These are unprecedented times for most industries in Alberta, including the IT industry. We do not hear a lot about the challenges faced by businesses that offer IT services in the wake of self-isolation and the transition to working from home. In this piece, we will discover what a local Calgary company, SysGen Solutions Group, is doing to tackle the ‘new norm’ in their daily work routine, the physical and mental support provided for their employees and their support in our community. This article will also discuss the concerns with security risks.
Since the beginning of March 2020, Statistics Canada, as part of their Canadian Perspective Survey Series reported a 29% increase in people working from home. Following that increase, we have seen a major increase in online activity, with the majority of that traffic being directed to software applications that support our work from home communication and productivity. As seen below, TrustRadius reports data on the rising software categories from the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak to April 6th.
(Data sourced from TrustRadius on top rising software categories, April 2020)
With this rise, how does a local Alberta IT company tackle this new challenge and play its part in supporting its customers, employees and their community during the COVID-19 pandemic?
SysGen Solutions Group was founded in 1995 and is a major player in IT consulting firms across Western Canada. Over their 25 years, SysGen has been the recipient of several national and international awards, including Canada’s Top Small & Medium Employer (2017 to 2019), Alberta’s Top Employer (2017 to 2018), Profit 500 (2013 to 2017), CRN’s Top Managed Service Providers 500 (2017 to 2019), Top 100 Solution Provider in Canada from CDN (2016 to 2017), Ingram Micro Microsoft 365 Partner of the Year (2019) amongst several other accolades. Awards such as these show a true passion for their employees and their ability to drive their industry into the future.
The president of SysGen, Ryan Richardet found himself at a crossroads before his growth at the company. Working on a MSC in cardiovascular science at the University of Calgary and being accepted into USC Medical School, he chose to rethink his passion. Ryan decided that building a great company through people was what he wanted to do; thus he continued working in business development for SysGen just under 10 years ago. Through multiple roles in the company, he was promoted by SysGen CEO Lyle Richardet from vice president to president in December of 2018.
“…the more you get better at it, the more you understand. You get excited to see other people achieve success. It’s pretty amazing” – Ryan Richardet, SysGen President
SysGen’s business model involves an array of IT services, including cybersecurity, a service that has skyrocketed in necessity during COVID-19. Like other organizations, SysGen has introduced a Work from Home (WFH) policy due to COVID-19. Traditionally, the local management team leads employees based on their office culture. Customer solutions are collaborated on as a team at SysGen and client offices. But these norms have been uprooted since COVID-19.
How has communication between you and your team been since WFH?
Ryan mentions that SysGen has implemented strong communication between all members of his team since directing the entire staff to WFH. He is happy to say that his team has greatly accepted communicating through video conferencing and messaging apps.
“…there are two sides. It’s the employee and employer relationship. I can’t even really see it that way. I’m here with everybody in the trenches and we’re all working as a team”
Virtual town halls have been useful to facilitate weekly communication to ensure employees are aware of updates at SysGen. They have been using the chat conferencing tool Microsoft Teams to ensure collaboration continues between staff and that SysGen stays true to its mission to deliver an amazing customer experience. Ryan sees it as a transformational business platform that provides many tools for people to communicate and collaborate effectively.
“I see the whole team digging in and trying to go the extra mile to make a difference right now. I’m super proud of that. I can’t be more excited about the relationship between all of us during this time.”
SysGen has proactively supported the community for several years through SysGen Cares. This support has included offering free IT support to non-profits such as cSPACE and Downtown Vernon. Nominations were received from the community and the selected non-profit was chosen based on its application. SysGen has also worked with local sports teams to sponsor jerseys and has donated funds for trout restocking efforts with the Alberta Conservation Association. Alpine Canada is another organization SysGen works with through SyGen Cares to support their IT services and initiatives.
Recently, SysGen introduced a new initiative to help non-profits that have been hit hardest by COVID-19. This program offers a donation of up to $1,000 to a non-profit chosen by an organization that signs with SysGen for managed services. You can learn more about this initiative here.
What recommendations would you offer for those concerned about their cybersecurity during this time?
There have been recent reports of cybersecurity issues that align with the rise in online activity. Some may be aware that the popular web conferencing tool “Zoom” has been banned from educational institutions and large companies across the world due to security issues. There are also numerous other considerations about how to keep our privacy and security intact while almost a third of the population works from home.
“…we have a managed security platform to help clients establish secure technology
environments. But there are little things you can personally do right now…”
Some of the recommendations from Ryan and his team consist of conducting good internet hygiene. This can be learned through infographics and webinars offered by industry experts. SysGen will be offering a cybersecurity webinar in the coming weeks on this topic. Following that, make sure that you close programs when you’re finished using them and implement strong passwords across user accounts.
One concern is that a webcam can be accessed through viruses or malware downloaded from an unknown source. It may be a scary thought to have after spending weeks on your laptop, however, Ryan offers a simple tip: Cover your webcam when you’re not using it for video calling. You can even do this with a piece of tape. To learn more, visit SysGen’s blog for additional information on technology and IT services.
Hopes for the future?
Typically, Ryan and other team members would travel for client meetings. Now that he’s working from home, he does not miss traffic lights and congested roads. He’s looking forward to the social aspects of his position, including meetings and events with colleagues and customers. In the meantime, Ryan virtually connects with his team and clients, sometimes in a more informal way to catch up or share a funny meme. Keeping the social part of the work environment alive has a positive effect on team morale, which is important with the uncertainty in the world today.
In celebration of SysGen’s 25-year milestone, they are planning a virtual party with various events through a virtual town hall. This is where the real creative thinking begins. Ryan mentions:
“…the celebration is going to be virtual so we will have to experiment with whether it could ever replace an in-person party. We’re going to make it fun and engaging, so we’ll find out!”
If you would like to learn more about this local Alberta company, SysGen Solutions Group, visit their website or social media. Here you will find information on how to increase your internet hygiene and improve your work from home experience because it’s likely here to stay.
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Prairie premiers, governors urge Canada, U.S. to keep border crossings open longer
Washington – Canada’s Prairie premiers and two U.S. governors want their respective countries to restore pre-pandemic operating hours at entry points along their shared land border.
The group of provincial and state leaders have written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden to argue that curtailed hours at border crossings are hurting the economy.
The letter is signed by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, as well as Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.
It says travellers and businesses are being forced to go out of their way to find entry points with longer hours, driving up fuel and labour costs.
The leaders say that’s also hurting smaller border communities along the Canada-U.S. border that depend on international traffic for their economic livelihoods.
The letter does not mention that the U.S. still requires visiting foreign nationals to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a requirement Canada lifted over the weekend.
“Residents and businesses on both sides of the border have expressed concern that the reduced hours of operation will become permanent,” the letter reads.
It also argues that the supply chain problems that have persisted since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020 will only linger so long as cross-border trade and travel remains curtailed by limited hours at border crossings.
“Resuming pre-pandemic operating hours will ensure the efficient and steady flow of people and goods, which will only improve trade activity and reduce inflationary pressure on both sides of the border.”
A notice on the Canada Border Services Agency website warns of limited operating hours at nearly 40 land ports of entry, mostly in the Prairie provinces, along with Quebec, New Brunswick and B.C.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2022.
What if Musk loses the Twitter case but defies the court?
Twitter wants a Delaware court to order Elon Musk to buy the social media service for $44 billion, as he promised back in April. But what if a judge makes that ruling and Musk balks?
The Tesla billionaire’s reputation for dismissing government pronouncements has some worried that he might flout an unfavorable ruling of the Delaware Court of Chancery, known for its handling of high-profile business disputes.
Musk hopes to win the case that’s headed for an October trial. He’s scheduled to be deposed by Twitter attorneys starting Thursday.
But the consequences of him losing badly — either by an order of “specific performance” that forces him to complete the deal, or by walking away from Twitter but still coughing up a billion dollars or more for breach of contract — has raised concerns about how the Delaware court would enforce its final ruling.
“The problem with specific performance, especially with Elon Musk, is that it’s unclear whether the order of the court would be obeyed,” retired Delaware Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Berger told CNBC in July. “And the courts in Delaware — courts all over — are very concerned about issuing a decision or issuing an order that then is ignored, flouted.”
Berger, who was also a vice chancellor of the Chancery Court in the 1980s and 1990s, stood by those concerns in an interview with The Associated Press but said she doubted the Delaware institution would go so far as to make him complete the deal.
“The court can impose sanctions and the court can kind of coerce Musk into taking over the company,” she said. “But why would the court do that when what really is at stake is money?”
Berger said she expects Twitter to prevail, but said a less tumultuous remedy for the company and its shareholders would make Musk pay monetary damages. “The court doesn’t want to be in a position to step in and essentially run this company,” she said.
Musk and his lawyers didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Other legal observers say such defiance is almost impossible to imagine, even from a famously combative personality such as Musk. He acknowledged he might lose in August in explaining why he suddenly sold nearly $7 billion worth of Tesla shares.
“I take him at his word,” said Ann Lipton, an associate law professor at Tulane University. “He wants to win. Maybe he’s got his own judgment as to what the odds are. But he’s also being sort of practical about this. He’s getting some cash ready so he doesn’t have to dump his Tesla shares if it turns out he is ordered to buy the company.”
A ruling of specific performance could force Musk to pay up his $33.5 billion personal stake in the deal; the price increases to $44 billion with promised financing from backers such as Morgan Stanley.
The Delaware court has powers to enforce its orders, and could appoint a receivership to seize some of Musk’s assets, namely Tesla stock, if he doesn’t comply, according to Tom Lin, a law professor at Temple University.
The court has made such moves before, such as in 2013 when it held Chinese company ZTS Digital Networks in contempt and appointed a receiver with power to seize its assets. But after coercive sanctions didn’t work, the receiver asked the court five years later to issue bench warrants calling for the arrest of two senior executives the next time they visited the U.S.
Speculation that Musk could be threatened with jail time for failing to comply with a ruling is unrealistic, said Berger. “At least, not for the Court of Chancery,” said the former judge. “That’s not the way the court operates.”
But more important, Lin said Musk’s legal advisers will strongly urge him to comply with the rulings of a court that routinely takes cases involving Tesla and other firms incorporated in the state of Delaware.
“If you are an executive at a major American corporation incorporated in Delaware, it’s very hard for you to do business and defy the chancery court’s orders,” Lin said.
Concerns about Musk’s compliance derive from his past behavior dealing with various arms of the government. In a long-running dispute with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, he was accused of defying a securities fraud settlement that required that his tweets be approved by a Tesla attorney before being published. He publicly feuded with California officials over whether Tesla’s electric car factory should remain shut down during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He’s also taken a combative approach in Delaware Chancery Court, calling an opposing attorney a “bad human being” while defending Tesla’s 2016 acquisition of SolarCity against a lawsuit that blamed Musk for a deal rife with conflicts of interest and broken promises. He and his lawyers have other Delaware cases still pending, including one involving his compensation package at Tesla.
“I think we’ve got a whole lot of players who, as loose a cannon as Elon Musk is, rely on the goodwill of the Delaware courts on an ongoing basis for their businesses,” Lipton said.
Musk’s argument for winning his latest Delaware case largely rests on his allegation that Twitter misrepresented how it measures the magnitude of “spam bot” accounts that are useless to advertisers. But most legal experts believe he faces an uphill battle in convincing Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick, the court’s head judge who is presiding over the case, that something changed since the April merger agreement that justifies terminating the deal.
The trial begins Oct. 17 and whichever side loses can appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court, which is expected to act swiftly. Musk and Twitter could also settle the case before, during or after the trial, lawyers said.
Delaware’s courts are well-respected in the business world and any move to flout them would be “shocking and unexpected,” said Paul Regan, associate professor of Widener University’s Delaware Law School who has practiced in Delaware courts since the 1980s. “If there was some kind of crisis like that, I think the reputational harm would be all on Musk, not the court.”
Matt O’brien, The Associated Press
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