CDC Director Warns Second Wave More Difficult

By Criss Marshall • April 23, 2020

I’ve talked with several CIOs in the past couple of weeks who have speculated that there will be a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall that will again have a major impact on IT service desks. This week, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that a second wave of the novel coronavirus will be far more difficult than the first because it is likely to coincide with the start of flu season. That could mean a return to shelter in place mandates—which means all non-essential workers are back in a full-time work from home mode again.

According to an article in The Washington Post, the director of the CDC said federal and state officials need to use the coming months to prepare for what lies ahead. The same holds true for CIOs—preparation over the next couple of months will determine how well their organizations will fare through a second wave.

In a recent interview with Declan Morris, former CIO of Splunk, Declan characterized the situation by indicating there won’t be a hall pass with the next wave:

“My prediction is that you will find yourself in a difficult situation trying to explain why employees are not better equipped to work from home this fall. During the summer months, you will be expected to do a better job of enabling employees to work from home with things such as automated employee self-help. Compounding the problem will be employees working from home now on questionable home network setups, on questionable laptop configurations, etc.

“That will not be acceptable by fall. Now is the time where CIOs should prioritize serving the needs of the organization through the next work from home wave to minimize adversely impacting employee productivity. For now, we have been given a hall pass, but we have to be ready for the next wave.”

This week during an online event, John Powers, head of Client Support Services for Solar Turbines, a Caterpillar company, described the impact that Espressive Barista (our AI-based virtual support agent) had on his service desk when the work from home mandates struck.

  • Call volume increased 292% from February to March
  • Barista deflected 63% of service tickets in March
  • Barista did the equivalent of 99 agent days of work

Based on these statistics, it appears there is no way that their service desk could have scaled to meet this kind of demand without automation.

John explained that while the dollar savings of automating 99 agent days is significant and easy to calculate, the real value to the organization is in workforce productivity. If employees had stayed on hold or given up trying to get help because the service desk wasn’t available, that would have cost Solar Turbines significantly more in lost workforce productivity. In John’s words:

“The cost of the IT portion is a small element of this whole picture. It’s actually our manufacturing folks being able to manufacture parts, or our engineers being able to design something, or being able to service a customer, or deliver a turbine. That is a lot more important than the cost of what we’re spending on service desk technicians. Even though we can tangibly calculate that, that’s a minor element of the grander picture overall.”

We are just heading into May and moving slowly toward the new normal, which is likely to be a hybrid of work from home and work in office. Will your IT service desk be automated and ready for the next wave of work from home mandates if they strike again in the fall?

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