How IT Leaders Can Work With Their Tech Partners to Overcome the Coronavirus Crisis

how to combat coronavirus effects with outsourcing

Coronavirus is a global phenomenon and a human tragedy, and technologies are playing a central role in navigating the crisis. Many of the things reshaping how we live and work today rely on technology – from massive WFH initiatives for employees to a surge in online shopping activities to use of drones for pilotless delivery of goods.

As many IT decision-makers have a unique view of the actual state of affairs, the pressure they’re feeling from their leadership is enormous. During the pandemic, CIOs, in particular, are facing some of the greatest challenges of their career: they are perceived as experts who’re supposed to know how to navigate the crisis and use the latest technologies to grapple with the implications of the long-lasting quarantine and lockdown. 

According to McKinsey, the current crisis is playing out broadly across the following three waves:

  1. Maintaining stability and business continuity;
  2. Institutionalising teleworking;
  3. Learning lessons from the pandemic to prioritise digital transformation for resilience. 

Having surveyed over 100 CIOs at global companies, McKinsey figured their key priorities for the next 60 to 90 days:

  1. Taking care of employees and ensuring job retention;
  2. Removing fear and confusion as a result of uncertainty;
  3. Getting beyond the tech to make WFH work;
  4. Driving adoption of new work and collaboration models;
  5. Being proactive on security;
  6. Stabilising critical infrastructure, systems and processes;
  7. Enabling the shift in business processes;
  8. Staying focused on the customer;
  9. Taking a through-cycle view and staying committed to broader transformation goals they’ve been leading such as big data, cloud, and agile;
  10. Understanding and making others understand the implications of the “new normal.”

The outsourcing industry has traditionally been an integral part of the companies’ crisis response across sectors. The current COVID-19 crisis is no exception. When it comes to managing an existing outsourcing relationship, the top priorities of CIOs should be:

  1. Resolving immediate issues, and
  2. Building resilience and planning for ongoing COVID-19-related impact.

Resolving immediate issues

Become “One” Team

Now is the time for you and your IT outsourcing partner to be one team. Both IT vendors and buyers are focused on taking care of their loved ones and staying healthy while working effectively under stressful conditions.

Here are some actions you can take to decrease the consequences of the crisis.

  • If you have an extended or distributed IT team hosted by your tech partner overseas, bring a human front to all provider interactions and ask how they’re going to ensure your outsourced team members’ well-being during the lockdown.
  • Work with your tech partner to develop and enforce clear guidelines for the health of all employees who need to remain on-premises (e.g., dividing the workspace into smaller zones that people can’t cross or developing teleworking guidelines and behaviour policies).
  • Ask your tech partner to provide appropriate psychological support to your project team members in these challenging times and do communicate every single change in the process as a result of the pandemic.

Secure services on critical systems and processes that are essential for your business operation

At this stage, deeper integration with your technology partner on crisis-response actions should be considered.

Implement and scale-up key enablers of effective work from home such as:

  • Work protocols with roles, responsibilities, issue management and access rights;
  • Processes (communication, workflow, reporting);
  • People management (recruitment, retention, motivation), and
  • Tools (VPN, network bandwidth, collaboration, video, etc.)
At Evolve, we’ve established daily crisis-response calls with our clients during the quarantine and lockdown.

Plan for capacity rebalancing

This is a very critical step to make. Work with your outsourced team provider to understand current capacity and plan for the future impact of any productivity declines.

Let's assume that productivity in your UK-based cybersecurity team is expected to drop by 40%-50% due to the lack of the appropriate remote infrastructure and DevOps. You can design and implement rebalancing plans between your and your tech partner’s locations to increase bandwidth or get missing resources fast. For instance, you can go to Ukraine and leverage your tech partner’s robust DevOps infrastructure instead of trying to build one internally in the UK, which will be more time consuming and expensive. Just make sure to provide your tech partner with regular updates about your impacted resources and services to try to reshuffle and/or augment them.

Set up and ensure compliance with the right offshore security protocols

It’s critical for a reliable tech partner to ensure that your extended team employees safeguard and handle all data pertaining to your software project the right way remotely. Make sure your provider has safe teleworking protocols and procedures for threat identification and elimination.

“Consider, for example, using multifactor authentication to derisk access to sensitive data and working with providers to shorten patch cycles for essential work-from-home systems such as VPNs and endpoint protection to reduce the risk of data being stored at endpoint devices while considering latency issues.”

Establish a virtual command centre to identify and resolve bottlenecks proactively

CIOs need to ensure technology uptime and enable critical business requirements such as inventory data availability, mission-critical systems or payments.

Building resilience for ongoing Coronavirus effects

Collaborate proactively with your tech partner to prepare for the future impact

Once the immediate issues have been resolved, CIOs should be able to address the likely effects of the pandemic proactively. These might include business continuity planning in case of capacity reduction, using critical tech platforms to deal with remote work-related issues or developing approaches to address new needs or solutions.

Things to do:

  • Create real-time crisis monitoring dashboards across all project areas to track the right set of metrics such as status, service levels, capacity across locations, areas of risk, etc.
  • Back up capacity for critical subject matter experts on your outsourced project team. Find out if your provider can use or share capacity across locations or services in case of local talent shortages.
  • Design plans to mitigate disaster at various outsourcing scenarios.
  • Reallocate resources to address your top priority needs. Work with your tech partner to identify the most critical priorities and reallocate resources from low-priority to the highest-priority projects.

Discuss with your tech partner the financial impact of the COVID-19 to identify better ways of working together to benefit both

As a tech leader, you may have a temptation or be pressured by your leadership to cut on outsourcing. However, do take a hard look at your software development roadmap and the capabilities you will need in the future, once the recovery starts.

“Knee-jerk cost-cutting may incur greater costs later,” McKinsey.

Evaluate how your tech partner can help your company weather the crisis by adjusting the labour mix in locations or implementing lean transformations. Understand how you can help each other keep costs low and set up financial arrangements accordingly.

‘For example, one organisation changed the spend mix from capital expenditures to operating expenditures with its provider, thus providing immediate cash benefits to its provider—in return for favourable in-year credits redeemable at the end of the year or in the following year.’

Planning your business continuity together with your tech partner will not be just a “tick the box” exercise. Your provider’s ability to lift and shift workloads across locations will eventually benefit your company in many ways, from cost-saving and resilience to development of new tech-driven business models and flexibility to scale up and down as your situation changes during and after the pandemic.

Remember – business hibernation can kill your business! Don’t stop and keep building your solution with a reliable vendor!

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