Technology Responds to Global Pandemic
Technology Responds to Global Pandemic
In a matter of days, the world changed. At the beginning of March 2020, roughly less than 10% of team members were working from home regularly. With the onset of COVID-19, the world shifted, and National orders called for businesses to make significant shifts. Walter P Moore's leadership team made early decisions and preparations to ensure the safety of their employees. As a direct result, team members rapidly shifted to a work-from-home model over four days. In short order, over 700 team members around the globe were actively working from home with minimal disruption to their work schedule.
Behind the scenes, Walter P Moore’s Information Technology experts put systems in place long before they were needed. “Prep work is key to any large organization,” advises Chief Information Officer Jim Jacobi. “When it came time to utilize what we had in place, we were ready. It took some adjustments and the quick work of our team, but front-end decisions made us much more nimble.”
The overall process was complicated and had a lot of fast-moving parts. The IT team had to move swiftly, ensuring that all employees had the equipment, connections, and information they needed to transition successfully. To quickly evaluate technology assets and in-home capabilities, the IT Department distributed a firm-wide electronic survey.
“People working remotely was only the first phase,” explains Manager of IT Operations Mason Pokladnik. "Optimizing the work-from-home experience and getting people working efficiently, required ongoing communications with employees and everyone being willing to work in new ways.” Relatively simple things, providing additional monitors and headsets, for example, became complicated by logistics and supply issues. More complex solutions, such as bringing data and processing together, are still going through iterative improvements to adapt to people as they collaborate in new ways.
“As we shifted to a full work-from-home situation in response to COVID-19, I was very thankful for our past investments in technology and the forward-thinking of our IT team," says Infrastructure Executive Director Jennifer Peek. "We were able to seamlessly continue our project efforts and meet our clients’ needs with little interruption.”
As is the case in many firms, the IT department is a member of the first response team to provide solutions for our employees to rely upon in these business-critical situations. Moving projects, coordinating home deliveries for equipment, extensive research, and cybersecurity training not only prepared team members, but strengthened the firm’s overall capabilities. To accommodate a large workforce to work-from-home model adjustments had to be made, and potential issues assessed. “Our team determined that both data centers, located in Houston and Austin, needed to be upgraded,” says Jonathon Matlock, Commercial IT Projects Manager. “We also increased our capacity for VPN (virtual private network) connections to allow users to connect to the network as well as expanded our VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) environment.”
Navigating a complete lockdown in India with no access to the physical office presented a different challenge for those needing to connect remotely to their workstations. The solution was to set up a local, standalone server in Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing service located in Pune, and deploy ConnectWise Control, an on-premise product.
“Walter P Moore’s strong culture of teamwork, trust, and accountability have been vital to maintaining office operations and project delivery during this transition to full work from home,” says Ryan Seckinger, Structural Managing Director in the firm’s Washington, DC office. “In addition to having the technology infrastructure in place to support remote work, cultural infrastructure is every bit as important to making this kind of transition a success. While we are all eager to see each other and our clients in person again, I am very thankful that given the success of our team’s remote work we can take the necessary time to make data-driven decisions on timing and nature of our return to the office.”
“Our team was ready worldwide to tackle our projects and client needs while working from home. Our IT group was available to help staff troubleshoot technology issues immediately,” adds Lee Anne Dixon, Director of Operations for Infrastructure.
For many, the coronavirus emerged from nowhere. However, epidemiologists have seen and predicted these trends in varying degrees for years. The question of another pandemic is not if, but when. Whether globally or regionally, companies should absorb lessons from COVID-19 moving forward. The global pandemic is certainly catapulting technology in unexpected ways.
There are significant differences between business disruptions and their root cause. Natural, human-made, technology or operational failures and those caused by pandemic events are examples of disruptions. These differences continue due to the potential increased scale, severity, and duration of pandemic events. These necessitate the need for organizations to expand beyond traditional resilience planning strategies and to incorporate a pandemic planning response.
“Although very challenging, this most recent emergency response demonstrates the importance of building robust, sustainable, and resilient technology systems designed to support business, whether in office or remote,” adds Jacobi. “The lessons learned from this experience will serve us well in continuing to be prepared to respond to significant unanticipated events that put our business systems at risk.”