Success in the age of Social Distancing

The COVID-19 pandemic has dissolved distance more rapidly than cars, trucks, trains, ships and planes have done. This truth was brought home to us in the second week of March when working for a global insurance customer. We provide end user computing services to the customer and had planned a one-week onsite workshop in the US which stakeholders from the customer’s organization, from various parts of the world, were to attend. With COVID-19-related bans on air traffic, and a threat to the wellbeing of workshop attendees, the workshop was cancelled. This is not an unfamiliar scenario. Scores of businesses have had to do likewise, keeping the need for social (and business) distancing in mind. But our team remained undeterred. We went ahead and conducted the workshop remotely with, may we add, desired results: We signed off the transition plan and the customer will get support on schedule, exactly as planned.

We believe we can use the processes to respond to requests for proposals, project assessments, project initiations, project knowledge transfer, calendared reporting, etc. In the long run, this will cut down travel by about 25-30% in the immediate future (we are aiming for more). But, equally important, it will ensure projects start as per schedule.

We’d like to share our key learnings from the online workshop—in the hope that they encourage other clients and partners to adopt similar practices.

Challenges: In order to succeed, we had to addresses five challenges—Communication flow, differences in time zones, setting up the remote teams, determining the tools for communication and interaction (MS Teams, WebEx, Microsoft Project Plan, Microsoft Visio) and system connectivity (using VPN connections).

Core team: We identified and set up a core team at ITC Infotech to address each one of the challenges. The workshop agenda was revised to fit the remote workshop environment and to accommodate the different time zones. Key stakeholders were identified from the client’s business and meeting invites sent for the workshop conducted using WebEx. The face to face (video enabled) meetings helped better integration while working virtually.

Meanwhile, the workshop team rustled up a dashboard (plan vs progress) to present to the customer for use during the project transition planning workshop.

Mitigation plan: As we do to make traditional meetings succeed, we defined clear expectations were agreed with the client. Tight schedules were maintained for daily meetings with stakeholders (we are thankful to everyone who willingly sacrificed some sleep due to time zone imperatives), and conducted a daily review of RAID logs. (Risks, Assumptions, Issues, Dependencies).

Outcomes: Of course everything went of smoothly. We signed off on the deliverables and got going with the transition.

But it quickly became apparent to us that some things were more important. Among them was the fact that the we had an agreed and signed-off transition plan, reporting mechanisms, meeting and reporting schedules to track progress of the project. We saved travel costs, (can’t deny the joy of doing this); and kept colleagues and customer employees safe. The cherry on top was the fact that we did detect a trace of increased confidence from the customer for having successfully adapted ourselves to trying conditions and drive execution excellence.

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