Collaboration software, remote teams, bad managers

Fear is greatest obstacle that SMEs face today. There is a direct path for managers to achieve exactly what they claim to be their principle objectives: efficiency, cost saving, bottom line results. Yet because of fear they are unable to go ahead and implement the conditions for that success. What is the business opportunity here? Why is fear handicapping us? How can it be overcome?

Traditional office work requires heavy commutes, whole rooms for filing cabinets and servers, overworked photocopiers and daunting real estate and office overheads. With cloud computing thrown into the mix, however, SMEs have taken advantage of team collaboration software and related smart services to improve much of this.

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Without filing cabinets and servers to take up significant proportions of the available office space, there is more daylight, less office requirement and lower overheads. Cloud computing has largely done away with the need for those big photocopiers too, and teams are able to better synchronise their efforts, communicate more efficiently, and hopefully improve their quality and productivity as a result. This is good, but the uninspired office kitchen remains, and so does the commute.

Commuting is stupid

There’s no getting away from it; commutes ruin otherwise perfectly pleasant mornings and exhaust employees. They are a terrible invention that cut into people’s time with their families, weighing down and stretching out their working day. They are illogical, too.

Why get up early, risk your sanity on the bus or Piccadilly Line or M11, and then log in at your desk to work with someone who’s sat in a different office, maybe a different building, maybe a different time zone?

Collaboration software at work

Modern SMEs typically already have all they need to be rid of commuting (and drab office kitchens) tomorrow. They have staff that communicate and organise via online chats and instant messaging, they have team collaboration software to project manage and file share, they have online tools for tracking progress and generating reports. All of this is tried and tested, integrated and functional; every day, in the office. But why not take the extra step?

By moving this exact same infrastructure out of the office and into the home, the benefits of online business solutions become tenfold. Overheads are slashed, workers are commute-free(!), with reduced absenteeism and greater company loyalty. Also, the business suddenly has access to an enormous talent pool, offering it scalability and the opportunity to hire from regions with lower labour costs.

Remote teams offer businesses irresistible benefits, but perhaps the greatest of these is the energised, motivated staff, high in morale and productivity, that comes with a commitment to contemporary, mobile team collaboration.

But wait. There’s a problem.

Bad managers

There is a need. A need to see your workers, heads bowed, at their desks, performing their duties according to your own idiosyncratic modes and habits, ticks and twitches. Not theirs.

There is also a fear. A fear that your team may be involved in nefarious activities, cheating behind your back: not home-working, but home-chilling, with cold slices of pizza and dressing gowns and daytime television.

Well, the truth is that with remote teams there is every possibility that staff will indeed be in their dressing gowns with Bargain Hunt on in the background. The point is, though, that it doesn’t matter. Workers need to be judged on their output and not on their manner, location or kitchen conversation.

Yes, there are legitimate concerns that, say, a remote team won’t be able to interact in the same way as a group of colleagues in face-to-face discussion, but these are minor challenges and entirely surmountable.

Put it this way; is the value of having group meetings in person enough to warrant your small business renting expensive office space, carrying the burden of its overheads, dragging your valued staff out of bed early, and then making them travel for an hour before they start working for you – and then making them do it all again tomorrow and the day after? Why not just get them together at a cafe once a week? Or never?

Trust in the bottom line

SMEs the length and breadth of the country benefit from cloud computing and online collaboration, but until managers get over their trust issues and get their staff working from home, businesses will continue to be running at half-speed, over spending, handicapped, and with bucket loads of unfulfilled potential – now that’s something to be fearful of.

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