Five ways to sustain digital projects in lockdown


The coronavirus crisis has tested digital teams across all sectors – resulting in project delays, budget cuts and highlighting the realities of changing corporate and consumer behaviour and demands. Not every industry and organisation has been able to successfully pivot and adapt to this new working world, but some have.

In a recent webinar, we interviewed Graham Fisher, Head of Digital Delivery at Bupa UK, to get his advice on how to maintain growth and collaboration across a remote environment.


  1. Make sure you have the right tooling in place

Prior to lockdown, Bupa had capability to work remotely, but not at scale. “We examined our capabilities – hardware, software, what the pain points might be - and prioritised. We had 7,000 people working from home within two weeks of making the decision – a rapid reaction within IT capability.”

Given the nature of the crisis, Bupa’s biggest concern was frontline staff servicing customers. “We enabled rapid deployment of capability so contact centre staff could work from home; we had to ramp up at speed. We scrutinised our VPN capacity, implementing a shift system to share and protect bandwidth, and converted a number of services and authenticated them through Office365 to remove heavy burden.”


  1. Focus on your people and make sure no one is left behind

Bupa’s emphasis on mental health support for staff is crucial right now. “We are adapting and surviving but everybody has their personal pain points, and our leaders are acutely aware of this. Allowing people to flex how they’re managing their personal circumstances is so important. It’s okay not to be okay,’ says Graham.

From a work and delivery perspective, Graham recommends focusing on quarterly goals: “We’ve thrown out several project plans and started again because of the nature of how we’re working. Long-term planning is difficult whilst we’re in an uncertain period.” However, daily touchpoints and diarised social coffee breaks are keeping communication and morale as high as possible.


  1. Increase opportunity for digital interaction with your customers and colleagues

From the very beginning of the crisis, Bupa’s priority was for existing and new customers to get be able to connect with us easily; “We implemented Jabber to allow our contact centre staff to work from home, and then to further alleviate pressure on that communication channel, we worked on how to make our self-service channels better. We deployed an improved live chat service very quickly to allow easier conversations with our members, and we opened up more digital channels to allow lots of easy contact and take pressure off the frontline. People communicate in different ways and it’s important to facilitate that.”


  1. Use this time to develop your talent pool

Amongst all the challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis, moving away from office-based working opens a much wider talent pool. “A good indicator of growth is how we can better use the UK talent pool,” says Graham, who has worked with Sparta Global to onboard talented young people through a growth partnership.

“The only way Bupa will grow and benefit from new talent is if people come in and truly understand how a business operates, bring in new ways of thinking and working, bring passion and drive, raw determination. This is what our Spartans have done. I’m not interested in people’s degrees – I care about that adaptability. Businesses will grow when they invest in people that also want to grow.”

“Bupa is on a mission to examine how it services its current capabilities, the future direction of digital and what skill sets we need. We want to bring more knowledge and IP into the business and reduce our reliance on offshore and nearshore partners. Bupa is growing – we’ve not furloughed anybody – and IT recruitment hasn’t stopped. We’re making sure vacancies are still relevant and refining them if necessary, but digital headcount will continue to increase as we open more digital channels.

“We’ve remotely onboarded new staff members over the last two months, and we’ll keep propelling forward. We’ll see a change in our infrastructure capabilities and tech stack to allow more remote working and Bupa will continue to push digital agenda of mobile tech.”


  1. And finally, use this unprecedented time not to pause, but as an opportunity to accelerate growth

Bupa, like all companies, had digital plans to grow, expand and improve at the start of 2020. The current climate has only refocused their existing digital transformation.

“The glaring gaps in capability became obvious and we made improvements where it mattered, refining and reprioritising our digital agenda to make sure we could continue to service the needs of our members and staff. It presented a whole new way of working; using digital toolsets at a greater scale is in itself a transformation.”

Reflecting on the last two months, Graham is proud of what the UK IT team has achieved. “We’ve never had to test our business continuity planning (BCP) at this scale or speed, so to have come through that and have our near and offshore teams working effectively is a real achievement. We’ve matured in the last few weeks; the business has seen significant benefits of remote working and I know we will use it more in future.”