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A comprehensive 'get out' of COVID



IT where are we now….

The Coronavirus has put us in unchartered waters, changing the way we do business for now and for the future. Whether you saw this coming or not, I do not think anyone could visualise the impact it is having.


With all the doom and gloom happening, ensure you take time to look in the mirror, pat yourself on the back and say well done. For many businesses, moving some or all operations to ‘remote working’, in such a short space of time and stay afloat is an immense achievement – and you should be proud. Of course, some businesses have had to close, but many have not and in the current climate positive news is greatly encouraged.


So what now? Below are some tips and tools to help you take stock of where you are, what you should/not do, how to do this and looking ahead - we hope this will help you steady the ship and move forward into the new world, whatever it looks like.


Where am I now?

Take the time now to review what has happened within your business. Your initial thought will probably be negative, but if you take time to really look, there will be positives and opportunities that will come from the situation we are in.


SWOT

A SWOT analysis is a great tool help you understand where you are and help build a strategy of where you need to go. It has four key areas;


Strengths

· What did you do well?

· What do people see as your strengths?

· What people/services do you utilise?

Weaknesses

· What could you improve?

· What do people see as your weaknesses?

· What people/services have been missing?

Opportunities

· What positively could happen in the future?

· What market/business trends could be used to deliver positive change?

· How can we evolve our current strengths to deliver these opportunities?

Threats

· What threats can harm you?

· What is the competition doing?

· How will current weaknesses increase the risk of these threats happening?


This is just a handful of questions that can help you take stock of where you are. Ensure your write this down, refer back regularly and expect it to change as you delve deeper.


DR and BC

Coined in 2006, Cline Humby quoted that “data is the new oil”. There is evidence to suggest that more business go bankrupt from losing their data than cash – data needs the attention cash gets within a business on a regular basis.

DR and BC stand for Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity. BC informs your business the steps to be taken to ensure key products and services remain available to customers and your employees. DR outlines the specific steps to be taken to recover your data in the event of a disaster. BC is more business focused, while DR is more IT focused.

Considering your BC and DR approaches should be a regular part of your business strategy, but as they are events that are generally rare, they tend to not get the attention it deserves. There are some tips later in the blog to help you plan these for the future.


What should I do?

Embrace change

If the Coronavirus has shown us anything, it is that change is inevitable. As a business owner, embracing change is key to your success - now and in the future - nowhere more than IT.

Business owners tend to embrace change positively or negatively – Marmite springs to mind. The ADKAR model (https://www.prosci.com/adkar/adkar-model), is a useful model that helps business owners embrace change individually, but also as a business. In short;


Awareness of the need for change

Desire to participate in and support the change

Knowledge on how to change

Ability to implement required skills and behaviours

Reinforcement to sustain the change


As a business owner, you need to have a positive attitude to change and the benefits it will provide your business. If you are struggling, then a business coach can help you review your views of embracing change.


Become digitally savvy

IT is not the same as it was 10 or twenty ago. Previously, IT was an option – helping us with our work and personal life. Now, it is so integral to how we live and work – driving and dictating what decisions we make. It can be all consuming.


Therefore, embracing digital and being more aware will help you manage how it helps your business now and in the future. Some considerations are;


1. Have a website – Shocking as it may sound, there are many businesses who still do not have a website. If you don’t, how will people find you (Yellow Pages/Thompson Directory are a thing of the past).

2. Hardware agnostic website – It does not matter if you are using a PC, phone or tablet, your website needs to work on all devices automatically. Providers like WIX and Reg123 enable you to build website quickly and will little technical knowledge.

3. Use social mediaLinkedIn, Facebook, Instragram, Twitter – it does not matter which collection you use, they will help you grow your digital footprint and use technologies that have changed the way we work and collaborate but also evolve as technology improves.

4. VOIP – Voice over Internet Protocol solutions use the broadband network to make phone calls, arrange meetings and collaborate with you team remotely or in the office. Ringcentral, Vodafone One Net Business, Vonage, BT all provide these solutions, delivering huge benefits to your business, including removing that fax machine stuck in the corner….

5. Be paper light – We stress not paper less, but moving to digital can greatly help reduce your paper trail – financially, emotionally and for the environment – it is a win/win. With IT storage at a minimum and online searching capabilities so advanced and quick, it is certainly worth considering now.

6. The Cloud – Changing the way we have utilised IT, the Cloud is the place you either need to be fully, or at least partially. Microsoft and Google have both invested billions of dollars into platforms that business can quickly onboard onto and leverage.

It is not all just about the business. You, as a business owner, need to also become for savvy to drive this. The book Digital Common Sense by Bob Barker can help you with this.


What should I not do?

Panic – Humans do not make sensible, rationale decisions where they are under stress or duress. What we are experiencing is new, but bad things happen and will continue to do so, affecting everyone. Ensure you are able to sit back, think positively and reflect on what has happened before making decisions. Use the time currently presented to make the right decisions.


Do nothing – If you take anything away from this blog, it is that change is inevitable. IT as an industry continuously evolving and developing – you must be part of this. Embrace change and see it as an opportunity, not a threat. A business coach can help you if this a struggle for you.


Change everything – You will need to change, but try not to take on too much, too soon. Small, manageable and frequent changes will breed more success that trying to do a big bang approach – risk is reduced any buy-in greatly improved.


How do I do it?

So you have taken stock of where you are ready to make change, so how do you do this? Below is some guidance and tools to help you deliver on this. There are many out there, this is just a snippet to help you on your way.


Business Goals

More now than ever, focusing on what your business needs to do now and in the future is crucial. As a business owner, you may know what the business needs to be successful, but is it written down? Goals give a business direction and help measure results, it also gives focus to employees and an indicator of what success is. Here are 4 reasons why a business should have goals;


1. Measure success - Businesses should always be trying to improve, grow and become more efficient. Setting goals provides the clearest way to measure the success of the company.

2. Leadership - Setting goals ensure that everyone understands what the organisation is trying to achieve. When the leadership team clearly understands what the business is trying to accomplish, it provides greater rationale for decision making.

3. Knowledge - If an employee knows and understands the goals, it becomes easier for them to make daily decisions based on the long/short-term goals that were established.

4. Revisit goals - When goals are set, they must be monitored on a regular basis to verify the business is headed in the right direction. If the business is not achieving or moving towards accomplishing its goals, then changes or adjustments need to be made.


As a business owner, you probably already know this. Sometimes hearing or reading something again helps reinforcement and also unlock other possible ideas.

There are a couple of things you should be mindful of;


1. Setting unrealistically high goals - When a goal is perceived to be unreachable, no effort will be made by the employees to achieve them. A business owner needs to set realistic goals so that the employees can come together as a team to achieve them.

2. Setting vague and ambiguous goals - Goals that are not specific enough do not lead to action and are useless. If achievements cannot be measured against the business expectations, then how do you know you have been successful?


Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BC/DR)

Business Continuity (BC) is an essential part of a business risk management strategy, to manage potential risks. As well as addressing DR issues, BC can also be seen as ‘How to deal with a significant issue, without the client knowing?’.


BC is about people and process. Below are some considerations for BC planning;


1. Assemble a BC team - Implementing a BC plan requires committed resource.

2. BC plan - Mapping out a strategy is one of the most important components of a business continuity plan, defining key objectives with goals set accordingly.

3. Business Impact Analysis (BIA) - All the potential threats should be thoroughly analysed. They should be documented, outlining any risks and impact to the business if they were to happen. This will provide you as a business owner your risk appetite – how much risk are you prepared to take?

4. Educate and train – Possibly the most important yet least attention given, BC requires knowledge beyond that of IT employees; all employees, including the board, need to know what the plan is and their role.

5. Sensitive data management – Most businesses works with critical data. With GDPR and ever-increasing focus on data protection, it essential this data is thoroughly protected.

6. Backup key data - Every company has some critical data. Cloud solutions like Microsoft and Google provide contingency it their solutions to ensure you data is always protected and recoverable in a DR event.

7. Hard copy data - Digital data is the main focus of modern IT security strategies. There is still an enormous volume of physical documents that businesses need to maintain daily and require attention.

8. Recovery Site - Disasters have the potential to wipe out business data, but also where businesses operate. Planning locations/s for employees to work if this scenario happens is key to BC planning.


DR needs to be part of your BC plan, geared more towards recovering data, so therefore by its nature more geared towards IT. Below are some considerations for DC planning;


1. Know your key risks - Identify the most serious threats to your IT infrastructure, for example, system failure, staff error, fire or power loss.

2. Prioritise your recovery - You should always prioritise the order in which things should be done in a recovery. What are the most mission-critical services you require, a key metric for this is Recovery Time Objectives (RTO)?

3. Back up data to meet your objectives - Another factor which has to be taken into consideration is the Recovery Point Objective (RPO). Essentially, this means how much data your company is prepared to lose in a disaster, this also ties in with your risk appetite as mentioned.

4. Create a critical response team - An essential element of any disaster recovery plan is to create a critical response team – the personnel you need to get your system back online.

5. DR guide - When a disaster occurs, your staff are under pressure to get your system back online quickly, therefore clear and concise instructions are essential.

6. Test your recovery plan – Like BC this requires testing, in full, to test performance and improve accordingly.

7. Have your backup resources ready – Whether additional hardware or Cloud services, ensure they can be turned on quickly to reduce your RTO. Most Cloud providers manage your data across different data centres and are mirrored, meaning that if they encounter a BC/DR event, your data is automatically accessible from somewhere else.

8. Comprehensive details of all software - A complete list that gives the details of each application, how they should be configured and used

9. Up-to-date network diagram - A network map can save you hours of work and prevent the trial and error of looking for specific faults or rebuilding a system.

10. Utilise virtualisation and or Cloud - If you have critical products and services that need to be back up quickly, then you will need to invest or consider technologies that enable this to be done. VMWare, Hyper-V, Microsoft and Google offer such solutions.


Continuous improvement

According to analyst firm Gartner, by 2025, 90% of current applications will still be in use, with little or no investment to modernise. By 2025, technical debt will continue to rise consuming more than 40% of the current IT budget. As mentioned above, being more digital savvy and understanding how IT has changed means that continuous review of your IT, processes and procedures (not once/twice a year), is essential of staying ahead of the curve and ensure you are uptodate.


Most software is now Software as a Service (SaaS). This means you pay a subscription to use the software for as long as you need it. The provider will be using tools and methodologies to ensure it stays uptodate and provides you the best experience. As a business owner, you need to use a similar approach to ensure you provide the best experience for your clients.

IT can help you deliver continuous improvement, but it is a culture your business needs to adopt. Some principles of continuous improvements are;


1. Focus on the Customer

· Identify the specific customer sets you are serving

· Understand their needs

· Balance and prioritise, if appropriate

· Strive to deliver desired improvements


You will be making multiple small changes, but also incorporating long-term thinking to ensure you strive toward visionary objectives for customers’ current and future needs.

2. Use employee ideas - Continuous improvement does not come from top management. Instead, it comes from the workers who deal with processes daily and know their operations well by using them all the time.

3. Ensure Leadership Support - While employee ideas are essential to deliver continuous improvements, leadership support is also essential. Leaders support by providing funding, resources, business strategy and removing any barriers preventing change.

4. Incremental Change - Incremental change is delivered in small amounts regularly. This provides the following benefits;

· Small changes are generally less expensive and have a lower risk to implement than large changes

· People adapt more easily to small changes

· Enables a faster rate of change, so outcomes can stay ahead of technology or competition

· Small changes offer constant assessment, providing the ability for course correction as needed.

5. Measure current and future targets - Continuous improvement is not just trying hard or giving 110%; a person simply cannot give 110%. When you make continuous improvement changes, you need to measure where you started and where you have arrived to show that you really have made an improvement.

6. Set short-term, targeted goals - Businesses generally have annual or long-term goals for overall results. However, to engage in continuous improvement, set short-term goals or project objectives related to behaviours or results. Ensure they are date, financial or volume specific (e.g. completed by 4/6/2020, £5k saving, reduction of materials by 15%).

7. Incorporate teamwork - Although individuals can (and do) have continuous improvement successes, the team environment will reap better success. Synergy of ideas, shared accountabilities, social reinforcement and even healthy competition can drive teams to achieve improvements.


Here are some tools that can help with this;


Kanban



Kanban is incredibly simple to implement, by using sticky notes on a whiteboard to create a “picture” of your work. Seeing how your workflows within your team’s process lets you not only communicate status but also progress for the work.


One of the biggest strengths of Kanban is you limit how much work is in each vertical, therefore teams cannot take on more than they can deliver.

Although popularised by software teams, Kanban can be applied to virtually any process that has distinct steps, and is frequently used by marketing, sales, finance, and other disciplines.


Plan – Do – Check – Act (PDCA)



The (Plan – Do – Check – Act) PCDA Cycle is another excellent continuous improvement technique. The four steps of the PDCA Cycle are;


· Plan: Identify an opportunity and plan for change.

· Do: Implement the change on a small scale.

· Check: Use data to analyse the results of the change and determine whether it made a difference.

· Act: If the change was successful, implement it on a wider scale and continuously assess your results. If the change did not work, begin the cycle again.


DMAIC



DMAIC is used by businesses attempting to improve an existing process. DMAIC provides structure because each phase of the process contains tasks and tools that will lead the team to find an eventual solution. The process encourages businesses to backtrack to previous steps if more information is needed.


The phases or stages of DMAIC include;


· Define – The project begins by identifying team members, select the process the team will be improving and clearly define the objective of the project. This phase is completed when the team creates a process map that includes the process’s inputs and outputs.

· Measure – This phase includes creating a data collection plan that provides reliable and significant data. The data indicates how the process is performing, with an objective to understand how much variance is involved. All efforts focus on eliminating or reducing variance as much as possible.

· Analyse – The analyse phase of DMAIC helps identify possible causes of the problems, preferably at the root level. In this phase, the team is able to quantify the financial benefit of solving the problem.

· Improve – The improve phase focuses on finding a permanent solution to the problem/s. This is where the business creativity comes into to generate solutions. The team then tests a proposed solution/s in a pilot program to test if the solution is effective and viable.

· Control – In this phase, the business documents the new solution, then implements the solution according to the timeline and key milestones they have developed. Once the solution has been implemented, the project team monitors it to ensure it meets pre-set targets.


Agile

Agile is an iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver value to their customers faster and with fewer headaches. Instead of betting everything on a "big bang" launch, Agile delivers work in small increments. Primarily for IT software delivery, its benefits can help in providing other services.


It is based on 4 values, that can easily be adopted into non-IT practices;

1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

2. Working software* over comprehensive documentation (*this could be services/products)

3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

4. Responding to change over following a plan


There are a number of tools that help deliver using an Agile mindset. One we discussed above is Kanban, another is Scrum. Scrum is a framework that helps teams work together, encouraging to learn through experiences, self-organise while working on a problem and reflect on their wins and learnings to continuously improve.


Frequently used by software development teams, its principles can be applied to all kinds of projects or improvments. The main components for Scrum are;


· The three roles - Scrum Master, Scrum Product Owner and the Scrum Team

· A prioritised Backlog containing the end user requirements

· Sprints

· Regular meetings – Daily/Review/Retrospective


Scrum has been extremely successful, but be warned, hierarchy can cripple its success – it is a team effort.


TCQ review



As mentioned above, change is inevitable. The Flexibility Matrix enables a business to look at the change require (or project) and decide which of the three components has more flexibility than the others – Time, Cost or Quality.


Why is this important now? For a business owner, who wants everything, Triple Constraint Theory suggests that it is not realistic to expect to build the fastest, the cheapest, and the highest quality. Typically, something has to give. Therefore, knowing that change is inevitable and that something has to give, will help you make key decisions and decide where your flexibility lies.


MoSCoW

MoSCoW is a popular technique for managing requirements. The MoSCoW, stands for 4 different categories of initiatives - Must-haves, Should-haves, Could-haves and Will not have at this time. Asimple concept, MoSCoW can really help segregate and understand what is important to your business and want can be left to another time.


80/20 rule

The 80-20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, suggests that 80% of outcomes (or outputs) result from 20% of all causes (or inputs) for any given event.

In business, the 80-20 rule is to identify inputs that are potentially the most productive and make them the priority (e.g. 80% of a company's revenue is generated by 20% of its customers). A word of caution, this is only a guide and not set in stone, but when something has to give or a decision made, it can be a useful approach to consider.


Best of breed

Buying software has now become a daunting task. With the launch of Software as a Service (SaaS), getting tools to help you has never been easier, cheaper or with such little risk (test before you buy). So where do you start as there are so many….?

Capterra is a great site that enables you to view thousands of different software, compare to others and get reviews from users.


No code / Low Code

As part of your software selection of software, you will find a couple of things;


1. One solution does not do everything

2. I will need more than one solution, probably a lot more

3. You will also need something bespoke

4. I need something now…


It has been known for a long time that there are not enough developers to meet demand. As a result, there are software developers now launching No Code or Low Code solutions;

· Low-code is a software development approach that enables the delivery of applications faster and with minimal hand-coding. Using visual modelling in a graphical interface to assemble and configure applications, developers skip all the infrastructure setup and go straight to the bespoke 10% of an application.


· No code, similarly to low code platforms, use a visual application system that allows users to build apps without coding. Usually, this includes drag and drop processes, which allows people with coding skills to code, and those who don’t have those skills can create simple applications without using any code at all.


There is a lot you can do with these relatively quickly, especially if you do have a lack of IT resource and a time demand to deliver. Codebots, Betty Blocks, Salesforce and OutSystems are all providers of this technology.


Integration tools

To complete the circle of having lots of software to choose from, being able to build your own systems, you also need a way to move this data from system to system, without the need manually key twice, or use an API (software code used to move data from one system to another). There are tools that enable you to connect to popular systems (Microsoft, Google, Monday, Asana) and move data, without creating a single line of code. Zapier, Power Automate and Integromat all enable you to do this, across a variety of different solutions.


And breathe…

We hope that this blog helps you understand that you are in a good place, you can make a difference and there are lots of ways you can do this. You will make mistakes, but if you reword this as learnings, will be such a bad thing?


Good luck 😊

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