Don’t drop the ball: How Rackspace continued business as usual

Kevin M. Jones

A man works from his computer at home.

Editors Note: 

This article was written by Kevin Jones - CEO of  Rackspace, and originally published on Medecision.

As chief executive officer for Rackspace, Kevin Jones is responsible for the company’s global strategy and operations—spanning the U.S. and three other continents where Rackspace maintains offices and data centers. Kevin explains how Rackspace, a managed cloud computing company with 6,500 employees and 145,000 customers, continued operations in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications for healthcare companies moving forward.


This is actually not my first experience with a pandemic, both personally and in business. In 2009, I was living in Singapore, where I was overseeing the Asia, Pacific and Japan business for HP Services. That year the H1NI influenza virus—more commonly known as the swine flu—spread rapidly throughout the region. Unfortunately, I contracted H1NI. Thankfully, it didn’t affect me horribly—it was not the most fun I’ve ever had, but I recovered quickly.

In addition to the health impacts of H1N1, I got to experience first-hand the business impacts to the region. Anytime you flew to Tokyo, Beijing or somewhere in Southeast Asia, you would have to get your temperature taken before going through customs. If you had a fever, the government would quarantine you for up to a week or a month, depending on where you lived and your particular situation.

I never thought I would apply what I learned during the H1N1 pandemic to another global health crisis. But fast-forward 10 years and here we are, experiencing another rapidly spreading virus.

When I heard news of a virus spreading throughout China in December 2019, I immediately started paying attention, knowing the potential effects on our business and our people. I knew we had to act fast and use the lessons I had learned a decade ago.

At Rackspace, we began work-from-home testing in January, particularly in our Asia and Europe offices.  Based on the success of our tests, we were able to move quickly and seamlessly when COVID-19 hit, shifting our employees out of our offices globally and ahead of many state and local government decisions. To our customers, we didn’t miss a beat – we continued to support them with what we call Fanatical Experience™ without interruptions. The teams transitioned brilliantly and didn’t drop any balls.

Currently, we have 99.5% of our workforce working from home—and the remaining 0.5% are essential employees running our data centers, security and service desks.

I knew from past experience it was essential that our leadership team manage this crisis calmly and effectively. In addition to our overall business continuity plans, we quickly put a five-point plan in place to guide our response to the COVID-19 pandemic in a focused, disciplined and thoughtful manner. The framework ensures we stay focused on what matters most, and I think that is important for any organization.

  1. Employee wellness. Our #1 priority is the health, safety and well-being of all of our employees that we call “Rackers.” We recognize this is a difficult and stressful time, so we put in place some special measures, such as creating a “Racker Wellness Day,” an extra day of paid time off devoted to ensuring our employees’ well-being. We also mailed out non-surgical masks to all 6,500 employees and their families.
  2. Customer outreach. It is crucial that each of our customers knows that we were ready to support them during this crisis and beyond. We are working with customers every day to find tailored solutions that can help them save money and move to the Cloud faster—something a lot of companies need right now.
  3. Operational excellence. We have been able to execute on day to day business with the majority of our employees working from home because of our high standards of operational excellence. We owe much of that success to our operations team and our Emergency Response Team who ensured all aspects of our operations continued to run smoothly and uninterrupted as we transitioned to a work from home environment.
  4. Financial stress testing. We constantly monitor the economic and financial impacts to our business to ensure we proactively respond as the economic environment evolves.
  5. Staying in touch. These are unprecedented times, not just in America, but around the world, and we know staying in touch with our employees and customers is critical. Our leadership team conducts regular COVID-19 update calls with all of our people managers, and we have monthly calls with all Rackers to keep everyone updated on the latest developments. These regular updates also help with our customer outreach efforts during this time—we are laser focused on protecting our Rackers and ensuring our customers are supported.

Implications for Healthcare

It is critical for healthcare organizations across every sector—payers, providers, pharma and medical device manufacturers—to have business continuity plans in place. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the entire healthcare industry was trying to be efficient and “do more with less” while dealing with changing reimbursement conditions. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, that need is amplified even more. The pandemic has sent a shockwave through supply chains and businesses—and not just in the healthcare industry.

However, technology is at the forefront of driving innovation. Healthcare organizations must be willing to pivot and use health IT to integrate new data, drive efficiency and create actionable results. Innovation is key to simplifying supply chains, improving interoperability, leveraging data and insights for capacity management, and driving proactive community engagement to avoid progressing complications. With an increase in remote users and SaaS applications, the need for improved security posture is extremely critical for all segments of healthcare and will be at the epicenter of future discussions.

We're here to help.