When early warnings were just starting to go off that the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, was likely to move outside of China’s boundaries, the internal teams at Collabera were already starting to formulate their long-term response plans. It wasn’t a “wait and see” approach that they were considering from their Basking Ridge, New Jersey headquarters, it was a “if/then” Business Continuity Plan (BCP).
Considering Connectivity and Security on a Nearly Infinite Scale
Internally, Collabera already had a BCP and Disaster Recovery Plan in place, but COVID-19 was something no business has ever seen before. As Collabera CTO, Viral Tripathi explained, the global pandemic presented utterly unique challenges to prepare against.
“From a technology point of view, in a normal disaster recovery planning you would create a playbook for a specific kind of outage,” Tripathi said. “You’d prepare for a disruption based on technology going down, or geography or location, or perhaps weather. This was a global impact. Collabera, our clients, our vendors — absolutely everyone was affected irrespective to their location or industry.”
Instead of something “simple” like a major power outage or inability to use one building for a given amount of time, the entire business and technology infrastructure supporting every employee, client, and vendor was going to be impacted. They needed to move fast.
IT Challenges Arising From a Global Workforce
With an HQ in New Jersey, and over 40 office across the United States, Collabera was able to take on some issues in the U.S. about a week before turning to its IT and business teams in India. This gave the Collabera IT team some breathing room to establish a Master Command Center (MCC) to take on service problems and resolve them as a global cross-functional team.
In the US, employees had some experience working from home, so a switch from an office model to a home-based model presented few challenges, but not an impossible number. In the more than 10 Collabera offices across major metropolitan areas in India, however, workers were in for many more problems. Thousands of IT workers, more than 4,000, left the familiarity of their offices to work from home or even hotel rooms with logistical problems ranging from a lack of available hardware (including laptops) to unreliable connectivity or basic IT infrastructure.
Collabera was able to get out ahead of supply issues and meet new challenges with innovative solutions, even halfway around the world as the pandemic was closing down businesses in the U.S. They acted fast for their India employees, and:
Meeting Connectivity Business Challenges with Early Planning
The IT team at Collabera was ready to meet this need for its India-based team members due to their forethought and ability to move quickly when problems arose.
“We were definitely planning for the worst,” Tripathi said. “We refreshed our existing BCP plans, and when the time came, we were pretty disciplined in execution.”
With their command team meeting representatives across departments, the IT group was able to communicate and consider problems as they would come in from various business teams around the globe.
“The MCC and the Agile methods we used for business sync up calls and scrums for IT allowed us to stay in the game if not ahead of the game,” he said. “As soon as problems came in, we were open and honest about them and we agreed on a plan to address the situation. That goes on even today. We still have minor issues or new requests from business daily — we evaluate, come up with a plan, and get an IT solution up and running in a way so that business isn’t interrupted.”
That work came with the full support of the executive management committee and business planners.
“The last 6-8 weeks has been about making sure Collabera is connected and operational, then that it was secure, then working to enhance the collaboration,” he said. Collabera now has a Digital Workplace that is enabling employees to work anytime-anywhere. “The next step is focusing on how we can evaluate the changing business processes and get our strategic roadmap adapted to be ready three, six, and nine months down the road so that we can lead.”
Lessons Learned and Teams Inspired
As the proverbial smoke cleared from the first few weeks of rapid-fire planning and problem solving at the MCC, to finding more even-footing as a more “normal” stream of service requests come in, the department has been able to start to take some steps back and assess its response. With a global workforce, that still means working around the clock, but with fewer surprises and unknowns.
“The IT team is still putting in hard work 24/7 to make sure our business operations, at least from the IT infrastructure standpoint, is working as best as we can,” said Tripathi. “The collaboration across teams has been amazing. From the Level 1 help desk to the application support through to engineering and up to the other C-level executives, we are working as one big family together.”
It’s not just Collabera’s internal teams keeping the wheels of industry turning. Collabera is also extending their teamwork mentality to their clients. They have helped many businesses they work with by providing laptops, other equipment and services. Their IT Services team also enabled customer operations including outsourced services without impact.
There’s even a Collabera IT employee who is providing pro bono data analytics support to a U.S. government organization to help analyze COVID-19 data.
“We learned the true benefits when you trust and empower your staff,” Tripathi said. “They work hard. When you empower them work gets done much faster and in a much more agile way. When it all comes together, it’s because of sheer hard work and commitment.”
The employees at Collabera have found that their entire team is feeling a sense of accomplishment (though maybe a little tired) at the moment — despite the stress of the pandemic.
Looking Ahead at What Happens in the “New Normal”
It’s hard to see past the day-to-day of emergency fixes and on-the-fly solutions, but Collabera is trying to see what they will need to adjust once the current stay-at-home orders come to an end around the globe.
“What I would love to continue is the great partnership between the IT team and the business teams,” said Tripathi. “Once we’re out of this, the business will bounce back and there will still be a period of transition, but we will all need to work together, adapt and evaluate new processes.”
“I want to make sure that the IT department is also at the forefront of that conversation,” he said.
“The only way we can stay connected with productive work and achieve business outcomes is with digital technologies,” he added. “The need to mature this technology is so much more urgent. Now there’s no choice but look to technology as a must-have tool to drive business operations.”