Long the Anonymous Cogs in Corporate America’s Back Office, Work-From-Home Crises Have Put the IT Department in the Spotlight

In ordinary times, they moved among us largely unnoticed. Now we can’t get enough of them. The Covid-19 pandemic has thrust once-anonymous IT support workers into a new role: corporate saviors. From a report: As millions of employees make the transition from well-maintained office equipment to jury-rigged kitchen table setups, information technology departments have been called upon to keep companies online and connected. Requests range in size and scale, from replacing employees’ $5 mouses, to speeding up networks, to keeping multimillion-dollar data centers up and running. For many departments, the result has been virtually unprecedented workloads. On March 12, Qualcomm told all staff to prepare to start working remotely in three days. Vice president of IT infrastructure, Zeeshan Sabir, and his team then worked about 72 hours straight trying to prepare a lot of laptops for secure, remote access and get other corporate systems ready. “I just saw heroics,” he said. “I didn’t see a blip of complaint from anyone.”

[…] The way most IT departments are set up has meant many directors have been juggling major issues alongside relatively minor ones. At Bay Area transit agency SamTrans, IT manager Edward Kelly got help from AT&T to quickly increase the speed of connections to the agency’s networks once its 200 employees made the switch to remote work. At the same time, Kelly’s team of five was flooded by calls from employees who’d forgotten their computer password and guessed wrong too many times. He said he’s also hoping people learn to use the “reply-all” button on group emails more sparingly. As many employees’ home computers infuriate them, tensions can run high, said Jennifer Reed, a consultant at IT outsourcing firm Viqtor Davis North America.

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