The COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant operational changes as businesses adjust to new, often experimental or untested processes. ETC has taken this unprecedented time to interview executives from our member companies who generously agreed to share their experiences, information and ideas about how they are adapting to the crisis. The following is the first in a limited series to be published Tuesdays and Thursdays over the coming weeks. We begin with a conversation with Darcy Antonellis, division president of Amdocs Media and CEO of Vubiquity, an Amdocs Company. Vubiquity delivers premium content to viewers on any screen, device or platform.
With a wide-ranging global customer network, 1,400+ content owners (major studios, indie studios, TV networks and digital first networks) and 800+ video service providers (OTT, mobile, cable, satellite, telco) have selected Vubiquity to deliver entertainment experiences around the world.
Antonellis has a BS in EE from Temple University and an MBA from Fordham University with a concentration in Finance. In 2003 she was made a Fellow of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and holds patents in the areas of digital distribution, imaging and audio processing.
Phil Lelyveld: What are you finding most challenging while you’re adjusting to this new work environment?
Darcy Antonellis: I think what we found most challenging initially, and it certainly has evolved, was moving nearly 1,000 employees around the world to working from home. The team performed incredibly well, adjusting to the transition without impacting our customers. We were most concerned with that execution because, as you are probably hearing from lots of people, this kind of BCP (Business Continuity Planning) scenario wasn’t necessarily planned for. You typically plan for isolated incidents, not a global issue.
The things that concern me now center around the personal well-being of the employees. Avoiding burnout. Everyone tends to work more now. You’re home. You’re connected. You lose track of time. There are no natural stops and starts in the day, therefore everyone’s wellbeing and sustainability for the long haul are my biggest current concerns.
PL: Has there been an impact on the workflows?
DA: Naturally there has been an impact, but we adapted the workflows to the situation. With the exception of a handful of people who still work within the Los Angeles facility because we distribute news and public service channels — which are considered part of an essential service — to cable headends, we’ve been able to change workflows, adjust connectivity, adjust access to systems and so forth so people could continue BAU (Business As Usual) from home. There are definitely differences in workflows, but we are in a BAU situation. I couldn’t be more pleased with our team.
PL: Are you introducing any new tools, or are you just adapting the ones you used before?
DA: Because we’re a hybrid public/private cloud organization, and because we have a pretty robust terrestrial network to access, we bolstered some of the tools. We introduced additional collaboration tools. We use a combination of Zoom and Webex, and to a much lesser extent Skype, for stand-up meetings with the executives and senior leadership teams. When we started out several weeks ago those stand-up meetings were every day for anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. We are now down to four days; Monday thru Thursday.
We utilize a WhatsApp Group so that, globally, if something takes place that requires everyone to jump onboard and do a stand-up meeting during the off days, we can do it. We established the policy that all of the department leaders have to proactively confirm ‘no issues’ through the WhatsApp Group on Fridays and over the weekends. That way we know that everything is business as usual.
A great example of the utility of this is, we had an issue come up yesterday (Thursday), so today we will have a call to go through those particular items. The process has been working really well.
The IT team has introduced some additional tools that have helped with working remotely. Some of the biggest things they’ve had to do are changes in configurations to allow for remote access, especially implementing additional security to accommodate opening up systems.
PL: Do you think there have been any long-term “wins” from this? When things go back to normal has anything positive come out of this that you think you will integrate into your operations?
DA: I do global town halls. We had one last week. I think 80 percent of the employees participated. At the end of it we had a Q&A. That very question came up. This has forced everyone to work differently. It is causing us to rethink physical space. Office space. What is really needed. How people work most effectively. I know that, personally, not having to travel or commute as much has increased my own productivity significantly and also significantly improved my quality of life. I have heard that same thought from a number of employees. They get to spend more time with their kids. With their families.
Our culture as a company, out of respect for our customers, is to show up on site. To be present. We still believe that that is important. But as one of my colleagues in sales who travels regularly said yesterday: “I may think twice now about traveling cross-country for a one-hour meeting.” For both our customers and ourselves, communicating remotely is becoming an accepted practice. I think you will see a fundamental change in that direction. In fact, before COVID the company had already implemented a one day a week “work from home” policy.
Our “lesson learned” is that you can rethink how to craft the work week, location, and how people function to be more agile.
I would also say that the one thing that has really been a benefit out of this is that our communications have improved several-fold. When people are on video conferences they are forced to be present. They are forced to be focused. I think everyone has really enjoyed that. The downside is that you can only take that so far. There is no replacement for the time-to-time physical human connection. We worry about how each individual copes with long-term isolation.
We are going to take the lessons learned and take the positives. From working on-site to working remotely. Increased communications. Customer engagement. And, frankly, we will solicit information from our customers on lessons that they’ve learned so we can engage better with them.
PL: Have you heard anything from your customers regarding this?
DA: Content consumption has gone up and we’ve all been busy. With production being halted, additional focus has been put on library distribution and things like that. Everyone has been focused on establishing successful work-from-home strategies.
PL: Are you finding it easier to reach your team, customers and clients during this?
DA: To some degree, yes. Our schedules are packed but more predictable. Our customers, likewise, are having very packed schedules, but they are more predictable schedules as well. I have noticed that the responsiveness has been faster, especially after everyone migrated into the work-from-home scenario.
PL: Are you using any VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) solutions?
DA: Yes, extensively. That was one of the first things we had to do. Remote desktop for accessing our infrastructure for ingest into encoding and everything else. All of our scheduling systems. All of our planner systems. All of our avails and rights systems. We had to get the Ops teams into virtual mode very quickly.
PL: Is there anything in your operations that can’t be done remotely? That people have to go to the office for?
DA: We can remote our full network operations. Our full NOC operations. For the linear channels we opted not to run them remotely because of the news channels and the public service channels, but we have the ability to do so.
PL: Is there anything I haven’t brought up that you’d like to add?
DA: I am looking forward to everything that is written about this time. Medically. Socially. Technologically. We’ve been very fortunate. The company has performed well. We’ve not done furloughs or laid people off. You can never tell what the future will bring, but we’ve worked very hard to use other means to work around financial stresses without impacting our people directly.
Let’s not forget that globally, at the end of the day, hundreds of thousands of people have died. Families have been impacted forever. Loved ones have been lost. Obvious there has been an impact to the economy, people’s well-being, and jobs, but I start from there.
PL: Thank you for that, and for your time this morning.
DA: It’s good to see you Phil. Stay well.
ABOUT AMDOCS MEDIA
Amdocs Media, the media division of Amdocs (NASDAQ: DOX), offers a modular set of solutions, including content, monetization, analytics and more, to enable our customers to rapidly launch and operate new media services worldwide, while exceeding growing consumer expectations. Leveraging our relationship with 1400+ premium and independent content providers, and 800+ distributors, Amdocs Media distributes millions of digital assets per year, ensuring speed to market with exceptional commercial terms. Our multi-tenant SaaS platform allows service providers to monetize pre-integrated digital partners, covering media, entertainment, gaming and more. Our expertise enables service providers to turn partnerships into revenue at significantly lower integration costs and reduced time-to-value. The platform delivers a frictionless end-user experience, offering a comprehensive subscription management solution and agile identity management to foster user-centric relationships and increase customer retention.