As the year draws to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on the last 12 months. There is no doubt 2020 will be remembered for COVID-19. However, I can safely say there have been many highlights for the UK Proact team to remember as well. You will hear more about 2020 over the coming days through our Christmas campaign.

A positive start to 2020

At the start of the year, we welcomed Gordon Harvey, Sales Director, and Samantha Ambler, HR Director, to our senior leadership team. From day one, they made a positive impact on our business, and they have adapted brilliantly despite working remotely from their teams for much of the year.

There is no doubt that 2020 has differed from the expectations we all had as we started the year. I think back to our kick-off event at the Royal Armouries in Leeds in January. This event revolves around bringing the whole business together to set out the plans for the coming year and celebrating successes from the previous year.

Central to this event is our people. Our annual kick-off is an opportunity to meet colleagues who you might not typically speak to during your usual working day. It is also a platform to collaborate and share knowledge and learning. Never did I imagine this would be the last time in the whole year that teams would meet in person, nor the impact this must have had on people’s attitudes and motivations inside work.

A new way of working

Flexibility and agility are key, and we at Proact pride ourselves in that. When COVID-19 hit, and we first entered lockdown, we needed to ensure we swiftly responded to the situation – to keep our people safe and to ensure that we continued to deliver seamless and uninterrupted support to our customers.

I am immensely proud of how the business has adapted to the impact of COVID-19. Most importantly, the way our people have continued to deliver high standards of work to support our customers through their own adaptation to the pandemic. The dependency on digital assets has never been greater, and the teams in Proact have worked tirelessly to keep our customers connected and secure throughout the year.

Our engineering teams continued to deliver field support, while our 24×7 operations teams continued to deliver support services. Meanwhile, our Security Operations Centre ensured our customers remained secure throughout the height of the pandemic. Incredibly, all our teams had to adapt to working remotely in the space of about 24 hours, which would have been unthinkable a year ago. The passion, commitment and enthusiasm of these teams has been fantastic to see, and they have all shown themselves to be what we inside Proact affectionally call ‘Proactivists’.

From an employee wellbeing point of view, we took immediate steps to ensure our people were supported. We provided unlimited paid parental leave support for parents who were suddenly faced with balancing work and home-schooling, when schools across the UK closed. We also appointed our first, fully qualified cohort of Mental Health First Aiders. As well, we launched a new digital solution for employee communications and then built a new Wellbeing zone within it. We used that to provide a range of resources to help people ensure their wellbeing, while working remotely through the pandemic, and we ran a series of virtual lunchtime social sessions to ensure we all remained connected. I am also really delighted that we didn’t furlough any of our employees. While we endeavoured to support the Proact family, our Proactivists continued their support of others in the communities in which we operate through fundraising for our local charity partners and by volunteering for the NHS.

At the start of the first lockdown, there was no HR guide on ‘how to work through a pandemic’, so I have been really impressed at how everyone has adapted. We have all had to learn how to balance between ‘working from home’ versus ‘living at work’. I have witnessed, on a daily basis, the attributes and values that are at the heart of our business, and I am proud of all of the Proactivists who make our organisation so special to be a part of.

Successes and milestones in 2020

In 2020, the UK business has enjoyed several key milestones and successes. The first was our 20th anniversary in April which sadly passed during the initial lockdown, limiting how we could celebrate the event. As with many personal anniversaries and birthdays this year, including the fantastic milestone of two of our employees also reaching their 20-year service anniversary in 2020, we agreed to postpone the celebrations to 2021. I look forward to properly celebrating with the team when it’s safe to do so.

Another milestone, we also announced our acquisition of Cetus Solutions – one of the UK’s leading workplace and hybrid cloud solutions specialists. Adding Cetus‘ services and products to our portfolio means we can provide a more complete offering to both existing and new customers. At the start of the engagement with Cetus, I didn’t think it would be possible to conclude an acquisition almost entirely remotely, but credit to the teams on both sides who made it happen. I am very excited to welcome Cetus to the Proact family and look forward to bringing the two organisations together in 2021.

In October, we marked 20 years of our partnership with NetApp. Our relationship with NetApp truly enhances our portfolio, ensuring we provide robust services and solutions to our customers. In addition, our marketing team earned the EMEA Marketing Partner of the year. The relationship will only get stronger as we both continue to grow. 

Lastly, this year we further established ourselves as a partner for the UK healthcare sector. Our team worked with NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) to design, deliver and support them in their cloud-first journey, and build a healthier and more modern data centre. Now NHSBT’s IT resource can support value-driven, business-critical projects which will benefit and improve donors’ experiences.

Looking forward: 2021 and beyond

2020 may have been eventful for some reasons, but, in some respects, it has also been subdued. I have missed the opportunity to spend time with our customers, staff and partners. While I haven’t missed those early morning commutes via trains and planes, I do look forward to being able to collaborate in person with the teams inside and outside of Proact again. It’s been an odd year, but I am grateful every day to be working for an organisation with great people who continue to go the extra mile for our customers, as well as for each other.

There are many things to look forward to in the imminent future. As we begin the holiday season, I look forward to getting together virtually with the Proact and Cetus teams for our Christmas party. I am also looking forward to our annual kick-off in February 2021, which will be somewhat different. While we are working hard to ensure the event is still informative and fun, we are planning for it to be a virtual event. With the news of the vaccine roll-out, I am reminded that soon we will return to some normality, however that may look.

There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t reflect on how lucky we are to work in an industry that is not just stable, but that is growing. It’s through growth that we can continue to offer development opportunities for our people and our customers and through growth that we will, together, enjoy our continued success. 2020 may be remembered for COVID-19 and lockdown, but I will remember it as a year where we brought two growth companies together and looked at the future with optimism and excitement.