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Sofrecom has been up to the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with Telecom Review, Guillaume Boudin, CEO, Sofrecom, outlines the measures the company has taken to protect its employees and guarantee business continuity at the same time. He emphasizes the role that operators and infrastructures are currently playing and stresses that this role will be amplified once the crisis is over.

How did the coronavirus affect Sofrecom’s business?

Sofrecom’s activity is structured around three main domains: technology and core consulting, network engineering and information systems, and the development and integration of digital solutions.

Like many other consultancy and engineering firms, our activity is impacted by the inability to travel and having to postpone some of our clients’ projects. However, we have been able to keep delivering a large majority of our clients’ projects thanks to our communication technology and digital tools.

Therefore, and for the first time in our history, our 2,000 engineers, consultants and experts completely ensured their assignments were done from home no matter where they live: France, Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Argentina.

We are also proud to say that our clients have strongly appreciated the capacity of Sofrecom to rapidly transition to working from home while successfully delivering the projects we’re engaged in. This shows the possibility to work on agile projects remotely.

However, some of our field projects have been delayed due to lockdown measures introduced by countries, such as the campaigns to measure mobile services’ quality or infrastructure network deployment projects.

What measures did the company take to ensure business continuity while ensuring the safety of employees and customers?

Our priority since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak has been to protect our 2,000 employees with the following measures: working from home and repatriation of the teams on assignments in countries at risk. As for the few people who have to go outside for critical assignments, they have been equipped with protection masks.

Our internal IT team has been mobilized to ensure the general deployment of collaboration tools (audio, web, video) and to improve our internal network connectivity in order to support remote generalized operations, whilst obviously ensuring the best security for our IT infrastructures and applications as cyberattacks have significantly increased in numbers recently.

Our main objective has also been to reassure our teams and to support them to settle-in, in light of this new mode of working remotely while still keeping in touch. We have shared best practices for working from home and based on voluntary reviews from employees, and we continue to organize and combine calls that are interactive and assist with the presentations of projects. Line managers have doubled their efforts to listen, reassure and respond to their teams.

In less than a week, we succeeded to continue operations thanks to our ways of communication and digital tools. Here are some examples of projects that we are still running in spite of the problems related to the outbreak:

  • Our change management teams are actively preparing to open a fiber school in Benin in collaboration with the Digital Agency of the Government of Benin, remotely from France.
  • Our digital government consultants are elaborating the national digital strategy with the Ministry of Telecommunications in the Central African Republic.
  • Our engineers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are pursuing activities to design the FTTH networks.
  • Lastly, our 1,300 engineers and developers in Tunisia and Morocco continue to deliver to our clients in France, Africa and the Middle East, digital solutions and without any quality of service deficiency.

Do you envision any particular changes in the industry once this crisis ends?

Telecom operators have played a crucial role during this crisis. Telecommunications infrastructures and digital tools have enabled companies and governments to pursue their activities remotely. It is interesting to note that three-quarters of employees are working from home for the first time.

Telecommunications infrastructures have also enabled doctors to hold teleconsultations, many students are participating in distance learning, and separated families and friends are keeping in touch.

This crisis will accelerate demand for fiber and mobile broadband. Without high broadband, efficient communication is not possible. The digitalization of uses in all domains will be accelerated: general public uses, B2B, governments, educational, medical, etc.

In countries that authorized it, we observe that geolocation data provided by operators and mobile applications to manage the chains of contacts of contaminated people played a significant role to mitigate the virus spread.

From my point of view, this crisis reaffirms the role of operators as essential actors for the economic development of a country and equally of social inclusion. For the private and the public sector market, telecom infrastructures and connectivity will be considered more than ever as vital infrastructures.

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