A message from Telstra Enterprise Group Executive Michael Ebeid for Telstra’s Australian Enterprise and Government customers on how Telstra is preparing for COVID-19 and the steps we are taking to minimise wherever possible any impacts on them.

Updated 2 April, 2020:

I would like to update you on how we are supporting you to ensure your business is ready and able to adapt to the ever-changing COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation.

COVID-19 is fundamentally changing the way we are all working and interacting. When it comes to minimising the impact on your organisation, the well-being of your people and maintaining their connectivity is paramount to your business continuity plans (BCP).

Over the last few weeks our team has helped a large number of customers move to full remote working, stand up virtual call centres and design full BCP strategies. We’ve documented some advice on innovative suggestions to help your business and I’d encourage you to have a conversation with your Telstra Account Executive if you need any assistance. We’ve also worked with our partners to develop a number of offers to support you through this transition. They include:

  • A special mobile broadband offer to help enable remote access and ensure your teams are at their most productive
  • A free, 6-month trial of Microsoft Teams – which brings together chat, meetings, calling, and Office 365, all-in-one – through Telstra Apps Marketplace
  • Free Virtual Meeting Rooms – which allows organisations to connect staff to each other, their team, partners, and customers, through video and audio conferencing

We are continuously reviewing how the global effects of COVID-19 may impact our operations and the services we provide to you. Like many businesses, COVID-19 is impacting the way some of our global people, partners and suppliers operate. While this is unfortunately outside our control, I would like to assure you, like you, we are focused on business continuity and security and remain committed to minimising any impacts. For example, we have in place arrangements for personnel of some of our impacted partners and suppliers to continue to work remotely and we’re accelerating use of our digital assurance tools.

As the COVID-19 situation has resulted in reduced capacity in our global service centres, we apologise if you experience longer wait times. During this period, Telstra Connect – our online self-service tool – will be the fastest and most reliable way to ensure your issues, requests or queries are addressed. We have been progressively rolling out Telstra Connect to our Telstra Enterprise customers and are now fast tracking the remainder, with all customers expected to be enabled by this Friday, 3 April.

We know you depend on Telstra’s networks and we are closely monitoring and optimising these networks to manage the current surges in demand. CEO Andy Penn also announced last week we will bring forward $500 million in capital expenditure from FY21 into calendar year 2020 to accelerate our network expansion and 5G build.

We remain focused on continuing to supply services to you to the best of our ability. If at any time you have any concerns, including about any of the steps we are taking to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the services we provide to you, please contact your Account Executive.

Despite all the uncertainties and worries, one certainty is the enduring, innovative and collegiate spirit within our government agency and business community as we all work together to continue to provide our services to customers during this period of massive disruption.

I hope you and your families are keeping well.

Originally published March 16, 2020:

We have been actively monitoring and managing risks associated with the COVID-19 outbreak for our people, customers and our business. As we prepare and respond, our number one priority will always be the safety of our employees, and the employees of our suppliers and partners. We also want to ensure that the same health and safety policies apply to Telstra employees who operate at our customers’ premises.

Telstra has a well-established Business Resilience Program to provide effective response and recovery capabilities in the event of any disruption to our business operations. Our operations, workforce and call centres are located across a broad geography and in most cases, our employees can work remotely. Our delivery and network operations are located diversely across the globe and we have the capability to execute contingency and failover arrangements if needed.

In response to COVID-19, we have introduced additional safeguards to reduce the risk of disruption to the services we provide you. To date these include:

  • the activation of our Crisis Management Team, which is meeting daily to adjust our contingency arrangements as needed;
  • moving to work from home arrangements for all office-based non-critical teams;
  • requiring employees who have returned from countries with a high rate of human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 to enter Telstra’s Health Isolation Protocol, which includes self-isolation at home for 14 days;
  • introducing a new policy to provide additional paid leave to employees, including casuals, impacted by the virus; and
  • suspending all non-critical international and domestic business travel.

In countries that have registered a high rate of human to human transmission, we have also:

  • implemented flexible work arrangements where people in non-business-critical roles are working remotely to safely support our operations;
  • introduced team load balancing as an additional contingency measure; and
  • further protected our front-line teams in order delivery and network operations with mandatory temperature checks on-sites at the beginning and end of day and guest visits are suspended.

Many companies are seeing a global impact to supply chains as a result of COVID-19. At this stage, there are only minimal impacts for Telstra, with no impact to our infrastructure build and maintenance programs.

We know many of our customers are reviewing and implementing their own business resilience and continuity plans. We have been talking to our customers about how they may effectively manage potential situations where, like us, employees are required to work from home. This includes service availability, bandwidth usage, network management and service restoration requirements. We’re also advising customers on additional measures they may not previously have considered like security for remote working.

Telstra’s Networks team is continuing to review infrastructure and consider a range of changing demand scenarios, as we work to optimise our network. We expect this unprecedented event and surge in network traffic to have an impact, however, we are confident our fixed services, particularly our Telstra Fibre services, have sufficient capacity to manage, although there may be times when the service is slower than usual. When working from home mobile device users should use their fixed broadband Wi-Fi connection where possible.

If you would like more information or need assistance with business continuity planning our professional and managed services team from Telstra Purple will be able to advise on best practice options to consider, or you can refer to the below tips and Q&A for remote working. We are also working to prioritise and fast track customer requests for increased bandwidths across our networks.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will keep you notified of any material adjustments we make in the way we do business with you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is Telstra helping customers with their BCP planning?

We’re talking to our customers about service availability, bandwidth usage, network management and service restoration requirements. We’re also advising customers on additional measures they may not previously have considered like security.

What is adaptive infrastructure?

Adaptive infrastructure enables the workforce to move outside of the organisation’s physical location at scale and ensures that there is enough connectivity to core systems to support the increased demand for secure remote access. Strategies that underpin a reliable adaptive infrastructure focus on: 

  • enabling staff with appropriate connectivity, tools and training to effectively communicate with each other and customers reliably   
  • how quickly infrastructure can scale up and back down as needs change over time 
  • having resilient network and access systems with an awareness of any critical points that exist 
  • remote connectivity performance across concurrent and overall data usage 
  • seamless authentication and authorisation of a remote workforce  
  • device management practices that enable people to work across their devices   

What should businesses consider when preparing staff to WFH?

A short checklist may include: 

  • Ensuring employees have a safe working environment and correct ergonomics (chair, desk) 
  • Basic tools like laptops, chargers and headsets 
  • Great collaboration software – MS Teams, Yammer 
  • Video conferencing – VMRs, Cisco Jabber, WebEx, Skype for Business 
  • Infrastructure – cloud. If your business operations, information and compute are stored in the cloud then it makes it much easier for employees to work from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Network – Your network must have the ability to support employees remotely. These days business must be able to provide users with the connectivity experience of the corporate network, no matter where they are (mobile or broadband access). IT teams should review how existing infrastructure could manage an increase of traffic from internet-based working to remote working.

What about the security risks?

Moving to remote working can bring up security challenges.

Businesses shouldn’t rely on username and password alone. Your remote working solutions should use multi-factor authentication and be configured correctly using Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s) to create a secure tunnel over a standard internet connection. 

Businesses should also ensure employees can operate across multiple devices outside the office. Mobile device management or endpoint security can be enhanced for example by disabling laptop USB ports or malware protection on tablets and phones.

Employees often have accounts across a number of different service providers. As multiple accounts can make it difficult to contain breaches if an account is compromised, your cloud infrastructures and SaaS solutions need to be integrated into a central source of identity to disable accounts quickly if need be.

Which network connection should employees use at home?

When working from home employees should use their fixed broadband Wi-Fi connection where possible.

If employees don’t have a fixed broadband connection, what’s the best mobile plan to use?

Telstra recommends the Enterprise Mobile Broadband solution, on the Corporate Mobile Plus Local Plan.  

What are the best technology options for communicating with employees during an issue or crisis?

The Whispir platform is a great BCP tool that allows you to quickly communicate with staff via a number of different channels.  The platform is easily accessed via a web interface and comes with pre-built message templates that you can customise. The platform also allows you to manage responses, for example allowing acknowledgement and updating their status. 

What if you haven’t done this before and need help?

If you would like more information or need assistance with business continuity planning our professional and managed services team from Telstra Purple will be able to advise on best practice options to consider. 

How are we dealing with new customer requests to increase bandwidth etc? Will we be able to fulfil these orders?

We have put a team together to help prioritise and fast track customer requests and we expect an increased reliance on Telstra’s Fixed Data and Mobile networks and are planning for additional bandwidth demands.

Can I upgrade my Telstra network quickly if required? 

Telstra Enterprise customers can make some service and network changes such as speed upgrades on selected IP and Internet products via the Your Telstra Tools or Telstra Connect Portal. 

What other network products could I easily spin up?

Telstra Programmable Network also provides customers with opportunities to enjoy secure, flexible and on-demand connectivity to virtual network services around the globe and across Australia with automatic provisioning in minutes. Telstra Programmable Network gives you Network as a Service using a flexible one self-service, software-defined networking (SDN) platform.  

How quickly can Telstra increase capacity on NBN Fibre based services? 

We are in ongoing engagement with NBN Co as part of our day-to-day network capacity management for nbn related services. We regularly adjust our provisioning to adapt to changing customer demand and will continue to do so as the current situation develops. 

How will the network cope when we are all working from home?

Telstra’s Network team is conducting a review of infrastructure to consider a range of scenarios and how we will manage the anticipated increase in demand. We expect this unprecedented event and surge in network traffic to have an impact however we are working to optimise our network and have a well-established business resilience program. We are confident our fixed broadband services, especially Telstra fibre services, have sufficient capacity or can be quickly optimised to manage a significant increase in network traffic, although depending on what eventuates there may be times when the service is slower than usual. When working from home mobile device users should use their fixed broadband Wi-Fi connection where possible.

Will Telstra’s internet network have sufficient capacity to support the anticipated increase in demand? 

We have strong and resilient networks that are designed to manage surges in demand. We have been planning for a range of scenarios and we are confident our networks can be optimised to manage a significant increase in network traffic as a result of people being at home, although depending on what eventuates there may be times when the service is slower than usual. 

What options do I have to change incoming calls to my business? (I’m using a Telstra 13/1300/1800 Inbound Service)

We can quickly change the destination answer point; or you can self-serve using ‘IN-Control’.

What options do I have to change incoming calls to my business (direct to staff)?

If you have a traditional phone system with ISDN or SIP trunks, we recommend that you do not advise all staff to forward their phones to mobile, as this will likely use up all available ISDN/SIP capacity and result in loss of calls.

If you have a Telstra SIP service, Telstra has mobility packs that can be applied to allow for diversion of individual numbers from the cloud.

If you have a Telstra SIP/TIPT and Telstra corporate mobiles, you can self-activate Liberate to receive calls directly from the cloud and make outbound mobile calls on your landline numbers.

How do I ensure employees working from home can make outgoing business calls?

Telstra customers can ensure that your staff can still call from recognisable business number, from their home landline, mobile, or laptop. 

What if I need to play a recorded message to say that the building is closed and to give the caller some alternative contact options?

A cloud-based serviceis available to help with your needs. This is facilitated through a TIPT Auto Attendant (IVR).

What if I have a call centre in a building that becomes physically isolated?

We can help set up a temporary cloud-based call centre, where all calls can be diverted to reach agents at home (via landline, mobile or laptop). This is facilitated through a TIPT Call Centre that allows a replacement queue and agents to be quickly set up.

What if I don’t have enough available agents to answer all calls in real-time (e.g. due to sickness)?

The caller can leave a recorded message, and the audio file can then be sent to you via email (direct to a team distribution email).This feature is ‘voicemail to email’ via the TIPT platform.

What options do I have for Virtual Meetings (audio or video conferencing)?

Telstra’s Virtual Meeting Room (VMR) service is ideal for audio conferencing, with only one number to dial and no complicated PINs or account numbers to enter. It also comes with the Telstra VMR Companion app that you can download via the Play Store or App Store that lets you see who is in the call, mute noisy participants, secure the call to prevent uninvited callers from joining, and more.

Telstra VMR is also video-capable, ideal for those using their laptops and who want to see other participants and shared content.Staff can join calls right on their Chrome browser, without installing additional software.

Are there any solutions for remote contact centres?

Yes, Telstra PureCloud Contact Centre is an effective Omnichannel contact solution for Business Continuity scenarios, as it is site-independent is pre-configured to your contact centre business requirements and is available on-demand. PureCloud uses the Telstra Next IP network and PSTN and Internet. All that your remote workforce needs is their PC, Internet connection to login into the intuitive web interface, a headset or a phone (fixed line or mobile).