There are many times in my life when I have had to navigate an uncertain situation. One of those situations was navigating the COVID-19 pandemic at work. I remember being at my desk on that Thursday in early march when we all realized it was for real. I was sitting at my desk working on deploying a couple new utility servers when I got a text from my mom asking when I was going to be home. I said, “Dunno, why do you ask?” She then explained to me what was going on. I told her I’d be home when I got off work (it was already about 3 or 4pm at that point).
Next day, me and my coworker were discussing what we would do from a technology standpoint. We were in a pretty magical place though. Even though we had just merged with another company less than a month ago and practically doubled in size overnight, there was one thing that we both had in common. About 40-50% of our workforce was already remote – we had people in Virginia, Arizona, Texas, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut, you name it. This was a great benefit for us – we could spend more time strategizing and less time scrambling. While I knew other people in the industry that were scrambling for budget increases or deploying VPNs, we had the benefit of time since we already had remote collaboration tools – and that bought us options. One of those options was actually a blessing in many ways. The other company we merged with were Microsoft partners, and they got a number of benefits from it – including a number of Microsoft 365 licenses. They had been under-utilizing these benefits and one of my jobs was to make the company better utilize those benefits. Our side of things was on Google Apps for email and a number of various solutions for phone conferencing and two shared WebEx accounts that had to be scheduled so that no two were used at the same time. It was a massive pain.
I proposed a solution: Our side of the company would migrate email to Microsoft 365, and we as a company would standardize on Microsoft Teams for video/voice conferencing. This would in the end save us about $600 a month, between dropping the Google licenses, getting rid of the various WebEx accounts, and getting the other side of the company onto the benefit licenses.
We had executed a full migration by May with no disruptions to email service. It was pretty awesome to see all these moving parts come together in the way they did. Without the COVID-19 pandemic motivating us, we probably would not have a) unified the company technology that quickly or b) saved that much money as quickly as we did. I think that is a great example about how an uncertain situation can motivate you to make some impactful and lasting change for the better.
I also learned a number of things from this experience. One is that you can react when you don’t flinch. What I mean by this is you can have a knee-jerk reaction to do something, but once you’re down that path you might realize there was a better option down a different path. For us in this instance it was really luck that helped us more than anything but it taught me that lesson of what happens when things work the right way.