Covid Lockdown A Golden Period For CIOs, IT Managers

Covid Lockdown A Golden Period For CIOs, IT Managers

-S Chokkappan

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Information Technology managers have been in overdrive since the global lockdown to ensure seamless operations of their companies. This, however, is a ‘golden phase for CIOs and their ilk’, feels Nakul Chopra, Director of the New Delhi-based I.T. Solutions India Private Limited.

“Most of the organisations are realizing the importance of IT systems, applications and what the IT managers have been doing during these times. It is them who have made it possible for the organisations to operate from home.”

Mr Chopra believes that enterprises will look at continuing Work From Home (WFH) for users whose work is quantitative and without the need for regular team interactions. “We will see a lot of SaaS application consumption for them in terms of IT security. Enterprises have learnt to adopt technology faster, and collaboration tools like Teams and Zoom will be used more for customer meetings and internal meetings,” he reckons.

At the same time, “Sales teams will have to learn to sell in a new way, where they will get less time to meet their customers across the table, but might be able to meet more customers in a day.” 

With WFH has become the widely accepted norm, ask him about the new challenges and how IT could enable them, Mr Chopra replies, “There are a lot of challenges and I believe that most of the SMB customers are less secure than what they were last year. Cyber attacks are covered on the front page of newspapers, but organisational managements are still not focusing on securing their enterprises due to disruption of business.”

So, what were the key measures that his company implemented to ensure a smooth workflow during the lockdown? “All our users had laptops, hence there was no issue with non-availability of endpoints, as most of our applications are online. There was an initial hiccup in billing, as we had not integrated electronic signatures with our accounting application. Once it was done, we found it to be easier to send out invoices.”

All his team members, according to Mr Chopra, were available on unified communication systems through the lockdown. “We used to conduct team meetings and training to keep everyone engaged and help learn new things at least once every week,” he adds.

Based on his own experience, he advises channel partners who are entering the industry during the pandemic to be focused on their approach and the problem that they are solving by being in the industry. “Also, be prepared for the bad times!” forewarns Mr Chopra.

How did I.T. Solutions’ partnering enterprises cope with the lockdown and how much was their acceptance towards the WFH model? “Most of the customers faced some teething issues. For example, they didn’t have enough laptops for users, some applications were internal and were not available on the Internet,” he elaborates, “The IT security infrastructure had to be downgraded, as a lot of it was planned for maximum users using computers within their office network. Then, we saw a lot of customers looking for productivity enhancement tools for employees working from home by deploying tools to know where most of their time is being spent.”

Mr Chopra also observes that most organizations, where the work of employees could be quantified, found WFH very productive, while the ones where a lot of team interaction is required or where the work is not quantifiable found WFH to be challenging. “Most employees found themselves working more hours than what they were doing earlier,” he avers.

There were several incidents and challenges that he faced during the migration to the new model. “Around eight years ago, we provided laptops to all our employees. So, we didn’t have any issues with the endpoint as we asked everyone to carry their laptop home. We, however, faced some issues on the accounting side as we had to migrate from physical invoicing to electronic invoicing, ordering and bank transfers from cheques. There was no challenge in delivering software, but shifting of hardware was challenging,” divulges Mr Chopra.

“Customers held on to new purchases of what had now become non-essential items and the items that they wanted were not available nor could we give a definite timeline about their availability. Also, we had to deploy security solutions on thousands of endpoints for banking customers. Ideally, we would have deployed our staff at customer’s office, but we deployed the whole solution from a remote location on all the endpoints due to WFH.”

Mr Chopra’s company has been catering to diverse sectors, including IT, ITES, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, BFSI, retail and utilities. He says, “We faced challenges in all the sectors. The BPO industry, for example, has a lot of security deployed at their offices and most endpoints are desktops, but now the challenge was how to send these endpoints to the users’ homes. They wanted to buy laptops, but laptops were not available and if available, delivery was an issue. Even the industries which were operational shifted some of their workforce to WFH and after witnessing the overall reduction in cost and increased productivity, will encourage more to work from home.”

As for the future post lockdown, Mr. Chopra foresees, “Organizations will now deploy solutions keeping such situations in mind and making this part of their Business Continuity Planning. There will be a lot of investments in all areas including endpoints, applications (both in-house and Saas), cloud, VDI, and security.

Here are some of his takeaways from the Corona pandemic-induced lockdown. “The lockdown has made us more resilient and agile. Our team has spent time in getting trained on more solutions and technologies. As a result, we have built more capabilities and competence on solutions that organizations will require once they resume work from the office. Also, our processes and applications are designed to facilitate work from home – like how billing and order have shifted to electronic copies from physical prints.”

“We have kept constant touch with our customers and feel that are aligned with them for their new requirements. Post lockdown, when they are ready to buy these solutions, we will be ready to deliver the same to them,” Mr Chopra signs off.