The COVID-19 pandemic has posed incredible challenges to enterprises across government and industry alike. From rapid increases in remote end-users to unprecedented demands for distributed networks, virtual operations, and automation, organizations of all kinds face the challenge of adjusting to a “new abnormal” in the workplace.
John Heneghan, ECS vice president of enterprise solutions, spoke with Martin Burke, president and chief revenue officer of ISM (recently acquired by ECS), to discuss the ways in which ECS and ISM are helping enterprises meet the demands of a post-COVID workplace with ServiceNow.
Q: How has the workplace changed since the COVID-19 pandemic?
Martin Burke: In many ways, COVID became an accelerator for a pre-existing trend towards remote work. People are coming to the realization that we don’t all have to be on-site all the time. When the pandemic began, one of our customers expected to be back in the office after three weeks working from home. As time went on and employees were unable to return to the office, they realized that people were getting a lot more done. At a certain point, ‘we’re not going back because of COVID’ became ‘we’re not going back because we’re working better.’
That’s the good news. At the same time, the pandemic brought special attention to challenges that were already there, but have become more pressing. When large portions of the workforce began working from home, many people took their office home with them—computers, printers, mobile devices. Companies have a responsibility to keep track of these assets.
The second challenge is maintaining cyber infrastructure, which is suddenly faced with tremendous demand from outside the firewall. In many cases, the infrastructure that supports cloud and virtual operations has been pushed up to and beyond the level of functionality.
John Heneghan: The pandemic brought special attention to challenges that were already there but have become more pointed in the months since. There are so many business processes with manual interaction and a critical human element that must now be done in a virtual world. Onboarding employees, getting equipment and IT resources into the right hands, managing human capital—how do companies keep these wheels turning when interaction at the office is not an option?
Many companies haven’t skipped a beat. At ECS, we’ve onboarded hundreds of people since the pandemic began. We use technology to manage employees and assets, automating workflows and approval processes behind the scenes. From traditional IT operations to the management, maintenance, and security of operational technology, manufacturing equipment, worksite tools and more, we are discovering so many ways to leverage automation and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to solve problems without sending people into the field.
Looking forward to a time beyond COVID, I see huge potential in this trajectory. Think of the systems in an office building—security, HVAC—or the specialized equipment used by a manufacturer. With advances in IoT and IT technology, we have every opportunity to make these assets safer and more efficient by automating maintenance, upgrades, troubleshooting, and more. ECS is already performing this work for the Military Health System, using IoT for medical devices in military hospitals across the country, including the naval ship USNS Mercy.
Q: What does this transformation look like as we build tools for the future?
John Heneghan: A federal agency recently hired ECS to reengineer their service desk and asset management system, moving these functions from a legacy system onto the ServiceNow platform. This new solution enables complete configuration control over business processes, including maintenance and change management. Everything is connected and secured in the cloud, with knowledge sharing across the entire organization, including remote and mobile assets. The ServiceNow platform allows us to capture so much data that we use to improve these systems on an ongoing basis.
For another customer, we used ServiceNow to build a continuity of operations plan for power outages at a data center, including asset tracking, backup and recovery, and automated remediation. With their old strategy, this customer would need a team on-site to triage the outage—an imprecise, often time-consuming process. Now that assets are accounted for and much of the process is automated, they are operating at a higher maturity level with better, more resilient systems across the board.
Martin Burke: As we design system architecture, the ability to function remotely and keep devices operating—from maintenance to replenishment and security—takes on new and vital importance. Using ServiceNow to implement stronger asset management capabilities and IT operations management, we build systems that can proactively meet increased cloud demand in real time, ensuring continuity of operations when organizations need it most.
These challenges are not new, but the pandemic forced us to accelerate our solutions. Now that we’re implementing them, these new systems and tools don’t just solve present problems, they set up enterprise systems for future success.