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March 26, 2020

How IT Saved Your Bacon – A Snapshot of Two Intense Weeks

"We put ourselves through hell to get our networks capable"

By CBR Staff Writer

Transitioning large teams entirely to remote working over an incredibly condensed period, as successfully as many companies have in recent weeks, was not a miracle: it involved blood, sweat, tears, great partners, and great leadership.

Not all companies have had that, and not all IT teams feel appreciated for the efforts. As one staffer bewailed in a popular Reddit thread this week: “Look at social media, you will see tons of posts thanking doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, delivery drivers, etc. No one has mentioned IT even though we gave up our time and likely put ourselves through hell to get our networks capable to support work from home.”

“Smart, forward looking companies… are going to be much more respectful of the IT departments”

Yet as businesses around the country bed-in to life under lockdown, most have IT staff, engineers, architects, developers and more to thank.

As another contributor put it: “I work high up in IT at a >Fortune 20 company and by 10:30 AM EST today we have well over 40,000 VPN connections in NA alone.

“It’s been all hands on deck the last 2-3 weeks expanding network, VPN, VDI, messaging and other core infrastructure and so far everything is holding better than I expected. I think smart, forward looking companies who had even a good/bad experience are going to be much more respectful of the IT departments that held things together.”

See also: Microsoft Feels the Squeeze: Throttles 365 Services, Migration Bandwidth

One senior IT manager at a major listed company who did not want to be named, painted a picture of how things panned out for Computer Business Review. In their own words, the seven main things that made a “crazy” period possible.

1: Backing from the Business

“All IT successes in this period couldn’t have been possible without the backing from the business. Not only did hardware run out, but so did the time to help of our contacts at third parties. (Partnerships with built over years on things like laptops, VPN accounts, additional/improved licenses). If it had not been for the rapid, almost instant decision making and communication from the very top, we would have been powerless to help. Without that and the permission to act, it would have been like trying to buy tickets for Glastonbury in a better summer: the hourglass just spinning…”

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2: Existing Modernisation Plans

“Unlike colleagues in other businesses I have spoken to, we had a massive advantage in that the IT lead for the group of companies had already mapped out an investment plan to make the IT infrastructure resilient, and a major modernisation project was underway, from more cloud resources to better security. That saved our bacon.”

3: A Good CIO

“Beyond that was CIO’s grasp of the what we had do: buy laptops, sure; but also plan weeks in advance to buy back up tapes, etc.. On top of that was a tremendous understanding of what services were available and how to add those to alleviate things we knew would be troublesome, such as fixed phones.

This total understanding from the CIO and the broader senior IT decision making team meant we had real structure and direction, letting us act fast.

The importance of this is too easily missed and I am struggling to think of a sporting analogy that expresses the importance of this, maybe a rowing Eight without a cox except we are in the sea not the Thames and the race is going to last for weeks…”

4: Team Spirit

“Within the department the team spirit was the fundamental edge. For example we had to change roles within the team (fly-halves as props and vice a versa) and also dig deep to manage long hours. Doing this without any prima donnas or egos was actually a great experience, as was the out-of-the-box thinking I saw across my entire team.”

5: Staying Cool

The craziness of this period manifested itself in ways that were hard to predict. For example, Microsoft had to reduce the resolution of the video meetings to keep their platform up.  Joe Wickes broke the UK’s Internet when 700,000 kids did their PE lessons via Zoom. Keeping cool heads when solution faltered, finding another solution or resolving the problem and communicating the action/patience needed was critical.

6: Partners: You’ve Been Golden

The third-party suppliers: you cannot underestimate these guys. I’ve worked with a guy at a supplier for 18 years. These relationships are the closest thing you will get to having extra teammates – people whose word you can and have to rely upon. They helped make things work fast and they were vital. 

7:  Appreciation 

Suddenly everyone became first level IT support staff: in every meeting I went to, volunteers offered help and became their team’s champions of Zoom, phones, VPN, or two-factor authentication. Everyone realised just how much weight was on IT’s shoulders, how much their patience was needed and how much they gave; that kept us going.  In summary – people saved us, starting at the top, and with everyone underneath pulling together too.

It’s been crazy, but also a powerful experience.

Want to share an IT experience of the past few weeks? Drop our editor ed(.)targett(@)cbronline(.)com an email, either on, or off the record. 

 

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