BUSINESS

IT leaders must prepare a lockdown exit strategy

June 20, 2020
Ashwin Ram is product consultant, ManageEngine
Ashwin Ram is product consultant, ManageEngine

By Ashwin Ram

The COVID-19 pandemic led the government to mandate lockdowns and social distancing as the norm for people across Middle East. That announcement left little time for businesses and IT leaders to plan for the transition.

Those who had invested in relevant technologies, such as cloud, had a definite edge over the rest when it came to ensuring business continuity during the crisis.

However, as Gulf States relax their restrictions and businesses start to reopen, the need of the hour now is for IT service desk teams to be prepared for the transition back to normal — or at least the ambiguous new normal, as mentioned by many. Achieving that needs a three-phase, post-lockdown plan:

1. Immediate: Handling the Day One surge

2. Intermediate: Formalizing home offices

3. Long term: Strategizing for ITSM after COVID-19

Each of these phases poses different challenges to the IT service desk team and needs a well-defined action plan for teams to follow.

Phase 1: Handling the Day One surge | First week

'Day One' denotes the first day after the lockdown where an initial set of the employees gets back to their office spaces for work as usual.

Challenges: Increase in the number of tickets, particularly tickets related to damaged assets, new asset requirements, printer access issues, and Wi-Fi connectivity, among other issues.

Action plan: If anything, remote work and lockdown have made self-service and DIY commonplace for the average user. IT service desks can leverage this habit to enable users to resolve issues like printer and Wi-Fi configurations by ramping up their self-service portal capabilities through self-help videos or online tutorials.

This will help IT service desk teams to focus their efforts on getting the infrastructure ready and ensuring the availability of critical services and necessary bandwidth as they slowly start to onboard other sections of the workforce.

With the most critical set of employees working in-house, IT service desk teams should realign their SLAs and processes to ensure that their issues and requests are handled as early as possible.

Also, IT service desk teams should start planning their asset procurement and work with their suppliers to ensure that they have the minimum necessary stock for quick asset replacements.

Phase 2: Formalizing home offices | First three months

Sections of the workforce will continue working remote for a couple of months, as companies plan to onboard employees back onto their premises.

Challenges: Move away from a MacGyver mode of remote work to an organized mode and provide the necessary tools, technologies, and services to ensure maximum productivity.

Action plan: During this phase, where businesses try to get back to their maximum potential, IT leaders and service desk teams will have to formalize existing home office setups. This starts with defining a home office with all the relevant policies, approvals, and budgets.

Home offices can be set up as either BYOD (bring your own device) or a COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled) home offices, and will include the following steps:

1. Allow users to continue work on the devices they used during the lockdown if the company is not able to procure assets on time. In the case of COPE home offices, expand the service catalog to include home office offerings, and have the devices delivered to the remote employees. If possible, integrate the service catalog with e-commerce catalogs or online portals of the vendors for a quicker turnaround.

2. Allow users to enroll their devices into the organization's end point management tool to access company resources and to apply the necessary security policies and certificates on the devices remotely.

3. Audit each device’s setup for security compliance before authorizing it and continue auditing at regular intervals to ensure maximum productivity and security

As IT teams focus on formalizing the home office setup, they should also focus on areas like VPN bandwidth monitoring to ensure uninterrupted remote working.

Phase 3: Re-strategizing the post-COVID19 era ITSM | After three months

Businesses will eventually start onboarding more employees back into their premises.

Challenges: Making the whole IT organization and its initiatives agile and effective enough to support business decisions.

Action plan: Digital transformation, which was once looked upon as means to gain an extra edge over competition, has now become the default mode of operation. From collaboration tools replacing meeting rooms to self-service and remote sessions replacing the pit stop visits, the validation is everywhere.

As businesses rely more on such digital initiatives, now is the time for IT leaders to evaluate all their existing tools and processes on how each of them contributed to remote-readiness during the pandemic, and replace any bottlenecks.

Also, IT leaders now have to enable secure employee access to all necessary tools and services from any location and on any device. For IT teams, this means balancing their investments in the cloud for operations and collaboration with their investments in IT management applications for proper support and security.

Progress and challenges experienced in all three phases should be continuously evaluated by IT leaders. This can be achieved through live dashboards that present KPIs and metrics like employee downtime trend, remote employee availability, and endpoint performance trends to name a few.

The future is here

We are stepping into a new world. COVID-19 has disrupted the way businesses are managed. However, this has opened up an array of possibilities for organizations to restructure themselves and revamp their business strategy.

The pandemic underscored the importance of an efficient digital strategy for organizations. There is no going back now. The future is here.

— The writer is product consultant, ManageEngine


June 20, 2020
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