When the pandemic hit, we were forced to quickly adapt and find answers to questions we’d never asked ourselves before: how can we keep in touch with our colleagues when we’re not in the office? And how can we make sure we are still efficient while working from home?
It quickly became apparent that one, seemingly small issue, could prove catastrophic: our digital system is designed so all business documents are located on our servers and on our work computers. But this also meant that many wouldn’t be able to access these documents from home.
The easy solution would be to give everyone a VPN connection, but because we are more than 300 people in my organization, that would have been too expensive. It would also have been too slow since we would first need to explain how to use the VPN and how to connect to our office network.
In the end, we found a solution that not only solved our problems but actually improved our efficiency by dramatically reducing the amount of emails we were sending back and forth.
A quick response to the crisis
When it became apparent we would soon be working from home, we did a quick internal analysis to identify the programs that were used the most. From this, we concluded that the most important thing was for our colleagues to have access to their data, which enabled us to repurpose a backup solution we have had in place since 2016.
In addition to the standard backup functions, the advantage of Commvault Backup & Recovery is that the backup is managed from a single location. Whether you are backing up computers, laptops, databases, or some business applications, you control and adjust the whole process from one place. And that means my colleagues could access and recover documents, folders, etc. without having to ask an admin.
In my team, we had already used this backup solution in some special situations, so it was relatively easy for us to quickly roll it out to all employees and adapt it to help them work from home.
Since my colleagues were already familiar with the backup system, this actually proved to be a welcome opportunity to modernise our system and to digitise our processes. We had momentum because everyone knew that these changes were necessary, and, most importantly, this solution reassured them that working from home wouldn’t be an insurmountable problem.
A new, short manual was compiled to help employees adapt to working from home, with an emphasis on how they can use secure HTTPS connections to access their data and documents located on the servers.
Now, when they need to share a document with colleagues, they don’t have to send an email with a file, which further burdens the email system, but can simply share a link to the document itself through the backup application. Doing so even enables them to collaborate better, allowing them to edit a document or simply access it without first having to send an email. Just 15 days after implementing this solution, the number of internal emails sent to share documents between colleagues was reduced by almost 70%.
In a later analysis, we saw that compared to March 2019, the total number of emails sent and received with external users in March 2020 increased by an incredible 240%. In other words, there was a huge influx of emails at the beginning of the pandemic as citizens and other external stakeholders sought help and guidance from us, the public servants. By using these functionalities that our backup system has in itself we reduced the number of internal emails significantly, making the system more stable and reducing friction for our colleagues.
This system can be applied in any crisis situation, the only requisite is an Internet connection.
Initially, we were concerned about whether our colleagues would use this new system and whether they would realise that it could do more than serve as the backup system we had used it as up until this point. If the system was rejected by employees, it wouldn’t matter that it could technically do the job.
In addition, as is the case every time a new IT solution is introduced, we had to make sure the system was secure enough, adding another layer of complexity.
What we’ve learned from the pandemic is that the various systems used in public institutions can often be used in other, creative ways than they were originally intended.
And this is the point I will leave you with: this was a crisis where time was in short supply, so we tried to make the most of the tools and software we already had. To come up with a solution by combining several systems.
Rather than coming up with something completely new, sometimes it is enough to simply look a little deeper at what we already have and make some small changes, adapting them to a new reality or crisis. We were all aware that we had neither the time nor the money to hire external firms for new software solutions, and so we had to think outside the box. And in this way, the pandemic pushed us to innovate our systems for the better. Maybe it can do the same for you?