Centre for Reproductive Rights outsources helpdesk to Netsurit

The Center for Reproductive Rights, a non-profit organization that focuses on protecting reproductive rights as fundamental human rights around the world, has outsourced its helpdesk to managed services provider (MSP) Netsurit. Headquartered in New York, the Center partnered with Netsurit in 2017, and has since enjoyed benefits such as reduction in IT infrastructure costs, redirection of its IT team’s skills to key areas, and increased user satisfaction.

The Center is a legal innovator seeking to fundamentally transform the landscape of reproductive health and rights worldwide. It has defined the course of reproductive rights through its victories in courts around the world, as well as at the United Nations.

“We have staff stationed all around the country and the world,” says Timothy Dedman, IT Operations Manager at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic having a reliable, single point of communication we can confidently provide to staff has been integral to our success. Our prior helpdesk company was not as communicative or as proactive as we needed, to continue to do important work regarding international human rights.”

Dedman says the Center was seeking higher levels of communication and accountability from its helpdesk provider, as well as more consistent service delivery and the ability to partner on projects. This was becoming increasingly important as the organization continues to grow and has to leverage its helpdesk to deliver required services to its staff.

Netsurit’s commitment to end-user functionality, and incident management and escalation services, are designed to resolve user issues and requests as quickly as possible. With Netsurit, the Center’s helpdesk system has been optimized to minimize user wait times for incidents and requests, deliver decisive solutions as quickly as possible, and maintain function of the organization’s IT infrastructure.

“I have been with the Center for six years and have worked with many external contractors in that time as well as three helpdesk providers,” says Dedman. “In my experience, Netsurit is easily the best and most responsive and responsible of those three and is at the top of the list for all external contractors period. While a helpdesk relationship is by its nature always a work in progress, I am heartened that after three years management continues to be responsive and receptive.

Dedman says Netsurit was chosen as the right partner for the Center based on the services and pricing the MSP is able to offer, and also because speaking at length with the management team provided confidence in their ability to meet the Centre’s needs.

“Netsurit has been a good partner, open to constructive feedback and to evolving our relationship as our needs have changed,” he adds. “Having an existing IT presence at the Center has been a challenge for some companies we worked with in the past, but the Netsurit team was receptive and adaptive to this model, and has always been highly communicative when it comes to requests that may need to be escalated to us for internal resolution or review. Having Netsurit on board has helped us to share the IT workload, both for daily issues and for routine upkeep matters like patching. This allows us more time to focus on other, more strategic, IT issues.”

CIOs in a COVID-19 world

National reading campaign for children gets Pastel in the cloud powered by Netsurit and Windows Virtual Desktop.

Traditional businesses have had to adapt to new realities of a post-virus world and the implications for CIOs will be profound

COVID-19 is not only a health crisis. The global reaction to this pandemic continues to affect government, society and communities, commerce, the running of organisations, the nature of work, technological innovation and rollouts, education, and more. While we may resolve the health crisis with vaccines, herd-immunity, and treatments, the effects on non-health factors will endure for a while, and possibly forever. That’s what CIOs have to think about.

But in the meantime, they need to plan for an “in-crisis” period. The health crisis may take a year or more to resolve. In that time, CIOs will have to face other challenges thrown up by the crisis itself, by the activities of governments and regulatory bodies, by competitors, and indeed, by themselves and their own organisation’s actions.

The immediate CIO action in response to COVID-19 has been discussed at length and largely enacted: remote work, remote meetings, no travel, increased use of collaborative tools, more video, more emails, and so on. Equally, the platforms on which these digital enablers rely have been beefed up. And many organisations with digital products have required their CIOs to provision for additional product sales.

Now, our initial reaction to the crisis requires CIOs to step back and re-examine what they’ve done, whether they want to keep doing it, and if so, how?

The future of remote work

Let’s take remote work as an example. It may not be permanent. On 31 March, Neil Webb, the Director of the British Council of Theatre and Dance, tweeted: “You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.” Most South Africans agree, with 86% wanting to go back to work according to a survey by Giant Leap, a local workplace consultancy. What’s more, only 43% of South Africans have jobs which allow them to work from home, at least some of the time anyway.

So, working from home is not the next big thing that CIOs need to convert into policies and procedures – they have to realise that it’s temporary, but not too temporary. CIOs need to beef up security for home-workers who are outside firewalls, and who are often working from home for the first time. They have to run sensitisation and information campaigns for staff working with company data outside the organisation’s domain. They have to provide remote “on-site” support at people’s homes. And they have to give some serious thought to financing the remote worker’s infrastructure – internet, and web-based meeting and collaboration software. But less than 10% of this will stick for more than a year.

Also, now that the initial rush is over, CIOs will need to give some thought to digitally wrapping the organisation’s physical products. They need to make as much of the product digitally visible and accessible as possible. They have to examine the customer journey in detail and remove as many physical touchpoints as possible – AI has proven useful here. They must make website searches way better than they are now. They should also re-examine their often-sloppy digital customer experience and interactions.

“Contact us” is not the first point in your email spam campaign. When a customer contacts you, they want to – you guessed it – actually contact you. CIOs need to look at how much of the browse, examine, and buy process can be digital. VR, or near VR, is useful in allowing customers to experience the product from a distance. Finally, CIOs need to rework the delivery pipeline so that the last mile is the only physical part of the product.

Embracing the new normal

Then CIOs need to look at the in-pandemic new normal. They must consider social and real distance factors, digitalisation, delivery ecosystems, localisation where appropriate, renegotiating, and re-contracting the supply chain. There are several changes – some permanent, some not – that CIOs need to consider.

Finally, the post-pandemic new normal needs thinking about. There will be changes to global trade, supply chains, the digital/physical mix, how we get work done, and many other corporate areas. Perhaps more importantly, societies will change, buying patterns will be permanently altered, social contracts will be questioned and possibly overthrown, governments may fall, and even fundamental economic principles may change.

Some industries, like sports, hospitality, conferencing will be deeply affected, and some will thrive – technology being the most obvious. However, these successes and failures all have implications. This is the post-crisis new normal that CIOs need to accommodate.

Benefits of cloud computing for business

Cloud computing is a means of storing data independently on the internet. Many businesses choose this method of data storage over local servers due to the benefits. Read about the benefits of cloud computing for business below:

Money saver

Cloud computing is a money saver. Instead of paying for the finest hardware upgrades, the strongest security (for your business and your software), the electricity needed to power hardware, regular maintenance and more, you could move over to cloud computing and get a lot more for a lot less. Make the right decision for your business’ finances.

Fast performance

The servers used for cloud computing are of a very high quality due to their constant performance updates. These servers run at high speeds and always keep you one step ahead of your competitors. Cloud computing is also able to distribute workloads between servers so that the performance is consistently fast, and problems are unlikely to occur.

Enhanced security

Keeping your data in a remote location keeps it protected from viruses, hacking and other potential threats. If your business is victim to a break-in you will not have to worry about your data being stolen. The cloud computing service will also ensure that any viral threats are detected and eliminated before reaching your data.

Improved efficiency

Due to the speed of the internet, employees can access data quickly and easily. The fact that there is no extra focus on running local servers, there is more time for employees to focus on other important aspects of the business.

THE ART OF MEASURING YOUR IT DEPARTMENT AND HOW IT CAN HELP YOU REACH YOUR LONG-TERM GOALS

How do you properly measure your internal IT department?

The key is to first understand that your IT department is really a “business results department.” Technology is nothing more than the medium through which IT sets up a business for success. You’ll see this concept spelled out in detail in our recent blog feature.

In short, the goal of any IT department, regardless of the company it serves, is to move the business forward. They do that through two distinct focuses: Proactive tasks and reactive tasks. Your goal is to measure how effectively your IT department handles both.

PROACTIVE

Taking a long view is vital for any business. Every business has five-year goals and many have 10-year goals. IT plays a crucial role in ensuring the business is in position to reach those goals. Unfortunately, IT departments are often viewed as problem solvers. There’s a technology problem and the IT department receives a service request to fix it. While that’s important, an IT department that spends all its time fire-fighting won’t help move the business forward.

You want to ensure your IT department is helping you reach your short-, mid-, and long-term goals: from this quarter to 10 years from now. As abstract as that is, it’s something that you can measure if you know what to look for. First, understand what proactive steps your IT department can take to help you reach your goals and avoid potential roadblocks. Here are some questions you can ask that will help guide you:

  • Machine Updates: Do you have the latest patches? How about antivirus software?
  • Servers: Do you have the proper size? Are they being overburdened or reaching capacity? Will you need larger servers as you grow? How soon do you anticipate needing to upgrade?
  • IT Budget Management: Your IT team could ultimately help improve your financial efficiency if your software or services costs are too high. Are you paying too much for licenses? Not utilizing all of the software you’re paying for?
  • Technology Roadmaps: What are your present business requirements and what technology do you need to supplement those requirements? What are your future business goals and what technologies will help get your business there? When should you start investing in technologies you’ll need in the future?

Next, establish measurable metrics for tracking progress on those proactive steps, wherever possible. These performance indicators can include reports on server capacity, software utilization or other technology needs your business uses where efficiency can be tracked. It can also include tracking where your business has encountered problems that could have been avoided by being more proactive. Lean on your IT team to help you create these metrics. This collaboration will help by giving them agency in goal-setting. Plus, as your company’s technology experts, they’ll have the best understanding of how to realistically track progress for these items.

Finally, establish regular check-ins. Most companies only check in with their IT department monthly or quarterly. If you want your IT department moving in concert with the rest of your business, establish a weekly check-in. Not only will regular touch-points help keep your IT department working proactively, they will also help improve your experience with IT as a CEO or client. You’ll have a better understanding of what your IT department is up to, and weekly check-ins also give your IT team a chance to set long- and short-term expectations, further improving two-way communication.

REACTIVE

No matter how proactive your IT department is, problems will inevitably arise. When you think about how effective your IT department is at solving these problems, try to think about what the CEO and the client want. They don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. When they have a service request, they just want to know the job is done right and done quickly. When creating metrics to track your IT department’s performance in a reactive setting, you want to measure for proficiency and efficiency. Here are a few tips for establishing metrics:

  • Productivity Metrics: Response time, resolution time, number of tickets closed and incidents per device should all be tracked with objective data and logged to view progress over time.
  • Quality Checks: Appoint someone to review a sample of randomly-selected closed tickets and give feedback to the team members who worked on the tickets. This process could take as little as an hour a week.
  • End User Satisfaction: Establish a net promoter score on every ticket closed. When feedback is received it is sent to the key leaders or managers in the team and can be incorporated into your review process with the team.

Using quality metrics to track your IT department’s proficiency, efficiency and customer satisfaction will help your business immensely in the long run.

If you’re measuring properly, you will be able to identify problems in your process and solve them before your IT department gets a bad review from a client or a service request ticket goes weeks without being resolved. Even when you’re measuring your IT department’s reactiveness you’re doing so with an eye toward being proactive.

Finally, whether you’re measuring for reactiveness or proactiveness, the most important thing you can do to measure your internal IT department is to review them regularly. Make it an open conversation. Establish weekly and monthly check-ins. Review short-view (weekly) and long-view (monthly and quarterly) data.

The more frequently you critically examine your IT department and the more you involve the department in its own improvement, the more effective everyone will be at moving your business forward.

Being agile about agility

Leaders need to accept that business agility will be critical in the
post-pandemic world

Forget deep technical competencies for the moment. The new essential organisational capabilities – at least until the pandemic is over – are flexibility (to be able to switch direction), innovation (to meet fresh challenges in new ways), agility (to rapidly respond to changing requirements), and resilience (to sustain the organisation through difficult times).

Let’s focus on agility. Agility involves more than setting up a few teams and telling them to do things quickly. There are skills to develop and tools to prepare, of course, but agility is not about tools, techniques, and teams. Instead, it is about the leaders and managers of the organisation – that’s where agile initiatives succeed or fail.

However, the apparent success of agility in many organisations may be a negative thing: it looks easy and logical and is such an obvious choice that many executives miss its downsides.

Let’s look at the upsides first. The benefits of an agile approach are clear:

  • Rapid response to changing customer requirements – better product quality
  • Customer intimacy – high customer satisfaction
  • High team morale – self-managed teams
  • Increased collaboration – cross-functional teams
  • Fit for purpose teams – focused on results, not outputs
  • Performance visibility – short feedback and measurement cycles
  • Reduced risk – Incremental successes and failures provide risk-reducing options
  • Reduced investment – Incremental investment in what works

This list could prompt executives to rush to agile at scale, but there are downsides too:

  • “Indefinite projects” where the outcome is, as yet, unknown – time and costs are also unpredictable
  • Skill-dependent teams – agile requires a higher level of skills and decision-making from individuals
  • Neglect of documentation – self-documenting processes must be implemented
  • Financing in increments is not easy – most GAAP practices are based on annual cycles

Nevertheless, executives may suggest that the pros outweigh the cons, but the Project Management Institute (PMI) reports that 44% of projects are predictive (waterfall) in nature, and only 30% are agile, while the rest are hybrid. This suggests that there are many projects, indeed many functions, within an organisation that would not benefit from a purely agile approach.

Predictive projects (and functions) are appropriate where:

  • There is a sequential workflow, and where a specific outcome is needed
  • The expected results are predictable and well-defined
  • Processes and results are highly regulated, such as in pharmaceuticals, engineering, and some manufacturing
  • Customers play a limited role in the outcome
  • Intensive documentation is needed

Most organisations have predictive and regulated operations, but there will be some functions and projects that can benefit from an agile approach – the trick is to separate them. Neither will the predictive/agile split be a clean one – there will be flavours of each in all departments.

Perhaps the approach to adopt is a “test and refine” route, as a way of analysing which functions could be moved to agile, and which should remain within the traditional sequential and linear command structure. The test and refine approach is an agile technique, and the first step is to adopt agile thinking in the leadership team.

A quick review:

  • An agile team works closely with customers.
  • The teams break large and complex problems into separate components.
  • They devise solutions for each component by rapidly prototyping and testing and refining their solution with customers.
  • The feedback from their customers is included in the next cycle, and eventually, the separate solutions are combined into a logical outcome.

When leaders adopt agile thinking, they regard various parts of the organisation as their customer. Organisations are more successful where their agile leadership team takes a hands-on and collaborative approach to organisational change. They consult with their internal customers, develop prototype solutions, test them, and solicit feedback – all in short cycles. They concentrate on removing constraints rather than delegating tasks. They focus on staff satisfaction and on results rather than controls and bureaucracy. Finally, they become agile advocates, rather than micro-managers.

A leadership team that has adopted agile thinking will be first to recognise that the final outcome cannot be predicted. They don’t know how many agile teams will result from their efforts, nor do they know which department will be fully agile, and which will adopt a hybrid approach. Neither will they know what bureaucratic and governance roadblocks will be thrown up or uncovered. But because this team has the power to make decisions and change things, their potential to implement agility successfully is much greater than ordinary agile teams.

Dare your employees to dream

What is Digital Business and why does it matter?

The role of IT in business