Leaving Lockdown: An interview with Tobias Hooton, CEO, CXS
Published 2nd October 2020
We spoke to five IT companies to find out how the COVID-19 lockdown has impacted their business, including their experiences of the shift to remote working – and back again – and their expectations for the future.
In this blog we hear from Toby Hooton, CEO of Portsmouth-based internet service provider CXS.
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit, what changed for your business?
“From a technology and operational standpoint, while there were a fraught couple of days finalising things, it was an easy flip. We were already geared up for remote working, with a robust plan that we tested regularly. Our people knew how to work from home safely and productively, and this helped to ensure business continuity.”
What were the biggest challenges?
“Disaster recovery plans are designed for events like the office burning down – this was a new issue altogether! Many companies weren’t prepared. It was a rush, which tends to mean there’s a risk of making bad decisions. We helped customers to scale up their cloud deployments quickly, and adapt their infrastructure and IT systems where necessary. We called all of our clients one-to-one to offer support, including financial support, and removed restrictions on internet services so they could take as much as they needed.
Security was a major issue, as the attack surface had suddenly grown significantly. Some providers were presenting antivirus software as the answer, and focused solely on selling licenses. The true solution was far more holistic, involving securing endpoints, reducing the number of apps used, implementing access control and training users to reduce the likelihood of errors such as opening a phishing email.
We did see bad advice and information being given by some suppliers. This was a time for tech providers to step up to the plate, show their colours, and support clients in their time of need; not rub their hands together.”
What would you say were your key learnings?
“The biggest challenge for many companies wasn’t the technology, but the cultural change required to mobilise the workforce. Tech is just an enabler – it’s how employees interact with it that’s important. We focused on finding ways to use the tools we had in different or better ways, engaging our people by involving them early, bringing them along on the journey, and giving them input into the output. This created accountability.
It was also a revelation as to how much the use of collaboration tools such as Teams can improve productivity.”
How has this experience shaped your strategy?
“It was a positive validation that the steps we’d already put in place were right; we accelerated the mobilisation that was underway. As part of this, we proved to ourselves that we can successfully enable effective remote support for clients around the world.
We expect that recovery will be slow, and this situation will probably happen again. There’s no such thing as being ready! You can only be much better prepared to respond to the unexpected. Most disaster recovery modelling is based on tangible, known threats – in future we all need to design plans that can be applied to any scenario.”
How have things changed for your customers, and how will that influence your digital strategy?
“I’d like to think that this experience has reinforced the value of a real, independent tech company that offers great solutions. Companies should have better, ongoing conversations with their suppliers, as this will result in better solutions in times of crisis, and we’ll be encouraging our customers to do this.
We’ll also be looking to drive further digital transformation for our clients, scaling up their cloud resources and transitioning more of their on-premise infrastructure to a conditioned and managed datacentre facility. There will be no one single way of doing this – different models will fit different organisations.”
What does the return to ‘normal’ work look like for your teams?
“We feel that some face-to-face interaction is important for ‘glueing’ us all together, so we plan to have a certain level of work done at a central workplace – but we’ll take a flexible and variable approach. We know how efficient and collaborative remote working can be. We’re also likely to rethink how we use office space, with more meeting rooms rather than areas where people are sitting at desks.”
Download the whitepaper Leaving Lockdown: A Major Reset Moment for IT