Technology + the Virtual Office
Most business continuity plans for technology will look at various scenarios: What happens if a particular service goes down? What happens if we lose internet? What happens if our office burns down?
However, the situation we find ourselves in currently has challenged us to think in a slightly different way: What happens if all technology services are online and functioning as usual but WE are unable to access our office?
On top of this, what happens now if our internet goes down and we cannot access the office to resolve the issue? In that scenario we would lose access to resources and services hosted within our office that are key to enabling our people to fulfil their responsibilities.
In response to this extraordinary situation, Technology Director Ben Turner shares the 5 keys areas of your technology stack which you should be thinking about to help minimise disruption, regain efficiency and promote collaboration in isolation.
- Minimise the business’s reliance of on-premises servers
If you haven't already thought about cloud-based services, now might be the time to move important services over. The less reliant you are on on-premises functions, the easier you will find the transition to remote working. Consider moving emails to platforms such as Microsoft 365 or G Suite. On top of this you can look at where your data is stored. We’ve just moved all our data to box.com but there are a multitude of alternatives such as One Drive and Google Drive. What’s right for one business might not be right for all.
- Adopt a video conferencing solution
Your usual boardroom meetings, and even just popping in on a work mate for a catch-up, are no longer possible but there are other ways to achieve valuable face time with your friends and colleagues. Video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Starleaf and Zoho are a great place to start. It’s worth considering how tech savvy your workforce are and how challenging training might be with everybody already in isolation. Choose your solution based not just on what’s best in class but also what is going to be easiest for your employees to adopt with next to no training. A user intuitive VC provider is key.
- Introduce a collaboration and communication solution
There are a variety of platforms available that will enhance communication when working remotely. Microsoft Teams. Facebook Workplace and Slack offer easy, intuitive ways to communicate privately or as a group, with the additional ability to set up channels for particular teams or projects to make sure all relevant parties are kept in the loop. Platforms like Savvy are an equally great way to broadcast internal comms, interact with the people in your business, share news, polls and gather feedback. It has the bonus of a white-label offering meaning it can be branded to your business to feel more bespoke and familiar to your employees.
- Update your on-premises phone system
Many companies use a PBX system which is reliant on hardware within your office. If that goes down, you will be unable to use or fix your telephone system without access. Moving to a cloud-based VOIP system means you can access it from anywhere. You can immediately forward numbers to people’s mobiles or to an answering service for complete continuity. Many systems come with a mobile app so specific functions, such as a telesales team, can just log on to the app at the start of each business day and continue with their day job as though they are at their desks at HQ.
- Transition from desktops to laptops
The final question is ‘when is the right time to move all staff over from desktops to laptops?’. It is abundantly clear that the switch from office-based to home working has been much easier for those who already had laptops. In our business, we’ve been phasing out desktops as they’ve reached renewal. Of our 220 people we had only 14 staff members still using a desktop - we were able to immediately replace 10 of those and had to courier the four remaining desktop computers to their users. Our hardware supplier has seen a 42% increase in laptop sales since the government announced that we should all be staying home. As laptops can be more expensive, my suggestion would be to phase them in as and when you can and move away from desktops entirely unless they are critical to a specific job function.
It’s worth noting that a lot of people get caught up in one company eco system for all services, thinking it’s easier to adopt a whole Microsoft system for example than to explore a multi-brand solution. My advice would be to forget brand loyalty and be loyal instead to finding the right solution for your problem. You might end up with several software solutions but they might work better for you and your business than opting for a consistent provider. It might take a little more effort to set up in the first instance but investing that time in finding what is right for your team and not what is easy for you has longer term benefits.
All the above will allow you to instantly be more flexible, help produce a more streamlined environment and more importantly minimise the disruption when unexpected scenarios like this one arise. These are challenging times for us all but we’re all in this together! Good luck!