How we kept NTT Ltd. up and running

by Neil Louw

02 June 2020

A person working from home while outside

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Taking our entire workforce offsite, with no impact of service delivery is a testament to good planning and agile thinking.

As a company that focuses on service delivery, our number one priority has always been to keep the promises we make to our clients. Over the past few months we’ve seen that in order for us to fulfil this mandate we’ve had to change the way we operate. This has provided us with a deeper insight into our own ability to cope.

We’ve learned some valuable lessons about the robustness of our internal systems, the value of decisions we had already made, and the adaptability of our employees to change the way they work.

Global lockdowns called for agility

When countries across the world started to enforce lockdown orders, we had to move our Global Delivery Centers, in Bangalore and Prague, over to full remote working. These two centers are the heart of our managed services, ensuring that we can keep our clients technology infrastructure up and running.

The moment that this happened we put both centers into what we call ‘hypercare’. This means that we’re monitoring platforms powering the centers 24/7 and proactively looking for any issues that might result in downtime.

A woman working from home with her daughter

The move to remote working saw a dramatic increase in collaboration and communication systems.

The move to remote working, not just in the two Global Delivery Centers, but across our entire organization saw the load on key collaboration and communication systems increase. As electronic communication took the place of workplace conversations, we saw email activity drop by 10%, but online meetings increased by 268% and chats by 213%.

Our decision to move to a cloud-first strategy two years ago ensured that while the volume increased, there was no impact on the availability of any of these systems. Our employees had the same access to their tools at home that they had when they were in the office.

The one area that we had to move quickly to address was our own procurement of laptops, how to get them to users and configure them. We worked with our suppliers across the world to divert deliveries from our offices to the employee’s homes and created an automated system to provision them remotely. The user just has to log on, the system takes over and ensures that they have the software and access appropriate to their role.

Valuable lessons for uninterrupted business continuity

Our experience with our own internal systems has taught us some valuable lessons:

  • Understand your internal IT supply chain: While we had vetted our suppliers, we still had difficulty sourcing laptops in some countries, because our suppliers couldn’t get stock. A better understanding of the entire supply chain and any risks would have alerted us to this challenge and allowed us to proactively address them.
  • Test your business continuity plan (BCP) on a global scale: Our BCP stood up to challenge of the move to global remote working very well, but it had never been tested on that scale before. These plans need to be tested against the worst-case scenario, not just locally, or regionally, but globally. It’s best not to find flaws in your BCP when you’re already in crisis mode.
  • Ensure your security systems are ready: Security systems have not, on the whole, been designed to cater for a work from home environment on the scale that has happened. There is already talk of many companies making this arrangement permanent and this will require that they change the way they design their security environment. Deploying cloud-based VPN solutions is just one area that we feel will become the standard way of securing the remote workforce.

The strategies we created to support our internal IT systems stood up well to the biggest stress test ever seen and our team members were able to continue to deliver for our clients, even though they had to swap the office for their living room.

Neil Louw

Neil Louw

Chief Information Officer, NTT Ltd.