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East of England

Communicating in Lockdown

03 Jun 2020

laptopTo put you in the picture, I took over as Managing Director of our family business from my mother during the last year having completed my MBA with Essex University in January. Balancing work and a degree with a house move was really hard work. At the beginning of February, I was excited. At last I’d have time to put all my ideas into practice. And, then … COVID-19 hit.

Our business is writing software, building Power BI Dashboards and Data Analytics/Artificial Intelligence. We have a team of 19 based in our office in Chelmsford, Essex. Now we are all working at home and having to manage all communications remotely.

Our Main Tools

Internally, we use Microsoft Teams which has been fantastic. We have used it (and its predecessors Lync and Skype for Business) for a long time both internally and with clients. Our phone system is quite comprehensive and after some issues with timings we now have calls redirected. We also have a bespoke Client Portal that we developed to support our clients and projects. This allows us to run our projects, give out tasks to our Software Developers and Data Scientists and track everyone’s time. Outside of these we have used email (Constant Contact), Zoom, WhatsApp and even Messenger.

Communicating

Phone calls have been our most productive communication with existing clients. A discussion where we can share what we’re doing and has been the most effective way of knowing what work we have coming in and where appropriate planning for more.

For client projects, we use our Client Portal to manage the project and Teams to hold regular meetings with all concerned. This has worked well. It is easy for both sides to pull people in the meetings as needed resulting in a much more efficient use of resource. Screen sharing has been brilliant for discussing and planning changes and new modules. That said, we have had to put more effort into mock-ups as you can’t sketch things out so easily on the fly.

New leads are down. We believe less people are looking for software or analytics as they are busy getting their own businesses through these strange circumstances. That said we have a few potential new clients who we are working effectively with to build solutions.

So in summary, where we have clients we are working well. Where we find new clients we are also working well but getting new clients is much harder. What we do requires significant trust and however good our track record, it is so much easier to achieve trust face to face.

Personally, I have put a lot of effort into building my network over the last through years. Now, talking to my network regularly and helping each other out has been invaluable and made me take a much more positive attitude. 

Future

Although I miss the camaraderie in the office and visiting clients, I do feel we have been quite lucky compared to some businesses we know. Our customers are broad, covering most industries. We know we could help making the transition to on-line much easier for potential customers. We just need to work out the best way of achieving trust.

I am still excited for the future and I am learning how to survive.


lara foxLara Fox

Project & Business Development Manager 

Objective IT

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East of England

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