As a digital strategy consultancy, our approach is generally focused on the bigger picture; how companies can improve business processe and enable new technology to empower their employees and further the strategic vision. As a business ourselves, we are 100% based in the cloud and don’t even have a printer in the office.
Given that we are now in a crisis situation, while the coronavirus primarily raises concern about friends, family and employee well-being it also has business owners looking at their continuity planning and working from home will be a priority for many to stay safe.
For the majority of our clients this is in hand, however, I’ve been thinking about organisations who perhaps haven’t started making steps towards the cloud and what options exist to create a tactical digital workplace that will help during these complicated times.
Firstly, what do I mean by tactical? Well, we are looking to solve the immediate problem, there are many steps in digital transformation and a tactical solution must be considered as temporary.We would generally avoid this approach where possible, when the current crisis is over it may be time to reflect and consider a more strategic approach to your digital workplace from the lessons learned.
I’m going to focus on productivity tools, we need to consider the tools that you can use immediately to continue to operate.
Assuming your workforce has the capability to connect to the internet, in the short term, what are the main challenges that we must address?
In my opinion these are:
While there are other considerations dependent on your type of business, if we can keep these going then we can prioritise and keep momentum. Essentially, the activities and behaviors that we would normally carry out in the office.
If I was to pick one tool that would bring all of these activities together then it would have to be Microsoft Teams, there are alternatives (such as Slack) that may also be considered. You may already have Teams if you have E3/E5 licenses, and if not, you can download the free version and start working straight away.
This is the big one, if you have on-premise servers and your staff aren’t able to access remotely, via VPN, then you need to try and provide access without creating a scenario where inboxes become clogged with attached files and you have a lot of versions to manage post apocalypse.
The free version of Teams gives you:
So, from a continuity perspective it would be worth identifying shared drives and folders – prioritizing folders that are currently in use and will be for the next month or so, and creating multiple Teams.
Filesharing alternatives include Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud.
Don’t move everything at the moment, just what you need. Be realistic.
Perhaps one of the most important things to do is to consider how you lay out your teams from a file perspective. You will obviously have business units, and that’s almost a given, but you may also have cross functional projects or BAU activities that could benefit from their own Team in the short-term.
I hate the use of “lift and shift” for files, it generally results in carrying existing problems into a new tool set… in this instance (if you don’t have any time to plan), just do it – but make sure you have a plan in place to revert and restructure before taking the strategic approach. Ifyou skip this important step, you will cause long term pain to your organisation as you will have to merge files back into your server once the work from home requirement has diminished.
In many respects this is aligned to file sharing, from experience, collaborating from within documents and working from the same documents is much more efficient than sharing multiple versions via emails – which become hard to track and may also result in company documents being saved on personal computers and lost at a later date.
You may also want to think about task management, our preference for Team tasks is Microsoft Planner and an alternative to this would be Trello, where you can assign cards to each team member and categorise, or setup as a Kan Ban if you are trying to work in an AGILE manner.
You can connect a Microsoft Team to either application and manage the tasks from directly within the Team, again increasing continuity and providing managers with an overall view of work activities. There are of course an abundance of task management tools, however the goal is to try and keep the information together so that it’s easy to manage.
With Teams you can have internal chats relating to topics, share files and comment on progress directly. You can also have one to one conversation’s with colleagues. I believe Slack and Facebook for Business are two alternatives to this, Skype is a third however is currently being retired and offers fewer productivity benefits.
Video conferencing will need to replace your meetings, many offices will already have a preference however if you are implementing changes quickly this comes out of the box with Teams. Strong alternatives that I use frequently are CSICO, Zoom and Skype. (I guess we can’t forget the good old dog and bone)
These are just a few ideas that I would put in place if I were being forced to act reactively, it’s by no means exhaustive, they are based on how we operate every day, it’s important that businesses remain on track and I’m happy to chat to anybody who might be worried about their own operations.