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Interview with Digital Northampton

Merged Futures 2020 Poster
Digital Northampton is a collaboration between local digital businesses, the University of Northampton, and Northamptonshire County Council designed to support digital innovation in and around Northampton.

This week we had a (socially distanced) interview with Digital Northampton around how digital businesses in the Northampton community are coping with and adapting to the current situation. They published the interview on their twitter feed:

 

Here's the entire interview:


Q1: How has life changed for you in the past few weeks?

Initially there was an increase in workload helping our clients be ready for, and then transition to remote/home working. 

There were some obstacles to overcome but everyone seems to have adapted really well. Remote working is something we actively promote through our service offerings so we were well set for this, compared to most, so it's been business as usual for us generally, just from a different location. The commute's certainly a lot easier!  

We're obviously making more use of chat and video-conferencing technologies, but that's nothing overly new to us. 

Some of us are having to adapt to working with family-life going on around us, with more than the odd unexpected interruption, but you quickly realise that's something to be thankful for. 

Q2: How have your staff adapted to working from home?

Spending weeks at a time working from home has presented new challenges, in ways we didn't consider when we just worked the odd day or two from home.

Having an appropriate workspace, with a comfortable chair and desk, a decent monitor and proper keyboard becomes very important.

We've been able to borrow equipment from the office to help, otherwise issues like RSI and back pain could have a been a real problem.   

The strain on IT kit is starting to show too – in the office, it often sits in one place, but at home it's likely being moved at least a couple of times a day. There may need to be a lot of kit replaced when we get back in the office, if not sooner... 

Q3: How have you managed to retain your team spirit while working remotely?

We have group chats set up running throughout the day, through Skype or Microsoft Teams, so there is still interaction between team members, even if it's not face-to-face.

We're definitely becoming well-versed in emoji-talk, so there's one benefit 😂   

From a company-wide perspective we have a weekly "Tea and Catch-up" online meeting with all employees taking part, enabling us to keep in touch with each other, and see some familiar faces.   

It's very apparent to all of us that this whole situation is a risk to our health in many ways, not least mentally, so the longer this goes on, supporting each other and keeping in touch will become more and more important. 

Q4: Have you been approached by existing clients to slow down, pause or stop any projects?

We did have to speed one project up – in order to allow care workers to access an app that was previously only accessible internally within their network, we made it available through Azure proxy, rather than waiting for it to be redeveloped for cloud hosting. This meant it stayed where it was, but the careers could access it securely from wherever they needed to be.   

Another project was postponed, as it would have meant a major change to how the company worked – difficult enough when people are working normally, but virtually impossible when everyone is WFH.

We're hopeful that will resume in the summer though, and has actually benefited from having a longer "test period".  We have also enabled companies to change or reduce their licenses where they are furloughing staff.  

Q5: Have you managed to gain any new work?

Microsoft Teams has been a big growth area for us – most of our clients had it already, but showing people how it can be used for inter-company meetings, with phone systems etc. has led to more subscriptions and enquiries.

We've been able to be more pro-active when it comes to communications – sending out emails, blogs, tweets – about how to use the technologies most people already have, to improve the working from home experience.

It seems as well as us having more time to write those kind of things, perhaps people have more time to read them too! 

Q6: Have you had to change the way you manage your relationships with clients?

We generally work remotely with all of our clients anyway, so it hasn't actually changed a great deal.

We have had some face-to-face meetings with new prospects postponed, but we anticipate rescheduling these with online meetings as everyone starts to become more comfortable with that way of working.

It may actually prove beneficial in the long run, saving the time, expense and environmental impact of long distance travel. 

Q7: Do you have any tips for businesses trying to survive and prosper in the current situation?

It may be just a timing coincidence, as we had already started to do this before the virus hit, but we're making use of the quieter time to take stock of things from a company perspective, working on our marketing strategy for the next 12-18 months and ensuring staff are skilled up and ready for the new world we'll all be working in when things get back to the new normal.   

Compared to some, we are in a lucky position where we provide services which are in high-demand during this time.

This will likely be the case for most digital companies. If not, it's either a case of cutting costs where you can, such as shutting down unnecessary services and subscriptions and riding out the storm, or looking into diversifying your service offering. 

About the author

Daniel South

Head of Operations

When Daniel started working in the IT sector nearly 20 years ago he was on site with clients, problem solving and delivering technical consultancy. With hands-on experience of a variety of major organisations in the banking, local government, media and legal sectors, to name just a few, he has all the skills required to manage your project to a successful outcome. Daniel oversees Fuse’s managed services portfolio, building proactive relationships with clients and delivering services across the business.

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