No going back on remote working, say CIOs
According to research from the Irish Computer Society’s CIO Forum, the verdict on the current remote working trend is unequivocal: ‘We will never go back to the way we worked before.’
“The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the move towards more remote working by 10 years in the space of a few weeks,” said Jim Friars, CEO, Irish Computer Society (ICS).
“Digital tools allow staff to keep connected to each other and have enabled many sectors of the economy to continue their work. However, shifting work patterns onto new digital tools at such a rapid speed has had serious implications for organisations.”
However, there have also been implications for IT departments across the country in coping with the mass move of workers out of offices and premises.
According to the ICS, supporting staff working remotely has meant an increase in the amount of process documentation and optimisation, particularly for helpdesks and those with poor digital office skills.
The varying quality of broadband services, home routers, Wi-Fi dongles and services means that all users need a certain level of bespoke support, increasing pressure on support teams, the research found.
CIO Forum member and research lead, Louise Dennehy, CIO, Central Bank, said “Overall, Irish CIOs report that the move has been a positive one. IT systems have enabled IT teams to hit the ground running and have worked well.”
“Most CIOs mentioned that the core infrastructure was already in place and networks and firewalls were already set up for remote access. It is really useful for CIOs to know how others are dealing with these challenges – you never stop learning in IT.”
The research found the most common tools in use for communication and collaboration were Microsoft Teams (66%), WebEx (33%), Zoom (32%), and Skype (32%), though most CIOs cite the use of multiple tools across their organisations, said ICS, with some tech leaders pointing out ‘you can’t beat the phone sometimes’.
“The unimaginable speed of the move to working from home for many office workers has meant that a patchwork of software options came into use,” said Kevin Cooney, chair, ICS CIO Forum.
“A number of CIOs mentioned the use of multiple video conferencing solutions with an overlap for different use cases. This has impacted their ability to offer streamlined support and has led to issues as users struggle to adapt to meetings on different platforms.”
The nature of video communication, ICS reports, has led to time in meetings increasing, as there is no longer a chance to pop over to someone’s desk. This has led to a growing level of fatigue with online meetings. However, on the whole, employees are reported to be productive when working from home.
“The pandemic has offered teams a chance to ‘reset’ their communications and there has been an increased emphasis on engagement with staff, including surveys, regular check-ins and topic based chats, which has led to morale being kept high in teams,” said ICS’s Friars.
“However, communication in meetings, such as traditional stand-ups, is more difficult. As we are all experiencing, the pace of conversation has slowed, and team chats are more stilted as we end up talking over each other.”
Core to future plans
CIOs are well aware, ICS notes, that continued working from home will be a core part of future business plans. Remote working has placed a higher reliance on VPNs and firewalls than was originally envisaged, but CIOs are well prepared for the unexpected, and the issues are not insurmountable.
CIOs are also preparing for the challenge of replacing staff and on-boarding new recruits in the ‘new normal’.
Overall, finds ICS, CIOs have shown that IT teams have great resilience and the ability to cope with such a different situation.
The pandemic may have pushed us to innovate differently and earlier than may have been originally planned, states ICS, but coping under pressure is what IT does best. As one CIO said, “there is nothing like a crisis to force through some innovation and changed ways of working.”