The sudden changes to working practices due to the Coronavirus pandemic was felt across all industries. In many ways the rapid change which was thrust upon us was probably best weathered by the tech sector. We are, afterall, working with new technology all the time. Working with customers on transforming their IT infrastructure, improving business practices through technology, that’s our bread and butter.
At the beginning of the lockdown we recorded a podcast with TechEast, Hethel Innovation and TechNation to discuss the impact on organisations in our region. During this discussion we looked at how well placed the tech sector was to deal with the rapid change which came suddenly upon us.
What have we done at IJYI?
Firstly, we were fortunate in that we had recently been putting in place a business continuity plan that involved migrating all of our staff to laptops and ensuring that we migrated critical infrastructure to the cloud. We knew that doing this gave us more flexibility as a business, and we had not envisaged a global pandemic! We had been encouraging our team to work from home a few days a month – it allows them to get some headspace and enables some flexibility around childcare and other appointments. This policy meant that we knew the majority of the team were able to work remotely, but we weren’t quite sure that large groups could work remotely all at once. As the crisis started to unfold, we scheduled a week where we would ask 20% of the team to work from home at short notice (the night before). We were able to iron out a few kinks and had some confidence that if lockdown did happen, our team could continue to work effectively.
When lockdown happened we were in the relatively fortunate position of being ready to send all our staff home to work, in fact we took the decision to send people home a week before the enforced lockdown. This gave us a little head start in getting everyone comfortable with this new way of working and it meant that by the time our customers were working from home we were secure in our new practices and able to continue providing services with no disruption.
To ensure that everyone still feels like the same team, we introduced daily “huddles”. These are 15-20mins per day where the team can join a group chat and talk about anything non-work related. It’s a bit of a replacement for those chats that might happen around the coffee machine – what Netflix series is everyone into etc!
Microsoft Teams is a vital tool for our business and has been for about for years. Not only does it provide a platform to create teams, use group chat and allow video conferencing, it also gives us the ability to share files quickly and securely both internally and with our customers. Teams is now even more critical to what we do. We route all of our external phone numbers through the platform ensuring that we can still respond to customers and prospects, routing and transferring calls to the appropriate member of the team without setting foot into the office.
How we continue to deliver for our customers
From a software delivery standpoint, we use Microsoft Azure DevOps to manage project features and requirements, as well as maintain source control and automate test, build and deploy.
Being entirely cloud-based, this has allowed our development teams to carry on as usual, with project stakeholders able to monitor progress, make in-flight changes and collaborate on requirements. Cloud infrastructure is described as code and checked-in to our source code repositories, meaning we achieve the same level of governance.
IJYI’s training team would traditionally run courses in a classroom format either at the IJYI headquarters, at a client site or custom training facilities. Again, these sort of setups are no longer possible, and we’ve had significant success running these over Microsoft Teams; the training part of our business has been particularly busy during the crisis as organisations invest in training their employees.
Continuing to Sell
Back in March, we were able to propose, contract, plan, deliver and review our first completely remote customer. We’ve still not met them in person, but the feedback has been incredible. Usually, in our project inception workshops, we would have all the project stakeholders in a room and cover the walls with post-it notes. Clearly, this was not possible and we decided to use collaboration tools such as Trello to create a simple “wall” and allow participants to add features, requirements and ideas in real-time. Coupled with Teams, this has proven to be very productive. Although there are some compromises, remote workshops can have certain benefits such as their ability to maintain focus and less logistical problems with venues.
It’s been incredibly important that the sales team can communicate well with each other and with senior management. Information needs to be stored centrally, consistently and easily digested by other parts of the organisation. We have been using Microsoft Dynamics from the start and although it (and many other CRM systems) take time to get used to and form a process around. We feel that our usage is now reasonably mature. we have got detailed account management plans for every account stored within OneNote notebooks that means that should any of the sales team need to pick up another account, they’re able to get themselves up to speed quickly and easily. We’ve built customer surveys in Microsoft Forms that integrate directly with our CRM system allowing us to gather insight into how our customers feel about us and our offerings.
Senior Management KPIs
We’re lucky to have an in-house team focused on data and business intelligence that’s able to help develop sophisticated dashboards pulling data from multiple sources to display some easy to understand KPIs used to run our business. Through the creation of a balanced scorecard, we’ve been able to produce a PowerBI dashboard collating data from Xero (our accounts system), Microsoft Dynamics (our CRM), OfficeVibe (our employee satisfaction tool) and WorkflowMax (our project management tooling). This dashboard gives us an excellent view of the business. It means we can keep a close eye on exactly what effect Covid-19 is having from four different perspectives – Learning and Growth, Internal Business, Customer and Finance.
Gartner created their “Reset” process. The future is all around what they termed “Renew”. For us renew is around refining and executing our existing strategy to ensure we are well placed to help our customers with their own Renew.
Find out more in our upcoming Webinar – Digital Transformation in the Covid-Era. We are delighted to be joined by James Overy, Head of IT & Change at Ipswich Building Society. James will be joining Chris Pont and Tim Naish from IJYI to discuss Digital Transformation in the Covid Era.
We will also be revealing the results of our industry survey “Technology Challenges During Lockdown”. This survey revealed some fascinating insights into how organisations and their staff coped with the sudden move to home working. It has shown how Digital Transformation can really drive innovation at pace. Book your place.
If you’d like to discuss your Renew strategy with one of our consultants, then please get in touch.