Learning And Growing With IT Teams During The Covid-19 Quarantines

Get a group of IT professionals from large organizations together for a virtual coffee these days and it won’t take long for them to talk about how the Covid-19 pandemic and quarantines have impacted their lives. Almost nothing on the business landscape in recent memory has caused so much change so quickly, with the switch the working from home pushing unified communications systems – both on-prem and cloud-based – to their limits.

The good news is many companies are seeing positive effects, or at least minimized negative effects, from the switch. But the strain on the technical side has been severe, and IT teams are still addressing the growing pains of adding thousands of new users to collaboration tools in a hurry.

During a recent webinar with Vyopta senior solutions engineer Matt Stevenson, some leaders from the large-company IT world talked about the lessons learned and ongoing pain points of managing the shift to remote working.

It’s All About Onboarding, And The Details

Richard Bugbee, IT manager for voice and video for Charter Communications, said robust education and testing before the company went largely to work from home was crucial.

Still, there were obstacles.

“For us biggest challenge was onboarding. We all knew as soon as the messages started coming and we started to understand that we’d start to see some remote work by sending people home to somewhere off site, we understood we’d have to adapt. But I don’t think we understood how quickly the requests would come in,” he said.

“We became the most popular organization in the company and went from everyone thinking this was a great tool and everyone likes to use it and it being generally popular for promoting collaboration, to as soon as (the quarantine) hit we went to 4,000, 3,000, 7,000 requests weekly. So one of the biggest challenges for us was onboarding people fast enough and getting people who haven’t used the system into it and making sure we were license appropriately. We had to get the right licensing in place and make sure we had the right infrastructure and work hand in hand with the folks on the VPN side of the house to make sure our VPN tunnels were going to be able to support all this new traffic.”

Regan Earl, senior unified communications engineer for Abbvie, said one important move was finding a way to address the individual equipment and peripheral needs of users.

“For us the increase was more in peripheral type things. We’re still going through things like the laptop refresh where not everybody has a camera or not everybody has a built-in microphone on their laptop,” he said. “So our increase was around the collaboration peripherals like webcams and speakerphones. We set up a custom portal for work at home users where they could quickly go to order something they needed and get that turned around and shipped so these users could have what they needed to work from home.”

Data Leads To Smart Growth

Stevenson said Vyopta customers have benefitted from the rich data they have available, which allows them to make smart decisions on the fly. That has been key for so many professionals trying to handle demands and situations they’d never planned for.

“No one had ever really experienced anything like this where overnight we have to transform the entire way that we work,” he said. 

“We can show you on the real-time side what is happening right now and show you how things are changing and how people are adopting things. That’s really key when you’re trying to roll out a new service or switch a service. You have to have that ability because the IT who is managing all of these things, we always want to think we know what is going to happen or have an idea of how it’s going to go. But it rarely goes how you expect it to go and you need data to see how it’s going. You need good data to see the right things and be able to make changes on the fly and then see the effect of the changes you make.”

Forecasting Is Needed

Bugbee said there are still pressing matters as habits and workflows evolve. He said being able to forecast coming surges in usage will an important step for companies so staffs can test and have the right capacity available to meet demand.

“Since Covid, I’m up 300 percent in usage and amount of calls. I have no idea, though, at 1 p.m. yesterday how many active participants happened then,” he said. “So if I wanted to bring my platform back on-prem because I wanted to be super secure, just from the standpoint of avoiding an outage, I don’t know how to scale that because I don’t know my maximum participant limit at any given moment. I just know I have to scale it for 3,000 people a day. But at 2 o’clock if 700 people call and I need licensing for all those people at one specific moment, I don’t have that specific piece of data yet. Those are the data points I’m really missing.”

Want more insights from UC experts dealing with the massive rise in demand due to Covd-19? Watch the full webinar on-demand.

Chad Swiatecki

Chad Swiatecki is a business writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Billboard, New York Daily News, Austin Business Journal, Austin American-Statesman and many other print and online publications. He lives in Austin, Texas and is a graduate of Michigan State University. Find him online on LinkedIn.