FEATURE 

Did you plan for a pandemic? We didn’t!

Be honest – before March, did your disaster recovery plan include the word ‘pandemic’? Papermule’s Mike Hoy admits that theirs didn’t, but like for many others, a mix of prudent choices taken over the years and resourcefulness has seen them cope well since Covid struck.

By Mike Hoy

Did you plan for a pandemic? We didn’t!
"The ability to keep the wheel of productivity rolling with an empty office has been amazing, empowering and transformative."

2020 has been an unprecedented period of disruption on a scale media companies haven’t seen before. As an industry it’s been amazing to see just how well the disaster recovery and remote-working plans kicked in and enabled the rich mix of digital and print content to be published. While some have fared better than others, everyone has suffered in some way and the road to recovery is far from clear, full of new challenges and restrictions; further upheavals inevitable and opportunities there for the taking.

Like other businesses, our continual process of reflection, review and improvement has been working overtime recently looking at not only what has worked for us and our customers but also what hasn’t worked or has become a new weak point.

Thankfully, the mix of ADSL and 4G connectivity has worked, proving sufficiently fast and resilient enough to enable most to work remotely through either web-based or remote-desktop environments. This single factor has fundamentally saved the day for thousands of businesses and profoundly changed the future of the office. Quite simply we’ve proved through necessity we can make it work.

But let’s be honest, how many of us had a DR plan that factored in a global pandemic? A pragmatic approach serves a company well. Simple things often pay dividends – providing staff with laptops from our inception has always meant flexible-working locations and distributed UPS systems for everyone; adopting cloud-based business solutions like Googles G Suite, QuickBooks accounting, Sysaid’s service desk, and monday.com’s project collaboration tools enable our team to be anywhere. Ensuring the products we develop are browser-based and served from the cloud has equally ensured our customers resilience in functioning remotely and importantly as a collaborative team.

A pragmatic approach serves a company well. Simple things often pay dividends.

The Challenges

It’s not, however, been without challenges. Working from home hasn’t suited us all; for some it’s the office that provided that daily social interaction and they’ve been keen to return. For others, the lack of a commute, flexible hours and time with family have been warmly embraced. Short term, we’ve found it easy, longer term we recognise we need to evolve with questions like: ‘how do we evolve and grow a distributed team?’, ‘how will we train new employees?’, ‘how do we kick ideas about?’, ‘How do we ‘sell’ in this new world?’.

Work has, for most, just moved to the kitchen table.

Responsibilities and lines of communication have needed to be clear. It’s all too easy for efforts to be duplicated, knowledge-points to be missed and processes to be made more complicated when they previously relied on ad-hoc office chats and informal allocations of work. Zoom calls helped to some extent, but more formal working practices and using systems that support that seem an obvious way going forward.

Returning to the office hasn’t been a walk in the park either. We’re luckier than most since large affordable rural office space means social distancing is pretty easy but even we can’t have everyone in in a single go, and why would we? Part of our contingency is ensuring we could cope if the worst should happen and covid should strike – we can’t all be off sick! Telephones have been a challenge too – how do we transfer a call to a colleague at home?

And then there’s our offices. There are few services left within our three offices today; almost everything’s in the cloud, but there’s still a couple of critical ties: comms and VPN connections are certainly the biggest, code repositories and our development and testing environments the other.

Telephones have been a challenge too – how do we transfer a call to a colleague at home?

The Future

The ability to keep the wheel of productivity rolling with an empty office has been amazing, empowering and transformative – so successful have the changes been that we doubt we or our customers will ever again return full time to a dedicated office. That in itself changes the playing field on many fronts: comms, tools, process and the working day have yet again bounded forward into new territories.

Given uncertain horizons and a desire to make the office no more than a room with desks, internet access and a decent coffee machine, things obviously need to evolve. Moving our web of comms to the cloud will undoubtedly be a trial but in doing so we’ll be able to close our DR office. Moving to an IP telephony platform and moving R&D’s infrastructure to the cloud will finally make the office a non-critical part of the puzzle and just a place for us to be together.

The office will become a non-critical part of the puzzle and just a place for us to be together.

Our Customers

And finally, and most importantly, there’s our customers. They’ve all been affected and it’s been painful to see the restructuring and redundancies take place. To lose those who we consider close colleagues has saddened us all.

Impressively, outwardly at least, all our customers have managed to continue ‘business as usual’ with ads delivered and deadlines hit. Our web-based media production tools have enabled the majority of our customers to simply ‘work from home’ with little need for anything more than a browser and VPN connection. Work has, for most, just moved to the kitchen table.

It’s inspiring just how resilient and adaptive the industry can be with new digital and print products being launched, subscription-sales climbing and challenging new regional requirements being introduced – there’s a light at the end of this tunnel for those agile enough to adapt and evolve.

There’s a light at the end of this tunnel for those agile enough to adapt and evolve.

...smart tools...

About us

Papermule’s Smart Media Production Tools

Queuing work to teams, knowing who’s done what and when, coupled with automating processes has proven to significantly improve not only productivity but greatly reduce errors and omissions in digital and print media production environments. The smart tools we provide at Papermule enable tasks to be automated and streamlined, responsibilities to be clearly defined, and exceptions manually addressed when it matters most. So, when it’s down to the wire, or staff numbers are reduced, clarity remains and deadlines can still be hit.

Where will your teams be in the coming months? Papermule might just be able to help!

www.papermule.com

+44 (0) 1379 650330

info@papermule.co.uk