Impacts of COVID-19 on Business Operations: Thoughts from Nowcomm’s Chief Operations Officer.

Business operations across all industries have been impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. From transitioning to large-scale remote working to adapting to office communication in a virtual world, organisations in all sectors have been forced to change the ways in which they operate and re-evaluate old habits.

Last week, we (virtually) sat down with our COO, Mark Lamont, to talk about how Nowcomm has adapted to the business operational impacts and challenges of COVID-19.

Prior preparations ensured a smooth transition to remote working

For Nowcomm, the lockdown has had little to no impact on our service delivery to our customers, which has remained our top priority throughout the whole crisis, along with the welfare of our team.  The office was closed on a Thursday, and everyone was working from home the next day. This was largely thanks to the hard work we had put in prior to lockdown.

At an application level, we already had the infrastructure in place, and we had already migrated all our core systems to the cloud in November 2019. We were therefore in the position to enter lockdown from a ‘ready to go’ standpoint, meaning that we did not have such a huge task in terms of our business operations considerations.

One of the key drivers for us moving our email, document storage, service desk and quoting systems (amongst others) into the cloud were the UK floods that occurred in 2018 and 2019. Our offices were not close to the affected areas, but we used the wider situation to truly “war-room” various disaster scenarios, and the recovery processes that would be required in each situation. Part of our solution was to migrate all applications to robust cloud infrastructure and was not insignificant.  It was not appropriate to “lift and shift ” all applications, for example we selected new service desk and customer CRM solutions and rebuilt from the ground up to ensure peace of mind and control for our customers’ networks in any situation. This hard work really paid off and has been proven during the coronavirus pandemic

Nowcomm is also in the process of renewing our ISO9001 with LRQA, so the “general housekeeping” systems management of all our off-premise applications and cloud storage operations is watertight. This makes it easier for the auditors to access and review the necessary data and easier for us at Nowcomm to securely manage it.

There’s always room for improvement

As is needed to succeed in any business, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our operations. All of our engineers, for example, are ITIL4 trained as part of our commitment to frameworks, methodologies and continuous improvements in our operations and investing in our people via training. Working from home has uncovered necessary process improvements we can apply moving forward.

The lockdown also made us even more aware of the necessity to provide truly secure remote connectivity.  This includes securing the users devices and establishing encrypted connections into our applications from any location.  The days of a desktop Firewall and antivirus being an adequate security posture are long since gone.  We have therefore carried out a root and branch review of our security policy from a cybersecurity perspective, and invested in technology, to make sure that our security infrastructure is as robust as it possibly can be.

An opportunity to focus and redesign the business strategy

As for businesses across all sectors, the challenges brought by COVID-19 have given Nowcomm the opportunity to pause and reflect as we plan our business strategy going forward, including how we will adapt our operations in the post-pandemic climate.

In this respect, there are many parallels with the 2008/2009 market crash. During this time, Nowcomm made the decision to split our sales team in half; half public sector and half private sector, which proved to be a successful business model for Nowcomm as the public sector remains an important and growing part of the organisation. We similarly see the period of economic challenge that will follow the pandemic as an opportunity to focus on new areas of growth and redesign our future business strategy.

From a hiring perspective, the necessary move to remote working will most likely have an impact on our future recruitment policies. Nowcomm already has several colleagues who work across the country, but the success of home working during the pandemic has led to us considering hiring in an even wider geographic area, which will allow us to secure the very best nationwide talent to service our customers. 

We couldn’t have done this without our motivated and loyal staff

Fortunately, we have not had to furlough any members of staff and have in fact recruited new team members throughout the crisis. One new starter has not actually met any of our team in person yet. I actually had to meet him in a layby to hand over his laptop, which is definitely a first, but It’s great that we’ve been able to move forward with new hires given the very unusual circumstances.

Nowcomm employees have responded to the business continuity and lack of furlough with a real sense of loyalty and we see this in our teams’ output and productivity every day. We understand the challenges that many of our employees will have faced in working from home in environments not adapted to home-working, and we thank them for their continued hard work and resilience during this period.