When the first cases of the novel coronavirus were reported late last year, few could have foreseen how quickly things would progress and how little time we would have to prepare for sudden and radical changes to our way of life. But when the signs started to point to serious times ahead, Open Box began calmly moving things into place to ensure we were prepared to continue supporting our clients as they faced their own challenges.
South Africa was fortunate in that the virus took some time to reach our shores, allowing us to observe and learn from how it was being handled by others. So it was unsurprising that our administration reacted swiftly and with clarity of purpose when the confirmed cases began to increase. Like them, we had also been watching events carefully and had already been preparing to act decisively when the time came.
We have always been as prepared as possible for remote working, because it’s our business model
Weeks ago, the management team at Open Box began executing on our business continuity plans, starting with discussions with our infrastructure team to assess our preparedness should the company need to send everyone away from the office. Surveys were sent out to employees to assess their capacity to work from home: what access they required, the reliability of their internet connection, and the security of their home workstations. This was cross-referenced against critical client support functions and plans drawn up for how we would support employees to continue being productive without bearing additional personal cost or posing an unnecessary risk to their health. We conducted work-from-home tests, including sending our entire infrastructure department home for a day to ensure they could perform critical functions remotely. Failover plans were checked, policies (both informal and formal) discussed, and the needs of our office support staff, who could not do their jobs from home, considered.
But really, we have always been as prepared as possible for remote working, because it’s our business model. As an offshore provider, we’ve become experts at crafting productive teams and delivering projects when many of the participants are not even on the same continent, let alone in the same office. Our analysts and consultants frequently travel internationally and still need to keep in touch and on top of their deliverables, so our systems were already geared to support access from outside the office. We had already fully migrated to Office 365, SharePoint Online and OneDrive, allowing our staff to access their emails and files from anywhere. VPNs were already in place to ensure secure connections to client systems and data. Delivery teams were already using Microsoft Teams and Azure DevOps to coordinate their work internally.
The infrastructure team in particular have been the heroes of the day
Within 24 hours of President Ramaphosa’s speech on Sunday night, 95% of our workforce was set up and working from home. We have never been prouder of our employees as we saw them react to the news with true Open Box spirit. WhatsApp groups sprung up as teams shared contact details with each other; daily standups and other meetings moved online; new Teams channels were created to share helpful tips and information. The infrastructure team in particular have been the heroes of the day, working tirelessly and with good humour throughout.
And now? The work goes on: deliverables will be met, commitments honoured, and those who rely on our software and services will continue to be supported. There are tough times ahead, but we are approaching each new challenge with the resilience, resourcefulness and can-do attitude that exemplify the Open Box Way.