It’s been a surreal experience for us all over the past 8 weeks during which time there has been a barrage of information - some good, some bad & all of it pretty overwhelming. As a business and a service provider to our clients, we’ve had to pay close attention to everything we possibly can. Here’s a quick recap of what our team has been up to (in addition to our client projects) along with some resources that you may find helpful.
What We’ve Done And What We’re Doing
Our work requires us to have a strict penchant for data privacy and cybersecurity, so we spend a decent amount of time planning for trouble. We already had a Business Continuity / Disaster Response (BCDR) Plan as well as a Pandemic Response Plan so that was good. These plans aren’t perfect, after all, when we created them we had had little experience in major business disruptions and none with an actual pandemic. Just having a plan, however, was a good start; It made decision making much easier and it certainly made our priorities clear:
Ensure the health & safety for our team, clients, vendors, partners and community
Keep work and customer projects on schedule
Closely monitor cash flow
Adapt and protect our infrastructure
March 1 - 10
Not knowing if the COVID-19 situation was going to become a pandemic event, we started paying attention during the first 10 days or so of March. Primarily focusing on health and safety, we started sending anyone home who had the slightest sniffle. Luckily we already had work-from-home setups for everyone, including a clear policy and guidelines, so we were able to keep everyone safe with almost no disruption to our operation. During this time we fine-tuned a few technical things and made sure we had the capacity on our network for any needed VPN connections. We accelerated any critical in-person meetings as we braced ourselves for what would possibly come next. Our pandemic response plan guided what sources we would use for information and what events would trigger an escalation.
March 11 - 15
Parts of China were shutting down and the situation in Italy didn’t look good. NCAA Basketball and MLB were planning to move ahead with their seasons. Some government leaders were dismissing the situation. Then the NBA canceled the season and we thought for sure there was something going on that we simply weren’t privy to yet. On Wednesday, March 11, we called an impromptu company meeting and made sure everyone knew we had a plan and we made it clear that our #1 priority would be the health and safety of our team, clients, vendors, partners and the community. By the 13th New York State Governor, Mario Cuomo, had declared a state of emergency and The World Health Organization had declared the situation a Pandemic. We kicked in level 1 of our Pandemic Response Plan. 2 days later, we closed the offices and moved to 100% remote work.
March 16 - April 3
The world changed significantly in just a few weeks. The more cavalier businesses were forced into compliance with shutdowns as New York issued 100% of workers for businesses deemed non-essential to operate remotely; All on-premise operations were to cease. Fortunately, we were slightly ahead of the game and had already worked through experimenting with some additional tools for remote work. We began fine-tuning our Remote Work Policy and procedures to allow us to achieve the highest level of productivity, collaboration & communication in a 100% remote environment. We adopted 5 key principles in our new, 100% remote work status:
Set a schedule & stick to your ”rituals”
Set up a dedicated work location
Get outside when you can
Over-communicate on projects
Many of these guidelines are not just about work efficiency - they are as much about everyone’s general well-being and setting healthy boundaries between work, which was now invading our homes and our personal lives. Burnout sets in fast with the switch to remote work and it’s disheartening when what starts out as a liberating experience turns into golden handcuffs.
In addition to these principles, we added a “cameras on” rule, noting in our policy document “... the preferred method is to be sitting with your camera on, in a presentable state - pants are required”. I’m proud to report we’ve been 100% compliant.
April 6 - April 17
Projects have continued to roll in and so far, the team remains 100% healthy. As we plan our projects, we are overstaffing them in the event some team members (or their family members) get sick. While there is some opportunity loss by doubling up personnel on project teams, ensuring continuity with our clients is too important - we’ve spent almost 2 decades building trust and a reputation for quality, we’re not going to drop the ball on that now.
We’ve experimented with new things to stay connected as a team - we check in every morning on Slack in a dedicated channel to share our schedule and agendas for the day. Of course everyone is doing on-line happy hours and we wouldn’t miss out on that! We’ve been holding company meetings every 2 weeks just to see each other’s faces, hear each other’s voices, talk about what’s going on in everyone’s lives and to realign with one another as friends & teammates.
We’ve changed some rules, adjusted schedules for folks with kids at home and we’ve dropped off some care packages. The QA team has built an elaborate system for sharing testing devices from our device lab that involves drop-offs on front porches and I'm pretty sure there are bagels involved. There have been some search and rescue missions to the office to save thirsty plants and extract more comfortable desk chairs to be relocated back in our home offices. We’re adapting quite well.
We are very fortunate. Software, by design, is to some degree, socially distant. That is to say, by nature of what software can do for a business, it can enable the people in an organization to collaborate and execute without having to be standing on top of one another. Likewise, businesses can bring their products to market without physical presence and the human density that goes with it. And let’s not forget innovation - as humanity troubleshoots its way out of what most scientists are estimating to be a 2-year challenge (this pandemic alone), software will be the cornerstone to evolving business markets and products that define the new normal: ordering groceries, scheduling drop-offs and pickups, remote learning, eCommerce and new educational systems as well as innovations to old business models (the moving industry for example) will be exponentially growing in the coming months and we’re in the thick of it now with several of our projects. It’s an exciting time. Likewise, we have been working in healthcare technology for nearly a decade and it has become increasingly obvious that the world needs to invest in better world-wide healthcare infrastructure - not only as a reaction to this pandemic but in general as the world population pushes 8 billion. World health issues are likely to become a more prominent phenomenon of the human condition in which we will need to invest significant resources. Our work for clients in telemedicine and remote patient monitoring is not only booming now, but it’s also likely to expand. We’ll keep doing our best to rock it on our healthcare projects and hopefully make the world a little safer. Have we been negatively impacted by this situation? Absolutely. Will it get worse? It will most likely get worse before it gets better. With the downturn on Wall Street and the general sense of uncertainty out there, some of our innovators and start-up clients are arm-wrestling their investors for funding - but that won’t stop us from keeping their projects going and helping them in any way we can. We’re a loyal crew here and we’re not going to turn our back on folks when they need us the most. Helping people is what we do, if there are some bumps along the way, we’ll figure it out. So for now, we look forward, we look for places we can help and provide value to our community and we look for new opportunities - opportunities to bring software solutions to the emerging world in a radically new time. We’ll adapt, we’ll give back and we’ll continue to kick-ass. It’s what we do and that won’t ever change.