Before writing this blog, I thought everyone was talking WAY too much about COVID-19, and that for our own mental health, we need to ensure we keep talking about other things, too. However, a week ago my team and I conducted 12 interviews with decision-makers regarding remote work (or work from home), and the results were surprising.
Here’s what they told us:
- They all didn’t believe they were capable of working from home.
- Many of those interviewed mentioned it was better for their productivity, given they were getting through a LOT more work each day.
- Some mentioned their work-life balance was improved.
- Others mentioned the line between work and life was blurred.
- Many are starting to realise that office space rental costs are expensive, with on demand arrangements seeming to be of increased interest.
People seemed to be speaking weeks if not months ago about creating a sustainable business continuity plan. However, the interviews revealed to me that many were not, and still are not, prepared.
Remote Work is the New Standard
We need to acknowledge that remote work (not only work from home) could become the new standard after this is all over. Recent studies indicate a 47% year on year productivity growth in 2020, despite the pandemic driven rise in working from home. Alongside this, email activity is up 57% and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) usage is also up 176%. You can find the details of that study here.
Remote Work by Business Function
In this blog post, I won’t waste time running through strategies to finding where gaps in your remote team are. The reality is, you probably know by now (and if not, read this blog). Instead, I’ll be working through how to fill gaps in your remote team by isolating particular business functions.
Want to jump to a particular business function? Use the links below.
- Forms or Surveys
- Email Marketing
- Project Management
- Task Management
- Time Tracking
- Custom Technology
Remote communication is a multi layered system, and needs to be accounted for respectively. The key layers are:
- Team meetings
- One-on-one meetings
- Ad hoc catch ups
- Written communication (formal)
- Written communication (informal)
There are many subcategories to meetings. For instance, team meetings could encapsulate project meetings, daily stand ups, or Friday afternoon virtual drinks sessions. The intent of this blog post is not to define your meetings though, so let’s focus on the technologies that can support any communication you could have with another member of your team.
Team Meetings and One-on-One Meetings
Team meetings and one-on-one meetings can best be facilitated through video or audio conferences. Video I find to be far more engaging, particularly given people are cooped up at home with reduced human interaction. Here are some tools that could support you:
Ad Hoc Catch Ups
Meeting without a plan to do so is common in a work day, but what is the best system to facilitate this? There are two primary mechanisms to achieving this:
- Organise a conference (using any of the above solutions)
- Phone call (standard call, WhatsApp, WeChat, or Viber)
Written Communication (Formal)
Written communication, when formal in nature, is generally email. While we do need to consider proposals, these are outlined separately below. The two systems best known for email are:
- G Suite (by Google)
- Office 365 (by Microsoft)
Written Communication (Informal)
When it comes to informal communication, there are a number of systems that each have their own merits. Here are the systems you may want to consider, broken down by use case:
- Team messaging with channels (Slack, Microsoft Teams)
- Instant messaging between users (WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, SMS Messaging)
Collaboration takes standard systems like shared drives (and emailing the same spreadsheet back and forth) to a whole new level. In the interest of adopting new technology and ridding the old, this article focusses on document collaboration systems that are completely live, meaning individuals can cross collaborate in real time. Here are the three we propose to you, noting there are a number of lesser known use cases out with unique solutions:
Forms or Surveys
Gathering information from your customers, clients, or team members is extremely valuable when you can’t poll people in realtime. Form (or survey) solutions enable this by taking it to a whole new level.
Unlike other solutions proposed, these three have radically different user experiences, so please take your time in selecting the product that is best for you.
There are many stages in a sales process. For the sake of this blog article, I’ll be focussing on sales tracking tools (also commonly referred to as Customer Relationship Management software) and proposal writing solutions.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Tracking sales with a CRM solution is vital for any team. The number of CRM solutions out there is hard to keep track of, so here are four of the better known systems you should consider implementing. As always, please explore each solution separately by using their respective trials to confirm which would be the best for you.
- Sugar CRM
- Salesforce (large business)
Writing proposals typically involved using a Word Document (and converting it to a PDF) or PowerPoint Deck. However, these are antiquated and don’t include the degree of templating and automation available in modern solutions. Here are three solutions that are bound to make you reconsider your sales process, including contract approvals:
See my note below on taking bookings with booking management software.
Scheduling bookings takes a huge amount of time. Don’t think this is big enough to have its own section? Scheduling costs the average professional 6 weeks per year! Here are three solutions you should consider:
- x.ai (an AI driven solution that owns the full process)
- Calendly (a booking system without AI monitoring your inbox)
If you need a custom booking solution with more intricate business rules, please get in touch with us for a free 30 minute consultation.
Having a website where people can find you goes without saying. I’ve seen businesses historically flourish without websites, operating completely on strong reputation and good rapport. However, that isn’t the reality anymore. Realistically, a business can’t operate without some digital presence in a world where they can’t meet new people at events, over lunch, or a glass of red wine. Here are some solutions worth considering for your business’ website:
- SquareSpace (self guided)
- WordPress (may need a pro)
- Shopify (e-commerce)
- BigCommerce (e-commerce)
Email marketing is a great way to generate new business, or to speak with your existing customers. The purpose of your email list should ultimately drive the decision making process regarding the solution best suited to you. More intricate systems, for instance, may offer more than you need and consequently come with a premium price tag attached. Alternatively, more basic systems are often only ideal for sending emails but not necessarily have features such as advanced list segmentation and workflows. The below solutions will have you covered in any case.
Please note that ActiveCampaign and Klaviyo are considered to be in a league of their own, with extremely intricate list management and nurturing solutions.
With so many businesses still isolating (or partially isolating), the opportunity to use conventional methods such as meetings, events, and mutual introductions is significantly lesser than it was before. While webinars and other marketing techniques are gaining popularity, advertising your business online certainly has its merits. Below are some primary search and social media advertising systems you can consider for your business:
- Search Engine Marketing: Google, Microsoft
- Social Media Marketing: Facebook (incl. Instagram), LinkedIn
And if you need an introduction to a digital marketing business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.
Automation enables businesses to achieve more with less resources. The best tool we’ve used to automate processes with no technical expertise required is Zapier. Zapier integrates with most well known systems (including many of those listed in this blog), and as an industry leader, is prompt to build new integrations as requested by its user base. If Zapier isn’t suitable for your requirements, please get in touch with us to explore this further. In addition, you can read more about our Workflow Automation process here.
Managing projects across an organisation is really strong in digital industries, but I’ve been surprised by the antiquated nature of professional services (such as legal and accounting), freight, logistics, warehousing, and construction. Ironically, all these industries have project based work, but very few tools to provide a high level lens of their operations. Below are some key solutions that could aid you in managing a project from start through to finish:
In summary, there is no shortage of project management tools available to you.
Task (or work) management is very similar to project management. However, I’ve found a separation of responsibilities works really well here to create differing levels of visibility on projects. In short:
- Project Management: Providing insight into the status and task list of each project.
- Task Management: Providing insight into the daily tasks of each team member.
This doesn’t mean the solutions need to differ. It merely means there needs to be a lens that provides both levels of reporting to provide as much visibility to management as possible.
Some tools for task management are:
All other project management tools listed above also have some suitability here, but are less fit for this purpose.
Accounting systems are some of the original technology solutions required by businesses. While I would hope you’re not still using old fashioned workbooks, there’s no harm in changing now. The two leading systems in this space for SMEs are Xero and MYOB. As your business scales, you’d be looking to incorporate more sophisticated solutions like NetSuite (but if that’s the case, get in touch with me via the contact form so I can show you the ropes).
Taking Accounting To The Next Level with Automated Payments
Automated payment solutions such as Stripe help to automate the payment process by debiting funds from your clients’ accounts when they’re due. This seamlessness can help to reduce administrative overheads such as debt collection within your business.
Payment Solutions for B2C
If you run a business to consumer organisation and need to charge your customers via a website or similar, please contact us, as this is a little further from the intention of this article.
Keeping track of your team’s progress from a timesheet perspective is vital for remote work. Arguably more important is understanding where that time is being committed (whether departmentally, or on a project basis). Here are two great solutions for time tracking:
Custom technology enables businesses to achieve advanced automation for efficiency gains, and unique client facing portals that help to differentiate a business from its competitors. Building custom technology is often considered a huge feat, but open source technologies now enable new solutions to be developed within weeks, not months. This offers huge advantages for remote work.
If you are interested in exploring custom technology, please get in touch with us for a free 30 minute consultation, where we will discuss the merits of custom technology for your business.
The Advantages of Remote Work
Remote work has been shown in some early case studies during COVID-19 to make your business more efficient, reduce costs, and ideally deliver new revenue streams previously unforeseen. The systems above are 14 unique verticals you should consider when adopting a remote work (or work from home) policy. These will help to create efficiencies across divisions and business functions including sales, marketing, management, and administration.
Other advantages to consider in favour of remote work are decreased rental expenditure, reduction of carbon emissions, decreasing travel time, reducing fit out expenses, and lowering office expenses such as electricity.
If you’d like to consider these advantages, or get a free 30 minute consultation to explore them with a Station Five Expert, please get in touch with us.