INTERVIEW WITH IT DIRECTOR: 300 EMPLOYEES WORKING FROM HOME
by Marek Steininger · March 30, 2020 · 4 min read
A few weeks ago, almost the entire CN Group, with more than 300 employees, moved to the ‘work from home’ option. What significant changes have been made, and what infrastructure was needed? Ben Rothbauer, IT Director at CN Group, answered this and our other questions.
What does it take to move such a large business to working from home?
Of course, it is essential to have an suitable IT infrastructure ready, which fortunately we had at CN Group. As the company grows, so does the infrastructure. It is crucial to have an internet connection with sufficient capacity. All programmers have laptops and are used to working from home from time to time, so no significant preparations were needed. The only staff who use desktop PCs are ladies from the accounting and reception areas, and we were able to provide them with operation laptops, so now they can work from home.
When you say an accountant, everyone imagines a pile of papers, invoices, and files.
We have an accounting and payroll system on the server, which is not unusual today. We also set up invoice approval electronically. We introduced the system in earlier years, and now we see how many benefits this brings.
What problems do you have to solve during corporate work from home? Is the IT department’s work a lot different from normally?
Preventively, I had to increase the number of licenses of concurrently connected users to our VPN system. Thanks to Jan Ježek and Sonicwall, we have these licenses free. Otherwise, we deal with standard issues, user support, server maintenance, and installation, all as usual. Our infrastructure has remote management, so it is not pertinent from where the IT team works. We are, therefore, able to handle almost all user requests. For example, the only thing we are not currently dealing with are paper jam problems in the printer or the need for small hardware replacement such as a new mouse and cable.
How fast was the move? What did you have to prepare hastily?
Surprisingly, we didn’t have to do almost anything. On Thursday, the management of the company met, we discussed the proposal to recommend corporate work from home for all. Because we found no reason why it wouldn’t work, on Friday, everyone had the opportunity to work from their home.
What is the situation at the foreign branches in Slovakia and Romania?
The office operations in Prague, Zlín, Bratislava, and Bucharest are now limited. The vast majority of employees are currently working from home, and since the data centre is in Prague, we have the same settings for all users, regardless of their location. They can work from anywhere, for example, from a cottage, but they must adhere to the company’s internal rules for working from home. Likewise, the IT team can provide the necessary support to all systems from anywhere.
Have you ever experienced a similar situation in the past?
Several years ago, we upgraded the main power cable at the Prague branch. The whole building was without electricity for a day; the server room was powered by a diesel generator. All our employees needed to work from home or other branches. They were connected via a VPN to Prague. So, we’ve already tried these circumstances, and that is the reason we were able to adapt to the current situation with such small change needed.
But at that time, it was a much smaller company.
Yes, at that time we were about 150, today there are over 300 people in the company.
Do you have any recommendations for work from home?
I usually work from home when I need to concentrate, and I don’t want to be disturbed by visitors to my office. But now the situation is different. Nevertheless, it is vital to ensure peace of mind. If every member of the family has the opportunity to have a quiet corner, whether, for work or study, where it is possible to concentrate, it can work. If you have children, you also need to make sure that your home Internet connection is not burdened by online games. What I definitely don’t need is anything to slow down or disconnect VPN. Overall, I recommend defining clear rules at home with other household members.