#TheLockdownSeries explores the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on small businesses, how they prepared for lockdown and it’s impact on operations and employees, as well as lessons learned that we can take into the post-Covid-19 era.
The Argility Technology Group (ATG) is a South African enterprise software development and services organisation predominantly focused on the retail and supply chain arenas.
The company provides end-to-end solutions inclusive of: managed services; service desk and industry 4.0 technologies. The latter is inclusive of data science, predictive modelling & advanced analytics; the internet of things; location technologies and cloud computing and gateway control platforms (GCP).
Tanya Long shares with us how the coronavirus has impacted The Argility Technology Group…
How has Covid-19 impacted your business?
From an operational perspective, the only “impact” has been that we haven’t physically been at the office. Otherwise, work continues as normal as we have been able to leverage off of our technology platforms to collaborate and work remotely.
Sadly, the hard lockdown had impacted on our customer base as they are primarily in the non-essential retail sector. We have been working with our customers to assist them wherever possible to ensure that all parties come out of this lockdown and are able to get back on track.
“This has been an ideal opportunity to focus on digital transformation research and development, which will be vital for many retailers post Covid-19. In essence, this scenario has gifted us with an opportunity to do some really innovative development projects, which we are excited to showcase.”
How did you prepare for the lockdown?
We were well-prepared from a Health and Safety (H&S) plus operational perspective and just needed to ramp up existing practices.
At-risk employees were promptly identified and sent home to mitigate their exposure. As an organisation, we had invested a few years ago in ensuring that we utilised cloud infrastructure for all of our operations and that our employees were able to work remotely. All external meetings were changed to virtual meetings.
We also ensured that there was a stream of useful and reassuring information around the current situation, to both staff and clients. The latter is ongoing, with email, telephonic and social media communication.
What’s the biggest challenge you are facing during this pandemic?
The only real challenge has been, in some instances, connectivity. Where staff experience challenges in this regard, e.g. a temporary interruption of internet services, we defer work until such issues are resolved, which is typically within an hour or two. Any time lost is made up thereafter. Our ICT team are also on standby to assist where required. Luckily, these challenges have been few and far between.
“What has become extremely important is intentional communication with our teams and something that we will continue post-Covid-19. Not only for task management and collaboration but also to maintain morale and promote unity.”
What sort of assistance will you need going forward?
The biggest challenge will be to get everyone back into the normal 8-5 workday and traffic. It is likely that most people will probably be so happy to be around their colleagues and back at the office, that this may not in fact be a challenge at all.
We acknowledge that there will be a knock-on impact from an economic perspective, so we will be carefully monitoring and mitigating costs whilst continuing to honour our obligations. A further challenge due to the economic knock-on would be monitoring payments coming in, as so many businesses have been negatively impacted.
If you are able to operate, what steps are you taking to continue operating?
The lockdown has actually highlighted ATG’s competencies and capabilities in terms of being able to work remotely without impacting our service levels; and has in fact underscored our core competencies.
The ATG Management Committee meets on a weekly basis for a situational review and we keep in touch with various teams on an ongoing basis, and with our clients. We will be ready and able to hit the ground running once the all-clear sounds.
What measures have you put in place for your employees?
We have ensured that everyone has the capability to work remotely – as explained, via virtual meetings and check-ins etc. Continual reassurance from a management perspective, checking on employee’s wellbeing, and emphasising that managers and execs are on call should they wish to chat, be it on a work-related or a personal basis. Highlight access to our Employee Wellness Program should that be required. And, of course, post-lockdown, the essential H&S measures will continue, as before, in addition to the aforementioned measures.
Are you communicating with your customers? If so, how?
Yes, we are – on an ongoing basis. Account managers and execs are in constant communication with various stakeholders. Due to the strong existing relationships we have with our customers, it has been relatively easy to keep in touch. This validates the importance ATG has always placed upon our client affiliations. It is the essence of our approach to business – we partner with our customers.
How are you offering assistance to your customers who rely on your services?
As per the point above, we are constantly in touch, and our service levels have not been impacted. In fact, we have received several accolades during the lockdown period, around the efficiencies and support we have been able to provide to our customers during this challenging time.
What do you predict the next 6 months will be like?
The next six months will be demanding, due to the economic conditions which will prevail, however, with careful governance, we anticipate that ATG will emerge from this time stronger and even more dedicated to providing exceptional service. We will have learned new skills and reinforced our knowledge pool. We believe that the ATG DNA of Dialogue, Navigation and focus on Aspirations is what will help us ride this wave. From a human perspective, we will be even more grateful for our people and our relationships, and we will continue to support these valuable resources.
Now is the time to innovate and experiment. What is ATG doing?
ATG prides itself on being at the forefront of innovation. 4IR technologies have been our focus for some time now and during this time, we have had the opportunity to fast-track development on our IoT, Data Science – Artificial Intelligence (AI), delivery tracking solutions.
What has been your biggest lesson from all this?
The biggest lesson for all of us, worldwide, has probably been the changed perception of what is truly valuable.“ATG has been inspired by the continued dedication and commitment of our amazing teams; we have seen how everyone has pulled together under these strange circumstances, reaffirming our faith and trust in our people.” We will continue to value and support our relationships with staff and customers, and we look forward to nurturing them even further as we go forward.