Shortlisted for MSP of the Year, Next-Generation MSP and the Cybersecurity award at this year's MSP Innovaiton awards, IT Lab CEO Peter Sweetbaum answers our questions on COVID-19 challenges, maintaining a strong workplace culture, and what part of his working rountine he's most looking forward to getting back to.
What are the key challenges facing your business this year?
Like most companies, the biggest challenge we face this year is navigating the impact of Covd-19. From continuing to serve our customers to the best of our abilities, to providing our employees with the support, communication and tools to work remotely, safely and effectively, to looking past the lockdown to what the future brings for our business, and business as a whole; we are looking to protect the interests of our business, our employees and our customers.
What are the most effective things vendors can do to help MSPs through the coronavirus crisis?
Be flexible and supportive, and clear about what is deliverable and what isn't. As the world adapts to working remotely and suffers global economic challenges, MSPs included, flexibility and information from vendors is key. Helping MSPs support their clients, at this time, is a key requirement from vendors.
What measures have you taken to protect your business from the effects of coronavirus?
Firstly, we have ensured we can operate effectively and continue to deliver the services expected of us by our clients. Secondly, we have put in a set of rapid response management committees to focus on our people and their continued support and engagement; government policies and funding; and client requests for financial support.
Which areas of your business have seen the biggest surge in demand as a result of the coronavirus crisis?
Unsurprisingly, the ability for our clients' to be able to work remotely (Teams) and continue to operate their businesses is where we have seen the biggest surge in demand. Secondly, cloud migration, particularly for those with on premise infrastructure where they are concerned about support and access.
How has your offering to customers changed as a result of the coronavirus crisis?
Our offering is almost perfectly aligned to the issues and constraints that Covid-19 has brough to the world, so no real changes to what we do for clients. What has changed is how we work with clients. We have, and indeed have always had, the ability to deliver our services in a completely remote way. Clients are, more than ever, wanting to take advantage of the benefits that the cloud, Microsoft technology and our deep expertise in those technologies and the solutions can bring.
What's your advice to customers on how to make remote working more effective?
Working remotely at almost 100% brings its own unique challenges to businesses, but in any form, or situation, remote working can be more effective when:
- You are using the right technology for the right job. The full suite of Microsoft technologies, particularly Teams, enables businesses to use integrated tools that not only enable communication and collaboration, but give them the tools they need, when they need them.
- You look after your team. Especially under current circumstances we are all learning to remote work in different ways. Everyone has their own unique challenges - looking after young children, forging new relationships over video and voice, or just ensuring you switch off after your day at work. It's critical now, that employers are looking after their staff and giving them the tools and flexibility to adapt to this new normal.
- Work with the right partner. Moving very quickly to remote working, either ahead of schedule or right off the bat, has the propensity for tools to take on a life of their own. Working with the right partner to implement, roll out and adopt those remote-working tools for your business is key. Get it wrong, and whilst you may be ‘up and running' in some form, in the longer-term you will have a lot of back-tracking to do with governance and user adoption.
How has your workday routine changed since self-isolation measures were put in place?
The two big changes to my day have been the absence of my commute into the office and lots of Teams calls! Like everyone else this is a significant feature of my day. Our business has always used collaboration and communication tools to facilitate our BAU and so not a huge amount has changed in that regard. In other ways though things have changed dramatically - the sense of community I have seen grow and flourish across our business and our different offices in London, Manchester, Milton Keynes and South Africa are amazing. We are truly coming together in a time when people must physically stay apart.
What part of your workday routine are you most looking forward to returning to once life gets back to normal?
A cup of coffee in the morning with my colleagues or a beer down the pub after a hard days' work.
From a business perspective, what lessons have you learned and what mistakes have you made during the last few months?
In terms of lessons learned, I've learned that in difficult times, honest, open communication has allowed us to communicate decisions to our team, even when they're tougher ones. In terms of mistakes, the most evident mistake is that perhaps I should have done a better job personally of creating more space in my day, more breaks, and ensuring that our team does the same.
What does it mean to you to be shortlisted for a European MSP Innovation Award?
I'm incredibly proud that the IT Lab group has been shortlisted in all three categories we entered. Innovation is something we continually strive for, both in our strategic alignment with Microsoft, keeping us at the very forefront of what their technologies can bring to businesses we work with, and in our day to day operations across the business. Security is intrinsic to everything we do and the risks our clients are facing are getting more acute - which makes recognition of our security capabilities that much more important to us.
We live and breathe what we do, ultimately with our clients' best interests and success at heart, so to see that mission realised and to be counted as one of the best and most innovative MSP in Europe means a great deal.