Whatever your state of readiness, if you follow these tips you will be able to react quickly to these circumstances and guarantee the seamless business continuity that your customers, colleagues and partners demand.
Security has long been a concern for decision-makers when considering homeworking. But the days of authorising only a select few individuals to remotely access through layers of VPN via manual, time-consuming and restrictive processes should be consigned to the past.
Collaboration technologies such as G Suite operate to world-leading security standards and are used by many of the world’s biggest enterprises to securely perform critical business tasks every day.
Some of these solutions have been developed and continually improved for well over a decade and are functionally rich, to ensure that you can maintain - if not improve - the way your teams collaborate.
If remote working is already part of your culture’s DNA, then it won’t be much of a stretch to quickly phase out any (if at all) time spent in the office.
If not, you will have to consider the lowest-impact, smoothest transition for your teams that will enable them to perform as well as possible.
Consider cloud collaboration tools that are device-agnostic and easy to deploy. Requiring lengthy manual installations of security measures and OS-based applications on individual machines can be extremely time-consuming and inefficient.
By contrast, solutions that can simply run through a browser or an app are far more efficient and easy to roll out, and place much less demand on your colleagues and internal tech teams. If this style of work is new then you should aim to make it less of a burden and the more of an enabler to encourage colleague buy-in.
If you appeal to those colleagues that champion bring-your-own-device culture, they will likely have better equipment at home than is provided by the organisation, and will leap at the chance to use it.
Equally, sales teams equipped with smart phones and tablets can also utilise all core features of a leading collaboration package.
Regardless of your culture, you need to exercise trust for your remote working teams. A major barrier to remote working has always been the concern that colleagues will simply stop working when no longer under observation.
If you provide them with the correct tools and roll out remote working facilities in a smooth way, with easy-to-use technology, then setting realistic goals over the remote working period should be no challenge, and will actively be bought into by your colleagues.
Additionally, cloud collaboration technologies are also better equipped to provide visibility over the things that matter, such as document progress and engagement outcomes.
But don’t expect sensational results across every area of the business - for example, if your teams need to use specialised equipment that can only be operated on-site, there will clearly be some loss of productivity in this area.
However many business functions (especially communication facilities) can be performed as easily - if not more easily - through cloud collaboration solutions than traditional desktop-based software.
As long as expectations are set and well-considered, you should have no problem.
You and your colleagues know better than anyone how each other collaborate, so you should look to focus on maintaining the status quo as much as possible.
For example, if the Monday morning 9 am kick-off session is the cornerstone of weekly success, then you need to look at the right collaboration tools to maintain the tradition. Video solutions such as Hangout enable high-quality conferences to be convened at a moment’s notice, and can even be recorded for future reference and distributed to stakeholders unable to attend.
Equally, excessive meetings that can be resolved in a simple, non-invasive chat group can be better managed and may even become phased out once business-as-usual is resumed.
Any loss in business continuity can be crippling to the modern organisation. Gartner estimates that IT downtime alone can cost businesses $140,000 per hour, $300,000 per hour on average, and as much as $540,000 per hour at the higher end.
If you need to move to remote working, the more quickly and entirely you can manage this the better, as your team will have time to adapt and ensure customers get the best experience. Consider what you need to make remote working successful and any new capabilities required.
If you need to unlock new technologies, such as browser-based video conferencing, organisation-wide and external chat, or document collaboration, then these are already available to be unlocked from the cloud and can be rapidly rolled out to as many licences as you need.
This can be a low-burden exercise with no significant overheads - a few weeks of enforced remote working on a cloud licensed basis need not be a lifetime commitment. What’s more, you can simply scale back once the particular emergency has elapsed.
No matter how effective your remote working setup is, if your customers are still accustomed to calling into the office switchboard as the first port of call, then you need to make sure they are advised of what they should do instead!
Clients will understand emergency changes to business as usual, but they will be less understanding of poor communications that are more disruptive than the incident itself. Proactively contact customers on appropriate channels, such as email, and make sure that all frontline contact touch points, such as your website, give clear instructions.
The same goes for partners - they need to be aware of how best to engage with you even if the tools are different.
We have already covered the importance of colleague buy-in, but keep this in mind throughout the process as an absolute priority. If you’re rolling out new technology, why not use this to the same effect? Broadcast chat messages to teams or set up a series of introductory video calls in people’s calendars. Showing your colleagues how easy it is to collaborate with this new technology is a sure-fire way to guarantee engagement.
The overall best result is to give the impression of seamless continuity for all stakeholders - customers don’t really mind about the back-end configuration, but do expect a smooth front-end experience. Through the right cloud collaboration technologies, this becomes a reality that is attainable today.