“We prepared for the lockdown in advance.”

Dealing with the simultaneous occurrence of the coronavirus pandemic and the renewal of IT systems was a mammoth challenge. IT infrastructure manager Daniela Schmutz looks back.

202101 SEM Daniela Schmutz by Luca David 28 von 33

Replacing equipment during a pandemic

“Every four years the workstation equipment at SEM is replaced. At the beginning of March 2020, we were in the middle of such an update because the life cycle of numerous laptops, screens and systems had come to an end or was critical. At the same time, COVID-19 was assuming greater proportions. On 14 March we halted the update process to prevent direct contact between all those involved in the project. Two days later the Federal Council announced the lockdown. In order to be able to complete the update, we worked under great pressure to put together a set of scenarios based on how the pandemic might evolve. Although the situation gradually eased over the summer, we always assumed there would be a second wave. And there was. Infections began rising again and precautionary measures were tightened, but we were prepared. In November and December we replaced the remaining 900 devices, applying detailed procedures and very strict hygiene measures.”

Anticipating the lockdown

“Communication by senior management was good from the start. We were given regular updates on the coronavirus situation and were told as early as February to take our laptops home each evening, hence we were quite well prepared for the real-case scenario. Our division was aware that it would be facing some major challenges if the whole workforce was ordered to work from home. Naturally, you cannot prepare for every eventuality and a few difficulties did therefore arise.”

Pragmatic solutions

“In the first phase of the lockdown our division received numerous telephone calls and emails. Staff were asking about office equipment – headsets, docking stations, computer screens – for working at home. Owing to the exceptional situation, we were very accommodating and tried to fulfil employees’ wishes as best we could. To reduce the number of technical enquiries we produced a series of tutorials, which were well received by staff. We also received enquiries about video conferencing: at SEM we generally use Skype, but at international level other applications are sometimes used. Here, too, we catered to the needs of the staff and whenever possible arranged for the use of alternative software solutions.”

An unforgettable experience

“One member of staff who was classified as a high-risk patient was not keen on leaving the house, so an IT specialist from SEM went to her home one Sunday to install the new IT equipment. I was extremely moved by this gesture and by people’s willingness to help each other during this challenging time.”

202101 SEM Daniela Schmutz by Luca David 11 von 33
“Looking back, we did a lot of things right.”
202101 SEM Daniela Schmutz by Luca David 18 von 33
“A lot of software updates were possible from home – that was not the case before corona.”
202101 SEM Daniela Schmutz by Luca David 20 von 33
“Cooperation with the field sites functioned very well – we all pulled together.”
202101 SEM Daniela Schmutz by Luca David 21 von 33
“The replacement of IT equipment in November and December went without a hitch – a great achievement considering the circumstances.”
202101 SEM Daniela Schmutz by Luca David 24 von 33
“Right from the beginning we were expecting a second wave and were not fooled by the low number of infections during the summer.”
202101 SEM Daniela Schmutz by Luca David 30 von 33
“In my opinion, remote working has positive and negative aspects.”