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EASTHAMPTON — Hogan Technology announced the addition of two new team members.

Kyle Partridge, an experienced IT support technician and Air Force veteran, is working with the IT support team in service and projects. He has a great understanding of the network environment and is very familiar with the company’s tech stack.

Corey Harris is now director of IT. His roles and responsibilities will be to guide Hogan’s growth and nurture its IT team as the company expands its marketplace. He has more than 15 years of experience and is skilled at simply explaining complex solutions.

“The addition of Kyle and Corey further deepens our IT knowledge and capabilities,” said Sean Hogan, company president. “We are excited to be working with them as we scale our business.”

Economic Outlook


In 2020, virtually every business was caught off guard by pandemic restrictions, which forced them to focus primarily on ways to stabilize and survive. For those that are back in operation, 2021 offers a chance to return to strategic growth — with the right tools.

“While businesses are not in control of whether or not there are secondary or terciary waves of infections, they can adopt a technology plan to support their new workplace environment and ensure productivity,” said Sean Hogan, president of Hogan Technology.

While business owners may have been surprised that their employees actually kept working while remote, they also want to ensure the technology employees are using works, too, he noted.

“In 2020, many businesses were using workarounds to solve communication breakdowns, but by now, there’s no reason for lapses in productivity,” he explained. “In fact, there are plenty of technology tools at our fingertips that businesses are utilizing successfully to keep team members engaged, productive, and efficient, regardless of the physical limitations imposed by the pandemic.”

Sean Hogan

Sean Hogan

“For this workplace-interaction strategy to be successful, employees must be backed with technology tools that support key functions.”

Successful small to mid-sized businesses are well aware of the benefits of strategic planning, Hogan noted, and even though the pandemic has posed unforeseen variables, businesses now have enough information to build workplace-interaction strategies that will support revenue growth in 2021. “Although businesses may consider themselves to be lucky to have survived, they need to expand their thinking in terms of setting new goals, instead of being caught in reaction mode once more.”

COVID-19 has forced companies to adapt, he went on, and at this point, every business owner essentially needs three distinct strategic plans for workplace interaction, and the most sophisticated businesses are creating contingency plans for all three potential environments.

The first is a fully remote workplace. Many organizations that were flexible enough to sustain a fully remote workforce have opted to keep everyone remote until further notice. Such a work environment presents its own unique set of challenges, Hogan said, but also new opportunities.

“For this workplace-interaction strategy to be successful, employees must be backed with technology tools that support key functions,” he explained. “For example, employees need to be empowered to remain in constant communication with other team members. Additionally, business owners need to provide them central access to data, with responsible levels of cybersecurity on the network.”

A remote team means more exposure to the network, he added, but it also brings more flexibility than ever before. A full transition to this model means the business won’t be interrupted by further restrictions or lockdowns.

The second model is a hybrid workplace, which majority of businesses believe will be the most likely scenario in 2021. Over the past year, companies have cycled through lockdowns, partial openings, and full reopenings depending on health-risk factors.

If a business owner wants to plan for a hybrid model going forward, he or she must consider ways to secure entrances, exits, and access points with tools like body-temperature scanners or touchless door-access controls. They can also benefit significantly tools like cloud voice with call forwarding, to make transitions seamless when staff migrate from the office to remote-work environments.

“In order for hybrid to work, remote technology needs to be secure and seamless,” Hogan said, “while workers and customers need to feel safe in person.”

The third model is an in-person workplace with social distancing. “For a minority of businesses, all activities are dependent on the physical location remaining open,” he noted. “For these businesses, owners need to consider how to adhere to and accommodate various safety measures to ensure compliance and worker safety.”

Regardless of which workplace environment is chosen, Hogan said, three critical aspects must be addressed to ensure success. The first is that employees need access to cloud voice to keep team members in constant communication and to ensure that office calls are properly routed to cell phones when team members are out of the office. Second, the team needs to be able to collaborate effectively.

Lastly, every workplace environment needs to be kept secure. For in-person strategies, this means secure access points, with tech like body-temperature scanners to ensure illnesses cannot spread. For remote workplaces, this means cybersecurity precautions have to be considered because, generally speaking, home networks pose much higher risks than office environments.

“We are currently meeting with customers, and, depending on what they want to achieve in 2021, we are devising custom technology plans to help them accomplish their strategic goals,” Hogan said. “This is what leaders do — they step up and lead in times of uncertainty. We are using our expertise to provide structure and clarity so that businesses can continue to thrive. Technology just happens to be our particular expertise, but this effort is about honoring our responsibility to the business community at large.”


Doing Their Home Work

While much of the national conversation around COVID-19 has centered around how prepared the government and healthcare sector are to deal with the pandemic, another sector has been asking itself similar preparedness questions.

That would be IT firms, especially those who handle the networks of business clients at a time when companies are sending employees home en masse — not to take time off, but to work remotely.

“We took the initiative on this last week,” said Jon Borges, president of JBit Solutions in Westfield. “Even if we had clients who did not have remote users, we went to all our clients and prepped them ahead of time with instructions: ‘if you do choose this, here’s what you need to do with their home PC, here’s what to do with your work PC.’ We support 600 to 800 desktops, so we have to get ready for this.”

Sean Hogan

Sean Hogan

Sean Hogan, president of Hogan Technology in Easthampton, has been similarly proactive, staying in regular contact with clients as the COVID-19 threat emerged. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended avoiding gatherings of 50 of more people on Sunday — and President Trump topped that by discouraging groups of more than 10 the following day — businesses really got serious about keeping their workers away.

“When they gave that mandate, that changed everything. Companies have to give employees the ability to work remotely,” Hogan said — and he feels good about how his clients are taking on the challenge. “My IT team is cranking. I feel pretty good about it. We feel prepared, no panic at all, and we’re communicating constantly with our clients.”

He explained that cloud-voice and managed-IT clients are already configured to work successfully and securely from any remote location. “I also reached out to my other clients that are still operating in an on-premise platform. There are options for remote connectivity, but they do not have the flexibility of our cloud. The good news is that we can spin up our cloud instances very fast for our clients.”

Most of Hogan’s clients have already been migrated to Microsoft Office 365, which allows them to work seamlessly from home, collaborate, and have built-in videoconferencing, he added. “And we are offering webinars to help our clients embrace working remotely.”

In short, he and Borges, and plenty of others in the Pioneer Valley, are helping businesses of all kinds adjust to a new normal — one that, right now, offers no real timeline for when the old normal will return.

Hogan’s preparations for a week like this didn’t begin recently.

“Maybe we had a premonition,” he joked, “but we started moving clients to the cloud almost 10 years ago when nobody wanted to be in the cloud — when there was this fear factor, fear of the great unknown. But I’ve shifted my entire voice base to the cloud over the past eight years. The beauty is in explaining to clients what they have already. They don’t need to reinvent the wheel. They have the software in place for all their people to work remotely. They just have to remember how to do it.”

That, of course, is where the training, webinars, and other forms of communication come in.

“We were out there early on — we were an early adopter in this industry to promote cloud voice,” he added. “Why invest in equipment you have to be rotating every few years because it becomes obsolete? We’ve been on a quest to have zero obsolescence.”

Borges said many of his firm’s clients already have employees who work at least occasionally from home, so they have access, even if it might not be implemented throughout the whole company.

“Most clients are in networks of 10 users or more, and in those networks, firewalls act as a VPN [virtual private network],” he explained. “As long as they have that, it’s just a matter of how many licenses they need. To be honest, most of our holdup is just talking to clients and making sure what users should have access and make sure they have enough licenses. If we need to make an order, our vendors are getting bombarded, so it’s taking two or three days to come through.”

For smaller companies who don’t have that capability, Borges said, software like LogMeIn or GoToMyPC can be purchased. “Clients don’t need hardware — we will set them up on an app such as that.”

In any case, the most complicated element is training and initial setup. Once users are set up remotely, their home computer interface typically looks exactly like their work PC.

For IT professionals like JBit, clients run the gamut — in his case, encompassing insurance agencies, office settings, construction firms, wholesalers, cannabis dispensaries, and a host of others. In addition to remote access to desktops, Borges is helping clients navigate how to transfer VoIP phone connections to homes, set up meeting apps like RingCentral, and implement a number of other solutions.

“Most medium- to large-sized businesses should have hardware in place,” he added. “It’s a matter of getting licenses, educating staff, and rolling it out.”

The challenges of sending one’s entire workforce home can be both technical and non-technical, Hogan noted. “You have to deal with local wi-fi connections, which aren’t as secure as at work, and then you’ve got kids at home playing Fortnite,” he said, adding that part of this transition is setting expectations for what employees need to accomplish remotely and then establish some accountability, so they don’t get too distracted by the kids.

Remote work poses business-law issues as well, which is why Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. will present a free webinar on Friday, March 20 from noon to 1 p.m. for employers to discuss how coronavirus COVID-19 is impacting the workplace. Registration is required by clicking here.

“COVID-19 is changing the way we live,” said John Gannon, a partner with the firm. “Schools are closing, travel is in flux, and events are being cancelled or postponed. Over the past few weeks, and in particular the last few days, we have received countless questions from employers about how coronavirus is affecting the workforce. Can employers send people home? Can they ask questions related to why employees are out? What about paying people who cannot come to work? Can or should they temporarily modify time off policies? Will there be a legislative measure calling for paid sick leave and/or unemployment expansion for those unemployed?”

The webinar will discuss the legal obligations of employers during a pandemic, as well as practical considerations and common-sense suggestions, and a lengthy Q & A session will follow, giving participants a chance to ask specific questions.

There’s no doubt that countless employers across the U.S. are asking those questions today, from mom-and-pop shops to the region’s largest employers, including MassMutual, which asked all employees who have the ability to work remotely to begin so earlier this week.

“We had already previously canceled non-essential domestic and international business travel and large-scale events, proactively tested our work from home capabilities, restricted non-essential guests at our facilities, and enhanced our cleaning protocols at our office, all of which continue,” Laura Crisco, head of Media Relations and Strategic Communications, told BusinessWest. “This is our latest effort to reduce the potential spread of this virus; protect the health of our employees, their families, and our community; and assure the continuity of our business operations.”

So, yes, the call to stay home affects the vast majority of industry sectors and companies of every size. Which is why Hogan and others in the IT world are so busy right now — even as much of his own staff is currently working remotely as well.

“My industry has changed so much,” he said. “But we understand the urgency; we understand the mission-critical applications that people need 24/7/365. We know how to prioritize clients — we run our call center like a medical triage — and we’re getting things done.”