It’s Time for a Tune-Up of your Mortgage Platforms
In the push to be able to conduct business during the pandemic, companies sought out new technology to improve their digital capabilities for both internal employee and external customer-facing work. There was a noted rush to select, implement and integrate new technology into the existing infrastructure to keep business moving along. For the most part, the purchase decision was compressed and triggered by the immediate need. As such, there are some decisions in hindsight that may cause regret and others whose terms are not as attractive as expected for a long-term relationship. Also, the selected technology could be a perfect fit, but the implementation may have taken shortcuts in the rush to deliver, and additional work may be desired to further refine the integration or customization to better meet the business needs. Even if no new technology was introduced, regular maintenance tasks were postponed during the pandemic, and training sessions canceled that were needed then but are imperative now.
As we move to the next stage of the pandemic, defining the work arrangements, returning in some way to a physical office location or just settling into a long-term remote work arrangement, it is a good time to take a breath and assess where your applications and infrastructure are today, and take a step back to prioritize key projects and next steps to move forward in whatever the new “normal” may be.
Starting with vendor management and contract review, most organizations do a great job of vetting vendors during the purchase/selection process but fail to follow up on a regular basis to ensure the vendor and its practices maintain the necessary controls to keep their systems supported and your data protected. Given that your vendors had similar stressors maintaining business practices through the pandemic, it is a good time to re-assess their activities to ensure the expected levels of control and security are still in place.
This is also a great time to review your contractual agreements. Identify any agreements that will expire in the near term and start planning for the next steps which could be a replacement or re-negotiation for renewal. Identify any contractual terms that no longer meet your needs, e.g., on-site support with a remote workforce, and layout a new path and desired outcome before approaching your vendors. Ensure any needed or expected vendor certification/licensing is also up-to-date during your review process.
Your infrastructure and its support should be assessed to ensure it is protected, sized, and supporting the organization. Are both hardware and software patches being applied timely? Are there are any components that need to be retired or are no longer supported? Assess whether changes are needed for growth or contraction. Are controls in place to ensure a secure environment for the data and organization? What has changed during COVID-19, and how has that impacted the operation?
There has been a move towards the cloud for a number of years, but the pandemic brought that shift to the forefront for many organizations. Questions to ask include: Is your selected cloud provider providing the service and support you and your organization expect and need? If outsourced, are you getting regular (and useful) reports about the health and security of the environment? Are any identified or contractual service-level agreements (SLAs) being met? Are there SLAs that weren’t defined but should be? Address deficiencies with your internal/external vendors or select new ones, as appropriate.
Software Technology and Documentation
Your software technology is critical to your success. During COVID-19, a lot of projects were put aside for more immediate “keep the lights on” activities. A review of what is listed in your backlog is needed to identify where (and if) issues with key functionality exist. Points of integration should be reviewed to ensure the exchange of data is being completed in a secure manner, seamless to the end-user. In general, complete an assessment to ensure you have the best combination of systems supporting your business operation. This process will ensure awareness of not only immediate needs but those that are just over the horizon. If software was selected in a rush during COVID-19, it’s a good time to look at the industry for alternatives to identify a better fitting solution or to identify enhancements to request of your vendor.
Documentation is an area that was frequently ignored during the pandemic (and other times). There is value to the organization maintaining documentation of your systems and practices. The application architecture diagram is a simpler diagram to create, but is critical to understanding the systems in (and out of) your environment and their interactions. Many organizations have graphical representations of their network, but not of their applications, interactions, and uses. The application architecture and other documentation facilitates communication and understanding within the organization and with your vendors.
The last area that needs attention is one that should be foremost in everyone’s mind and that is security. Security encompasses people, processes, and technology. Attacks can come through any of these areas and vigilance is needed to stay protected. For people, it is important that any training sessions that were postponed during COVID-19 be re-scheduled to educate employees on such things as identifying spam emails and phishing schemes. Processes should be reviewed to ensure that information is being properly protected whether it is paper or digital throughout the process, and only appropriate data is being shared. Finally, the technology needs to be assessed. This can include a review of users and the level of access granted, ensure that anyone that has left the company has had their access revoked, that security levels are commensurate with the roles, etc. Identify any users that haven’t logged in for extended periods and determine if their access is required. Security surrounding applications should be reviewed to ensure that the current protocols are being followed, the complexity of passwords, the number of days between password changes, etc. Administration passwords should also be updated on a regular basis.
While all of the above would normally be considered business as usual, COVID-19 has irreparably changed what normal is. Work that has been postponed, canceled, or set aside should be revisited to identify what is still applicable to maintain a secure and functional operation for the organization and its user community.
It is pretty safe to say that, as we enter our 12th month of quarantining and the pandemic lifestyle, we are all experiencing COVID fatigue. So, rather than evoke a collective groan with yet another “here’s how to navigate the quarantine lifestyle” post, we have decided to try and lighten up the COVID experience a little with an entertaining review of how things have changed. So, without further ado, here is CC Pace’s What’s In and What’s Out list! Take a look and please let us know if there is anything we missed on our list – enjoy!
|Conference calls||Teams meeting with fun together modes|
|Short emails with one question||Slack or DMs|
|Team lunches||Door Dashed lunch|
|Phone calls||Video Calls|
|Lengthy in-person meetings||Emails with bullet points and lists|
|Book Clubs||Netflix recommendation discussions|
|Company outings||Online Trivia games|
|Commuting to work||Signing into Teams app or Zoom|
|Printer jamming||Internet connection issues|
|Office inside jokes||Company memes|
|Alcohol shots||Vaccine shots|
|Starbucks||Expanding your Keurig coffee selection|
|“You’re on Mute”||Awesome virtual backgrounds and cameo family member sightings during virtual meetings|
|Juggling kids activities to keep them entertained||Juggling kids online class schedules|
|Happy Hour at the local bar||Personal booze stockpiles|
|Business attire||Sweats, yoga pants and pjs|
|Workplace status quo||Angling your camera just right to ensure your PJ pants are not visible during your Teams meeting|
|Dry Cleaners||Never ending laundry piles|
|Lunch hour errands||Walking your dog 4 times a day|
|Hanging out at the water cooler||Never ending group chats|
|Picking up something for dinner||Cooking at home and getting your Micheline star rated Chef groove on|
|Airpods||Noise Canceling Headphones|
|High Heels and dress shoes||What are shoes?|
|Talking over a cube wall||Stalking co-worker’s availability status on Teams|
|Office floorplan||Makeshift home offices on kitchen counters|
|Grabbing something from the vending machine||Rummaging the fridge and/or pantry|
Small and medium sized companies are trying to return to “normal.” This short blog by guest blogger, Dr. Amira Roess, provides some guidelines. Dr. Amira Roess is a Professor of Global Health and Epidemiology at George Mason University.
It’s not going to be easy, and we may not get back to a pre-COVID workplace for another few years, but it can be done.
A critical factor is employee peace-of-mind. There are three actions an employer can take to ensure employee peace-of-mind:
- Take steps to prevent employees that may be infected from coming to work (i.e. Daily Symptom and Exposure Screening)
- Take steps to remove opportunities to become infected in the workplace (i.e. workplace hygiene and air flow)
- Take steps to rapidly remove employees from workplace that have been exposed (i.e. Accurate and Rapid Contact Tracing)
Daily Symptom & Exposure Screening apps provide a simple way for employees to check their symptoms. The questions on the screening app should be curated by an epidemiologist based on the latest scientific finding from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as well as other credible sources.
An app that automatically sends daily reminders and/or alerts to employees to complete the screening can reduce the workload in managing the process.
Workplace hygiene must be maintained. Employees must avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment, when possible. If you cannot avoid using someone else’s workstation, clean and disinfect before and after use.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, like workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails and doorknobs. Dirty surfaces can be cleaned with soap and water before disinfection. Choose the right disinfectant for your surface from EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Wear a mask in all shared spaces, especially where staying 6 feet apart (about two arm lengths) is not possible. Interacting without wearing a mask increases your risk of getting infected. Note: wearing a mask does not replace the need to practice social distancing.
Employees should wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. If your hands are visibly dirty, use soap and water over hand sanitizer.
All medical professionals know to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if you haven’t washed your hands.
Employees must remember to cover mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues into no-touch trash cans and immediately wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Indoor spaces should be evaluated to ensure that maximum airflow is supported. High quality portable HEPA filters can provide an additional layer of protection.
Contact Tracing is very important. Should any employee find out that they are positive for COVID, anybody that was exposed (i.e. more than 15 minutes in less than 6 feet proximity) should be notified and instructed to quarantine immediately.
Here is a link to the CDC website with Quarantine instructions. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html.
It is strongly recommended to use an automated Contract Tracing system to get accurate time and distance between employees. These systems can also identify where workplace operations result in unintended congregation.
CC Pace has teamed up with George Mason Professors, Dr. Roess and Dr. Lance Shirley, to create Pass2Play.
Pass2Play is a combined Daily Symptom & Exposure Screening and Contract Tracing App that is designed to Provide for Employee Peace-Of-Mind, Ensure Employee Health & Safety, and Maximize Workspace Uptime.
For a demo and purchase: firstname.lastname@example.org
As 2020 has unfolded, our development team has been working on a brand new app: Pass2Play! Check out the video below to see all of its features and capabilities!
To learn more about Pass2Play click here!
It is almost a certainty in years to come, that we will all recall that period in March 2020 when everything started closing down due to COVID-19. The weeks leading up to this time we kept hearing more about this mysterious virus and the awful effects of it. As a result, many of us started preparing for the possibility that we ourselves would be quarantined for a couple of weeks. Fast forward to November 2020 and here we are, still in quarantine as states continue to figure out the best and safest ways to reopen.
Prior to the COVID lockdown, we here at CC Pace would have never imagined that we could transition our entire workforce to go 100% remote overnight, and much less do it seamlessly – but that is exactly what we did! Our entire staff has effectively been working remotely for 8 months, thanks in big part to our technology group who had already transitioned the bulk of our storage to the cloud, and had implemented Microsoft Teams for more successful and personal communications among our employees.
When the CC Pace team transitioned to full work-from-home status overnight we didn’t let quarantine affect our productivity nor the quality of our work. We hit the ground running and have not stopped. If you were to ask us how we did it, we would have to say that the key has been communication. Our team has adjusted and embraced new modes of communication: Meetings – join us in Teams, chats – ping me whenever, kudos – keep them coming, file sharing – here’s the link, screen sharing – take a look at this, all of this along with video calls have helped us to stay in touch and most importantly stay connected! (Of course, a few virtual happy hours and events have helped too!)
It’s this level of adaptability and agility that has brought us our success. Seeing our team be able to continue to produce and develop superior results only confirms what CC Pace has always stood by, our people are our most important asset! #staysafe