COVID-19 Response: Opening Up / New Vision

COVID-19 Response: Opening Up / New Vision

COVID-19 Response: Opening Up / New Vision

5th May, 2020

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about our plans for a return to “normal operations” over the last few weeks.

The first point is that we could continue to operate the core platform as normal with our staff working from home for a few years if we had to. Many firms feel that WFH has fundamentally undermined their operating models and the erosion is accelerating. We don’t believe that is the case with Options. We believe we’re getting stronger with each passing week and have adapted our working practices, tools and communication models to the new reality. There are a couple of caveats, notably around sales and onsite support for clients, but combined these make up less than 20% of the team.

The second common talking point is our current change freeze policy.

There tend to be two opposing viewpoints. One group of technology leaders, the vast majority, really appreciate the leadership we’ve shown and would like us to extend the change freeze another month. Their view is that slowing down the rate of change makes for a more controlled and lower risk platform for everyone. Their primary mandate at this time is to ensure their business-critical platforms are stable, and slowing the rate of change down a little makes a lot of sense. The reality is that the majority of our customers are based in the metro areas most impacted by COVID and as such they are all working from home themselves.

A vocal minority of customers have voiced some frustrations, though looking at the hard data these tend to be the firms with the highest historical and current rates of change and who still have infrastructure projects in motion.

Through March and April, we tried to balance these viewpoints by implementing a change freeze, but chose to actively prioritise first BCP and WFH-facilitating changes then any business-impacting changes.

For May, we will soften our approach slightly:

– Maintain the non-critical change freeze intra-week;

– Revert to business as usual for the weekend change windows;

– We’ll aim to clear the backlog of “hot” non-critical changes over the next two weekends.

Looking at the queues, this means we can clear pretty much all backlog very quickly, but there is a concern that a lot of new work will appear the moment we relax our policy.

We did think it was worth giving a broader perspective on the change freeze issue. First of all, my personal belief is that even though Options was fully transparent about our change freeze policies and approach to prioritisation, we probably got through more work than most of the firms who didn’t officially communicate a freeze. For example, support ticket volumes are normal for this time of year, but our queue lengths and CSAT scores have both improved YoY. We believe that every large tech company in the sector was effectively making the same trade-offs, just not being as open about it.

Another observation, and one we should all be cognisant of, is that looking at our DC vendors, the firms with the most relaxed attitude to lock down a month ago (often mirroring government policy in their jurisdiction) are now the firms who have subsequently been forced to lock down completely with hard access and/or change freezes. We applaud firms like Equinix for the controlled manner in which they’ve handled the situation.

We are planning for how to handle onsite support and sales as our customers open their offices down the line. For now we continue to operate in hard lock down, including a business travel ban.

The other aspect of the change freeze and a broad reduction in project work is that it has given us a lot of engineering cycles to focus on strategic projects.

For example, earlier in the year we completed the migration of Options users to O365 as well as a first wave of desktop customers. Through March and April we’ve built the infrastructure required to migrate all our customers to O365. The infrastructure is already in place to allow any of our customers to leverage the full Microsoft suite of collaboration tools seamlessly on their current platforms.

We’ve long held the view that building out O365 is relatively trivial in the scheme of things, Microsoft is highly incentivised to make it so as the benefits to them are astronomical.

We believed that the real challenge was doing so within a compliance and cybersecurity framework that is both safe and meets the requirements of regulators across the world. This final point is all the more critical for our customers as they tend to run global businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions. When engineers approach O365 they think they’re dealing with a technology problem, they’re actually managing a set of complex security and compliance issues that are fundamental to the nature of their businesses. These are the areas where we’ve focused our development efforts.

Few people believe that firms will be running on-prem Exchange and the like five years from now, and Microsoft will make it increasingly unattractive to do so. Few people would deny that the O365 platform now delivers a powerful and completing business toolset that is, in and of itself, delivering a new world. We also believe that many of the areas that traditionally fall under the “Windows Admin” umbrella along with the majority of Microsoft ecosystem technology companies will quickly go the way of the dodo.

Our new vision for the Microsoft suite is to migrate all our desktop customers to O365 by the end of the year, seamlessly integrated within the existing financial industry grade Cybersecurity and Compliance framework.

We had planned to share this vision at the customer CTO conferences back in February, but had to cancel due to COVID-19 concerns. We will announce a virtual CTO conference in the coming weeks.

As always, please reach out to me directly if you’ve any questions.

– Danny Moore, President & CEO

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