Park Place Technologies simplifies the management of complex hybrid environments to maximize uptime, improve operational speed and accelerate business transformation. Park Place Technologies can be found in 58,000 data centers in more than 150 countries.
Ian Shearer, MD, APAC, Park Place Technologies, tells us more about the future of work. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: How are you dealing with the Covid-19 situation? What plans have you put in place?
Ian Shearer: Park Place has built a very successful office culture. In-person collaboration and personal interactions between associates and managers are a critical part of our employee experience and customer service strategy. Working remote has not been a focus or part of our culture.
The overnight transition to get more than 1,300 employees working from home, in offices all around the world, could have been problematic, but we were prepared. Our IT department has established a strong VPN service and multi-factor security authentication platform. Every employee has access to a laptop, softphones, monitors and necessary software and applications. Our teams are built in defined structures that allow clear communication and workflow processes.
We have longtime internal means of communication, including podcasts, newsletters, and global video town halls with executives. Our Human Resources department (HRD) has a program, PPT Life, that quickly adapted to provide connecting efforts including virtual yoga classes, printable coloring pages for employee children and collections of photos and recipes that keep everyone engaged.
For more than a year, Park Place has worked on developing and implementing a Business Continuity Plan, which put in place procedures for nearly every conceivable disaster, including a pandemic. It was a prescient and dynamic plan that predicted many of our current needs and served as a smart blueprint for the Covid-19 crisis.
DQ: Are you giving employees more control over their schedules?
Ian Shearer: Not necessarily “giving more control.” The nature of working from home has its own built-in trust with time management. Regular daily meetings are scheduled, and deadlines remain in place, but our culture is about quantity of work, not counting hours. The demands of customer service and sales support require full engagement, so it’s immediately evident if there’s an issue. Our team has responded strongly and garnered some of our best-ever customer service feedback during the crisis, so we are doing well. We don’t regulate employee coffee breaks or lunch times or exercise schedules when we are in the office, so we certainly do not impose those structures in a work from home environment.
DQ: How are you assessing on learnings from enforced experiments around WFH?
Ian Shearer: Park Place is keeping very careful track of the sales operations, lead generation, client onboarding and event support. Everything is tracked and metrics are recorded. We have strong remote monitoring options and established customer communication options with our portal, mobile app and 24x7x365 “follow the sun” support model, so every interaction is measured. We have daily and weekly reports to monitor, so we have a clear picture of the present. As time goes on, we will be able to assess the numbers and results of this era in comparison to “normal” business operations.
DQ: This is a challenging time for managers. What advice would you give them?
Ian Shearer: Communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep all the lines of team and personal communications open and accessible, from the C Suite leadership team to every associate. Be flexible with personal concerns and situations. These are uncharted waters; be open to new ways of thinking and new ways of working.
DQ: How does work/life balance work in a crisis like this?
Ian Shearer: Unlike in-office days, where there are specific rhythms of working, meeting, calling, breaks, lunchtimes, etc., we now have 1,300 different situations and schedules, tied together through video meetings, emails, calls, instant messaging and the like. But again, we know our goals and metrics, so we do not stress about Employee A making lunch for his kids at noon, while Employee B takes a walk with her spouse at 1 pm. We trust our team and our culture. The means with which we would measure and respond to underperformance are consistent no matter where an employee is working.
DQ: What are the policy responses you would give to the MSMEs and SMEs?
Ian Shearer: Whether you are a SME or a MNC, ensuring the health and well–being of your staff should always be the number one priority. Whether creating policy to meet the immediate circumstances or as we plan for a ‘new normal’ as progress is made through the pandemic, this needs to be the starting point. From PPE requirements for front line staff, in our case field engineers going to data centers to repair the critical IT infrastructure and ensure uptime for our customers, to reducing the size of teams and creating an on premise/working from home rota’s for our warehouse staff around the globe.
As we slowly get back to ‘normal’ we will need to consider policies around a phased return, split teams and/or rota’s forstaff in the office, as well as new workstation configurations to ensure social distancing practices and to facilitate safe travel to and from work, as well as in the workplace.
DQ: How are you now facilitating digital work?
Ian Shearer: For the past few years, a major thrust of ourbusiness has been the automation of the services that we offerand the enhancement of the digital and self-services capabilitiesavailable to our customers. Our best–of–breed, multi-vendor monitoring product, ParkView, combines AI and ML to deliver both reactive and predictive remote fault detection and automatic ticket generation to ensure more accurate (97% first time fix rate) and faster (31% quicker Mean Time to Repair)resolution, minimizing potential downtime.
This, combined with our portal and mobile app, providescustomers with a single pane of glass view of the health of theirwhole IT infrastructure (Compute, Storage and Network), along with the ability to receive real–time updates on the progress of service incidents, no matter where they are working from.
In our next phase, we are launching a new ParkView monitoring service focused on monitoring Operating Systems (OS) and Virtual OS environments (VMs). This is a service that our customers having been requesting for years. We expect that it will add more revenue opportunities and value to our customers. Soon after we are looking to launch a discovery solution that will enable our customers to remotely locate all of their devices and get a real–time inventory of the IT estate.
Our employees have always had remote VPN access for key business systems and a robust intranet of resources, which have been combined with cloud platforms such as office 365 to provide an infrastructure capable of supporting remote digital working.
DQ: How are the latest technologies going to redefine workplace?
Ian Shearer: The changing use of, and requirements from our technology, brought about by the enforcement of home working during this crisis has the potential to completely redefine the workplace. The sudden switch to remote digital work, overnight and en masse, is highly likely to accelerate changes in how work is performed and the way we think about working arrangements.Looking at the bigger picture, Covid-19 may prove to be a tipping point for the digital transformation of the workplace. It looks near impossible to put that digital genie back in the bottle, once the health emergency is over.
As a business, we see ourselves and a technology promoter and provider, offering visibility and control while ensuring the uptime of the critical IT backbone of the organizations we serve.In doing this we are assisting our customers on their journey to redefine their own workplaces, while coping with the challenges of today and helping them to realize the opportunities of tomorrow. We see that this was not so much of a revolution, just another step in our digital evolution.
DQ: How do you plan for a future of ‘decent digiwork’?
Ian Shearer: During this period, many businesses may have had their eyes opened to the opportunities and benefits that remote digital working can offer to both the organization and itsworkers. While these may include greater flexibility for staff, it is the potential cost reductions which are likely to prove the biggest driver for companies, particularly in a more challenging economic environment moving forward.
Pre–Covid-19 the growth of the gig economy was already highlighting issues in the balance of flexible working andbenefits coverage for workers. During this crisis, the ‘double whammy’ of income reduction/loss and a lack of cover,including medical, in countries such the US and India, has left many workers in gig economy particularly exposed.
Persistent gaps in social-protection coverage for workers—in ‘old’ and ‘new’ forms of employment—constitute a major challenge for our labour markets in the post-Covid-19 environment. This matters particularly for the future of the work we want to create in the digital era. We need to facilitate digital work, for the many advantages it can offer. But, we must not allow this to assume a form for workers—unprotected and socially deprived—too common in today’s economy. Done right, we can shape a fair future and provide ‘decent digiwork’.
At Park Place our plan and road map offers organizations the tools for better digital and remote working, while ensuring the stability, management and optimization of their digital platforms. This combined with considerable OpEx savings and IT lifecycle extension possibilities (deferring or eliminatingCapEx) that Park Place offer, are going to be particularly helpfulas companies try to retain and employ staff, on decent terms,while remaining competitive and realizing the benefits of digiworking.