There’s a frequently cited (and incorrect) quote that the Chinese word for crisis is composed of the characters for “danger” and “opportunity”. While the reality of the translation from Mandarin to English is not quite so neat, the fact remains that organizations that use crises to adapt and adjust their core capabilities have historically outperformed those that stuck with their existing processes and infrastructure.
“Playing it safe now, understandable as it might feel to do so, is often the worst option.” - McKinsey Digital
By now almost every company has adapted to support remote working. This may include document sharing, chat or IM, and video conferencing capabilities – but truly visionary organizations have taken this opportunity to offer new capabilities to their employees.
We believe these forward-thinkers will change the nature of work and customer interaction long after the social distancing, quarantines, and lockdowns have ended. Once consumers have had the opportunity to experience telemedicine, group chats, or remote delivery of groceries or technical projects, there is little doubt that many of them will prefer this new reality to the old. These consumer and client preferences will, in turn, affect the way you run your business. The same consumers are also your employees and colleagues, and they will expect that some aspects of work will need to change as well.
The footprint for a new normal will have been made. Some sectors and companies will experience substantial growth and success, and some will suffer.
How to remain on the winning side of this equation?
First, start by going beyond the minimum. You may have made “office” files available to remote workers using shared network drives or enterprise file-sharing services, but have you made those files easy to search? Is security and auditability for that content as good or better than when you were all working in a single office? How can you ensure that workflow processes and approvals are taking place efficiently and as designed when you are all working in different towns and suburbs rather than across an office?
Today’s information governance and content management systems can ensure that all of these concerns are addressed and that your workers will continue to be productive and effective no matter where they are located. All evidence suggests that restrictions on business and non-essential travel will continue through the year (Facebook announced last month that all meetings for large groups are cancelled until summer 2021, Amazon has told its developers to prepare for working from home through the end of 2020) so your “short-term” accommodations for remote work will need to be beefed up to support medium-term change.
Here is how to get started
Take a moment and think about how your organization will function a year or two from now and expect that things will be very different. For example, Deloitte, McKinsey, and others have stated publicly that they believe remote work will become more common. If so, making information available to those remote workers will provide sales and service teams better data when at a client site. Enabling automated workflow also allows you to examine your metrics and refine and improve your processes. This initiative will pay off whether your staff are in one location or 25 home offices.
You can also consider providing e-signature approval capabilities for your managers, which allows you to offer that service to customers and clients and moves you further away from a paper-based workflow.
Business trends outside the vacuum
The forced adoption of remote working by so many organizations will coincide with several other business trends, all of which will fundamentally alter the way we work throughout the world. For example:
- Environmental concerns with commuting and business travel overlap substantially with health concerns and social distancing. Once people realize they can work effectively over video and other meeting platforms there will be pressure to reduce the impact of daily travel.
- The collapse of WeWork in late 2019 exposed that there was a bubble in office/commercial real estate in many large cities in North America, Europe, and other regions. The ability to have workers continue to work remotely has shown many organizations that they don’t need to have all of their workforce travel to central locations and can eliminate or reduce one of their largest recurring expenses.
- Diversity in the workforce can be enhanced through remote work – people with physical challenges can participate fully without needing to travel; your potential workforce increases by multiple factors when you search nationwide (or worldwide) rather than just in the areas where you have an office.
- Services that were previously very resistant to movement online, like healthcare, higher education, and small-scale retail have been forced to adapt rapidly. Expect this to continue.
“I think the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past, and we will find ways to operate with more distancing over a much longer period of time,” said Jes Staley, the chief executive of Barclays Bank, UK.
So where should you focus your efforts?
It’s a big question and here are our recommendations for strategies you can start applying today.
- Think longer-term
- Focus on security – Convenience must not be a substitute for careful and safe handling of company and customer data. Review your security, audit, and sharing policies; use enterprise class tools that support role-based permissions integrated with your user directory; provide better and safer alternatives to insecure file-sharing sites.
- Embrace automated workflows – Integrate these with your file stores and collaboration platforms. These ensure that existing processes are followed and provide accountability and audit trails when staff are working remotely.
- Expand your information sharing to cover customers and partners – Show them that your organization has the tools and abilities to work efficiently online and that you are not confined to half-measures during the crisis. Explain clearly how you keep their information safe and private and how your new platforms benefit them as well as you.
- Take a hard look at your organization’s core capabilities and operations – Do you need as much office space anymore? What percentage of your staff can work remotely permanently? How can these collaboration tools get better data to customers, sales and service teams, and partners? How can you automate processes and workflows to ensure compliance, efficiency, and traceability? Answers to these questions will benefit your business now and in the future.
Bringing your remote work goals to life
At TEAM, we specialize in content management, collaboration, and business process automation, and we have been guiding customers in these areas for over 20 years.
For an increasing number of organizations trying to make sense of changing business conditions and find new strategies to connect employees and transact with customers, we provide advisory services, design, and best-practice program delivery services.
We have also been a fully distributed and remote-working organization for almost 10 years, so we have learned and adapted through that process. Let us help you navigate the challenges and pitfalls of your digital transformation and come out of this crisis a stronger, better equipped, and more efficient organization.
If you're reinventing your future, or just pausing to consider how to give your people and organisation a few ideas on how to do things more effectively, let us know. We'd love to chat - contact us here.