How Dell is leveraging data to reopen its offices

At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the middle of March 2020, Dell Technologies shifted 90% of its workforce to a remote work environment.

The move was completed in just one weekend, underscoring the strong infrastructure and telecommuting policies that the technology giant had put in place prior to the pandemic.

Now that the situation is stabilising in some countries, Dell, like many other businesses, is looking to reopen it offices – and in a safe manner backed by data.

“The core guiding principle underpinning all our decisions for the company is to prioritise the health and safety of our team members, customers and communities,” said John Scimone, senior vice-president and chief security officer at Dell Technologies.

“We needed to implement a globally scalable system to give us that consistency, and to leverage the advances in data science and make sure we’re making the best decisions on a daily basis,” he added.

One of the tools that Scimone’s team created was the Inverse Risk Matrix, a real-time dashboard to help Dell executives make sense of the multitude of data about the Covid-19 coronavirus and safely guide employees’ return to the workplace.

The tool was built by Dell’s brightest data scientists and is being updated daily with data on over 15 different key variables deemed by medical professionals as the most relevant in making health risk judgments, said Scimone. The data sources include Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

Besides computing an overall risk score across 188 countries where Dell operates, Scimone said the tool also uses linear regression analysis to monitor trends and is increasingly being enhanced with predictive capabilities to gain deeper insights that will guide decision-making. 

“This enables our joint team, with representation from HR, sales, government affairs, security and every part of the company, to look at the same data using the same tool, backed by hard data science and medical intelligence,” Scimone said. “This ensures our decisions are consistent, data-driven and informed.”

Scimone said the tool and its data model have also been shared with Dell’s partners and customers that are driving efforts to protect the health and safety of their own employees.

But even as Dell Technologies starts to reopen its offices, it will continue to provide employees with workplace flexibility.

“I don’t think every company can hit the 90% remote work environment like we have,” said Amit Midha, president for Asia-Pacific and Japan at Dell Technologies, stressing the importance of having a connected workplace policy and infrastructure that offer workers a choice of where they would like to work, if their job scope permits.

Scimone said as more employees see the benefits of a flexible workstyle, they may have a different set of expectations and comfort level with using technology and working in different work settings. “We’re examining things like being able to schedule different work environments depending on your meeting schedule on a given day.”

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