Working to keep us connected
As a provider of critical infrastructure, telephone and broadband firm Sure is at the forefront of the response to coronavirus. Will Green was invited to listen in on one of the key updates meetings that the leadership team holds on a daily basis
As is the way of the world now, the meeting begins not with a physical handshake but the lifting of a laptop lid. Then clicking on a secure link to join a Microsoft Teams video call.
The briefing brings together the leadership team based in multiple locations, which has responsibility for operations across the world from Diego Garcia to the Falklands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. Sure employs 350 people across seven jurisdictions, with the head office in Guernsey. It’s reassuring that the firm has global perspectives and connections in dealing with a worldwide pandemic and bringing that expertise home to the Channel Islands.
Sure group CEO Ian Kelly welcomes everyone and quickly gets down to business. The convivial Australian, who is based in Guernsey, is methodical as he runs through challenges, solutions and opportunities. Plus, he offers practical solutions to potential. His calmness and problem-solving runs through his team.
The discussion begins with an update on the pandemic internationally. It’s a sobering assessment. There are then updates from Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man – markets closely integrated within Sure’s operations.
The focus moves to infrastructure, including broadband. Demand is growing, as you would expect, both in terms of internet usage and voice calls. As more people shift to home working and communicating more with loved ones and friends, Sure is seeing similar trends everywhere – doubling of calls and 50% increase in broadband usage. A large part of this is down to ‘WFH’ – working from home, that is. But there is a sense of calm as the experts discuss the effect on the network. Maybe that’s down to the engineers used to problem solving. There is capacity and the engineers are constantly monitoring it, the meeting hears.
Critically, they run the team through solutions to challenges encountered.
Collaboration is ongoing with other telcos to ensure the resilience of the broadband and phone infrastructure. I get the sense of an industry pulling together for its community, as Ian mentions picking up the phone to a senior colleague in another firm to facilitate action required in what are unprecedented circumstances. Sure has also been working with a suite of major firms in the Crown Dependencies to strengthen those businesses’ own resilience.
Virtual tea breaks
With all of us dependent on tech to keep in touch, the demands on Sure’s team must be full-on at times. A large part of the call focuses on staff welfare. I get the sense of Sure wanting to do the right thing by its staff.
There are regular communications – led by Ian – to staff, virtual tea breaks through the day to engender a sense of togetherness and five extra days' leave in recognition of the balancing act that WFH staff are managing. The HR team reports that it is also putting an arm around some colleagues who need just that little bit more support. And from the response from individuals, the call hears, it seems it is appreciated.
On a practical level, one of the leadership team reports that personal protective equipment will be available for staff if required – such as engineers who might need to make repairs on location. Supplies have been procured thanks to Sure’s contacts developed in non-virus times.
Customers and community
As you might expect from a tech firm, Sure has been developing tech solutions for its customers and the wider community. This has seen increased use of online chats and calls from customers patched into staff working from home. For all intents and purposes you wouldn’t even realise it had changed. There has also been work on a virtual shop which is now up and running via a dedicated sales hotline number.
Some cool touches include work on a virtual church service, allowing a congregation to dial in, and consideration given for those at home who might not have access to the internet. And those who depend on telephone-based lifeline services.
As the video call draws to a close, I reflect back on it. As a father of two young children, the case of a child in ICU in a non-Crown Dependency location that was discussed stays with me. It brings home how deadly the situation is and its impact.
It underlines the importance of being connected to friends, family and colleagues at this time – and why people in the telecoms industry are working around the clock. They are providing the lifeblood of our relationships, and operation of public services and our economy. So, it’s reassuring that the overall feeling that I take away from the call is that they’re on it and keeping us communicating.