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Back to work (well, not quite)

Whilst we’re still firmly ‘enjoying’ lockdown, we have at least now got used to what lockdown really means, both professionally and personally, and we’re used to it. With that in mind our attentions are now turning to planning the transition out of lockdown and into something resembling normal operation.

Any transition will definitely be phased – we’re not going to ship all of our engineers out to all corners of the UK on day 1 – but equally there is naturally going to be a large backlog of work to do that we’ll want to crack on with, so there is a careful balance to be found.

There are a number of elements of the delivery of Janet that need to be considered:

  • Jisc network engineers: a lot of the delivery work we do it via our own engineers, so we need a firm plan for them. The likelihood is that phasing back into the field will be based on travelling distance, method of travel, criticality of the job, and more. The bigger issue however is access to the places they need to go – customer sites are naturally either closed or restricted at the moment, and we don’t know when that will end; PoP sites and data centres are open but again with restrictions in place that we need to be sympathetic to. Transition plans in this area will be made with the well being of engineers at the forefront, and caveated to the ceiling based on the numerous other restrictions we’re subject to.
  • Openreach: as has been mentioned before, an awful lot of what we buy is from Openreach, who are quite rightly prioritising critical services at the moment. We attend weekly industry briefings from Openreach where their current status and transition plans are being shared, and we’re working closely with our account team to make sure everything that can be done is being done, and that everything else is in good shape to spark back into life when the time comes. We’ll keep monitoring this area closely so that as soon as we’re able to start delivering services again we’re firmly on the front foot in doing so.
  • Hardware suppliers: we use hardware suppliers for, you’ve guessed it, supply of hardware, and also for installation services.
    • ‘Supply only’ orders are easy to manage as once we’ve got the equipment in hand we only need to consider the Jisc engineering arrangements described above. One thing we’re having to work around is the closure of Jisc offices where we get a lot of hardware delivered – we’re making good use of some of the storage facilities we’ve got dotted around the country, and engineers are even receiving some orders at their homes.
    • ‘Supply plus installation’ orders are more of an issue. The general principle here is the suppliers holds the equipment until it’s installed on the network, so no storage or logistical issues for us to contend with, just the list of site access constraints detailed above. On that basis most of this type of work is currently on hold.

So a lot of areas of activity to keep track of, and a mesh of dependencies between them to manage, so not an easy thing to try and develop plans against. Most of our efforts at the moment are going into keeping in touch with key suppliers and monitoring the status of their operations, and of course keeping our members and customers informed of how this all affects them. Other than that we just sit and wait (figuratively, not literally) until the landscape changes and restrictions are eased, but hopefully this is all reassuring in that we’re doing all we can to monitor and plan our way out of lockdown.

Neil Shewry, Head of network delivery

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