We’ve never seen such a need for remote collaboration as we have in the last few weeks. And with homeworking now so essential, you’re probably thinking hard about the tools you need to manage remote collaboration in your organization.
There are certainly plenty of choices out there – the technology that gets people talking has developed hugely in the last decade.
But in pursuit of perfect remote collaboration, there are 3 big challenges you need to tackle:
1. Selecting the right tools for the job
2. Making sure your staff engage with them easily
3. Ensuring your approach is secure, cost-effective, reliable and sustainable.
So what ARE the right tools for the job?
That depends on what you need the tools to do. Start by examining where your business activities sit:
OK – so now you have a clearer idea of what you might need.
But what about points 2 and 3 – engaging your staff and ensuring your approach is secure, cost-effective, reliable and sustainable?
In many ways, these important issues have the same solution – a combination of:
- good co-ordination of people and technology
- clear communication of aims and processes
- careful monitoring of outcomes
- robust reporting to inform decision-making.
This is why.
Workers who are well-trained – and who find their technology easy to use – are more likely to engage with it and use it.
Video conferencing is a good example. Studies have shown that people can be reluctant to set up a video conference if it’s a time-consuming or complicated process – but if it takes just a couple of minutes, that obstacle is removed.
On a wider level, monitoring usage plus measuring outcomes and productivity provides a clear view of whether your approach is proving cost-effective, and helps with planning.
This is where integrated workspace technology enters the picture.
Effective collaboration involves bringing together not just people, but also key elements from a range of technologies.
The challenge arises when a collaborative project involves a number of colleagues in different locations and time zones, video or audio conferencing.
As many organisations are finding to their cost during the coronavirus crisis, successful agile working is not just a matter of bunging your staff a laptop each and downloading Skype – that’s just a recipe for chaos.
Homeworking and remote collaboration need to be carefully organised and supported in order to harness efficient, productive, sustainable and healthy ways of working.
Bringing the elements together
Effective remote collaboration derives from drawing people and technology together in harmony, even across multiple locations and time zones.
Trying to do this using non-integrated technology can be tricky, as anyone will tell you who has ever had to call five PAs across the world to set up a suitable video conference time.
Even Outlook has its limitations when it comes to adding elements such as food and beverages for a multi-location meeting or making sure essential equipment is available.
Using meeting room scheduling software that integrates with all your office systems, including the Outlook calendar, removes a lot of fuss.
By displaying colleague, room and equipment availability in real-time, it allows your meeting organiser to locate and book the necessary space in a few minutes, and send out invitations.
Good meeting room scheduling software also integrates with Exchange and Outlook 365, providing users with a familiar interface, and with collaboration aids such as ZOOM, Microsoft Teams and Skype.
Key benefits of an integrated approach to collaboration
An integrated approach cuts out a lot of stress – whether it’s in the scheduling process or during the actual initiation of the call – getting the required people into the right space, with the right facilities and services to hand, at the right time.
It sets the bar for an effective meeting experience, and delivers:
- Clarity for all participants about the meeting and the resources needed
- Automatic notifications for everyone if there are changes to times and locations
- Booking services as part of a single meeting transaction
- A secure and welcoming visitor experience, with self-check-in to a room or space to collaborate with a project team
- Better workforce performance with less wasted time, improving productivity and potentially reducing indirect operational costs
- Useful reports on how your space and resources are actually being utilised.
Case study: Integrated meeting room scheduling software and ZOOM
ZOOM has had a huge uptake in usage during the coronavirus crisis, being chosen by individuals, SMEs and corporate users for its ease of use, reliability and quality.
So it made sense for us to consider the positive implications and user experience gained by bridging our workplace technology and ZOOM.
As this illustration shows, an integrated approach for meeting and room scheduling means it’s a quick and simple process to organise and operate an efficient video conference.
The integrated approach with room meeting room scheduling software allows day-to-day scheduling to be done from a single interface, whether it’s planned or ad hoc and the same simple process can be used to create and run collaborative meetings.
Looking to the future
During the corona crisis, many organisations have thanked their lucky stars that they had meeting room scheduling software already in place because the transition to home working and remote collaboration has been that bit smoother.
Others, unsupported by the technology, have patched together remote operating and made their way slowly to something like business as usual. Workers have grown used to FaceTime instead of face to face; maybe even started to enjoy an extra half an hour in bed instead of being stuck in traffic.
Whichever category your business fits into, you’ve probably noticed some tantalising possibilities.
The potential for reducing your real estate costs, maybe, or the potential to improve staff retention: happy workers tend to stay put. Maybe you’ve even noticed improvements in productivity that you never expected.
As we come out of the crisis – and we will, even if it’s a slow process – take some time to absorb and assess this massive agile working and remote collaboration experiment, and work out how it might benefit you going forward.
Now’s the time to start planning the future shape of your operations, and selecting the right technology tools for the job – and during that process, remember to keep integration at the top of your mind.