Channel responds to Coronavirus outbreak

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Channel responds to Coronavirus outbreak

The Australian IT channel has responded to the ongoing COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) pandemic with decisive action.

Companies are asking staff to work from home, making changes to their annual leave policy, and some working as usual with extra precautions.

As reported last week by CRN sister sibling iTnews, Telstra has directed all of its Australian-based office staff to work from home starting this week until at least the end of March. The telco also agreed to provide additional paid leave entitlements to employees for up to 14 days and possible extensions. The decision was welcomed by telco union CEPU.

Microsoft Australia took a similar stance, with a local spokesperson confirming to CRN that Australia-based employees are asked to work from home through April.

“The health and wellbeing of our people and their families remain our top priority as we respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

“Given the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Australia and our strong desire to both protect our people and do our part in reducing the spread of the virus, we’ve asked Microsoft employees based in Australia to work from home through Wednesday, April 1st”

CRN understands that the Australian operations of Amazon Web Services, IBM and Dell have also closed their offices, with staff all working from home. CRN is also aware that Veritas and Nutanix are still operating as usual.

Cisco’s local representatives did not specify if any of its local staff will be impacted, but global channel exec Oliver Tuszik revealed in a blog post that the vendor cancelled a number of industry events globally and made tweaks to its supply chain.

Dropbox also rolled out remote working for all its offices globally, with the Australian office already in its third week of doing so. In addition, the company announced a new program offering free Dropbox licenses for NGOs that are providing support during the outbreak.

Threat detection and response vendor Vectra AI has sent its employees home to work remotely as well. The company also mandated a "video-first" strategy for calls with voice-only calls as a backup when engaging with colleagues and customers.

Vectra's technical team is also using AWS instances instead of on-site proof of value exercises, which involved shipping appliances to customers. Partner marketing has also pivoted from face-to-face to "virtual meetings" instead. 

Distributors

Multiple distributors have told CRN that they have adopted stringent health and safety measures in the workplace including increased cleaning and elimination of shared work spaces. Many staff are now working remotely. 

A Dicker Data spokesperson told CRN the company is “continuing to monitor the situation and have appropriate contingencies in place should they be required.”

“We have introduced a number of measures to not only protect our employees but to ensure we provide complete business continuity for our valued resellers and vendor partners.

"Operating with the best technology solutions Dicker Data is well placed to minimise disruption, strengthen resilience and maintain our dedication to customers.”

Tech Data Australia general manager Wendy O’Keeffe told CRN that all staff at the distie's Sydney headquarters will be working from home for the rest of the month excepting a small number who opted to come in to the office.

The company also suspended its use of two co-working locations, while its warehouse is employing dual shifts.

System integrators 

NTT Australia has kept its office open, with some employees opting to work from home and reducing face-to-face meetings where possible.

"At NTT Ltd., the safety and well-being of our employees, clients, partners and communities is always our priority, and we are working every day to ensure we do everything we can to support them through these challenging times," a spokesperson told CRN.

"With the increasing concern across the globe regarding COVID-19, NTT Ltd. is monitoring the developing situation and has resources in place to act and provide our clients with continuity of service. Our purpose is that together we will enable the connected future, and it has never felt like such a critical time to do so." 

Big Four consulting firm EY has directed its Ocenia staff to “work remotely” for a 14-day period from 16 March until 31 March 2020.

“While we have no confirmed cases of the virus in Oceania we are taking the step to encourage all our EY people in Oceania to leverage their ability to work flexibly and remotely,” an EY Oceania CEO and regional managing partner Tony Johnson said.

The company also restricted all international travel and non-essential domestic travel, and will also be repatriating staff that are currently overseas.

“We understand this can be a time of uncertainty for many of our people and we continue to have procedures and safeguards in place to ensure our people are supported during this period – their safety and wellbeing is our number one priority. Our teams are also working to communicate these changes to clients to ensure business continuity,” Johnson added.

“We are focussed on responding to the important short term issues but are also ensuring we stay balanced and maintain a focus on the medium and long term business issues – COVID-19 will pass. We are continuing to monitor this situation closely and will be updating our guidance and protocols and informing our people and our clients as developments warrant.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers told CRN that is offices remain open but it is “encouraging” its people to work from home and “are monitoring the situation closely”.

KPMG has also remained open but is allowing staff to “work agile from another location, as per usual”, but has cut down on business travel and introduced a concierge screening process to its offices.

“The health and wellbeing of our people is our highest priority. As such, we have stopped all business travel to regions deemed ‘do not travel’ by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Senior executive approval is required for business critical travel to destinations marked by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as ‘reconsider your need to travel’,” a KPMG spokesperson said.

“To protect our people, clients and visitors, we have a concierge screening process at our offices. Clients and visitors coming to our offices will need to confirm whether they have symptoms or have travelled overseas at all in the last 14 days. If they have, they are asked to conduct their meeting by phone or video conference.”

A Deloitte spokesperson said in a statement, “It is too early to see the full business impact of COVID-19, but we are committed to working with clients and communities to keep business and the economy going, including through the use of technology even in periods of disruption,” the spokesperson said.

“We are currently continuing to deliver our work through a combination of on-site and virtual working and are respecting the protocols of the non-Deloitte workplaces that our people are working at.”

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