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Re-tooling your systems to support remote staff

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For many organisations, the dynamics of the office worker experience will never be the same. This Forbes article from May that said 44% of people would take a 10% pay cut if it meant they could stay home indefinitely. That is a clear reflection of the new reality and a clear message to business owners who will be forced to adjust their information systems and business policies.

Online meeting applications, VPN access, and chatting tools are OK in a pinch, but these solutions are not sufficient longer term. Good systems that effectively support remote employees need to be exceedingly all encompassing. Effective systems need to allow for (1) sharing data easily, and (2) controlled monitoring of productivity.

For sharing data easily, too many mid-market companies rely on Excel, Outlook, and ‘word-of-mouth’ to manage their non-accounting data. The COVID-19 experience shines a bright light on this deficiency in how information is managed. And while I appreciate this is a Sage forum, only a small fraction of office workers makes up the accounting department. What about everyone else? It really depends on their roles.

MS Teams and Basecamp are examples of powerful collaboration tools, but these applications are not well suited for most of the data that flows through an organisation, whereas an easy to access and use CRM system can be a very practical solution for most staff. CRM’s can manage all sorts of information and processes and even, in the case of Sage CRM, allow for the integration with your accounting system and can include order processing. Long term, companies without a centrally based information management system will hurt the most.

As for controlled monitoring of productivity the reality is that productivity is impacted by environmental factors, and not everyone who works from home will be as productive.

Anecdotally, a remote worker life lesson was shared with me by a close parent of mine (who shall remain nameless). While golfing one day, this individual shared the significance of waiting to respond to emails until you craft a meaningful reply and to send out emails early in the morning (before golf) so your colleagues think you are always as it. I silently nodded and smiled through this “life lesson.”

My point is, when your staff is remote and they are getting their job done, does it really matter? Regardless, the responsibility is on the organisation to adjust. Some staff will always take care of their responsibilities and some many be less productive. To remain competitive long term, software systems, and business policies must adapt to accommodate all types of remote staff. Systems will evolve to monitor productivity and job profiles will evolve to include clearer metrics. Management will need concrete statistics to measure productivity.

In my experience implementing Sage CRM systems, the more transparent the system, the more positive the impact on organisational behavior. The very best systems manage processes that can not be done elsewhere which results in the system being well adopted, and the company can then measure correctly on whatever it is they need to measure, i.e., how many tickets were created by Johnny this month. Or how long does it our team to progress a ticket (or job, opportunity, etc.) from step C to step F, etc.

These real-time insights provided by Sage CRM bolstered by the ability for workers to collaborate more efficiently, can empower teams, giving managers unquestionable confidence in their remote workforce. Beyond this efficiency, organisations with technology like this also benefit from better customer relationships, improved business processes, and increased profits.

The requirement that systems allow for more transparency, coupled with more tangibly defined expectations, is the yang to the work from home yin. Organisations that need to stay competitive will be forced to adapt as we face a new working normal. This is inevitable.