How the Cloud can help us work in unpredictable times


This article is part of a series where author and creative director Justin Brown profiles Consegna’s work, their clients, and offers insights into tech, community, business, and life.

Mostly because he’s nosy and wants to learn.

This week Justin speaks with Consegna’s Karl Stafford.


A few months ago ‘Corona’ was mainly primarily known as a beer, yet now the mention of the word has sent many businesses and their owners into a blind panic on how to keep their staff safe, and their bottom line in check. As of March 2020, Covid-19 virus, which as of yet has no cure, has infected over 170,000 people worldwide and caused at least 6,500 deaths.

Companies are scrambling. Production in Auckland on Amazon's $1 billion TV show Lord of The Rings has reportedly been suspended. Air New Zealand cut long-haul capacity by 85 per cent, and more than 1200 staff at Vodafone's six-level Auckland headquarters were recently asked to work from home in order to simulate worst-case Covid19 scenarios.

The last examples illustrate that, despite living in unpredictable times, for the first time in history many companies and contractors, though not all obviously, have the technology to work from home. Countless organisations worldwide have called time on in-person meetings, cancelled conferences, and cut out unnecessary flying to meet clients. Google has let all job seekers know that to protect them and their interviewers, all interviews will be conducted via video conference.

‘One of the greatest myths,’ says Consegna’s Karl Stafford, ‘is that if you’re not in the office you can’t work collaboratively, yet the key here is to have tools that fuel connectivity. It’s one of the main reasons you should consider the cloud and SaaS (software as a service) offerings.’

‘SaaS allows everybody within the business to have visibility and control over projects by using websites like Trello and project management tool JIRA, both of which you don’t need to be in the office to update. This improves delivery times of projects; you’ll get real-time updates and not have to wait on others to directly pass over a piece of work.’

Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting. We’re human after all, we look for visual cues, it’s a feel thing. Do I want to work with this person? There are also non-verbal cues, especially when it comes to sensitive communication. How easy is it to misinterpret a text or email? Yet once you’ve formed a relationship, a lot can be achieved remotely, with just the occasional meetup. The cloud offers incredible flexibility. If you have an internet connection you can plant yourself at home, at the beach, or at the airport. This empowers people to work from where they’re most comfortable, allowing them to set their own schedule.

Karl: ‘People who work in an office environment often tire of “meeting paralysis,” or having to stick around for a 4pm brainstorm. Two things spring to mind: could this meeting be an email? And, could I have dialled in from home? At least now we know that even if the very worst happens, and that someone is in self-isolation, the cloud provides the ability to work from anywhere at any hour of the day, with the added benefit of no commute.’

In the current climate, however, there are perhaps more serious reasons to switch to remote working. JP Morgan, a well-known champion of hybrid cloud solutions, recently announced Project Kennedy, a pilot programme which called for 10% of their employees to work from home in an effort to disperse their employees in an effort to alleviate the chance of catching the virus. And just like Vodafone, HSBC in London’s Canary Wharf asked a whole floor of about 100 staff to work from home after one person was positively diagnosed with Covid-19.

But what happens if your laptop or Desktop PC is still in your office?

Karl: ‘Amazon WorkSpaces is a managed, secure Desktop as a Service solution and works on either Windows or Linux desktops. It allows you to use any device (mobile or PC) provided you have the right credentials, to access your work desktop so accurately that even your mouse cursor will be in the same space you left it.’

‘This would definitely have solved a productivity problem for us in Consegna’s Wellington office when we were forced to work from home after the Kaikoura earthquake. Within minutes we would have been able to scale quickly and provide thousands of desktops to workers across the country (and globally). Should the Covid-19 outbreak intensify, Amazon Workspaces will mean we have no problem shifting our offices remotely. Even emergencies like fire sprinklers going off in your office are no deterrent as everything will be fully backed up and ready to keep working on another device.’

Think about a typical contact centre and you envisage open-plan offices, fully kitted out with telephones and PCs. You might also wonder how such a complicated space could suddenly move a team to work from home.

Karl says, ‘With Amazon Connect you can scale your contact centre up or down to any size and have access to tens of thousands of agents who can respond to abnormal business cycles or unplanned events. As part of the AWS cloud, you can support your customers by accessing Amazon Connect from anywhere in the world in a secure, reliable, and highly scalable way.’

‘To engage with customers, all an agent or manager needs is a supported web browser and an internet connection.’

Little is known about Covid-19 virus, or when a cure will be found. These are stressful times for many Kiwi businesses. What we do know is that the hongi and the handshake will have to wait. Go for the elbow tap, or do the old East Coast wave.

Settle for sending a message of support, remotely.


More interviews and insights to come.