IT’s Critical Role in Crisis Management

Businesses rely on IT support to maintain operations, especially during an emergency. Yet one of the most critical roles of information technology management is being prepared before a crisis even happens.
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One aspect of effective IT management is taking on the responsibility of being a forward-thinking visionary, or a “big picture” thinker.

Communicating that vision and knowledge with approachable language to senior leaders can help establish trust throughout the office. Once that trust is gained, delivering on the planned vision is crucial – all the while being agile and anticipatory to changes in technology. Most important of all is being empathetic and protective of your firm.

Bergmeyer, like all other businesses, had to quickly adapt to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. We were able to get our entire team up and running remotely in a matter of days, but there are many lessons we have learned in the process. Now, several months into the crisis, we understand that much of our current success can be credited to the actions our team took before the shutdown.

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Be Visionary
Being a visionary within an organization means taking an active leadership role in preparedness. While much of what may be written in a Disaster Recovery or Business Continuity Plan comes down to the “who" in the steps of communication by the established team, the “how” needs to already be in place. Although designing and implementing a resilient technology infrastructure builds upon itself, is scalable, and at its best can be enduring, these plans are never meant to be static. They require constant attention and re-evaluation as technology changes rapidly to identify weak links or single points of failure.

  • Being prepared requires IT leaders and the organization itself to be anticipatory. Although adept responsiveness in the face of a threat is good, being prepared for what might happen is better.
  • Anticipation requires us to look at both soft and hard trends. Soft trends are considered to be “what might happen” while hard trends are considered “what will happen.”
  • Evaluating these trends allows you to move ahead with preparedness plans with confidence and relatively low risk. By taking an anticipatory stance, you are often able to see disruption before it happens which allows you to use change as an advantage.

Be Trustworthy
An organization’s culture and strategic planning lay the groundwork for mapping out IT’s success. When IT can successfully align with and support a company’s work culture, trust is established. For instance, in a workplace with flexible and remote working policies, equipping employees with laptops for mobility instead of desktops aligns with the culture of the firm. Then when a singular event like a snowstorm or an even longer-lasting crisis hits, employees are already prepared to be productive outside of the office.

Even the position of where the IT team sits in the office can prove significant. If they are locked away in the basement or server room, they miss the opportunity to have a finger on the pulse of the workplace, disconnected from the firm at large. This physical disassociation can create an environment that isn’t conducive to trust among employees and their IT teams. In “normal” times, our team supports two offices in Boston and LA. During this pandemic, we have been virtually supporting 80 remote “home offices.” This new all-remote reality has added another dimension to solve for in our efforts for IT to stay connected. Some initiatives we are implementing or have considered are:

  • New tools for remote support
  • A ticketing system
  • IT “open office hours” for drop-in training or support through an open Zoom meeting
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While simulations and planning are the most you can do to prepare for a disaster, anticipation alone can’t fully equip you for when a crisis actually happens. This is where agility becomes a key factor.

Be Agile
One piece of the dexterity puzzle is understanding where gaps in knowledge among employees may lie. For example, people are usually comfortable working from an established office with known technology processes. Disrupting that familiarity with a new set of procedures can leave people feeling uncertain, regardless of whether the change is slight or drastic. If the situation is dependent on how a person accesses our system (as there are a few options), the applications they usually use may be supported by different methods on the backend. When responding to support calls, we often ask, “where are you working from?“ to find out where we need to go to help them. (i.e., Amazon cloud, a remote desktop farm, local on their laptops). An established firm-wide remote work policy coupled with appropriate technology infrastructure will help encourage adaptability. The people component behind the workforce, however, is one that will always need to be met with agility and empathy – people don’t know what they don’t know.

  • Your employees are not only resources, they are also resourceful. Operating in a “new normal” is the perfect time to allow them to participate in solving problems that may arise.
  • Use unforeseen situations as an opportunity to re-discover and re-evaluate your workflows and processes. You may uncover inefficiencies that existed but were just accepted due to familiarity.
  • Disruptions are also an opportunity to institute new technology that enhances collaboration - tools that may also remain effective once the event or crisis is over.

Be Empathetic
Most of the time, an employee’s interaction with IT is when they have a problem. A problem that creates a workflow disruption that can be a stressful situation for all involved. Add onto that a global pandemic, and you have the potential for miscommunications and hard feelings. People look to IT for guidance, and during these stressful moments, having good “bedside manner” goes a long way. Approaching a quickly worded email or the umpteenth phone call of the day with empathy becomes a huge factor to success.

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At Bergmeyer, our team’s protective approach has been an essential component to handling all possible threats, be it a cyber-attack or an unforeseen pandemic that disrupts business continuity. We believe that IT’s roles as visionaries, architects, and implementors should stem from protective roots. We regard the people in our organization not just as colleagues, but as family. This personal factor reinforces trust and drives our mission to protect our team, and not only stay on top of IT issues but ahead of them.

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