It’s been just over two years since the pandemic began, and although some workers are gradually going back to the office, they want the flexibility to work remotely — at least part of the time. This hybrid model brings specific challenges to IT leaders — namely, how to build a technology stack that’s uniform and works for everyone as a medium of communication while also making business workflow more efficient. Below are several elements of a comprehensive technology stack for IT leaders to consider when seeking to enhance the hybrid work experience for employees.
Storing Data in the Cloud for Easy Access Anywhere
As more of the workforce transitions to a hybrid model, companies need software solutions for task management that are non-siloed and easy to deploy. Simply installing software on each employee’s computer that connects to a data center on-site will cause an influx of help desk tickets for those exact solutions meant to streamline workflow and boost productivity. In addition, siloed data suggests that some employees can’t access the data they need, as that data is restricted or locked only to specific groups. This can be problematic in today’s workplace, where employees collaborate with other departments regularly.
One optimal way to eliminate technology issues and locked data is to migrate everything to the cloud. For example, there are solutions that can utilize the virtual cloud to automate manual and repetitive processing tasks such as document intake, invoice processing, and remote exception handling. In addition, when employees aren’t in an office, the cloud easily allows them to access the same data they would use on-site —building a private virtual network reduces operating costs and enables employees to securely access business-critical data and workflows from virtually anywhere while reducing the burden on IT leaders.
Balanced Deployment for Efficient Workflows
As more employees come back to the office, a critical measure for safety and prevention is ensuring that the workflow process is as low-touch as possible. One way of having a more low-touch office is through “balanced deployment,” where each team only has access to the documents they need. For example, if the marketing department only prints A3 color posters, they will only have the option to print A3 color posters from one designated printer. Files from other departments won’t print to the marketing team’s printer, thus lessening touchpoints around the office. Another aspect of balanced deployment is pull printing, in which employees need to verify their identities using a card reader before printing or scanning anything. This method streamlines workflow because employees can spend less time waiting to take turns using a communal printer with increased security and reduced cost.
Other than balanced deployment in printing, companies can also create document management systems on the cloud to automate the workflow process. Organizations with a large volume of documents in their repository typically benefit the most, as these systems mitigate human error by extracting granular information from standardized documents. In addition, having a cloud-based DMS allows for easy access to crucial documents and provides heightened security around confidential information.
Collaboration Tools, Video, and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) Platforms
Before the launch of instant messaging platforms such as Slack, employees relied primarily on email for all forms of communication, including simple questions that colleagues could answer from across the room. When remote work took off during the pandemic, team members needed to maintain constant contact. However, the overload of emails in staff inboxes resulted in significant inefficiencies and lost productivity due to the time lag between sending an email and receiving a response. Furthermore, email clutter can also heighten the chance of miscommunication between team members.
The solution is having an array of collaboration tools that streamlines communication among team members, where everyone receives feedback in real-time. They include instant messaging apps, video conferencing technology such as Zoom, and UCaaS platforms that consolidate previous standalone functions.
Over the past two years, video conferencing allowed team members to stay connected with clients, vendors, and others. The function has also expanded to include large-scale virtual events. Now, staff no longer need to physically travel for important events, saving companies (and team members) airfare and living accommodations. In addition, since staff can attend virtual events with just the click of a link, companies also report high virtual attendance rates, with an average number of 1,849 attendees per event. In 2022 and beyond, video conferencing will continue to play an essential role in the way companies conduct business, so investing in high-quality technology and event planning will set your organization up for success.
Although many remote-work technologies already exist, the emergence of UCaaS, such as Microsoft Teams, has become popular with organizations seeking to deploy fewer applications overall. UCaaS platforms have multipurpose functions that allow users to complete various tasks within a single application. For example, Microsoft Teams has additions such as calendar and workflow management built to complement its primary function – instant messaging.
As more UCaaS platforms are developed, IT leaders will choose those that best suit specific business needs. Building the right technology stack for successful hybrid work is no easy feat. Each organization has unique needs, so IT leaders should consider how a tool will positively impact their specific business goals rather than selecting Microsoft Teams because every other organization uses it. However, as long as the basics are covered for a fully functioning and productive hybrid workforce, companies can experiment with a variety of new digital tools to further enhance staff user experience.
Bob Burnett is Director of B2B Solutions Deployment and Planning at Brother International Corporation