Businesses plan for various scenarios and business continuity plans are often designed around these “known unknown’ situations. However, COVID-19 caught every single business off guard and is now labeled as a black swan event. Customer-facing, frontline operations have shut down, while personnel manning customer support services are working from home. This unusual combination has created challenges unseen in the ecosystem.
Some of the main problems faced by outsourcing industries in managing a support system through employees working from home are outlined below.
Access to applications and sensitive data, including customer information: Most support services involve the use of applications and associated data. Onshore, nearshore, and offshore outsourcing involve restrictions on access to data. This is mainly to ensure compliance with regulations – for instance, GDPR, and various equivalent data privacy laws have imposed restrictions on access to sensitive information. Whitelisted IPs and device whitelisting were in place in most outsourced services to ensure compliance. This effectively cut off access to some information, thereby impacting routine operations.
Bandwidth in telecommunication networks: Most of the outsourcing entities relied on high-speed networks and dedicated networks which ensured better bandwidth and low latency. As employees were forced to work from home in the ensuing lockdown, bandwidth and latency took a direct hit. Resultantly, the speed with which applications were accessed and information were shared was considerably delayed. This impacted the experience of customers connected to support service channels. This also had an impact on the ability to support teams to maintain systems, resolve issues, and manage patches.
Outsourced processes, despite the tag of ‘backend operations’, are critical to various processes and functions of a business. While the pandemic has severely impacted outsourced businesses, the sector will limp back to near normalcy gradually. Outsourced processes will eventually evolve to limit the impact in the event of unforeseen circumstances, such as this. However, until technological advances and automated processes kick in, it will still be the ‘back offices’ of the world that will support the frontline operations of businesses after lockdowns are lifted globally.
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