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The war for me started in Egypt, on vacation, with my family. But pain, fear for loved ones, and what is happening cannot be expressed in words. We spent a week in a hotel and flew to Germany because we could not return home. Like most refugees, they arrived without warm clothes, without money, and only passports from documents.

When leaving on vacation, no one thinks that he will not return home in the nearest future …

Germany welcomes the Ukrainians very warmly and experiences our grief as their own. However, it is still hard to be in a foreign country, knowing that EVERYTHING is left at home: soul, heart, home life, and parents continue to be in Kharkiv under constant shelling and do not want to go anywhere.

Now we are learning to live in a new way with a huge emptiness inside and faith in only one thing, that everyone will be alive and well, and this terrible dream for all of Ukraine will soon end.

– Katia

 

***

 

The first couple of days, after the outbreak of hostilities, life practically did not change. Except for the sounds of shots coming from behind the district and queues in stores. People tried to buy everything they needed to the maximum.

Considering that recently I worked remotely, the work process proceeded in the usual rhythm. Only the noise in the background became different. The neighbor’s drill was replaced by volleys of hail and artillery

It didn’t last very long… Until they began to get closer and closer to residential areas and aviation appeared. When war comes to your house, you don’t know how to act and where to run. You start looking at options…

We spent one day in the basement. Oppressive atmosphere… Someone is trying to captivate children with games and drawing, someone is endlessly scrolling through news feeds, and someone is running in a panic around the space, only adding to the anxiety. Stress affects everyone differently.

I decided for myself that it was easier to equip a couch in the corridor than endlessly run into the basement. On the 4th day, it was no longer possible to work. Too frequent and close shelling, electricity is constantly cut down, mobile communications are intermittent…

The first week felt like an eternity. After several nights under airstrikes, it was decided to leave for a safer place. Because some have already managed to reach the western regions of Ukraine. At that time, there were no big problems with finding housing.

From Kharkiv, we left towards the Dnipro. The traffic jam at the exit from the city took us 4 hours. In total, on the first day of the journey, we managed to get to the city of Alexandria. After the first quiet night in a week, we moved towards Khmelnytskyi.

It took us about 32 hours to get to Khmelnytskyi, of which 2 hours we spent on a short sleep along the road, in a makeshift parking lot near the motel. The rest of the time we drove and stood in endless traffic jams.

I would like to note the drivers who believed that they needed to get to their destination more than others – bypassing columns of standing cars with children, the disabled, and simply exhausted people in the oncoming lane, some of whom have nowhere to return.

Upon arrival in Khmelnytskyi, many of the housing options waiting for us were already occupied. It was decided not to go further west and find accommodation locally. On the first day, we were miraculously able to find a motel room near the road for 2 nights. The first day we slept off, the second we spent in search of housing in the place or somewhere else. At that time, everything in the city was already occupied, or we were unlucky. Of all the proposed options, the best solution was – a return to Alexandria.

So we did it. The road back took us much less time, and by the evening we were already there. But before settling into the housing that was waiting for us, we had to live for several days in a volunteer apartment.

As a result, after all the moves, which took about a week, I was able to start a normal workflow. Not with the best Internet, not in the conditions that we are all used to, but the workflow is going on.

And seeing that a huge number of businesses across the country are closed, many people are left without means of subsistence, and someone even finds himself in a hopeless situation, having lost everything … You understand that at least a small contribution in the form of paying taxes, or helping individual people who find themselves in a difficult situation, you can somehow help.

Yes, we will not save the economy individually… We will not return home or loved ones to people… But if everyone who now has a small opportunity to help does this, then we will be able to overcome all difficulties.

Now is the time when everyone should do the maximum in their place, to the extent possible. Otherwise, why all these sacrifices?

– Sergey

 

***

 

Our friend lived in Tsyrkuny and was at home at the beginning of the war. Tsyrkuny is a village at the entrance to Kharkiv from the Belgorod side (RF). It was occupied immediately – on February 24th.

Our friend and his family lived in a private house. In the neighborhood, they had a new house, still unfurnished. Doctors settled there a month ago.

Doctors were kicked out of the house on the first day and the orcs (Russian soldiers) settled.

Practically from the first day, they began to bomb Kharkiv and nearby territories every day. My friend tried to enter the territory of Ukraine, but the Russian army did not let them in.

At some point, they could not withstand the bombing and together with their family – wife, son, and 92-year-old father-in-law – went to the Russian border together with the invader’s echelon.

“I had to leave the car, house, and dog to the neighbors. The dog is big, it was simply not possible to take it with me.” – he said.

Now the Tsyrkuny is very destroyed. Although our friend, a former military man who fought in Afghanistan, says that two wars for life are too much. In Ukraine, there were parents, an adult daughter with a child. The second child, who was taken with them, is 13 years old.

Nobody wants to go to Russia, but there is no choice.

We got to know that my friend and his family managed to escape. After interrogations in the Russian Federation, they left Russia for Lithuania and returned to Ukraine.

– Unknown

——————————–

Teams working on a project can use sprints to solve problems and answer essential questions about customer needs. But, the sprint’s quality and success depend on the team’s participation and trust in each other.

Top design sprint facilitators schedule conversations so that participants can come up with their best ideas. In addition, being creative is essential to running a triumphant sprint to build trust and encourage active participation.

If you want to run the best design sprint, here are five best practices to improve your productivity. 

  1. Start with the game. There is nothing like playing a game to warm up your brain. Give an assignment that does not have a clear framework, for example, the task of “drawing a toast”. Someone will draw glasses, and someone will pull bread. Finally, ask one of the participants to tell the story that connects all of these pictures. This approach will turn routine tasks into an exciting game, taking into account the personal interpretations of each participant.
  2. Don’t use hybrid methods. Be clear about whether it will be an office sprint or a remote one. If there are multiple people in the office, they will have the edge over a team that works remotely. So the chances of each group or individual participant will be equal.
  3. Lose the team. Give your team time; let it turn off the camera, think, and present all the ideas. This will help you get more engagement, especially from introverts. Intellectual work is always tedious, so take your time.
  4. Use templates. There is nothing wrong with looking for an idea from someone. Need a foundation to sprint? Please select it from the available libraries. Take an online whiteboard and design it with templates to fit your sprint. This will be a hint and guide for all participants in the process.
  5. Conduct one-to-one meetings before sprints. By talking in advance, you can spur the employee’s creativity. This can be especially helpful if senior leaders cannot participate in the five-day sprint because they have a voice that can then be shared with the rest of the team.

Such systems can be used not only for design sprints. All stages are easily adaptable to any team and allow you to discover the new potential of each employee.

The Story of One Bottle

Once upon a time, there was a bottle. She was sad and lonely because as soon as she was emptied she was thrown under the table where she rolled into a dark corner. The cleaning lady could not find her, so she lay there in the dark. One lonely bottle.

She was very sad there, because she could not fulfill her destiny of being filled once again, but only lay uselessly covered with dust. But, on one of the endless days, someone’s foot accidentally touched her. The bottle was delighted and for good reason. She was found! She was washed, lid removed, and sent to the sorting center. There she saw other bottles, and in the future, she was able to fulfill her destiny by being refilled and becoming a new bottle again.

How the office got into a good habit

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the history of the bottle has taught us a lesson about the importance of recycling by the use of a kind of “sorting station” within the office setting. Originally, our waste removal system could not be called a “sorting station”, as there were only a few containers exclusively for garbage, so this was rather a useful initiative in our office.

The “sorting movement” itself began in our office two years ago. As you know, these things start with some kind of personal pain. One old-timer of sorting Dima, (a team lead of a project not related to ecology), said this: When we go to the forest, to nature, or to the lake, we constantly see garbage, it is depressing and frustrating. Landfills on the outskirts and rubbish left by “outdoor enthusiasts” are destroying the environment and we understand the importance of such initiatives.

The first step was the installation of a plastic collection box, then more were added for tetra packs and glass. In the future a plan to add more containers, but for now these are the solution.

How habits are formed

Understanding the importance of this matter seems obvious, and really, what is so difficult about sorting garbage? But, if we said that it was enough to install the containers and everyone immediately became aware of what to do – we would be lying.

It all started with one of our office colleagues who were concerned about the problem of environmental pollution. Then a couple more people joined, but there were still difficulties in communicating the importance of sorting.

In order to help people understand we implemented a variety of strategies. At first, we made public mailings, made announcements, and pasted stickers. We asked everyone we caught in the kitchen to be conscientious and sort the garbage. Of course, not everyone was immediately convinced by this, but gradually people got used to it and realized that it’s easy and helpful.

What happens to office waste?

Today, more and more companies are trying to implement a sorting system within their offices, because of the realization that environmental problems are becoming more and more real. Furthermore, such initiatives have shown to have a positive effect on teams, work environments and even make an impression on job seekers. Green is good!

Of course, in our reality, sadly more often than not napkins lie in mountains on tables, bottles “hide” under the tables, and the bins are filled with garbage that will never reach the recycling centers. But this does not mean that we are not trying. Before the quarantine, every two weeks our main initiator Dima took out a couple of bags of PET bottles to the sorting base. Now, while we work mainly remotely, there are fewer people in the office, therefore, there is also garbage and Dima still takes care of this issue.

What do we end up with?

While the garbage sorting initiative has taken root, we are still actively encouraging sorting and recycling with every new team member. For people who have unknowingly thrown away garbage most of their lives, it is difficult to rebuild and start washing used containers. Old habits die hard, as they say. But every month the amount of garbage in the bins is shrinking, which means that the initiative has had its intended effect. In general, this can be considered a good sign. In fact, it is especially gratifying when we see someone implement sorting in their daily life and pay attention to this at home.

In general, so far, our efforts are paying off. We will continue to motivate ourselves and others, because if we don’t take care of our planet, who will?

 Imagine: The Development of the World

The world was created in seven days (168 hours), and another thousand years (many hours) for testing and adjustments. 

Developer: Here’s the thing, it was just that the technical task (TT) was unclear, and I had to make a few changes. Yes, according to the plan it was two weeks. Well, they didn’t take several things into account, or they were mistaken, so we had to make some adjustments. We had a difficulty rating of much lower than it actually was (10/10). But it’s not a problem, we can clean it up now, and somewhere in a thousand years it will be ready! 

This story is not uncommon. No, this is not about creating the world as a whole, but about the ability to correctly assess the timing it will take to create it. The same word that exists in almost all modern industries – estimate. If it isn’t already obvious from the word itself – estimating is about calculating the time and man-hours it will take to complete a project.

 

How to estimate deadlines correctly

According to McKinsey’s research, 66% of projects ultimately require more resources, and 17% are completely different once the project is complete. As a result, the amounts of time required for revisions are two to three times higher than those initially stated. The blame could be placed on the teams working on the project, but in reality, the actual estimate of the deadline is to blame.

The cause for such discrepancies are often caused by vague descriptions of technical tasks (TT) and may include reasons like the abstractness of the final product, or unpredictability of volume. Taking into consideration that each project is something unique, it is not necessarily surprising that mistakes are made in the evaluation process.

 

What questions should you ask for an accurate deadline estimate?

Prior to starting the estimate, it is imperative for the developers’ team to gather information through conversations with the customer. It is in this conversation that insights are gleaned about each project. While, to the customer, it may seem that the task is quite obvious, and can easily be carried out without fail, it is at this point that the most inconspicuous mistake lurks, primarily due to a lack of information.

Now stop and think: 

What questions would I ask before making an estimate? Have you thought about it? Write your questions down on a piece of paper so we can compare.

Below are some of the questions that should be asked in order to make an accurate estimate:

  • What are the business goals of your project? An obvious question with which to start, but for some reason, everyone immediately rushes to learn about the product, its benefits, and other, little-needed information. In reality, it depends on the business goal for which the product or service is created. The final product will depend on whether it is to triple your company’s income, increase conversion, etc. As an example, if you are an environmental company with a goal to expand your client base, you could talk about ecology for 3 hours, but in the end, the goal will still be to expand the company’s client base, which is where the focus should remain.
  • What is the purpose of the project?  These points look similar, but if we are talking about a company-wide problem, the specific numbers are important here. To ensure success, the customer will need to share specific details. For example: Our goal is to onboard 100 new clients each month.
  • Is there a “killer feature”? Does your product have a killer feature that makes it unique from others like it. Highlighting this feature is essential, then, and needs to be included in the estimate.
  • What is the value of the project? What about the benefits?  When offering a product or service, value is a multidimensional factor where all the conditions need to be met. While the value is important, it is critical to stress the benefits to your audience. The developer will be able to include these factors in the estimate and narrow the focus for development.
  • How will you get started? Here is where you can get stuck for a long time. It can be tricky to make the decision to ask for support from a development team or order a business analysis service, etc. It is worth considering all the options. Perhaps in this particular situation, it would be more beneficial to cut the scope and invest in the best outside option for launching.
  • Is there an end-to-end solution?  That is, is there a plan to go through the entire product from start to finish? A full-cycle contractor can help with this.
  • Are there technical clarifications from checklists for the sale of specific services? Providing these checklists and technical clarifications will streamline development and help clarify the details involved.
  • How and how often will your company deliver the product or service?  Thanks to regular demonstrations, it is much easier to take into account all the needs that arise along the way and immediately adjust for your tasks.

Now you can start the discovery phase, according to the results of which you should have wireframes and at least a high-level specification or prototypes. Now there is everything for an estimate! 

Only with all the information, can you count on an adequate assessment of your outsourcing partner or developer. It is worth mentioning that most likely, at least 90% at one point or another have not conducted a full assessment. 

As an example, if your contractor is especially self-confident and brags that “yes, I will do everything here in a week and it will be fine,” then you should doubt because a specialist or developer can forget to take into account some features which will ultimately result in additional unplanned money and time. It is this reaction that can help you determine how experienced the person is sitting opposite you.  

For the most part, “pessimists” are already experienced workers. They have more experience with these cases, so they know bottlenecks and take into account more scenarios and pitfalls that will appear during implementation. It is these experienced professionals who have compiled a set of tools (templates) for drawing up a project assessment.

In the next article, we want to tell you what estimates of projects you can get, depending on the accuracy of detail.

Along with the already familiar trends such as microlearning and gamification, experts are actively introducing new products from related areas: social networks, user experience (UX) design, and chatbots.

Chatbots – a trend in learning, which is actively gaining popularity. Chatbots have long been used in marketing, sales, social networks, CRM-systems, but recently began to be used in the field of EdTech. Chatbots have a huge potential in e-learning. They can be used not only to simulate interaction with the instructor or the author of the course but also to create role-playing games within e-learning courses. For example, a dialogue with a patient or customer online store. Chatbots can ask any question and do not feel stupid. It is unnatural to study any subject, only listening to the lecture, and the chatbots successfully solve this issue. You can send a message to the tutor or research supervisor. A live person will answer for a long time, and the robots will answer the questions about learning immediately. In such cases, it is more convenient for people to communicate with the machine than with live people. It is clear that chatbots are a supplement to teachers and should not replace them.

Chatbots help create online communities and networking.  Many people are attracted by the opportunity to make professional acquaintances, enter the community of creative developing people, and perhaps find partners for their projects. For example, students communicate in slack channels where they can share their impressions, ask questions, or ask for feedback on a project. But it is worth remembering that: without a moderator, any communication sooner or later subsides or degenerates.

Any modern company is faced with the training and adaptation of new employees, advanced training of existing personnel, to improve the quality of human resources. Why is it helpful to use a chatbot for corporate employee training?

First of all, to automate the acquisition and assimilation of new knowledge in the format of interactive interaction. Just imagine: every employee of the company can have round-the-clock access to a virtual mentor, request the necessary information right at the workplace, be tested, and consolidate the material studied. Simultaneously, the load on the HR department or the company’s training center is minimal. In fact, after the initial setup and integration, the chatbot for offline training of employees will perform the functions assigned to it.

In the future, not only employees’ knowledge and skills will be assessed, but their work results. This approach will allow you to link learning metrics with business metrics, assess the real learning effect, and not just take courses.

Quite often, we hear the information about gaps in communication between the client and the remote developer: the developer does not respond to messages quickly; the developer does not get in touch in time; the client can’t control the order of task completion, and change task priority; the developer didn’t do the task as the client wanted or the client clarified the changes in Skype, and the developer relied on the description in the email; the developer spent more hours than the client expected and the developer did not warn about it.

To minimize communication gaps, we offer a few essential basic clauses of the “agreement” that can form effective interaction with the customer and remote developer.

  • Determine convenient communication channels with your Remote Worker (RW) (mail, instant messengers, Skype, Zoom, etc.) and the exact time of docking.
  • Form a system for recording the time spent on work, decide on a time-tracking model.
  • Make sure RW has access to the task management system (Jira, Trello, Google sheet, etc.) and follows the basic guidelines for using it.
  • Talk it over all the requirements for the development process: style/coding, test coverage, compatibility, performance, deployment, etc.
  • Determine a schedule for fixing and “delivery” of development results, both intermediate and final.
  • Make sure that RW has access to third-party services, add-ons, special equipment required for operation.
  • Consider the need to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and, if necessary, inform the outsourcing company manager.

Discuss each point and make sure that both sides understand it. Please note that if the development environment has been set up by a contractor, you will have to follow company rules and policies.

We hope these simple guidelines will help you find a great professional! Good luck!

Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality

Are you trying to decide which direction to take your new tech business? The field of educational technology and programs is an excellent choice. After researching this topic, we offer our recommendations here

One Thing is Clear

Our research shows educational products are a very promising option for development, and over time the popularity of such virtual solutions will only grow.

Every year the number of EdTech tools for the education system is increasing, and as a result of the rapid spread of the virus, the market has grown 10-15 times in the last 30 days. This growth is because teachers, educational institutions, and companies that use new technologies gain advantages over their opponents. We have prepared an impressive list of cutting-edge educational technologies that can attract even more consumers to these products. 

In this article, we will begin to consider virtual and augmented reality. In the following parts, we will analyze in detail a complete list of these technologies.

 

Virtual and Augmented Reality Technology 

Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR). Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies are seeking to reach their peak. International Data Corporation estimates that in 2019 the market volume was 16.8 billion dollars, and by 2023 the market volume may reach 160 billion dollars. These forecasts do not take into account the momentary rapid growth of the market. 

Many of these AR/VR developments have been successfully applied to education. Images, sounds, and the immersion effect only accelerate information learning. Business coaches, teachers, and students can learn different disciplines with AR and VR-enabled devices.

 

Virtual Reality in Action

VR videos are gaining popularity, with 360° viewing angles that can be viewed through virtual reality glasses. This immersive learning experience attracts students much more than what they are used to in their day-to-day presentations and lectures.

 

Using VR To Introduce Concepts and Experiences

Many of these virtual ideas have already been implemented in the classroom. For example, an American school for elementary-aged students has created a virtual excursion: a tour of the classrooms and corridors of a middle or high school. This helps school children learn about the new place in advance. This allows students to feel more comfortable with the idea of moving from elementary or middle school to the next level in an immersive, low-stress environment.

 

Travel, Experimenting, and Fighting Crime

Some schools use virtual reality to create an experience. Students ride on roller coasters, walk in an amusement park, drive a car. A school in Ireland has recreated selected historical sites using 3D modeling software.

Students in the Czech Republic already use VR controllers for biological and chemical experiments. For example, they penetrate the human eye and manipulate their parts to understand how they work. In addition, the British University has created a virtual space for criminology students, where they hunt for evidence to solve a crime.

 

Virtual Reality in Business

VR is also ideal for the HR field. It allows large corporations to create their own worlds. Worlds in which you can create complete training scenarios: repair, installation, disassembly. This allows large-scale training of new or inexperienced employees to work with real objects without the objects themselves.

 

Augmented Reality in Action

Augmented Reality Technologies (AR) can design digital information (images, video, text, graphics) on top of device screens and combine virtual objects with the real environment. Augmented Reality can work at the level of visual images and the level of sensations. This technology will actually develop and will find a wider application than VR. AR has not yet reached the peak of its capabilities. 

 

Augmented Reality in the Classroom

As an example of the potential use and technology effectiveness, a series of experiments was conducted in which one group of children was shown visual material with AR during the lessons, and for the second group, the students were shown visual materials using posters and diagrams. 

It was revealed that in the group where augmented reality was used, children’s percentage of information assimilation approached 90%. In addition, the level of discipline increased, and it was possible to keep the attention of about 95% of the audience. The results in the group with two-dimensional examples showed all indicators were half or three times less.

Using AR technologies allows you to create micro-applications with interesting content without restrictions. You can expect to see many quests, immersive shows, and simple educational videos in the future using AR technology. 

 

Augmented Reality in Special Education

AR technologies can also play an important role in educating children with physical, social, or cognitive disabilities. After all, AR technologies can create an opportunity for an inclusive learning environment tailored to everyone’s needs and capabilities. For example, augmented reality gloves that mimic the touch and allow visually impaired learners to hear the teacher and feel the objects they need.

Adding Modern Technologies is no longer just an idea … it’s essential

Modern technologies help to inspire, involve, and motivate students and facilitate the educational process. But the real value of technology is to personalize learning for each learner – creating an adaptive learning environment. Modern online learning systems must listen to the needs of society and quickly implement changes using new technologies to effectively reach the potential of learners and employees and maximize understanding and business benefits.

 

Is it worth launching new educational projects in a new reality and investing in existing ones? How will the online education market change during and after quarantine and pandemic? Such issues began to arise from our customers due to the announcement of quarantine. 

We are interested in developing our customers’ business and do not stand aside. Our marketing and business analysis team conducted their own research (for our clients in the field of education) and formed the top market trends.

Let’s first determine what reality we are in. It can be clearly defined as a situation of uncertainty. In such a socially significant sphere as education (secondary and higher), distance learning will gain more and more popularity. As for online training services for business, and private persons they also will not stand still. Some enterprises, unfortunately, have now suspended or reduced their activities. Others try, if possible, to adapt to remote work. People found themselves in difficult situations, but this is not a reason to panic. Many perceive the current situation as a new opportunity to improve their own professionalism, to obtain a new specialty.

 

Who needs online training? And is society ready to pay for distance education?

  1. Using the latest technology provides teachers and students around the world with amazing new opportunities for online education. And this means that the need for the development of educational projects will grow and require new approaches to their filling and communication between students and teachers.
  2. The main audience of online training services is small and medium enterprises and ordinary people. Most of the private audience are people of medium or high income. They are now working, have savings, and are considering investing in education. Moreover, it is unlikely that anyone is currently planning holidays abroad.
  3. People will look for online training opportunities in order to gain additional skills and become a valuable specialist in their own company, or find another, higher-paying job.
  4. SMEs are now in limited operation mode and are more than ever interested in expanding the knowledge and possible functions of their staff. Companies employees and entire businesses who have switched to remote work are interested in improving their digital literacy, personal effectiveness, and consider online training as an opportunity for pumping personal qualities. This means that in the near future a decline in sales in the online education market is not expected.

It is also worth noting that some types of distance services are seeing increased demand for their products. If you were planning to launch your own educational product, start now. The situation of uncertainty is not a reason to postpone your plans for later.

 

What online services are in demand in the market?

  • Training programs. Modern professions that make it possible to work remotely: IT specialties, designers, online consultants, online sales. People actively master these specialties in order to find remote work or part-time work on freelance.
  • Separately, it is worth noting the training of professions in the field of online education. The industry has a noticeable shortage of personnel and a high demand for technical administrators, methodologists, and producers. Therefore, training services in these areas is a great investment.
  • Internal online training systems for companies. Educational services that allow companies of any level and field of business to quickly integrate new employees into the workflow, adapt to innovations or organize new business processes for current employees.
  • Financial knowledge. Online courses where people are taught to plan the budget and effectively manage the company’s money and personal income in current realities are very important.
  • Online courses on sports and a healthy lifestyle. Of particular interest are personal online training with a trainer or drawing up a personal healthy lifestyle program. In conditions of quarantine and the intensity of modern life, such services will become increasingly relevant. And people are willing to pay for such individual lessons.
  • Upbringing and children’s development. Such courses have always been particularly popular and very relevant during quarantine when parents must figure out what to do with a child locked with them in four walls and forgetting what walks and games with peers are. Entertainment products are also popular – for example, online modeling or painting lessons for children. Online lectures for teenagers using troubling topics.
  • In the field of psychology, there is a high demand for online courses on how to maintain self-control, how to get along in the family, and avoid stressful situations in family isolation (this is an urgent problem while quarantining).
  • Time management and personal effectiveness. Many specialists who switched to remote work were not ready for the features of such work and were looking for courses where they would be taught how to work more efficiently and competently in managing their time. Also, various time tracking services should be included here.

This is just a small list of online educational projects that are relevant now and will gain more and more popularity in the nearest future.

 

What can be done to make your products in high demand?

  • Practice-oriented training. Please clearly communicate the measurable and concrete results that students will receive using your online service.
  • Focus on successful cases. Tell in your communication how the life of your students has changed after training.
  • For vocational training services, consider providing employment assistance. People who are in search of work, consider courses where during training they can take an internship in companies and after graduation receive job offers.
  • Offer short courses (1 to 3 months). Long-term programs are less in demand in a situation where people do not know what tomorrow will bring them.
  • Project training. Your service will attract more attention if students study and develop their own, working project. By the end of the training, students will receive a ready-made project, ready to be launched on the market, or already started during the training process.
  • Offer an inexpensive product or a profitable package. The issue of price in a crisis becomes painful, and people even longer decide to buy expensive educational products.
  • Pack your courses under quarantine. How to be effective at remote work? How to play sports at home without equipment? How to find a new niche for the business? How to optimize resources or costs?
  • Open the asynchronous learning format. Most often, services only practice synchronous learning (when a student listens to a course with a group and the lessons open sequentially, one after the other). Offer people the opportunity to learn asynchronously and access all learning content at once. This will be a very popular service for students who want to quickly learn, for example, a new skill. Asynchronous learning allows students to design their own learning schedules.
  • Consider the option of installment payment for training, offer the sale of training “parts”. Depending on the orientation of your service, this way you can attract more customers who want to study.
  • Try to show why your product is worth the money. A potential audience always has this question. And you’d better answer it than your clients will go to think and find convincing arguments.

Pay your attention. You need to talk to your audience. Talk to them on your educational service website, in reviews, in articles, in advertisements, speak at online conferences (a great opportunity to declare yourself and your product). Remove objections, talk about the opportunities that your products provide at this particular time. In conditions of total uncertainty, there is nothing worse than silence. Provide new products in response to market demands, and then no economic crisis will stop the development of your project.

Despite the rapidly evolving world situation, the calls of doctors and governments to isolate themselves, it turned out that many companies and teams have not switched to remote work. And the point here is not always in company management. An instruction from the management may have passed, but the head of the department does not want to work from home or employees are faced with internal issues between the departments. Let’s try to figure out why? And how to solve this issue?

The company and teams always have ambitious goals and performance and this is not a reason to endanger people. You need to quickly find answers to questions related to the transition to remote work. The example of one project manager, Alex, has shown that all issues can be resolved, but the majority should be considered before. When Alex received a message about switching to remote work, he could not even imagine how many questions and approvals this could cause. What pitfalls are hidden, at first glance, by the seemingly harmless remote work and what Alex faced with:

– The ambiguous reaction of the team employees (I can’t work at home, I don’t want, you have to provide me with everything, etc.)

– How to overcome managers’ resistance?

– How to organize continuous and uninterrupted communication?

– Do all employees work on laptops that can be taken home?

– Does the company have tools allowing the usage of personal devices for corporate purposes?

– Is it possible to organize a remote and secure connection to an office computer network? We wrote about this here.

– How to get secure data access that does not go outside the office?

In an ordinary situation to arrange all these issues, the project manager needs to get around the office not just once: top management, security, system administrators, HR, accounting, etc. Maybe one of the readers sees yourself in this chain? On that occasion, all departments need to organize themselves because everyone will have to work remotely. Remote access to data may be needed not only by the project manager Alex but also by tops and the security service. We must all acknowledge and accept the situation and work in a new reality.

With the right approach and a thorough assessment of the situation, the process can be organized quickly and efficiently. After some thought and with Alex’s help, we created a checklist to simplify the transfer to distance work.

  1. Engage the HR service to form a questionnaire for employees what is needed for full-fledged remote work: devices, software, access to specific data, communication.
  2. Collect information from the heads of all departments or teams.
  3. Make the maximum list of required work resources that employees use. Check whether computers, access to corporate information, communications will work remotely.
  4. Gather all the steps of standard workflow and evaluate at what stage difficulties may arise. No one will do this for you in the current situation. Clearly check everything by yourself.
  5. Try to organize a mini rehearsal: run a normal workweek in an accelerated mode in a few hours.  If you are still in the office, then do it better in the workplace. If you have already switched to remote mode, then such actions will help you quickly find bottlenecks.
  6. Write a short checklist for your department or team: what they need to take from the office for remote work.
  7. As soon as you find gaps in the business process, immediately connect the necessary employees and treat them. Do not hope that everything will work by itself. It is necessary to consistently check each stage: how you will plan the work, how the data will be shared, the exchange of data, how you will report on the work done. After you need to test for possible bottlenecks.
  8. Be prepared now that you will have a budget overrun due to the organization of a remote mode of operation. You need to buy the necessary devices, software, accesses. Ongoing expenses for taxis, etc.
  9. Don’t let out of your sight that you will need to work closely with HR service throughout the whole remote work of the office. Some employees may not be able to withstand and leave, the team will need to be replenished. After stabilization of the situation, it turns out that some employees want to work from home or partly from home and will be asked to change the work schedule. The manager must foresee the likelihood that part of the team will have to be quickly replaced.

And again, we want to encourage all companies and employees to follow the recommendations as much as possible: stay at home and work remotely! If you can share your ideas for effective remote work with us, we look forward to hearing from you. All working issues can be resolved. We wish you all good health.

How to set up remote office work as quickly as possible, efficiently and at the same time safe? How to make people like in an office, but not in the office? We can definitely say there is no single common way. It all depends on a number of factors that must be considered:

– We set the goal of what kind of work employees should perform remotely (read at home). Read mail or have full access to corporate information? We make this decision deliberately, and not in a panic in a matter of minutes. And always leave yourself a reserve of opportunity.

– Consider the company size or the number of employees who need to be transferred to remote work.

– Can we use existing hardware or there is a possibility of equipment and network resources purchase corresponding to the number of people and goals? Don’t overdo it here. There are entire hardware systems, but they are not always in demand in small organizations, due to their focus on servicing large enterprises and, as a result, high cost. Let us stay on this in more detail. 

 

We would recommend choosing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology. It allows you to create a secure connection in a potentially dangerous segment of a public network, such as the Internet and is one of the most common solutions. In simple terms, the VPN on the remote computer or mobile device connects to the VPN gateway of the company’s network, which authenticates and authorizes the user using a key or login and password. As a rule, with the help of both. After successfully completing this procedure, the user gets access to internal network resources (file server, databases, printers, and others) as if he was connected to the local network.

To protect remote access, IPsec or SSL protocols are most commonly used. They are not interchangeable and can function both separately and in parallel, determining the functional features of each of the implemented VPNs. SSL is more focused on providing a secure connection to a single application (for example, SharePoint or email), rather than to the entire internal network. For a full-featured permanent connection to the corporate network, we recommend choosing the IPsec protocol.

 

How to act? And what type of VPN to choose?

– VPN in routers – there are lots of cheap solutions on the market. Almost any router has the functionality of a built-in VPN server. Usually, this is a simple on/off functionality and adding password logins for users, sometimes integration with a Radius server. We do not recommend considering such a solution. First of all, you need to think about your safety and the continuity of the service. Such equipment cannot boast of an appropriate level of protection and the reliability of operation leaves much to be desired.

– OpenVPN – we recommend using this type of VPN only for small companies or projects up to 15 people. Just for such companies, which do not make sense to purchase professional network equipment in view of the absence of a large load. The main advantage of this out of the box solution is that it works on all platforms. You can purchase a device and configure it. Using special software, you can achieve its operability to build an OpenVPN tunnel. The disadvantage is that OpenVPN cannot withstand a serious load. For encryption and transmission of traffic on the server-side is used not specialized equipment, but server resources.

– Microsoft VPN – the Microsoft company offers a free solution for those who have the entire infrastructure built on their basis. In simple cases, the setup does not cause difficulties even for a novice system administrator. It should be borne in mind that in the case of building a more complex system, it will be necessary to delve deeper into the settings, in this case, the cost part will certainly grow in the same way as the complexity of servicing the solution. Nevertheless, this solution is not without advantages. 

– Enterprise-class VPN is high-class network equipment of Juniper, Cisco, Check Point companies: all of them have comprehensive solutions, which also include a VPN service. But it should be borne in mind that this solution has a higher cost. An annual fee is required. If you do not pay annual support fees, then do not count on security updates. The main advantages are that the level of security of the transmitted data is very high. Server security level – protected. Ensuring the reliability of the solution – redundancy technologies are provided.

Which type of VPN connection to choose is your decision. We can only give you our vision and recommendations.

 

Verify VPN Security

Regardless of which type of VPN you choose, to ensure a high level of security, you must perform a mandatory check. The VPN service that listens for incoming connections must correctly verify the credentials provided by the user. It is not enough to simply verify the username and password; to increase reliability, it is necessary to use security certificates. It is also required to use a competent password policy (complexity, storage periods, automatic generation, etc.). These actions together with the certificate will exclude attacks and hacking with password selection.

 

Take into account basic VPN benefits

– Scalability of the system. When adding new employees or opening a new office/branch in the future, there is no special additional cost for communication.

– System flexibility. For a VPN, it doesn’t matter where you access from. An individual employee can send mail from a corporate mailbox or have access to corporate data while working from home. It is also possible to use the so-called mobile offices, where there is no connection to a specific area.

– From the above, it follows that to organize the employee’s workplace is geographically unlimited, which is almost impossible when using a private network.

 

In general, this is all we wanted to share with you. We presented the information rather briefly, but the purpose of the article is to show possible solutions. Since not a single article can be devoted to a specific implementation. We are ready to give more information and disclose issues of interest.

Do not wait any longer and configure secure remote access and be healthy.