Even before the WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, Wipro’s CIO team had started readying our business continuity plans (BCP). We were prepared for a staggered lockdown and movement of people and assets into their homes. However, what came next was an urgent call for nationwide lockdowns and before anyone could fathom it, the world went came to a standstill. This is an unprecedented crisis, and no BCP was prepared for this. After all, there is no rulebook when the world stands still!
What followed was an amazing show of resilience and collaboration that kept the show running - truly a moment of pride amidst the disruption COVID-19 brought with it.
The CIO organization: Weathering the storm
A global lockdown required us to enable work from home for 100% of our workforce – something that was unheard of previously. In addition, a large number of employees used desktops and could not carry them home. How do we ensure that everyone has the infrastructure they need to stay productive? How do we ensure secure connectivity to our networks and those of our customers? How do we manage challenges of working from home like power outages or network disruptions?
On March 15, evaluating the disruption across the globe, we took action. We planned to procure laptops, but the sudden spike in their demand left us to prepare for moving desktops with security controls to our employees’ homes. Exactly a week later, there was a nationwide lockdown announced with hardly a few hours’ notice. We had to quickly change our plans and move machines to employees’ homes overnight. Roughly 30,000 machines were moved within few days.
Eliminated the JD for fastest market response: This was a time when job descriptions could not restrict what you had to do. We created a taskforce in record time to identify the immediate first step and meticulously plan for the way forward. To enable quick collaboration across multiple locations, we built a 10-point checklist around system, access, and security compliance before employees began working from home.
While the team was grappling with the challenges, additional requests for machines were pouring in and we had to arrange for an additional 10,000 systems. People had left for their hometowns in the wake of uncertainty and overnight, we had to figure how many people were available in various regions for setting up. Working in overdrive, we arranged passes, travel arrangements, security measures, and even food and dorms.
Desperate times do call for desperate measures. In the absence of support staff, the IT team was suddenly doing everything, each one of us were an - IT helpdesk, IT engineer, delivery person, and daily reporters of news.
Ensured access to necessary infrastructure for remote work: We moved desktops to employees’ homes and procured hardware like data cards almost overnight. Our support team members stepped up admirably to work amidst the constraints of local permissions, inter-state restrictions, etc. We leveraged our VDI solution and LMI remote assistance so employees with laptops could work uninterrupted.
Planned for new ways of working with ironclad security:Now that these machines were moved without those required security controls, we had to bring up a virtual pit stop SWAT team who worked on DIY automated scripts and supporting the Business team to make these systems compliant so they could connect securely to VPN and VDI infra with Telecommute.
Work-from-home doesn’t allow for the same continuity that an office environment does, with challenges of power outages and connectivity abound. We worked around these challenges with innovative solutions such as shifts structured around outage schedules etc. This ensured that Wipro is up and running for our customers at all times.
We also ensured that all requisite client permissions for remote access are in place. A set of prerequisites including six basic security checks were implemented before posturing was enabled. We used a sophisticated system cloning mechanism to ensure a large number of systems could run a security update at the same time, saving resources and time to access.
Improvised on existing technology for constant support: Employees working remotely needed more support and there was a surge in ticket volumes for IT setup. Wipro’s IT Service Desk led by ITIL Methodology and driven by our ServiceNXT framework enabled self-help. This allows users to control resolution across levels and channels – chat, web and calls. We improvised our DIY framework to control the surge in tickets and later deployed a one-click install solution that automated most of these clicks.
This was not easy at all, given a nation-wide lockdown with inter-state borders closed. Our stories of grit involved being chased by stray dogs, falling asleep on chairs overnight, and tiresome travel to ensure cross-border support.
But we were able to achieve our goal – our systems are up and running, our customer support has not been compromised, appreciation from our customers has been pouring in non-stop, and we were also able to launch new programs for our customers in this unprecedented time. I think our team did such a great job and I applaud them for this tremendous show of grit.
Planning for the next phase – Reopening: While the ingenious use of technology by the CIO team in times of disruption became the key enabler for business continuity for us and our clients, there is still one more challenge to overcome. Getting part of the workforce back to work would require meticulous planning once the lockdown is lifted. We have already opened up two offices - bringing employees back with reconciliation, sanitization, and vehicles that had to be sanitized - and are working to get others operational too.
Evolving and ready to meet the demands of the future
With remote working stabilized in these past few weeks, the world is truly moving to a new normal that is here to stay. Organizations will move to more digital ways of working. Employees will be comfortable with working from home. Usage of remote technologies like collaboration tools, VDI etc. Service, sales, meetings, conferences, and collaboration to execute the next big idea faster will increasingly get digital, leveraging 5G and new-age collaboration tools. This is a future the world is moving toward, and we are geared up to help organizations to keep their business up and running.