Due care and diligence secured the readiness of IT when novel corona hit
Søren Kofoed Weeke had just completed his first 100 days as the CIO of SOS International when a pandemic turned all common work routines upside down and made extreme demands on the person in charge of IT.
In the days after 11 March 2020, corporate IT departments were busy. Really busy. The Nordic countries were shut down in varying degrees to limit the COVID-19 infection, which meant that hundreds of thousands of employees started working from home overnight. And this also applied to SOS International.
This is a scenario which may make even the most experienced IT manager break into a cold sweat. But imagine having been at your new workplace for less than six months and that you are responsible for ensuring that more than 1,200 employees in four Nordic countries are able to work from home. And that there are also five 24/7 alarm centres that need to continue to function in case employees have to answer the phones from home.
Fortunately, Søren Kofoed Weeke has a calm temper. And if you are to take the IT Manager at his word, there were no major problems in making an overnight move of workstations from six locations in four countries to the private homes of employees.
- SOS International is a well-oiled organisation characterised by due care and diligence, so the technology had been procured and was ready. Investments had been made in time, says Søren Kofoed Weeke who, amongst others, indicates that networks and software were ready for use.
Emergency plan in place early on
Perhaps the quiet nights of the CIO were due to the fact that SOS International had emergency plans ready in February and had reviewed the technology for many possible scenarios. This meant that much was already in place and tested when the corona pandemic really bared its teeth in March and working from home became the “new normal”.
- The emergency response was in place. There were things to deal with, but the only real technical challenges were that we had not considered that all employees had to move home in several countries at one time. It required extra licenses and expanded capacity, but our suppliers and employees were quick, and we became ready, says Søren Kofoed Weeke.
SOS International has a total of five alarm centres where employees answer telephone calls around the clock. The alarm centre at Frederiksberg in Copenhagen handles travel assistance, while the alarm centres in Aarhus, Oslo, Stockholm, and Helsinki handle roadside assistance.
- The alarm centres use the same set-up as the other employees, which meant that, technically, there was no major challenge in ensuring that the emergency call centres could be operated from home if needed, says Søren Kofoed Weeke.
- Our biggest challenge was not actually technical operations, but that we had to learn how to work together over the network. This applies to all our good colleagues in the organisation, but also to the large part of our 100-man IT function, working on the development of new products. I am impressed with how successful it is, although of course I would have preferred better time to prepare for such major changes in our working lives.
SOS International's emergency readiness took several possible frightening scenarios into account: That all four countries would shut down completely at once. Or that widespread infection amongst the employees would mean that everyone was isolated at home and the buildings had to be evacuated immediately. None of those scenarios came to fruition and perhaps that is why Søren Kofoed Weeke is left with the impression that the manoeuvre was made without too much pain.
- Not least because the employees have been incredibly supportive in making things work. We started to conduct meetings using Teams overnight and we feel that everyone has wanted to make it work. And when everyone has that attitude, then it will work.
The Nordic communities are now slowly returning to more normal conditions where we gradually and gently return to our places of work.
Although Søren Kofod Weeke believes that SOS International met the challenge of letting employees work well from home, he has made a few notes in case it becomes necessary to repeat the manoeuvre again. Both for the technology itself, but especially for assisting with the relocation and training in the effective use of virtual collaboration systems. And the toolbox to support virtual work will probably be expanded as well, although Teams has worked well.
- Most importantly for our IT function, the new workflows have given us a taste for rethinking processes and workflows. Although we are used to working virtually in IT, many of our workflows are designed at a time when we are all sitting in the office at the same time. This innovation saves a great deal of efficiency potential for us, says Søren Kofoed Weeke.