Resilience & technology | Interview with our CTO 10 June 2020

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Marie Measures

Chief Technology Officer

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SANNE’s technology and resilience has been at the forefront of our ability to continue to provide excellent service to our clients. We have continued to provide service excellence and maintain a well-controlled operating environment through the Covid-19 pandemic with close management and thorough monitoring.

Throughout the pandemic, SANNE has remained open for business, has not experienced, and does not expect to experience, any disruptions to our service levels. As countries begin to ease restrictions, we are preparing our offices for a safe working return while ensuring that we meet all local guidelines.

Covid-19 key insights from our CTO

 Globally, hundreds of thousands of employees are working from home waiting to return to normalcy, but for many it may not mean going to the office. We asked SANNE’s Chief Technology Officer, Marie Measures, to comment on SANNE’s ability to respond to the pandemic and how she feels the business has responded to the challenge.

Has COVID-19 been the catalyst to fast-tracking the digital revolution and how are SANNE colleagues working during the pandemic?

In some cases, and industries, yes, the pandemic has forced people to embrace technology more. SANNE has over 90% of our staff working remotely, if not in the office on a rotational basis.  Different jurisdictions are operating under local government advice, but for the vast majority working from home is the new normal. Our entire client facing team has continued to be operational throughout the crisis. Our employees have always had access to remote working programs which enabled then to successfully transition to work from home. The transition was smooth, and this can be attributed to regular BCP and disaster management testing throughout our global business.

Have you seen an impact on productivity?

Business Continuity is one of the areas my team manages. This was a live invocation of the Business Continuity Plans that were already established and in place, our Business Continuity Plans are regularly revisited for new risks and updated accordingly. Our offices in APAC were impacted in January 2020 and we were able to arrange for those colleagues to work from home effectively and very swiftly. This prompted us to perform live tests in other jurisdictions in January, where we asked 50% to work from home for a day to ensure nothing had been missed from the plans.

Was anything missed?

There were no material shortcomings, we have a highly resilient platform on which we are used to a degree of remote working as we are a global organisation. For instance, our administration platforms are already designed to operate globally and securely away from the regional data centres.  We found some minor points, for example we needed to buy a few more laptops and licenses ,but testing well in advance of lockdown meant we were able to mobilise everyone and have them working immediately. 

How do you communicate when working from home?

We were already using Microsoft 365, which includes MS Teams and Sharepoint.  Many of our managers are familiar with using these collaboration tools as they manage global teams. For them this is business as usual. Other teams and client structures are cross jurisdictional so speaking across MS Teams or making calls was already commonplace. There has been an increase in video calls which is a fantastic improvement to our internal communications and one I hope will continue when we are back to business as usual. A further communication improvement is that client facing staff are using MS Teams to video call clients and intermediaries and host interactive webinar sessions which has improved relationships.

Our colleagues have quickly switched from face to face conversations to video calls, live events and video streaming.  Town Halls are now regularly held on MS Teams to keep the team spirit flowing as well as cascade information – the family feel SANNE has is even stronger seeing everyone in their home environments, especially with some kids or pets sneaking into video calls. Client facing teams also ensured their work-phone numbers were forwarded to their mobile phones so clients could easily contact them as usual.

What other tools do you use?

We already extensively use Citrix or Remote Desktop Services – so the environment that our colleagues are logging into securely from home is the same as that they would access in the office, this familiarity has meant that it allowed them to work efficiently immediately as soon as they were asked to work from home. We are able to receive and make external calls through MS 365 so client service remains the same as it was before.

Is there anything that can’t be done working from home?

Other than in person meetings, no. Every team had previously identified their business processes through our business continuity planning. This has meant we were well prepared for this eventuality when it happened. We have collaborative plans for how we return to offices in a safe and secure way across all 20 global offices.

Do you believe this experience will change working practises when we all return to “normal”?

Being able to maintain client service during such intense real-life testing of our BCP arrangements has highlighted how resilient our team, our platform and our business is, if this crisis teaches us one thing it’s that we don’t have to be physically present to be present. Although I am sure I speak for the whole team in that we are looking forward to getting in to the office and seeing our colleagues when it is safe to do so, this temporary normal has served us amazingly well and we continue to focus on business as normal and our strategic plans for SANNE.