IT teams have a laundry list of things they need to focus on in any given day. From ensuring optimal application performance and keeping hardware running smoothly, to monitoring the enterprise’s network for cyber threats and attacks, teams are stretched thin. This is especially true now that most employees are still working from home and will be at some capacity for the foreseeable future.
With so many priorities that require attention, unexpected internet or application outages are especially disruptive. An example is the Slack outage that occurred shortly after the new year and caused productivity declines for over 10 million workers across the world that depend on the application for remote collaboration. Slack has become so integral in maintaining communications and overall business continuity that many remote workers were at a loss for what to do. Luckily, it was back up and running in a few hours, but the main problem became clear – most organizations weren’t prepared for something like this to happen.
With no clear policy or agreed upon plan of action in place to keep communications and collaboration moving forward, workers were left wondering what they were supposed to do. What application should they use instead? Should they resort back to emails? Phone calls?
But it’s not just Slack you need to worry about. Most companies now have multiple collaboration tools in place that are used depending on the need for a specific mode of collaboration (chat, video, voice).It should come to no surprise that since over the past year,the demand and reliance on collaboration tools has increased significantly.In fact, Microsoft Teams usage alone increased nearly 3,900%, while Zoom usage grew nearly 1,800% according to The Aternity Global Remote Work Productivity Tracker.
While no one can predict the future, these types of outages are bound to happen again. When an outage like this one occurs, caused by internal or external factors, IT teams need to overly communicate to employees and provide recommended next steps and workarounds when appropriate.
To ensure your organization is prepared for the next outage, teams should take the following actions.
- Determine a Single Point of Contact: Put one person or department in charge. Having the right tooling in place to quickly understand these outages in services and being able to understand the impact to productivity is essential.
- Update Plans and Documents: With the rapid shift to remote work, a lot of organizations made changes out of pure necessity and did not update company Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity plans and procedures. Rather than creating new policies, IT teams should review what’s already in place and update them to be more relevant to today’s work environment. Check to make sure that collaboration tools and internet outages are even included. Outline alternative methods and company approved tools that can be utilized if something is down.
- Mitigate Negative Impact with Quick Communication:If an outage happens, leaders should be ready to quickly communicate the issue and provide employees with updates and guidance on how to handle.
- Have an Updated Call List: The modern workforce has gotten too dependent on collaboration tools. If an outage is severe or impacts multiple forms of communication tools, have an updated call list. Having simple call lists by function and line of business goes along way if communication needs to go “offline.”
These types of outages are not uncommon and are highly disruptive in today’s remote work environments. By planning ahead and overly communicating with employees on disaster recovery plans, IT teams can weather the storm, while ensuring employee productivity remains as high as possible until the outage subsides.
(The author Fernando Castanheira is Chief Information Officer at Aternity and the views expressed in this article are his own)