Making Sense of Change: How IT services are leading the transition to a new way of working
One of the biggest side-effects of the pandemic has been the drastic impact on our day-to-day life – how we shop, travel, interact with our friends and family, and work.
Lockdown has limited our movement and that is forcing businesses to rethink how they operate: how can our workforce deliver when we can’t be in the office?
Technology companies and IT services providers – such as TiG, HeleCloud and Waracle – are an important catalyst for this, providing the transformative technology to get businesses back up and running from living rooms across the country.
For many, this support is business as usual – it’s just the scale that has changed, with (according to the Office for National Statistics) nearly half of the country’s workforce at least partly working from home during March.
As Chris Martin, CEO of Waracle, one of the biggest developers of mobile apps in the UK, says “nothing’s changed and everything’s changed.”
“It’s been a hive of activity as we had an increase in demand to help our customers move from office setup into the home,” explains Des Lekerman, Chief Executive of digital transformation and cloud migration business, TiG. “It was all hands to the deck as we delivered remote support, alongside some onsite engineers.”
“Even in the very early days of the pandemic, it was obvious that technology and technologists were going to play a very significant role in this crisis,” adds Dob Todorov, CEO of technology consultancy and cloud-based managed service provider, HeleCloud.
Adapting to the new normal
“Many organisations, such as those in the financial services sector, never had the need to have employees work from home – they are used to using their office desktop computer and the security credentials and systems,” Todorov adds. “They struggled early on to get people access to their systems.”
Alongside that, Waracle are working with financial and energy sectors, both of which are seeing great change.
“The financial sector is currently re-imagining how they provide their services and their products in a new environment,” Martin explains. While with energy, “it is mostly from the sustainable side, an area which is growing quickly.”
Overall, “there’s some areas of business which are now no longer working or are overwhelmed. Companies have had to refocus on different ways of doing things. That means more digital.”
HeleCloud’s main focus has been consultancy to enable remote working, reducing costs and using cloud architecture to cope for surges in demand.
As Todorov explains, “The beauty of public cloud, especially during the time of coronavirus, is that it is utility based. If you want to save costs in public cloud, you simply shut down the resources you are not using so you’re no longer paying for them.”
In comparison, if you have “data centres with servers inside, whether your customer base or demand for services is being reduced by 95% or not, you’ve still got those data centres and servers and you have to pay for them.”
HeleCloud have also been working with “a national health service in Europe” around contact tracing, although, like Waracle, they can’t go into further detail.
For TiG, following their initial work “making sure our customers were securely set up and able to work from home,” came “the project work”: migrating applications in the Microsoft Azure Cloud and using the full functionality, but critically, also making it secure – a fundamental concern for this new kind of work.
“We’re at heightened risk of breaches and data leakage at the moment,” says Lekerman. “Hackers are looking for weak targets. A lot of businesses out there don’t put the necessary investment into security and are easy targets. People are working from home on unsecured home Wi-Fi with access to company sensitive data which could be valuable IP, information on customers and suppliers.”
“Companies have a responsibility to protect their data during these times of great turbulence. We’re auditing and monitoring the way that our customers manage and keep their data, offering better ways of doing it, protecting it, putting policies around intellectual property and making sure that there’s an audit trail. A lot of this is compliance, but no company wants to lose its valuable IP!”
Todorov echoes these concerns and adds “Cloud is naturally much more secure, because of the scale of providers such as Amazon Web Services.”
They have got customers ranging from a start up in Shoreditch all the way to The Home Office or the Ministry of Defence. “They apply very high security standards across the board, which makes cloud a much more secure platform than any individual customer can afford to build. At the time when people are very sensitive about security and compliance, cloud is the best option to remain secure.”
When it comes to HeleCloud, TiG and Waracle adapting their own working practices during the pandemic, it was a seamless transition given technology and innovation is inherent in their businesses.
As Lekerman explains, “being a cloud services provider, we were literally up and running within seconds, because everyone could connect to our data and applications in the Microsoft Azure Cloud securely and communicate effectively, for us it was business as usual.”
“We’d been tracking the pandemic for about a month beforehand,” adds Martin, “and we ran a test day where we got everybody to work from home. We just didn’t go back to the office!”
“We have always worked primarily on a remote basis,” explains Todorov. “We would go to the customer on occasion, but most of the delivery happened offsite. That’s the beauty of the cloud; you don’t need direct access. So, switching to a completely offsite mode didn’t impact either the pace of development or quality.”
Moving into the future
With all this acceleration in work, being able to rely on employees to deliver in a new environment and under new pressures has been critical.
“As a team, we very quickly adapted to the new way of thinking,” says Todorov. “And we are still as busy as we were before the lockdown.”
“The team have been magnificent,” says Lekerman. “They’ve been given autonomy to make decisions and taken responsibility. A lot of companies are reliant on us delivering great service; when it comes down to it, it’s about helping people succeed and our team has stepped up.”
“I’m incredibly proud and grateful for our people,” says Martin. “They are working hard. They’re juggling unbelievable home and health circumstances. I couldn’t have asked for any more effort and commitment from anybody.”
But is the rapid acceleration of technology and digital communications we have witnessed a permanent change or just a temporary fix for a global crisis?
“I think it’s a catalyst for unified communications and the way we are interacting today is proof of that,” says Todorov, referencing our video interview. “Cloud and unified communications together are helping us build a more globalised world. It allows us to work from home and find the right work life balance. We’ve more free time to spend with our families and it also is good from a green perspective.”
“We’ve moved forward ten years,” says Martin. “Office requirements have changed and people will work flexibly in the future. People won’t be as geographically anchored to companies.”
“It is not only work from home”, adds Todorov. “It’s work from everywhere. That is the new normal, this is the future.”
“The lockdown has shown people and businesses are much more resilient than we think,” adds Lekerman. “But in order for companies to survive, they’re going to need to create their own digital platform that enhances the business. It’s about being more productive and getting ahead of competitors. If they don’t, they will quickly become extinct.”
This awareness and rapid adaptation is positive to see from the IT services industry – as Jane Vinson, Head of Portfolio, South, at BGF comments, “we have seen quick work by companies in our portfolio to acknowledge the opportunities in the market and support both existing and new customers with their businesses. Security and flexibility are the watchwords during this difficult time.”
“By understanding the uniqueness of each company and working closely together, sharing our knowledge and experience, we can help each other to emerge from lockdown stronger and ready for a new business environment. It’s important that we use these tough experiences to bring us closer together, rather than drive us apart.
Community and mutual support are more crucial than ever before.
“Early on, I sent an email to staff saying that this is going to be a tough time,” says Martin. “We need to help each other out. I told everyone to go out and spend £50 on a vulnerable neighbour and expense it to the company. It had a really good effect on people’s morale.”
“Going forward, the companies that will win are those that have a social purpose that people can line up behind. They’re doing something that is good. Our motto is ‘healthier, wealthier, greener’, so we were already clear about our social purpose.”
“The whole world has changed,” offers Lekerman, “but has it changed for the better? In some aspects: the pace of life, travelling to work, there’s no planes flying and less cars on the road – I think it’s shown people a life balance. People have got to have hope of making the future better.”
TiG, HeleCloud, Waracle are backed by BGF. TiG is headquartered in London, HeleCloud is headquartered in Maidenhead and Waracle is headquartered in Dundee.
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