Overcoming Covid-19 Hurdles: How to respond in a crisis (and maybe even prosper)

DSR leaders have been taking note of what works as we adapt and overcome the challenges we face in the current pandemic. We are fortunate to be in the privileged position that we may still serve our clients during this time and this article suggests best practices for adapting to this environment.

COVID-19 has brought about a new normal. Uncertainty is the reality for much of the globe. Amidst the turbulent market conditions and sometimes hectic actions of countries’ governments, it’s vital for business leaders, fortunate enough to still be in operation, to stay calm and focused on urgent measures: encouraging employees, helping clients overcome difficulties, and doing business as usual, as much as that is possible. DSR Corporation is always ready to share its’ experience in organizing a company’s internal and external activities in the face of uncertain risks and extraordinary challenges.

It’s safe to say that to handle any crisis your company should act in 3 stages:

  1. Response: Assess the situation and take necessary measures.
  2. Recovery: Learn and accommodate the new reality.
  3. Prosperity: Prepare and shape for the “new normal”.

All the three stages should be considered by the company’s management concurrently. The sooner the better. That’s why you should act without any hesitation at the same time plan strategically with the “big picture” in mind.

Today we are going to cover the first stage, Response. It’s crucial to understand that an unpredictable emergency situation stirs a lot of uncertainty in people’s minds. Mass hysteria on social media adds a great deal to it. That’s why resilient leaders should exercise emotional intelligence to show empathy and compassion for employees whose priorities have shifted to concerns about family members health.

The first priority is to ensure the health and safety of your team, followed by their economic stability. The best way to help your customers is to take care of the team.

Transparency is another key element of the “Response” stage. It will help to greatly reduce the level of uncertainty and maintain trust, perhaps even growing trust in the process. This applies not only to your employees, but also to client-relationships.

While transparency could be thought of as a strategic solution, clear, concise, and timely communication is a tactical step to achieve the necessary level of transparency.

Focus on your mission – that’s the overall priority for every business. Despite any temporary hurdles and difficulties, the main goal for a company is to do business as usual and help its’ clients to overcome the challenging situation.

The Response stage can be broken down into 3 steps which will help to guide your team and customers in a time of crisis.

  • Ensure health, safety and economic well-being of your team.
  • Achieve a high level of transparency through concise and timely communication with your employees and clients.
  • Put your mission first. Maintain business continuity.

Now, with the overall strategy is outlined, it’s time to share some practical tips to keep your employees and clients engaged and your business running.

1. Ensuring the Health and Safety of Your Team

During this pandemic, it’s necessary to avoid any contact and maintain
social distance to stop the virus from spreading. Your employees should work
remotely if they can. You can help them to get used to home office with tips to
create working environment and minimize number of distractions.

Forewarned is forearmed. It’s vital to send corporate guidelines on how
to act and practical tips from government and health agencies to help avoid harm.

Ensuring your team is safe:

  • Company-wide messaging regarding best practices and guidelines for staying safe and healthy, as well as company expectations.
  • Location specific messaging based on the recommendations of local authorities
  • Verification that your corporate network is capable of supporting remote work (should your employees be in a safe location)
  • Authorization of remote work for all that can

2. Tips for Effective Remote Work

Remote work can be challenging for anyone. To keep your team engaged, help your employees organize their working environments, and reduce overall anxiety, you can use following tips. They can be broken down into 2 categories: team level and employee level.

Team level:

  • Implement digital social norms, such as a morning greeting in the intranet chat.
  • Use video calls whenever possible to improve team engagement.
  • Increase communications (there is no room for comms. to decrease)
  • Practice social activities remotely, such as  hosting e-lunch, exchanging pics of home office working places, and online team-building exercises.
  • Keep communications with team members timely and concise as much as possible.

Personal level:

  • Arrange your workplace to differentiate it from the rest of your house. You can even use a corporate calendar or branded cap to create a working atmosphere.
  • Create and follow a schedule to separate your work from everyday life.
  • Have weekends. Regardless of whether your weekend is Saturday and Sunday, give yourself some time to decompress.
  • Stick to good habits or develop new ones to unwind and relax.
  • Take care of your body. Eat healthy, exercise on a daily basis, and don’t deprive yourself of fresh air. As long as it is safe, try to spend at least 30 minutes a day outside. Vitamin D does wonders for your mood and supports the immune system.
  • Disconnect from the social media hysteria and the barrage of disturbing news. Although it’s important to stay up to date on latest news and developments, reading too many horror stories about the current situation can cause anxiety and stress.
  • Stay in touch with your family and friends (while following health and safety guidelines of course). Use voice and video calls whenever possible to decrease social isolation.

3. How to Help Clients Overcome the Crisis Turbulence

Just remember that to help customers you should ensure health and safety of your own team first. But some actions are to be taken concurrently. It is of paramount importance to deliver a clear message to your partners and clients that you’re open for business.

Transparency and proactive action are the key elements of maintaining and building trust in case of an emergency situation:

  • Keep it clear that you have prepared to do business as usual (or to what extent you will do business). Send company level messaging to all clients outlining the steps being taken to care for the health of your team and your commitment to maintaining your quality and efficiency of output.
  • Encourage project managers to talk personally with their client counterparts to reinforce commitments and availability.
  • Be proactive. Try to understand the challenges your client is facing (even implicit ones) and suggest working solutions.
  • Be even more diligent and timely in responses to client questions. Make sure they hear from you quickly and frequently.
  • Aim for speed. Prompt actions are required during a crisis, so always keep in mind that a working solution might be better than a perfect one.  

4. Working from Home with Kids

Working from home with kids adds an additional level of complexity and
stress. The struggle is real! Here are a few suggestions of things to do to
help balance it, especially for family where both parents are working full time
and from home.

  • Schedule. Kids do best when they have clear boundaries and schedule. It can be challenging to maintain a strictly followed schedule, so don’t beat yourself up if it slips, but it can help keep the day on track. Here is an example: 
Example Kid's Schedule
  • Screen time. Although too much screen time is bad, there are times that it’s needed to keep the kids occupied while parents finish their work/meetings.

Not all screen time is created equal. Educational screen time is a great example. There are a lot of resources online (many of which are free) that will keep your child of any age engaged for hours, such as https://www.khanacademy.org/. There are likely similar programs available in your language or country.

  • Have breaks together. Take breaks together from work, homework, or educational activities.
  • Exercise and outdoor time. Kids have endless energy and can get cranky and mischievous if they don’t get to expend it in a constructive way. The best option, of course, is to let them play outside (away from other kids in our current crisis), but that can be very challenging. There are things you can do at home. For example, for the little ones there are interactive yoga and exercise videos available free on YouTube. Similar programming can be found for any interest and age. 
  • Balancing work with kids. If both parents are
    working and child care help is not available, depending on the child’s age, you
    may have to try different things. For older kids, it’s a matter of creating the
    schedule together and having check points to provide help and assess progress.

For younger children, it’s a bit more complicated as
they require assistance or have frequent questions. Some of the above resources
can be a good way for younger kids to have independent study/play time.  

Create alternating schedules with your partner – for example, one of you works for 4 hours in the morning while the other watching kid(s) and potentially able to do some work, and then switch in the afternoon. This of course then leaves hours in the evening for both of you to finish work after the kids are in bed. 

5. A Turning Point for any Business

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word “crisis”. One stands
for danger, while the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the
danger — but don’t miss the opportunity.

Clear thinking, transparent communications, timely decision-making, and proactive thinking will be recognized both by your employees and clients. Seize the opportunity to emerge even stronger from a crisis situation and use it as leverage to build trust with your partners and consolidate your team.

Stay safe and prosper!

Orchestrating Application Elasticity

DSR Media and Entertainment

Introduction—

Do you have customers that want your existing applications to run in an elastic environment or be orchestrated (i.e., with Kubernetes)? Are you trying to catch up to a business need to support a subscription or SaaS model? In this blog, we will cover how containerization and application orchestration can be used in porting legacy applications to handle both demands for elastic deployments and pay-as-you-go business models.

Problem—

A common limitation with legacy software is that it often only runs one application instance at a time. There are two issues that arise with this. First, undergoing a very manual process may become necessary if application needs grow or there is a need to run more than one instance at a time. Second, there is more often than not an inability to increase or decrease capacity on a whim. This can incur additional cost that customers are hesitantly willing to pay, if at all. Both issues put your business at a disadvantage in an increasingly competitive market.

Solution—

Application orchestration through containerization can solve these issues entirely. Let’s walk through what exactly container orchestration is and the value it can offer your business.

What is Containerization?

Containerization is the first step and primary method of orchestrating elasticity in this context. By definition, “application containerization is an OS-level virtualization method used to deploy and run distributed applications without launching an entire virtual machine for each app.” Let’s breakdown what this means.

Containers are often explained in the context of virtualization and compared to virtual machines. Virtual machines, like Windows, are guest operating systems that are virtualized to run on top of the underlying hardware. Virtual machines contain not only the guest operating system, but also all of the necessary libraries run to the application, the application code, and generally any customer data.

Similar to virtual machines, containers allow developers to package the application together with libraries and other dependencies. Containers can then run the virtual instance in a controlled environment. However, containers differ from VMs in that they are much more lightweight and use far fewer resources than virtual machines.

Lgacy to Containerized App

Advantages—

Fast Start-Up and Shutdown:

A container sub-system initiates application virtualization on top of the operating system and shares the OS and common libraries with the individual applications within the container’s orchestrator. As a result, the container orchestrator will allow the user to launch individual processes far faster than a virtual machine is capable of since it does not require the operating system to startup and shutdown. In a container situation, as soon as the container’s orchestrator starts, launching applications can occur almost instantly since all other common processes are already running. In a media and entertainment application, for example, a user will have the ability to use another copy of an encoder, file copier, or video player instantaneously. Intuitively this means that a server can host more containers than a virtual machine.

Ability to Set Business Rules:

Another advantage of container orchestration is the ability to set business rules that allow a user to define startup and shutdown for container instances. Applications can then add and destroy capacity as needed, which allows for customers to easily scale up or down based on their needs. It also reduces the need for hardware on the customer’s premise because it can all be done via AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Compute environments. This is highly relevant if moving toward a usage dependent subscription, or SaaS-based revenue model.

Consistent Environment:

Containers allow developers to create predictable environments that are isolated from other applications and include software dependencies needed by the application. This guarantees consistency no matter where the application is deployed, which translates to productivity for developers and IT due to fewer bugs and consistent test environments.

Modularity:

The container application can be split into modules, also known as a microservices approach. This allows each module to be simple and for changes to be made to them without having to rebuild the entire application.

Compute Power:

Finally, containers can provision more computing power based on the need of an individual application. This is made possible by platforms like AWS, Azure, and Google Compute. With compute and storage load being distributed across a wide area, there are no latency, lag, storage backup, IO problems, etc.

Orchestration—

When orchestrating a container, there are three differentiators to look out for: level of abstraction, tooling, and architecture. DSR is orchestrator-agnostic, meaning our team can develop containers on any platform. We thoroughly understand what to look for during this process and can even help you choose the correct platform for your business needs. DSR has the expertise to move from legacy applications to microservices and containers. So, whether you are considering a generic Kubernetes approach or specific containers targeted for AWS, Azure, or Google, DSR can help.

Why DSR?

Containerization is prevalent outside of the media and entertainment industry today and many companies are capable of providing serverless architectures. DSR’s extensive experience in the media and entertainment space makes our teams highly capable of providing the best solution for your needs and sets us apart from the competition. If you have a business need for elastic orchestration, but do not have the technical capability or bandwidth to make that transition, call DSR. We have the expertise right now to provide the solution you need. Let us master your application in cooperation with your team with the goal of wrapping your core application technology into a container. From there you can build your business revenue around this valuable solution.

To learn more about DSR’s media and entertainment software resources, watch this short video: https://youtu.be/BB0TFDlpWtw

Sources—

Revell, Matthew. “Introduction to Container Orchestration: Kubernetes, Docker Swarm and Mesos with Marathon.” Exoscale, Exoscale, 26 June 2016, www.exoscale.com/syslog/container-orchestration/.

Rouse, Margaret. “What Is Application Containerization (App Containerization)? – Definition from WhatIs.com.” SearchITOperations, Sept. 2017, searchitoperations.techtarget.com/definition/application-containerization-app-containerization.

Rubens, Paul. “What Are Containers and Why Do You Need Them?” CIO, CIO, 27 June 2017, www.cio.com/article/2924995/software/what-are-containers-and-why-do-you-need-them.html.

Google Cloud. “What Are Containers and Their Benefits  |  Google Cloud.” Google, Google, cloud.google.com/containers/.