Five-minute readIt’s inevitable – flexible work is the future of work. For organizations that can turn this practice into a core competency, the gains will be invaluable, like attracting and retaining the best talent and, thus, performing better for those their business serves. Ultimately, these organizations will have a massive competitive advantage.
So, how can you turn this practice into a core competency?
Conditions of an Effective Distributed Work Strategy
Unfortunately, there is no objective “right” answer. Like any organizational competency, its proper application is very much dependent on the context. It is critical to thoroughly examine the work you do, who you do it with, and how. This information will help you focus your organization’s finite resources and tolerance for change on the areas that will have the most significant positive impact.
It’s a matter of balancing the different factors to best suit the interests of both the organization and its people. In my view, two key elements are equity and intentionality; when policies are created as a reflex or based on the "squeaky wheel," it increases the risk that the solution to one problem becomes the root cause of another. A diverse group of stakeholders should therefore be heard to ensure all perspectives are considered.
Another central aspect of implementing an effective distributed work strategy will be your team’s technology needs.
Technology bridges the divide between the various places from which team members work. It forms the foundation of how teams communicate, collaborate, and find valuable information and should ultimately be at the forefront of any flexible work strategy.
Exploring all aspects of remote work technology and their implications can be a daunting task. Where should you start?
Implementing a Single Collaboration Hub
We have found that one of the most productive places to start is the implementation of – and organization-wide commitment to – a single collaboration hub like Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Zoom.
There are many benefits to creating a central collaboration space:
- Knowledge workers spend an exorbitant amount of time simply looking for the information they need to do their job. Your collaboration hub becomes a single, easily searchable library of your organization’s knowledge. This includes structured and unstructured data. For example, did you know that, post recorded meeting, you can add captions to your video in Microsoft Teams? These captions become searchable. So, for example, if you are looking for any mention of “Project X” in your last ten team meetings, you can easily find each meeting where it is mentioned instead of diving into hours of recordings.
- Within distributed teams, especially those without a mature approach to data governance, information silos run rampant. The hub becomes a central place for real-time and time-independent (asynchronous) collaboration in all forms, including video, phone, chat, and document editing and sharing. The alternative is having “pieces of the puzzle” dispersed among different file storage locations, email platforms, productivity suites, and video conferencing applications.
- It offers important context for communication, allowing team members to focus energy and attention on the tasks that matter most. In the collaboration hub, communications and resources are organized with purpose (e.g., by project, department, or group) as opposed to email, where the last communication appears first, regardless of source or priority. In Microsoft Teams and the like, you can also use the “thumbs up” or other reactions to acknowledge an instruction or verify you have taken a requested action. This is far more effective than subjecting yourself to a never-ending stream of emails that convey the important information of: “I got it.”
Your collaboration hub enhances knowledge management, minimizes distractions and unproductive time, and serves as a force multiplier, amplifying the impact of individual contributors and teams.
Why do some implementations succeed where others don’t? Let’s look at how we can avoid common pitfalls:
It all starts with leadership modeling
One of the most pervasive challenges we see with widespread implementation is members of the leadership team continuing to communicate and collaborate in the ways they always have. When the epicenter of power and influence is pulling communications away from the collaboration hub, adoption stays low and, unfortunately, the value of the hub gets exponentially greater as more people use it.
Leadership also has an important role to play in championing the value that the change will bring to the organization and its people. There must be a compelling vision of the future for people to feel compelled to make a change. Leadership must also highlight employees that are embodying best practices and demonstrating effective use cases. Some organizations are going as far as to include collaboration as a performance review criterion.
Invest in the consultative piece of the project prior to implementation
It used to be a technological feat to stand up a new software program. Now it’s as easy as flicking a switch. This is a double-edged sword in that it can lead to build-before-design challenges. These collaboration hubs are like houses – once you move all your furniture in and start living in it, it becomes much harder to re-architect the house. It is important that organizations assess the way departments and teams collaborate and get work done, what applications are currently in use throughout the organization, where critical files currently live and then develop sound governance and standards around how that should function going forward.
And lastly, training
The phrase “learning curve” exists for a reason. We are all creatures of habit and changing the way we work is always uncomfortable. Being conscious that there is a valuable skill we do not have yet is painful. That is why an engaging and practical training program needs to be implemented. This will help empower staff to move through that awkward phase of adoption where we all feel less than fully competent. Training resources need to be in place to accompany the team through that technology initiative ‘death valley.’
How designDATA can help with your hybrid work solutions
The value of a managed service provider (MSP) is their ability to leverage technology to improve business processes and outcomes. This requires truly understanding the business of the organizations it serves and aligning IT operations in a consultative way.
One of the common frustrations we hear from prospective clients is that their MSP is not driving the technology agenda forward; it is not proactively facilitating the strategic conversations to anticipate opportunities and challenges. Without this level of partnership, IT cannot fulfill the ultimate promise of IT operations: serving as a vehicle to take teams from where they are to where they want to go.
designDATA is happy to share the approach we employ to achieve these results for our clients. We are always excited to exchange best practices and lessons learned with other mission-driven organizations.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you would like to explore the issues that matter most to you!