Expert talk: 50 shades of complexity
How to manage more than 400 of IT-engineers for a leading national telecommunication operator serving millions of customers?
JSC Ukrtelecom is a telecommunication company with 30 years of history behind it. Serving millions of customers and providing the whole range of ICTservices (traditional and VoIP telephony, broadband internet access, IPTV, ) inside a 40 million country is not a piece of cake. It is a high responsibility to support connectivity while pandemic wins back.
How to shift thousands of employees smoothly from traditional office work to remote in weeks?
"IT department was the readiest for such speed of changes we experienced with lockdown," says Ukrtelecom CIO Kirill Goncharuk.
"Distributed way of work was a part of our DNA since the beginning - a lot of tasks need to be resolved and managed in non-working hours, as well as other jobs-to-be-done are based on its complexity, not a calendar."
How covid-19 influenced Ukrtelecom business
Last-mile connectivity problem
Working from home supposes the usage of various third-party internet providers to connect with the company's infrastructure and facilities. Monitoring and quality control assurance of the connectivity providers become crucial for us as the reliability of the own services provided.
Informational security provision for corporate data
A lot of our employees who work at home share their devices with other family members - spouses and children for education, job, and entertainment purposes. Making all corporate data secure was a challenge. We spent a lot of time and effort to make data encrypted on third-party devices. We invested a lot in information security education programs for employees. Phishing attacks emulation, special tests to help colleagues to understand how intruders may act to still the valuable data
Corporate and organization culture upgrade
Some of the business functions were not ready to work remotely without constant control. The business (various departments and sub-departments) came to us and asked: "Give us something to help tasks and jobs not get lost, to create a new level of traction and visibility." Luckily we've embedded a business automation platform, changing workflow in a more effective manner possible.
Key challenges in managing teams in 2021 and overcoming strategies
Create a seamless remote work experience
Allowing all corporate services to function remotely was a top priority for an IT department when a pandemic started. We experienced 20x growth from 200 employees using virtual office facilities to 5000 in a day. We were looking for all possible quick wins to make working from home comfortable and effective.
MDM management - working from any device
Mobile device management (MDM) is the foundation for a secure mobile enterprise, and we were among the first fixed-line telecommunications providers who have implemented it in Eastern Europe. We do not limit colleagues using only corporate devices; we create the possibility to use any gadget to access the whole range of corporate services remotely via BYOD solution.
Develop secure infrastructure for virtual offices
When things started to work properly, we've delivered a holistic architecture to manage all remote work issues. And have launched virtual offices on a full scale. Now we continue to reengineer workflows to make them work properly in a digital dimension.
In 2017 we started to introduce a field force management solution for our engineers "on-site". The solution is planning routes for the repairing teams, service visits, provisioning inspections, and everything is necessary. An employee receives a task needed to be fulfilled. This experience helped us to eliminate management and performance issues for back-office employees. Not everyone has understood what working from home is all about. It took some time to rebuild business processes in a more suitable remote work way.
While companies with a totally digital way of doing and management mainly focused on team sprint and level of involvement, we were challenged to create the digital ecosystem for a nationwide operator in weeks.
The lost power of small talk to engage employees
Accidental interactions occurred in the office constantly. These helped create shared knowledge, so everyone was on the same page and needed no effort to provide this for the company. Times have changed; we need to create alternative ways of communicating company news. It's much more problematic. When you talk personally to some, it is impolite to switch to your phone in the meantime. When you see a piece of news on the intranet portal, it is so easy to skip it.
Informational engagement strategy
To make things work, we have to rethink the way of communication between the company and employees. It's not only about the tools and means of communication but topics to cover and types of information to deliver. We have put a lot of effort into making the intranet portal really valuable to our colleagues. It has become a powerful source of information for all our offices across the country.
The secret sauce is customized news for each region of 40 million country + virtual office how-to webinars and guides + mental health barometer.
Customized news for each region of 40 million country
With the beginning of the pandemic, we have launched regional anticrisis HQs to oversee what is happening in covid19 in each region. While the southern regions may experience relaxation, the western part may be "up on fire." The situation around covid19 put a considerable amount of stress r to our employees, along with restrictions and limitations in certain things we all got used to. For a national leader, it is vital to provide tailored and distributed information and thought leadership and support. Immediate access to the information became crucial.
Virtual office how-to webinars and guides
As a large corporation, we have employees with different levels of technical skills. But to operate efficiently, we need to create equal opportunities for each team member. So we have started to educate. How to use the whole power of virtual office tools to fulfill tasks? To show the value and power of digital tools, we have paid a lot of attention to communications of our traditional "Best employee" Award. This year it was held online, and we have worked to engage employees and demonstrate the benefits of a digital Award ceremony instead of an offline one. Moving our Student development program "KRASHI z Ukrtelecom" (Eng: Best of the best with Ukrtelecom ) online also helped us to show virtual world advantages - instead of 20 youngsters, we have covered more than 200. For our employees, it is important to know that the company fulfills its promises and continues to invest in students and telecommunication area development.
Mental health barometer
C-level managers were the most prepared to work in the chaos pandemic has brought. We are responsible for making things work; it means being accessible in case of urgency. Now we can share our experience with the team to help them manage boundaries between personal and professional.
When it became apparent covid19 is not a temporary issue but a serious one, we have launched regular employee mental health surveys to understand how they feel, what triggers their anxiety. The mental health barometer profile has been evaluated from the fear of the future in the very beginning to stay healthy concerns. The Lockdown economy effect on SMEs and some industries caused worries about personal safety and financial stability. Covid19's long-term effect on the healthcare system all over the world triggered fear of severe health issues. Mental health barometer helps us be keen on the situation and provide the necessary support for our teams, especially when showing care is so limited. On the one hand, employees can be heard, and on the other, management understands what is happening.
I'm not sure we will return to a classic office as it was before. A lot of my colleagues are working on office management solutions to plan employee visits properly. This should include functional tasks, security, the necessity of interaction with other colleagues. I assume some companies would be keen to mix schedules: 1-2 days employees would spend in the office while different at home or other places they prefer.
About JSC Ukrtelecom
Joint-Stock Company Ukrtelecom is the Ukraine's largest provider of broadband internet services and fixed line telephony. With more than 1 million of B2C and B2B broadband internet subscribers in 3322 cities and millions of landline subscribers in 11 thousand populated localities the company generates nearly EUR200 mln UAH of annual income. Ukrtelecom owns 100% stake in mobile network operator TriMob LLC. JSC Ukrtelecom is the largest employer in the telecom industry and one of the largest taxpayer of Ukraine. Ukrtelecom is a part of Ukrainian financial and industrial group System Capital Management ("SCM").
JSC Ukrtelecom is a Ukrainian market leader in telecommunications services for B2B clients providing nearly all types of modern telecommunications services, in particular fixed-line voice services (international, long-distance and local telephony); data transmission services and VPN; fiber-internet access services; hardware and virtual hosting; videoconferencing; IPTV and other telecommunications services. Since 2016, the company has been providing ICT services, including cloud PBX services, lease of cloud IT infrastructure, DDoS attack protection services.
As an infrastructure telecom operator, Ukrtelecom is on a mission to bridge the digital divide in Ukraine. In 2020 the company rolled out 10 000 km of fiber-optic cables in rural areas of Ukraine.