been imperative for companies to find a way to still be competitive and accessible to their customers, whilst also showing some kindness and community spirit.  This new era of technology needs to envelop the human aspect, the need to interact, and to be socially connected and inclusive. We need to be sure we are safe working in our own home and that technology can be governed, with maybe even new laws being put in place to protect remote working.

About the Author

Mark McGinn MarXtar Managing Director UK

An industry innovator for over 20 years, Mark has held a variety of roles across the full spectrum of Senior Management, Marketing, Product Management, and Technical roles.

As a three-times recipient of the Ivanti Engineer of the Year award, Mark has successfully designed & implemented some of the largest and most complex global projects while retaining the grounding required to deal with companies of any size.

About MarXtar

MarXtar delivers benefits by enhancing a company’s existing investments in technologies including Microsoft SCCM, Ivanti Service Desk, Ivanti Service Manager, Ivanti Endpoint Manager and many other vendor solutions.

A worldwide services team with over 25 years in the industry and renowned for excellence, MarXtar combines best of breed vendor partners with its own developed software to enhance and extend the reach of traditional Systems and Service Management.

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