By any definition, 2020 has been a difficult year. The usual promise and excitement of a new year was rapidly overtaken when it emerged that a pandemic was about to sweep the globe.
The accepted norms of freedom to travel, associate and work were suddenly upended with stay at home orders, travel bans and mandates on what businesses were and were not able to legally operate. For most people alive in 2020, this would have been their first experience of how quickly things can change.
Suddenly, businesses were being asked to reconsider how their staff worked. Supply chains were disrupted and common household goods became valuable commodities. Whilst we expected PC’s, Laptops and Webcams to be disrupted, most people were taken by surprise by the sudden shortage of hand sanitiser and toilet rolls.
For an IT Sales and Services company, Future Computers started experiencing the impact of COVID-19 in late January and early February when the global supply chain became disrupted when Chinese manufacturing companies were not able to open after their traditional New Year break. Anticipating further shortages and using our network of suppliers, we were able to obtain the remaining stocks of PC’s and Laptops and secured some of the last webcams in the country.
In early March, it became clear that the virus had moved beyond the initial countries in SE Asia and was now within the Australian community. Prior to any formal requests from authorities, Future Computers instigated a working group to discuss how we could operate, what precautions we would need to take and what our minimal staffing levels would need to be to ensure our continued operations.
When the formal stay at home orders were made, we had already dispersed our staff to their homes and reconfigured our office to conform to the new required distancing regulations. Our biggest priority was the safety of our staff and customers. We created a quarantine process for inbound and outbound goods and erected barriers to ensure the health of our staff members.
Our normal call flow increased by over 50% as our clients scrambled to adapt to the changing environment. We assisted with the emergency setup of laptops, virtual private networks, remote access tools and rapid migrations to cloud platforms. At a time of immense change for ourselves, our clients, the only reason we exist, where going through their own sudden and unexpected transition. Through all of this we had to maintain our contracted SLA’s and deal with stressed and anxious clients, many of whom were not certain of their own futures.
Clients that were previously office based were now experiencing the ‘work from home’ dynamic and understanding what can and can’t be done remotely. It was a period of learning for everyone. Zoom, Teams and Google Meets became familiar words and terms, along with ‘you are on mute’.
Over the coming weeks and months we have fallen into a ‘new normal’. At Future Computers, our staff have the flexibility to work from the location that suits them, based on their own needs. We have adapted to new ways of working and learned to embrace the opportunities that change brings.
This year has been stressful for many people. There is still considerable uncertainty and the risk of renewed outbreaks and further change remains. However, if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that when we work together, as a team, we can achieve almost anything.
As an IT company, people expect us to have all the nicest toys and tech in our offices, but the truth is that we are a full ‘Software as a Service’ company with no physical tie to any office or fixed location. This journey that we started on in 2013 has created the environment that meant that when 2020 became what it did, our biggest challenge was not the technology, but the people and the processes and how we adapt those to the platforms that we use.
The key technology that allowed Future Computers to continue to deliver our service was the full adoption of MS Teams and MS Teams Calling. MS Teams Calling is a fully integrated cloud hosted phone system has been the single biggest improvement that we have made during this year. From hosting full staff meetings, collaborating on complex projects or just making a standard telephone call, this one technology has been transformative to our operations. Combined with our other SaaS products (ConnectWise, N-Able, Xero, IT Glue, 1Password) we are able to operate from anywhere, at any time.
There are key learnings from 2020 that will allow us to grow and be stronger.
- Trust your people
- Be flexible
- Use the correct technology for your business
- Embrace change
And if I need to say it, wash your hands, maintain your distance and if you feel unwell, get tested.
What will 2021 bring? After 2020, I am sure that many people will be reluctant to make predictions or forecasts, however, at Future Computers, we will continue our mission to deliver class-leading hardware, software and services to our clients and assist them with their own technology journey so that they are well placed to meet whatever challenges that 2021 may choose to send our way.