12 Aug Focus on running your business – Navigating the New Working World
Over the last 5 months, the constantly evolving nature of the Covid-19 pandemic has made it harder for businesses to focus solely on their service delivery. With the pressure to adapt to the ‘new ways of working’ it’s likely many business owners will have been keen to ride out the storm, hoping for a return to commercial normality.
While we have seen many aspects of business life return to some semblance of normality, continuing uncertainty about the short-term future means it’s important to remain prepared for the possibility of further restrictions being imposed. This means having solutions in place that will allow your business to operate in the dynamic, ever-changing world we find ourselves in.
Power through difficult times with innovative, agile tech solutions
‘Uncertainty’ is certainly a buzzword in the business world right now. Businesses typically don’t like uncertainty, but with the right measures in place you can adapt your operations without compromising the service you provide, or the outcomes for your customers. Modern communication solutions coupled with the insight and knowledge of a reliable IT partner will give you the ability to focus on your areas of expertise and ultimately remain operational throughout this period.
Communication, collaboration and workflow management
Effective communication can be a challenge at the best of times, but it’s been a particular nightmare for many firms this year. UK firms have traditionally had a slight aversion to remote working so it’s likely that many have been caught off-guard without effective solutions in place to enable seamless collaboration and process management. Whether you’ve been quick to adapt or are still unsure about investing in permanent solutions for our new working world there is a lot to consider:
- Think about how you share files among your team and with clients. Are your file-sharing methods secure? Easy to use? Is high-volume file sharing easy or a nightmare?
- Think about how you communicate. Do you use an instant messaging platform to enable quick and easy group discussion? Do you have a way of hosting a remote meeting with your team?
- Think about the applications your staff need access to. Are they able to access these in a secure way? Do you have safeguards in place to prevent unauthorised access?
- Think about how confident your staff are using new technology. Have they been given support and training or are they struggling to get to grips with new ways of working?
- Think about how you’re able to monitor productivity, task completion and process adherence. This seems much harder with a remote workforce but fear not, solutions are available!
One of the biggest challenges is balancing convenience with security obligations. In other words, how do you give your team unbridled access to the resources they need while keeping your sensitive data tightly controlled and secure?
Microsoft 365 helps tackle this issue by providing various communication/collaboration tools in a secure cloud-based environment in which you can leverage full control over your data. The suite features platforms such as Microsoft Teams, OneDrive and SharePoint, which allow for varying degrees of customisation to suit your business’ processes and collaboration requirements.
The cornerstone of communication in the Microsoft Family, ‘Teams’ functions as an all-in-one platform around which all project work can be centred. Features include:
- Instant messaging – assemble groups to discuss specific projects or topics. Share files, schedule meetings and communicate in real-time to avoid never-ending email threads.
- Video/audio conferencing – Feature-rich conferencing lets you host meeting with up to 250 participants. Get the team together for a weekly round-up or use it to improve engagement with clients.
- SharePoint integration – Teams and SharePoint are deeply entwined meaning file sharing withing Teams’ communication channels is effortless.
- Multi-platform compatibility – Your staff can access Teams from almost any device thanks to extensive compatibility – OS, Android and of course Windows are all supported.
- Built-in Security and Compliance features – Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility and security platform is your data management and security command centre.
- App customisation – Customise your Teams experience by incorporating Microsoft family and third-party apps into the interface. Hundreds of these apps are designed with workflow management and productivity in mind.
Once you have communication sorted it’s worth considering tools specifically designed for workflow management. This is an extremely crowded and competitive marketplace where it can be difficult to differentiate between the many offerings. Start by considering how in-depth you need your task management software to be. At the basic, but easy-to-use end of the scale you’ll find the likes of Asana, Trello, and Microsoft Tasks. Microsoft Planner is a good all-rounder that offers slightly more features than the more basic offerings. Then, at the heavy-duty, feature-rich end of the scale, you’ll find the likes of Microsoft Project which allows you to plan projects down to the last granular detail, but it also comes with a hefty price tag.
When choosing solutions for remote working it’s important to consider whether they do everything you need them to and more, or whether they are a ‘compromise too far.’ It can be tempting to opt for free, consumer-grade, low-commitment offerings (such as a Dropbox Basic account) but it’s important to consider whether such options give you the functionality, security and capacity you really need. It’s usually better to spend a little more to get a more effective solution.
An IT partner you can count on
The deployment, configuration, onboarding, and training involved with any new technology is the responsibility of your IT provider. With so much responsibility resting on their shoulders it’s vital that you choose the best partner to help steer you through this transitional period.
- Does your IT partner have knowledge of your sector? If they don’t have experience working with businesses in your sector, they should be trying to get to know the sector-specific challenges you face and any industry-specific hurdles you are faced with.
- Is your IT partner looking to the future? They should be planning and proposing solutions that will continue to meet your needs as your business evolves over time.
- Do they invest in their relationship with you and your team? A good IT provider will always ensure their clients feel supported, especially through periods of transition – this means guidance and educating when necessary.
Investing in technology can be an investment in your reputation
Investing in communication and workflow management tools may reflect in the customer experience in ways you don’t expect. For example, when administrative tasks start taking minutes as opposed to the hours, they took previously clients will be impressed. Microsoft’s 365’s security features could let you grant clients access to data and insights that would previously have been out of bounds, and new communication channels such as Teams can help to improve engagement and keep customers ‘in the know.’
Similarly, customers will also notice if things are taking longer than usual. Many were prepared to overlook a compromised service back in March, but by now businesses are expected to have adapted to the new working world and customers will be less forgiving.
Where do I begin?
The UK government is currently in the process of rolling out funding to help businesses make efficiency changes as part of its economic response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
These grants of up to £5000 could help you embrace technological change, in order to improve efficiency, resilience and ensure your business is able to sail through these turbulent times relatively unscathed. This funding could help you invest in productivity-boosting new tech, migrate systems to the cloud and ensure your team are adequately trained and supported in the use of any new technology.
At Netcom, we are well-versed in helping companies in various sectors navigate the often mystifying, jargon-filled worlds of IT. With over 15 years’ experience and covering virtually all aspects of business IT, we can help guide your business through this uncertain period and help you deploy cutting edge solutions that will not only help you weather the current storm but keep your business at the top of its game beyond the pandemic.
So for guidance on Government funding, IT strategy and digital transformation why not book a free, no-obligation discovery call today by calling 0114 361 0062.