P2 Update by Loxley Crawshaw – Service Manager
We are all in the 4th week of lockdown with the prospect of at least another 3 so I just thought we would put into context what the lockdown has meant for our client’s IT service. As most of P2 have been working remotely too it has been a real test of our values, solid team work, creativity and sheer hard graft and many hours working out and implementing solutions to get all our clients working. In some cases projects which would have taken 3 months to complete in some instances we’ve done within days to engineer several different solutions whilst maintaining security and general IT performance.
We’ve been really grateful for the positive feedback during the past few weeks which has fuelled the team to do more and has been a great morale booster, we do encourage any comment on service to improve what we do through the tickets we log or directly to our service team.
As well as an increase in service load we’ve also had a few third party issues to contend with. Firstly, for our law firm clients the courts announced the use of Skype for Business for hearings which as software is well on its way to being retired by Microsoft. The retirement of the software means that it’s not readily available to use causing compatibility issues for us to work around with Teams now being the default. We had 3 days to review, test and have a solution in place for the majority of clients which has now been completed. For the accountancy clients we’ve also been inundated with Sage, Iris AP and Iris Payroll updates as they’ve been released. The team here have worked well together, allocating resource, checking documentation and process, communicating with you and carrying out the work.
As working from home becomes the new norm for most of us, we have noted some pitfalls and some great features:
- Video conferencing has really taken off with the use of Zoom and Microsoft Teams. You may have noticed video calls being jerky and cutting out at various points in the day, mainly due to service load on the applications and Internet connectivity. Peak time is around 9am until 10am and lunchtime so for optimum performance choose times around these bands. Performance is especially relevant if at home on a domestic Internet connection that your family may be using also with their multiple devices consuming performance. Great post by the BBC on improving Internet speed at home: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52027348
- Zoom has been great for some clients and Microsoft Teams works well for internal conference calls and chat. We’re using it almost for all internal communication in preference to email. Teams is also being updated all the time, last week saw the introduction of new backgrounds to hide your real background for privacy and fun reasons To change the background in Teams in the desktop application version only, start a video meeting, click the three dots then click show background effects.
- Microsoft are also promising very soon to go from 4 to 9 video windows in a 3×3 layout within the desktop application so similar to Zoom so that will be much improved to get more staff on one screen.
If you are using Teams and need a quick start guide to its features or extra help on setting up channels and other widgets please get in touch. Our own P2 feed is pinging away with the guys asking questions and collaborating on your tickets. There is a real buzz about it which I hope will translate to working back in the office.
Security is arguably the most important thing to think about right now, Covid-19 scams have really ramped up. Being as diligent as ever and communicating the threat to your business systems is real and needs to be communicated to your colleagues. If you suspect something isn’t right, let us know and we can investigate it for you – there are no stupid questions when it comes to security! We now have a great new tool to pre-empt email phishing scams and can check if your emails addresses have been harvested and for sale on the Dark Web with passwords you may on your internal IT, please let us know if you want to know more about it?
All in all IT service is running well and we have no immediate concerns. We had a 50% increase in tickets in the first 4 week of lockdown, however this seems to be levelling off now. Our remote server monitoring and automation tools which are standard in our service have really paid off and we’ve headed off many bottleneck issues much of the time without you knowing. We really can spot issues before they happen, and we are still looking at trends in tickets and looking at ways we can lower these to improve service efficiency.
We have also taken on two senior engineers to help support service and add additional experience to the team. Tobias Miller (known as Tobi) has been with us for 2 weeks already joining us as our 3rd line Project Engineer and comes with a huge amount of experience. He is already at the coal face as it were, fixing IT issues and some of our clients have already spoken with him. We also have another engineer starting next week, Matthew Birch. Matthew is joining us as an experienced 2nd line engineer and will be working with our response team, handling both escalated tickets to help accelerate resolution and advance the skillset within the team.
On business, one thing that is really encouraging is some of our clients are still pushing ahead with planning for major project work albeit when their offices reopen. Applications are being upgraded, projects to migrate systems are still going ahead and plans are being made to improve IT infrastructure. We believe this is the right thing to do so there are no delays when lockdown is lifted. The spec of these plans may change focus in the coming months as we believe the option for more flexible working (which has always been there) becomes higher in preference for most clients. Hosted servers and cloud phone systems really does give you the best of both Worlds in terms of flexibility and scale. As always we will be here to guide you through the options to create the right solution for you.
Finally, as no one has a crystal ball of what is going to happen next we are continuing to plan and implement improvements where we can to help you. Whether that’s the recruitment of more staff, more training, internal process improvements or just simply keeping smiling and being happy where we can through the crisis, we’d like to think most of you are too? Let’s share the knowledge and experience and do it together. Most of all, stay at home, keep your family, friends, colleagues safe.