Social distancing has totally and completely changed how companies operate. Even IT managed services, which frequently pride themselves in being on the cutting edge of IT technology, have had to reassess their operations and make changes in order to provide their clients with needed IT services and assistance without endangering their own employees. Just how are managed services adapting to social distancing without shutting down business operations? Is social distancing impact the quality and number of services IT managed service providers offer the business community? A couple of IT managed service owners offer insight into their new ways of operating and recommend products and services that have helped them adapt to the “new normal” without compromising either client safety or quality of service.
Philantech3 Consulting Group has been in business since 2002, offering a range of IT services to the business community in and around Spokane, Washington. Company President Wil Buchanan recently noted that, like many businesses, Philantech3 had to scramble a bit to adapt to a remote work model. However, he hails the move as a blessing that has provided employees with flexibility in their work schedules and make it possible for team members to juggle their busy lives. The added flexibility is also likely to be a boon for clients as IT problems don’t just happen during regular business hours. Allowing employees to adopt an unconventional work schedule will ensure that companies have access to IT help and assistance at all hours of the day or even night.
Mr. Buchanan reports that his company faced three primary hurdles: stable phone communications, providing secure and reliable data access to employees, and leadership. The first two hurdles were overcome with the use of the right technology; in the company’s case, this meant partnering with Loop Communication for phone service and Citrix Files, Microsoft Teams, and SplashTop for remote control software. The leadership aspect has been addressed by overcommunicating objectives to all team members so everyone has the information they need to do their jobs.
Technijian in Irvine, California, maybe hundreds of miles from Spokane but founder and CEO Ravi Jain has likewise faced challenges in adapting to a remote business model. However, instead of turning to off-the-shelf software programs and services, the company has developed its own internal ticketing system that is used to document each employee’s workday in detail. The ticketing system acts as a timesheet so company management can see how employees are spending their days and ensure that all technicians are responding to client help requests in a prompt, efficient manner. The ticketing system, which is made to be compatible with Outlook and Calendar, is very easy for everyone to use. Ravi Jain rightly points out that the easier a system is to use, the better compliance will be.
Neither Mr. Jain nor Mr. Buchanan specifically stated how long they plan to keep employees working at home instead of having team members come to the office. However, the fact that both hailed their new ways of operating as better than their old models makes it clear that the IT managed service industry is changing for good. What’s more, current trends show that managed service providers aren’t just changing the way they provide services but even adapting services themselves to meet clients’ needs during this unprecedented time. Cybersecurity is a huge need at present; current statistics show that in the first half of the year there was a 20% increase in cyber fraud and abuse and a whopping 200% increase in business email compromise attacks. Data breach victims for the first half of this year include Nintendo, ExecuPharm, GoDaddy, MobiFriends, Marriott, EasyJet, MathWay, and LiveJournal. As companies struggle to adapt to remote business operations, cybercriminals have been taking advantage of new vulnerabilities that have arisen during this time to hack into company networks and either sell the stolen data or hold it hostage via a ransomware attack. Now, more than ever, IT managed service providers have been busy not only addressing cybersecurity vulnerabilities but also providing remote IT cybersecurity training to clients’ staff members. Another big change in the trend to automate routine tasks. The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdown have made it difficult for companies to hire new employees; however, this does not mean that a business has to suffer from lack of assistance because routine jobs can be handled by computer and in many instances automating tasks not only saves money but also reduces errors and increases overall business efficiency.
It’s not yet known if the world will return to the “old normal” even after the global pandemic comes to an end. However, what can be said for sure is that it’s unlikely that IT managed services will go back to the way they operated before the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry is already implementing permanent changes that will forever impact how IT technicians work with business clients by creating new set-ups for IT technicians to work with business clients, colleagues, and immediate supervisors from the comfort of their own home. It’s a wise move as studies show that employees who work from home are healthier and more productive than their colleagues who work in a traditional office setting. Businesses from all industries would do well to look at how IT managed service providers are handling social distancing guidelines and follow their lead to boost employee productivity while keeping operating costs to a minimum.