‘This crisis will define business continuity as we go forward’

24 Apr 2020

Brendan Kiely, co-founder and managing director of ThinScale Technology. Image: ThinScale

ThinScale’s Brendan Kiely discusses how companies have been forced to overcome their resistance to remote working in recent weeks and how that may shape the future of business.

Like most other business leaders, Brendan Kiely, managing director and co-founder of ThinScale Technology, has experienced some major changes in recent weeks since Covid-19 restrictions were introduced in Ireland.

However, while it has been a challenging time for many, ThinScale has seen a rise in demand as the Dún Laoghaire-based company is focused on rolling out technology for secure remote working.

ThinScale was founded in 2013 to solve the problem of locking down and securing Windows endpoints. It has developed a software product called Secure Remote Worker, which enables companies and individuals to use personal PCs securely.

The business mainly works with business process outsourcing (BPO) companies and contact centres. Before the Covid-19 crisis, these businesses typically had 2,000 to 3,000 employees working from home in decentralised call centres.

Remote working tech

“When we started dealing with many of our clients, they were posting out hardware [to enable remote access], but now they’re able to push software to the individual’s machine,” Kiely told Siliconrepublic.com.

“Those individuals use their own machine to log on to Secure Remote Worker and it completely locks them out of their own space on the machine and allows them to access resources provided by the company. When they log off, they have access to their own machine again.”

Kiely said that the business has been exceptionally busy since the pandemic began, as many BPOs and contact centres began to move their employees to remote working. He added that some of these companies have had to adjust to moving up to 40,000 employees home, all of which have needed remote access to business software and resources.

“When companies have to distribute more than a hundred machines, they’re basically in the hardware distribution business as well as whatever their day-to-day business is,” Kiely said.

“The management of those machines – updating, patching, distributing them over and back when something goes wrong, the insurance costs… It’s very costly to provide someone with a machine to bring home.”

Business continuity

Kiely said that it’s all well and good to provide employees with their own hardware, but when a crisis hits staff may not always have their work laptops with them.

“We don’t want people carting laptops around all the time. We have a solution that enables access to their work from anywhere, as long as it’s cleared by their company, then they can access it anywhere.”

‘It’s not only a remote working experiment … I think this is an inflection point’

He added that every business continuity plan after the Covid-19 pandemic will need to have a remote working element in it.

“Unless you have an operational remote working programme, your business continuity plan won’t be credible as an option. It can be complex to get up and running very quickly,” he said.

“What we found with the BPOs that we were dealing with was that it was a matter of scaling. With our software, it was a matter of scaling to personal machines, rather than a hardware distribution operation.”

Dealing with increased demand

While ThinScale has had plenty of business in recent weeks, was the company prepared to scale Secure Remote Worker so quickly and so suddenly?

“We certainly didn’t see a crisis of this magnitude and of this nature,” Kiely said. “Before this, we saw the opportunity and we worked with customers to build software that would serve as the last piece of the work-at-home jigsaw, that endpoint security piece.”

Kiely added that while he thinks the start-up “had the right product at the right time”, there’s “much more” to a remote working programme than just the endpoint.

“It’s all of the applications and how you present those applications. It’s the people, process and technology, and how those three work together to ensure the whole thing is compliant,” he said.

Many of the obstacles to remote working programmes in the past have been down to fears that employees won’t be productive or that security could be compromised, Kiely added. Now, however, both individuals and companies have been forced to “embrace the change”.

“This crisis will define business continuity as we go forward and the need to have remote and home working solutions in place.”

The future of work

Kiely said there are numerous benefits that people may have experienced in the last few weeks from remote working, despite doing so under very difficult circumstances. This includes an increase in productivity for some, cost savings for both businesses and employees who have cut back on travel expenses, and getting to spend more quality time at home.

When Kiely first answered the phone for this interview, he explained that he had been helping his kids with homework and trying to find ways to keep them entertained while he was busy with work.

“This adds new challenges for both the employer and the employee. It’s not only a remote working experiment, but it’s a home-schooling experiment for a lot of people too,” he said.

“I think this is an inflection point. If you look at our working lives, much of it was defined by the industrial revolution, when the whole ‘x amount of hours per week’ began. For a long time, the opportunity has been there to change that and I think this is the accelerator of that.”

Kiely concluded that this point in time is likely going to change how we work for years to come, now that it has helped businesses overcome the fear and resistance they previously had when it came to remote working and flexibility.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic