Our thoughts on the future of digital innovation and the cloud.
What is Your Company Doing and Are You Prepared For the Impacts of COVID-19?
I thought I would write a post about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected me personally and how it has affected the team here at Invero. The situation continues to change. It’s nearly impossible to stay up to date on everything that’s going on with this fluid situation.
It is Monday, March 16, and only one week ago, I was of the mindset that this is blowing out of proportion and that, although slightly worse than the regular flu, this will pass. On the Friday before last, we recorded our podcast. The topic was how technology and cloud usage during outbreaks like this (it wasn’t yet labelled a pandemic).
That weekend my wife and kids took a planned trip to Seattle (a city at the time that had more cases of COVID-19 than Vancouver), where they were attending an Irish dance competition. Still, it did not phase us because the media was not talking the way they are now. If the match was just one week later, there is no way we would have wanted them to go. It seems like a month ago now because of how much has changed in a short period, but it was only ten days ago.
When we recorded that podcast and parts of Europe weren’t yet in lockdown, the US was in denial that this was something serious. It was primarily an Asian and Iranian issue. At the time, here in British Columbia, we had about 20-30 confirmed cases. Our views, and mine in particular, at the time, were that this is not going to be too bad. Yes, we knew that people would get sick, but we didn’t think COVID-19 would impact our day-to-day lives.
Fast forward those ten days…
According to the BC Center for Disease Control, we have 103 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with four deaths. Thus, the provincial government is banning gatherings of more than 50 people and warning Canadian travellers abroad to come home early. Then, the stock markets significantly dropped while central banks have slashed interest rates to soften the economies’ blow. Amid, stores like Apple, Starbucks, and Lululemon closed. Furthermore, Las Vegas shut down to help lessen the spread. School, spring break camps, and child care facilities are closed until September in some provinces. Companies everywhere (including Invero) are recommending staff work from home.
Beyond us instructing our staff to work from home, this has also affected me in other ways. Namely, I have had at least one conference planned for May unfortunately cancelled (and I expect other scheduled conferences to follow). Hence, we have had to cancel or put on hold three family trips planned this year; multiple friends have had to cancel their spring break vacations as a result of COVID-19. I’ve witnessed firsthand the bare shelves at the grocery stores. All of this has transpired in just over a week, which boggles the mind.
Were we prepared for this?
I know for myself, the answer is no, but are we panicking? For the most part, no and nor should we. COVID-19 is not the end of days. Everyone should view this by doing the smart thing to “flatten out the curve.” If we don’t do our part, then the medical system won’t keep up. They can’t help those individuals who are the small percentage of the population that may have negative consequences if they were to contract the virus. From medical professionals, the truth of the matter is that 35-70% of the population expects to get COVID-19 at some point.
So, is that a reason to panic? No. We don’t want to overwhelm our medical system to ensure that those who need medical attention can get the care they need. That’s why it’s the right thing to do to minimize social contact and maintain your distance when you are in public places. I see it as all of us doing our part for the greater good.
The Unknown Unknown
Donald Rumsfeld once said that there are known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. We can plan for and directly address things that are known (including known unknowns), but where public panic and uncertainty stem from is when we start worrying about all of the unknown unknowns. Suppose you don’t know what could happen. In that case, we naturally think the worst. Often, that potential outcome that our imagination comes up with is far worse than what does happen.
There are things that we should be worried about and risks that we should plan to mitigate. However, going to the extreme and worrying about unknown unknowns is not doing yourself or anyone else any good. The best thing to do is remain calm and control what is within your influence; where you go and who you interact with. By minimizing your exposure to unknown unknowns (e.g. will the person sitting next to me on the bus be carrying the virus?), you can avoid unnecessary worry. Once the infection curve starts to level out, then life will start going back to normal. That is a known known.
What can you do to prepare and how can you continue to get things done?
What is your company doing to ensure business operations continuity? When all of your staff are being asked not to come into the office? For some businesses, this is more of a challenge than others (e.g. warehouse workers and service industries dealing with the public). Still, for companies where most of their workforce is in an office, there are solutions available. Technology is now where staff can meet, collaborate and work remotely as effectively as together in an office. Many companies have still not adopted Office 365, Teams, and SharePoint to enable remote work.
Additionally, many businesses have a line of business applications that are key to running their operation. These apps are not able to remote access. Restricted access poses a problem for these companies. With the lack of tools available outside of the office walls, the staff cannot do their jobs effectively. The solutions are leveraging the cloud’s capabilities without needing to migrate your company to the cloud necessarily. One such solution includes application virtualization, which can provide access to these business applications through secure means.
A remote workforce potentially opens new problems for IT departments around security. Unless the company is providing PCs, laptops or tablets for every employee to bring home, you have unmanaged devices connecting to your corporate systems. However, it is not possible due to the shortage of Intel processors and supply issues due to Chinese factories running at only 40% of their capacity. This opens up risks of infecting the corporate network with viruses, trojans, ransomware, and malware to paralyze a company.
Suppose you can’t outfit your staff with managed devices.
How do you provide them with the ability to work remotely while maintaining your corporate network? There are solutions available that can give full desktop or application virtualization. The user needs a web browser to connect, even for traditional thick client applications that are not web-ready. This means that they can use any device and connect to the systems and applications they need to do their job. Since there is no direct connection to your corporate network, it will not infect your plans even if those devices are compromised.
All of the solutions implemented enables a remote workforce today with a partner that has done so before. At Invero, we have been working this way since we founded the company nearly four years ago. We wanted to be born in a cloud company and not tied to any physical location to operate our business. Thus, the COVID-19 outbreak has not impeded our staff productivity because we can do our jobs from home, as the same as the office.
The only thing we miss out on is the social interaction with our peers, so believe it, or not our team is so great at finding ways to keep the culture alive. One of our staff members set up a virtual lunch meeting over Microsoft Teams. This becomes a virtual hangout over the lunch hour. People can eat their lunch “together” (from home) and still get social interaction with their peers, share ideas and stay connected. We are a society that thrives on being connected with others. Therefore, let this be a lesson that you don’t have to feel isolated during this time. You can use the technology that exists to enable you to stay connected.
You might read this and say to yourself, “That’s all well and good, Craig, but we don’t have the tools that you’re talking about, and we don’t have the staff to be able to implement it.” Well, you’re in luck because Invero is here to help. Here is what we are doing to help you get through this: No Strings Attached Support and Guidance
Free Tips and Lessons Learned from our own Remote Workforce experience
Invero has a distributed workforce with many remote workers. We can provide advice on how and where to start your Remote Workforce Enablement journey, including how to reduce risk and avoid common pitfalls.
Free no-obligation discussions and virtual white-boarding
Have questions on how to enable your employees that are working from home? Our promise to you – you can chat with our cloud experts knowing we will not add you to mailing or call lists and we won’t follow up without your direction to do so. We are offering to help with no strings attached.
Remote Workforce Enablement Solutions
We can help you design and implement solutions to enable your remote workforce including:
- Microsoft Office 365, Teams and SharePoint Online Deployments
- Secure Connectivity & Multi-factor Authentication Solutions
- Application and Desktop Virtualization
Don’t let the lack of technology prevent you from doing the socially responsible thing. Don’t let your company or your staff be like the 31st person in Korea to be infected with COVID-19. That person is now linked to over 80% of the infections in the entire country. We are here to help if you want to enable your workforce to work remotely. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the services listed above. Take care of yourselves and your family during this time and let us take care of your technology needs to minimize the impact!