As our business, teams and stakeholders have quickly adapted to new ways of working, we wanted to discover the creative ways that we have continued to drive forward our business in a lockdown.

We have spoken to our own experts to find out how their day-to-day duties have been impacted by social distancing measures. Over the coming weeks, they will be sharing the biggest challenges they are facing and the measures they are taking to keep delivering in lockdown – from leasing industrial and logistics units to virtual-selling new homes.

Robin Turton, Group IT Director, shares how his team’s business continuity and crisis management plans put it on the front foot when handling the impacts of coronavirus on home working and the increased demand on the IT supply chain.

“I’m Robin Turton, Group IT Director at St Modwen. I lead the company’s IT, Project Management and Business Change Office (PMO) function and am responsible for developing and executing our IT strategy. We deliver IT services, data protection & information security, programme & project management, and IT training to meet the needs of our colleagues in the business. Part of the team’s responsibility is Business Continuity and Crisis Management planning, so this has been an incredibly busy time for us and one that has really tested our preparedness. Thankfully, all our hard work has paid off!”

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a result of the lockdown and social distancing measures?

“The biggest challenges faced by my team and me have been:

 

“Getting IT supplies when the outbreak began & we were planning for lockdown. The vast majority of IT equipment is manufactured in China, where the impact of the virus meant that supplies were limited in the run up to UK lockdown. We wanted to support our colleagues and help them set up to work safely at home, where appropriate, but demand for screens in particular outstripped supply. Luckily, due to our business continuity planning and projects to support flexible working, over 90% of employees already had a company laptop and everyone had access to our company portal.

 

“Identifying and pausing projects quickly and safely, so no critical information has been lost and we can restart when appropriate. This was an unfortunate but necessary step, so we could release resource to be able to manage the impacts of the outbreak in the business.”

What changes, adaptations or new measures have been required in order for you to keep delivering effectively under lockdown?

“Thankfully very little – which in IT terms is good news – as trying to quickly adapt, replace or stand up tactical solutions is fraught with risk and can introduce vulnerabilities. We have Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plans that we test regularly, especially for key systems and services that keep the business running.

 

“As you’d expect, the IT team themselves are well set up for remote working. As an example, all our service desk analysts can take calls from the usual IT telephone number, use our service management system to log issues and requests, remotely support colleagues and send out new kit/replacement kit from their homes. The move to remote working for them has been seamless.

 

“Also, as well as management and team meetings, we have regular Microsoft Teams sessions and twice weekly social catch ups over ‘virtual lunch’.”

How have your stakeholders adapted and how are you maintaining relationships during this time?

“We are maintaining our regular contacts with our key suppliers, so we can understand how Covid-19 is impacting them and their ability to supply goods and services.

 

“We are communicating with our colleagues through email and our intranet, offering advice and guidance on home working, best use of the powerful and versatile technology we have implemented and how to reduce the risk of data loss, scams or cyber-attack.

 

“Where projects are continuing, we are keeping sponsors and business owners updated as to progress and any impacts to delivery. Where new projects or initiatives are emerging, we have moved quickly to support these using the ‘in house’ capability in the PMO team.

 

“As much as possible, we are maintaining a ‘Business as Usual’ outlook, with extra vigilance around monitoring our systems, their performance & security.”

How has your team had to adapt to remote working?

“We are a close-knit team that enjoys working together, so being physically distant has been quite hard for us. I think we miss office interactions with each other and with our colleagues in the business – I certainly do! Having said that, we have been able to use technology to collaborate and communicate (obviously!) and we are still working effectively using Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, and Office 365.

 

“We’ve had to adapt some of our processes – for example, when we need to access stock or do maintenance work in the office, we have processes for ‘lone workers’ to safely go to, work at and leave site. When we have to ship IT equipment to our colleagues, we have to sanitise and courier this out to them. Also, when people have left the business, we have disabled their accounts & asked them to hold onto our IT equipment until lockdown is over or another member of the IT team can collect it. We have plans in place to safely retrieve, wipe and return this equipment to stock.

 

“We have also increased capacity and performance on our remote desktop servers, so we can support over 100 connections to applications such as Qube or Argus Developer with no impact to speed or user experience.”