Leaving Lockdown: An interview with Andrew Fray, MD, Interxion
Published 29th 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 Andrew Fray, UK Managing Director of colocation data centre provider, Interxion.
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit, what changed for your business?
“Everyone who was able to do their job from home did so – we already had a rigorous remote working policy in place, and had also recently rolled Microsoft Teams out across the business. We helped some employees set up a home office, shipping out any equipment they needed, ensuring everyone had VPN access to data and systems, and checking running speeds and security settings.
We needed to respond very quickly to keep the engineers in our data centres safe – it was a seismic change in operations. We split shifts to help keep people apart and ensure continuity, and introduced social distancing and hygiene protocols.”
What were the biggest challenges?
“There was an immediate shift away from customers coming into the data centre to work, which resulted in a major increase in hands and eyes requests. We had to find a new way of supporting clients remotely, many of which aren’t based in the UK.
We began doing live video tours with one of our team showing the customer exactly where their deployment would go, and cutaways to PowerPoint slides featuring key information. The customer was able to ask questions from experts who were available either on Zoom or on site. We also used this approach to win new business. It proved a very efficient way of doing things, and customers loved it.”
What were your key learnings?
“Lockdown showed us how fast we can adapt and get things done, and that we can re-engineer processes quickly. We found we can effectively run ‘business as usual’ with a mix of remote and on site working, and achieve a lot with video collaboration tools; they simplified operations and made meetings more efficient. This situation has definitely busted assumptions about the need to get on a plane and meet face-to-face.
“Taking care of employees’ wellbeing was as much of a priority as their physical health. You can have the best tech in the world, but people are the key asset. We checked in on everyone regularly, and made sure we stayed connected, whether through full team meetings or quizzes. Voices and faces were important!”
What would you like to see continue?
“It was remarkable how our industry pulled together. All the data centre operators had weekly meetings, with competitors working side by side to gain key worker status for data centre employees, for example. We also put our thoughts together to establish best practice in areas such as cleaning and testing. I’d like to see this level of collaboration continue.”
What does the return to ‘normal’ work look like for your teams?
“The challenge for all businesses will be running things from a hybrid IT perspective, supporting a combination of office and home working. People will be dialing in from different locations, which hasn’t typically been a great experience, so this will need to be improved.
“We’ll also need to be constantly vigilant over cybersecurity; the risk has always been there, but this is enhanced with so many staff working in different locations. Our normal network security controls and security management protocols were sufficient, and won’t change, but we’ll make sure employees have the appropriate levels of security awareness too.”
What impact do you think lockdown will have on the IT industry?
“The crisis will trigger a period of greater innovation. So far, the IT industry’s mission has been to keep customers running as close to normal as possible. Now we’re moving on from the first digital recovery stage to reconstructing the digital environment for future agility. This means accelerating digital transformation – becoming more agile by moving more stuff out of the IT room into a data centre, and moving more workloads into the cloud. We should also use this opportunity to adopt emerging technologies, such as AI. This is our chance for a digital renaissance!”