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Leaving lockdown: “What started as a ‘Plan B’ is now our favoured approach”

Published 8th October 2020

We spoke to five IT companies to find out how the COVID-19 lockdown has impacted their business, including their experiences of the shift to remote working – and back again – and their expectations for the future.

In the second part of our blog series we hear from Gary Swanwick, co-founder and managing director of managed services provider Epoq  IT, which is based in High Wycombe.

When the COVID-19 outbreak hit, what changed for your business?

“We were well prepared to get up and running quickly and smoothly. Implementing a bulletproof remote working policy was a key objective for us last year – but we were planning for a local snowdrift rather than a global pandemic! Fortunately, we’d tested the policy over the winter, and were ready to jump into action. People simply took their laptops home; we knew they all had suitable connections and security in place.”

What were the biggest challenges?

“There was a sudden spike in clients needing support with things like security, equipment, licenses, infrastructure and VPN connections. We had to help with speeding up migrations in order to minimise disruption.

In many businesses, employees were using – non-standard devices and unapproved tools, such as Dropbox, to get their work done at home. Once a business loses control of its data, there are ramifications. The shift to en masse remote working was a wake-up call: some companies realised they lacked proper data protection procedures, and that their people urgently needed education in security awareness.”

What would you say were your key learnings?

“Remote working actually works! What started off as a workaround, a plan B, is now our favoured approach. We were able to simply jump on Microsoft Teams and do business normally, and we’ll continue to work like that where appropriate – it beats hours sitting on a plane or in the car. Remote working is more productive, and we can do better business at a lower cost.

This has been a challenging period, but the situation has opened people’s minds up to what they really require, shaken companies up, and challenged the need for presenteeism.”

What does the return to ‘normal’ work look like for your teams?

“We’ll probably implement more of a hybrid working model. It’s likely that staff will work at home for some of the week, if it makes sense, but we do believe it’s important not to lose the ‘glue’ that keeps the business together. We need to look at how to keep hold of and build the culture if people are working separately. Our IT infrastructure allows us to work from anywhere, but we’re at an advantage when our people are together – on the service desk side in particular. As well as avoiding silos, there’s a mental health aspect; we like to be social with our peers. We won’t ever go back to how things were, but we’ll have a hub which acts like an anchor – a place we come to reconnect.”

How has the experience influenced your customer strategy?

“Nobody knows when the next disaster is going to hit, or what it will be. We’ll keep evolving our digital transformation packages to get our clients into a better position to face whatever comes next and help them to improve security with video training and online content.

We’re also developing a Virtual CIO offering, where we’ll advise management teams and boards on the technology they need and help to make sure their budgets are spent in a way that will achieve maximum ROI.”

Download the whitepaper Leaving Lockdown: A Major Reset Moment for IT