When we started seeing in the forecast that it might snow, I just smiled. When we started hearing the snow may be as much as 3 inches, my smile got bigger. As we spent the day with everyone looking out the window and asking “Is it snowing yet?”, I had to laugh. But in all my joy of the idea of my small children getting to see this rare event at an age where they will remember it, I also asked myself “Are we ready as ready as we need to be?”. Knowing that at worst it would last a few days, my home front wasn’t going to be an issue (my wife shops on Sunday so we were able to get our milk, bread and eggs with no problem). But on the work front, this question carries some real weight. Since we are the IT department for many of our clients (in part or in full), they expect us to be there to support them. Being ready to operate in a disaster and respond to others when they are working in impacted conditions, does take a lot of work. But like my grandfather and uncle always told me “When the sun is shining, plan for rain”. So this event gave us a chance to test those plans. But support isn’t the only thing we do here– we have sales, marketing, account management, purchasing, HR and finance. So planning requires us to decide what and how those parts of the business will operate during an event like this. In reviewing how we did, I would say we were A+. We communicated before, during and after with our clients. We provided support to those that needed it and had those people who needed/wanted to work able to do so. But we always learn from actually doing instead of planning, so we have made some notes on how to do it better in the next event; and trust me, there will be a next one. So below I have asked Matt Drinkwine, VP of Service and Brian Betzel, EVP of Sales and Marketing to provide some details on what they went through in the preparation, decision making and execution during this event in hopes of providing you with some ideas for your disaster response plan. The sun is may be shining again, but I hear we can expect rain…
As the weather approached, my first concern was for our staff and their families. We made sure we monitored the weather and sent people home who lived north earlier than everyone else. Luckily the worst of the weather did not hit until Tuesday night. We were able to maintain normal operations all day. Service was pretty light after lunch and the majority of the service tickets were from clients requesting remote access.
Wednesday morning, we decided the road conditions were too treacherous and dangerous to send our staff to the office. That didn’t mean we had an off day though. A number of our clients were still working (mostly remote) and were depending on us. We responded by sending out an email to all of our clients letting them know we were indeed working but it would be remote support. Since our service desk was not manned, we requested clients leave voicemails and we returned those messages quickly throughout the day. Overall volume was light, but we were able to service our clients almost as quickly as when we are in the office.
Thursday morning the roads had cleared enough to no longer be a danger and we returned to normal operations.
As always, we are constantly looking for ways to improve service. With some recent and ongoing upgrades to our phone system, we will soon be able to “log in” to our phones remotely. This will enable us to live answer service issues when the office is closed due to inclement weather or natural disasters. Our first concern will always be to our employees and their families but technology enables us to be available to assist our clients, too.
For several years now, our team has been able to work remotely out of convenience or when work matters require it. As a technology company, we’re fortunate to be able to “play” with whatever tech exists to make work an activity and not a place defined by the four walls of an office. Having access to all these goodies has allowed us, as a business, to establish an accepted set of technologies which extend our presence outside of the office to wherever work needs to take place.
Living as far away from our office as I do, it’s become part of my personal schedule to work from home a few days each week. Some of my team in Sales & Marketing also lives far enough away to benefit from a work presence from home. Account management for both Commercial and Public Sector are serviced by team members who were impacted by the recent storm. Both team members connected to the company resources via Citrix Receiver, and they were able to perform their responsibilities as if they were at their desks at the office (email, quoting system, CRM, etc.). Reaching them by phone was also a snap considering we leverage Cisco’s “Single Number Reach.” We don’t have to try to remember an office number, cell number and home number for each other. Instead, we have one number (aka SNR) for an individual and let our technology sort out how best to reach them.
The biggest thing I have learned from the recent storm is that we as a team in Sales & Marketing need to do a better job of letting our clients and partners know just how much of an issue bad weather is NOT for us. If we can’t get to our office, it’s not a big deal. If we’re not sitting near our IP phones in the office, it’s okay. If we’re 100 miles away from our CRM system, that’s okay, too. We’re here for them wherever “here” may be.
Every day I get to see a team of highly dedicated people work to live out our vision to serve our clients and I do it knowing that even on days like we just had the team doesn’t want to go “take a free day” because of weather. They just want to know “how are we going to serve our clients”. So as you either dig out of the ice and snow and back to work or wait for a partner to do it so you can get back to “business as usual” I would challenge you to start reviewing your plans because the Sun Will Not Shine Forever. As always feel free to reach out to us if we may be of service to you.