COVID-19 pandemicLast week, we wrote about how IT managers can prepare for the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Several IT managers emailed us comments. One of the best is below. It is by Ian Moore, the Head of Operations Support Unit for the CGIAR One Corporate System, based at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya.

How IT Can Manage the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic

Ian Moore

Managing IT During COVID-19

I have a team of nine, of which five work from home in three different time zones, and four work from ICRAF but could easily work from home, too. Assuming remote working will increase considerably, the four points I would emphasise are:

• Access to resources and support
• Security and data protection
• Communication and collaboration
• Manual processes

And these all involve:

• Scaling up what may already be being done by a few workers
• Training and awareness raising
• Continuous communication

Access to Resources and Support

If most resources are in the cloud, then access should not be an issue as mechanisms/processes for accessing and working will already be in place. If the resources are on-premise, then access will probably be via VPN. Can the VPN handle the huge increase in connections and traffic if suddenly everyone is working remotely, rather than the few in more normal times?

Are the IT support technicians prepared to provide remote support? Do they have tools like Teamviewer available to walk people through a different way of working or to help diagnose new issues caused by working from a different location?

Security and data protection

Are there restrictions on how resources in the cloud are accessed? Many organisations will restrict access to registered IP ranges or require access via a VPN on-site. It may not be possible to have direct connections from home internet services, so the VPN to the office location needs to be connected first before accessing the resources in the cloud.

What policies and tools are in place in the organisation for working remotely, especially around security, data protection and confidentiality? Working remotely, devices will be more vulnerable than when connected from inside the controlled office environment. These policies and tools may need to be extended to many more people and situations. It will require awareness raising and possibly training.

Communication and collaboration

This is where communication and collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Google Meet come into their own. It will be a big advantage if a standard communication tool is in place within an organisation already, and people are familiar with them. Again, awareness and training materials will be required.

Managers need to make the extra effort to communicate with their staff as often as possible. It is easy for someone working alone and from home to become distracted or misunderstand what’s required of them. Communicating continually to provide support and ensure common understanding is crucial.

Manual processes

Does the organisation have methods in place to handle processes that are still carried out manually? If authorization still requires hard-copy signatures what are the alternative methods of authorisation that are acceptable when it is difficult to move paper from one place to another? How will other manual processes be handled when people are no longer in the same location?

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