Windward Insights

4 Insights on the Remote Workforce from Fortune 1000 Leaders

Published Nov. 10, 2020
Written by Vikki Fraser

Lady working remotely

In the wake of an overwhelming response to Windward’s 2020 Economic Impact Study, CEO Sean McDermott wanted to delve deeper into some of the answers from Fortune 1000 IT leaders. Some of the responses were expected as the move to remote work in light of office closures was sure to put a big load on IT teams. Yet, some of the responses required another layer of information to be clear. In order to get the most out of the data for himself and the others in the study, Sean conducted interviews with respondents in various industries to gain a deeper layer of insight into how IT leaders were planning for 2020 into 2021.

Over 50% of respondents put remote work as a top priority for 3rd quarter 2020

Every Fortune 1000 company was forced to provision a remote workforce with little notice due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and the closure of corporate offices. Some businesses found it easier than others. But all found themselves examining workspaces, employee morale, security concerns, and new ways of doing business.

  1. Having some remote workers prior to 2020 helped make the transition easier.

Sean spoke with an IT Director for a Fortune 500 company in the home products industry who said that despite his career history in the teleconference industry the rapidity of the move to 100% work from home was a force to be reckoned with at scale, for every IT leader.

“And in the shadows are all the IT guys that in two weeks had to let millions of people work from home that they didn’t plan on. And that’s what happened to us. We were only built for half of the company to work from home. We had to stand up to full capacity in two weeks. Which is basically unheard of. And every IT shop had to do that because no one was ready for this.”

“Our office right now is ‘in theory’ open and we did a 50/50 split and had a B team, but it’s all voluntary. No one’s going. Because the point of going is to be with your whole team. And if my whole team can’t be in the office, then we’ll just do a video conference anyway.“

His other pivots included spinning up a VPN to connect to legacy assets for teams, ramping up collaboration tools, and helping employees bring desktop computers home as their position wasn’t flagged for remote work. One of the biggest pivots for the company is moving to digital signatures after 100 plus years of paper contracts. Now they use a digital signature tool to accomplish something they’ve been doing via fax or mail since their inception.

  1. Companies are more agile than they thought

In a conversation with a C-level Executive in a Senior Health Care Enterprise, Sean heard a story he had heard before. Major corporations were turning on a dime and implementing changes that would have taken 10 times as long had it been mapped out in traditional organizational change management fashion.

“I think two things companies have realized: They CAN move fast. Because I’ve talked to some multimillion dollar companies on Friday, they decided people are going to work from home. And on Monday they did. Now. It wasn’t always super smooth waters and it won’t be. But these are companies that in a normal world who have taken six months to make a work from home transition, they did it in three days. And then the second thing is the data, right? There are a lot of ‘people processes’ that still exist and they are all going to disappear overnight. The companies are starting to realize if you want to actually, you know, make value of the data, you have to get it in a digitized format. And so I think those won’t happen overnight, but companies are realizing there’s investment that can happen there. And it has to be an investment of our time to get it to that point. So you can make value from that data. I think that we will, start to see more of those kinds of projects cropping up.“

  1. Users are better at adoption than they think

A Global IT leader of a major medical facility said he felt his jumpstart on making teams remote was just as important as how the change was rolled out to employees.

“Yeah, here we were, we were pretty well positioned to be in a remote workforce. Luckily we had done enough transformation on the back end stuff and we were already starting to do a soft deployment of teams before this hit. We had a plan to rollout teams through the year. Well, we rolled out teams in two weeks and the adoption was phenomenal. And it’s funny. We have always been this place where we have to be very careful about user adoption. The OCM [organizational change management] is so special because our sales people are so special. We got to, you know, do white gloves and all that. And it’s like, wow. So if they really have to adopt something, they find a way, right? And it was a great lesson learned of the resiliency of our folks to adopt versus our own ability to block ourselves with a perception of ‘it’s going to be too hard’. So when it comes to our backend stuff that allows us to collaborate and function, we feel pretty secure. Our sales force for the most part was already on cloud apps like Salesforce. So we didn’t really see an impact for that kind of stuff.”

  1. Business structure played a key role

Over 60% of respondents expected little to no impact on internal staffing jobs in the near future, but brands with brick and mortar storefronts had to make tough decisions. For the IT Director of a top beauty brand that had both a corporate office and stores full of associates, making changes wasn’t as easy at sending people home with a laptop.

“So with everything going on we had to look at our closed stores, and decide at some point how the company was going to keep the associates. I think we paid them for about four or five weeks, but then things started getting extended and we didn’t know, and I mean there is only so far you can go with no revenue coming in. Then at some point you have to furlough the store associates. And that took a toll on a lot of folks in the company, and they were basically like, Oh goodness, what’s next? It’s not just people losing their job, but you also have a virus out there that can impact anybody, anytime.”

In essence we’re seeing that companies were able to pull together to quickly pivot and move to 100% remote quickly and far beyond their prior levels of deployment and adoption. This set a new bar for how quickly these enterprises can actually move and could set a new pace for IT deployment in the future. Now that we know we can collapse 3, 6 and 9 month strategies into days and weeks we wonder how fast these IT organizations will be able to accelerate their other critical business initiatives. With the volume and complexity of change combined with market uncertainty, it’s clear IT leaders around the world are stepping up to the plate and saying, “We CAN do this. Now, let’s get it done.”

Do you want to share the story of how your IT organization responded to the pandemic? We’d love to hear it! Please fill out the form below and we’ll schedule an interview.


Listen in on a fireside chat between Sean McDermott, CEO of Windward and Will Cappelli, the Chief Technology Officer Europe and Head of Product Strategy for Moogsoft as they discuss the future of AIOps for the Enterprise and the results of Windward’s 2020 Information Technology COVID-19 Economic Impact Study.
Webinar: How IT Leaders are Adjusting to the Unpredictable in 2020
Listen in as Sean and Andi discuss why 85% of Fortune 1000 IT teams have made adjustments to their 2020 goals and where they are prioritizing cuts.