Collaborative solution to remote working in SME environment

Johannesburg, 11 May 2020
Read time 4min 10sec

The ability to create effective collaboration environments has been a key issue for organisations over the past couple of years, but few people could have anticipated that in 2020, collaboration tools would become the application that would dictate the fate of many companies.

Across the world, and in South Africa, companies who had not taken the idea of enabling the remote workforce seriously found themselves scrambling to find ways to keep teams working effectively.

Those who had already invested in creating an integrated collaboration environment, however, found the transition significantly easier.

“We are already seeing industry players talking about ‘the new normal’ to describe the future of the working environment post COVID-19,” says Jessica Kruger, Product Marketing Manager – Modern Workplace at Tarsus on Demand. “This indicates that many companies expect to move parts of their workforce to a remote working environment, even when it is no longer necessary.”

For companies looking at this, and even for those that expect all their employees to return to the office, it’s essential that they look closely at how their teams collaborate and if they can improve their productivity by ensuring that they are using the right tools.”

Mix and match falls apart

“The problem that companies face is twofold,” says Kruger. “One is that they may have cobbled together a mix of services to create a collaboration environment, but these do not integrate well. On the other hand, companies with integrated systems simply aren’t taking full advantage of the capabilities they have available.”

With an integrated platform, teams can schedule and run video conferences, communicate via instant message, form project-based groups, and share and edit documents. While smaller teams can address these with individual systems, the complexity that this brings into the environment can quickly cause even the best thought-out plans to degenerate into chaos. In large organisations, where employees often work in teams across divisions and across geographies, it’s a non-starter.

Examples of the challenges resulting from an ad-hoc approach to collaboration could include people storing critical documents locally and on multiple cloud platforms, picking and choosing how they work together on vital documents. This makes it difficult to keep track of where critical resources are. An additional risk is that as team members change, bringing new employees up to speed on where everything is complicates the onboarding process.

“This is hard enough when everyone is in the office together, but with remote teams, it soon becomes unmanageable,” Kruger says.

Integration empowers teams

For managers looking to improve teamwork in these difficult times, collaboration tools are a critical lifeline.

With everyone working on an integrated system, team members can quickly see who is available to answer questions, improving response times. With documents stored centrally, any team member can find a critical document, even if the person responsible for that work has had to step away to help their child with schoolwork.

For more complex tasks, collaboration platforms facilitate the co-operative editing of documents, cutting down on the need to e-mail documents back and forth, with the inevitable version control issues.

Security is an additional issue once people start working remotely, with sensitive documents no longer protected by corporate perimeter security. As such, ensuring that all information is stored in a secure cloud-based environment means no matter where the team members are, data is always protected.

For many people, switching from an office-based team to a remote one can be something of a culture shock. The ability to quickly set up calls with team members allows managers to check in on how they are coping and provide support.

“For any organisation looking to ensure that their teams are able to work effectively, especially if they are working remotely, is to understand what the requirements of each team is. Conducting an assessment of these needs and the current working environment is the logical starting point.”

Kruger explains that each team is going to develop its own unique personality, where certain ways of working deliver the greatest productivity gains.

“It’s unlikely that we are going to see a return to the ways things were,” she comments. “People have got a taste for remote working and even companies that were hesitant to allow it before are seeing the benefits. Supporting this with the right tools will foster greater teamwork, greater productivity and create happier employees.”

If you’re ready to learn how Microsoft Teams can make your business more mobile, click here.

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