As the world is struggling to absorb the news about the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19. We have lost our loved ones to this pandemic and have others who are gravely ill. The rest of us are quarantined or asked for self-isolate for weeks. As the World comes to terms with this disease, it has been labeled as a global pandemic. Leaving all of us trying to figure out what actions to take to protect ourselves, families and businesses.
Crisis management plans to protect us from this pandemic have not been successful. Post Second World War, the planet has seen 4 pandemics which has claimed north of ~50 million lives globally. Yet we have relied on fragile systems to manage our critical structures, as these systems fail the projections of the impact of the present-day pandemic will fall short of the true economic, social and geopolitical consequences.
Internet outages. During these times the availability of essential services takes precedence over anything else. YouTube and Netflix have degraded video quality to avoid user traffic throttling the internet. A good move, but is this just the tip of the iceberg?
We are all aware of the domino effect. Ever heard of the for want of a nail proverb?
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the rider was lost. For want of a rider, the message was lost. For want of a message, the battle was lost. For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
The current crisis is causing the whole industry to feel the same pain. In a time of crisis, response time and operating efficiency are most critical, the systems we rely on haven’t been able to live up to demand. The existence of so many fragile systems that work well when everything is consistent and predictable but is thrown into a rabbit hole of delays and failures when the unexpected occurs.
We rely on large systems that have decayed, incrementally improved over a period of time, but never adequately stitched back together. Errors in the systems have led to cascading failures as both assumptions and outlook the models relied upon were proved to be false. Shortage of medical supplies – masks, ventilator systems, etc are not reaching those most in need, not because they don’t exist, but decision-makers don’t have the accurate view of the demand that has relied on a system which was automated for so long.
First, create transparency, across the array of systems. Government agencies and Corporations need a common platform that provides transparency into the state of ground realities. We need to understand the shifting intersections of physical and economic resources that occur during a rapidly changing environment. Sharing valid information becomes crucial in such situations. For e.g. Virology reports of Patient Zero, tracking the lineage of the second and third wave of suspected patients and broadcasting that information to agencies across the globe on time, might have prevented COVID-19 from becoming a pandemic.
Second, take back control of complex systems. As daunting as it may sound but it is also working across governments and corporations that are getting ahead of this pandemic. Review that list of most critical and scare resources. Ask, who is allocating that resource where and why? If the response is based on an outdated plan or model or plain simply “no one”, you must roll up your sleeves, seek information to create a common operating picture and take control of the decisions around these assets.
It’s inevitable that we use the technology available to us in a smarter manner. Ensure that existing technology is aimed in the right direction and investing in cross-functional system visibility will provide us a much stronger foundation on which to make critical decisions now and improve the resilience of our future infrastructure.
Writer: Hemin Sebastian
Technology Strategist (Data/ Analytics and Infrastructure) and Customer Success