With a global pandemic sending shockwaves across the world, we are faced with a host of unforeseen challenges threatening to permanently alter life as we know it — both personally and professionally. The Channel Company, parent company of CRN, reached out to Midsize Enterprise Strategies board members for their insight into the effects of COVID-19 on the IT industry, and to learn about the steps they are taking in reaction to big changes in their respective industries.

Some organizations were already in the early stages of digital transformation when the virus hit, having adopted cloud-ready solutions, remote capabilities, and virtual features. These organizations are no doubt fast-tracking their continuing IT evolutions, but their preparedness for remote operations has made their transitions easier than the changes that other organizations are now forced to consider.

Leslie Cothren, of Universal Mental Health Services, believes that the organization’s readiness has made rapid changes manageable.

“We were prepared, although we were not working from home, we had the tools in place. We've only had to add to policy and procedure to give guidance to WFH [work from home] employees,” said Cothren. The company is working on enhancing its policies governing working from home and bring your own device, for example.

“What I will say is that the EVP/Agency Director called me today and thanked me for making the company more resilient and the infrastructure prepared for the worst-case scenarios prior to all of this happening,” said Cothren.

“I immediately wanted to email the [MES] Board and TCC staff to let you all know that I fully credit MES for making me a better IT Leader,” Cothren said. “The company has the resources, the infrastructure, and the flexibility to handle what’s happening because I sharpened my leadership skills, my contacts, and met so many amazing vendors at MES over the years.

“You could walk into any of my offices and immediately see MES influences everywhere you look.”

Though unpredictable issues are sure to arise, having a step up has helped Universal Mental Health Services remain stable. The COVID-19 crisis may actually push the organization to adopt more future-ready capabilities that could open the door to new healthcare delivery opportunities.

“[We have seen] no real impact to IT budget, aside from adding the telehealth platform, and we are working on a solution to utilize tools we already have in place,” said Cothren. “I suspect that our business will more fully embrace WFH as a result. I also believe that we'll be more suited for telehealth, which has been on the ‘back burner’ for some time, but there's been no real pressure because many of our services are Medicaid funded and telehealth was a backburner item to them as well.”

However, many businesses, including others in healthcare, have not been so fortunate.

“Being a hospital, we have very few folks working from home. However, our challenge ended up being mobile devices and webcams ... they are in short supply,” said Sean M. Patrick of Ridgecrest Regional Hospital.

While the small hospital had few telemedicine users before the pandemic, many more of its physicians have begun offering telemedicine services.

The small community hospital’s remote location and humble size are further contributing to issues during these challenging times. “Financially, this is going to hit the hospital hard,” said Patrick. “We had an awful year in 2019 from two earthquakes here in Ridgecrest, and now we have this for 2020. The hospital is financially strong, but this is going to be very hard for our small community hospital. … I fear that if this goes on for too long, we won't be able to sustain. We are very remote and isolated. We are the only hospital within 90 miles.”

Many organizations outside of healthcare were hit almost immediately with the unsettling reality of an unknown future. “We closed our doors and furloughed a large part of our staff,” said Mike Novak of Seminole Hard Rock Support Services. “We are keeping minimal staff to keep the business running.”

Paycor is experiencing a similar uncertainty, with more than 95% of its organization suddenly working from home, according to Adam Leisring. The company has also felt an impact on sales and client retention.

Some organizations are reshaping their operations to align with what may become a new world order: remote networking on a larger scale. Michael McClure of Rogue Community College explains how the school is embracing change and finding ways to accelerate its IT evolution.

“As a higher education institution, we were put in a position of having to very rapidly change all of our curriculum to online learning and migrate 95% of our workforce to telecommuting,” McClure said. “Our department worked long hours expanding our remote connection environment and training employees on its usage. We extended our spring break an extra week to accommodate, but we have met all of our goals.”

The school upgraded some infrastructure before the pandemic. “We were lucky in that our department had pushed for several improvements including three 1GB internet pipes incorporating SD-WAN and two new hyperconverged storage platforms for our expanding virtual server and desktop environment,” said McClure.

There is a lesson here for all organizations facing an uncertain IT future. We can come together as human beings for the good of our peers, our clients, and ourselves — to sustain some sense of normalcy, to embrace what technology has to offer in these trying times, and to continue to fulfill our personal and professional goals together — even if “together” only exists in a virtual reality. Read the full CRN survey article here.