The Washington DC area is being clobbered with a massive snowstorm. Well, ok, so far it is only about 1/2" but the forecast is for up to a foot by the end of the day.
This has led the Feds to shut down. Whatever happened to "neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor dark of night..."?
You would think a Government with multi-trillion dollar annual budgets would be able to keep the doors open when something as predictable as a winter snowstorm rolls through.
Memo to BHO/POTUS: Tell OPM to expand SVC.
For those who live outside the Beltway, the above translates to:
Memo to Barack Hussein Obama/President of the United States: Tell the Office of Personnel Management to expand Secure Video Collaboration.
How hard is it to set up a telework program? (Not very) Can people be productive when they aren't in the office? (Yes, arguably MORE productive) How can you manage people when they are remote? (By using technology that allows you to have "in-person" interactions without being physically in the same place).
If you want to talk through your business continuity strategy, process and technology, give us a call
Photo borrowed from zdnet.com
Dear Ms. Mayer -
Well you certainly got everyone's attention ! A lot of opinions are flying about whether you are being "anti-green," doing a self-selecting RIF, making a sensible business decision, are out of touch with non-executive struggles, blah, blah, blah. You're no dummy (or dare I say Yahoo?) and I am sure you thought about this before making the call.
Our question is: do you have the wrong telework policy or the wrong telework technology?
A lot of companies have difficulty with telework because they have invested in complicated, expensive communication infrastructures that make it cumbersome for someone to connect to the office, give them limited functionality (e.g. save and retrieve files), low quality (choppy audio and grainy video), require a lot of people to manage the network in order to enable people to connect, or multiple combinations of the above.
But what if (remember those old HP commercials?) there were a lightweight, secure, collaboration solution that gave employees presence/status information and click-to-meet access to anyone in their group, their hallway, their division, their campus or half way around the world whether they are in the office, on the road, writing code or picking up groceries?
What if the same client worked in the same way on mobile, on desktops and in conference rooms so that it didn't matter who was where and the system did the leg work to find them?
What if it enabled audio calls, video calls, desktop sharing, application control sharing, virtual whiteboard, chat and more?
What if you could have all this TODAY without breaking the bank?
If this sounds interesting to you, click below.
VeaMea is moving. When most businesses move, they rent a new space, plan the move, set up utilities in the new location, schedule movers and eventually make the move. The process takes a couple of weeks between signing the lease and finally getting to the new location, and perhaps months before anything other than fast food menus get delivered in the mail.
What happens when a video conferencing and collaboration software company moves ? In our case, we have gone virtual. We gave up our old office and are looking for a new space.
So we moved our Polycom IP phones to our home offices and we aren't in any great rush because we engage with clients and prospects over the phone, on email and using our video conferencing and collaboration software. What has changed ? The backdrop in the picture (and most of us have more available bandwidth at home than we had at the office).
Since we have all teleworked using our software, there is no loss of continuity due to not being in the office. We know how to reach each other. We talk, email, or video call as it makes sense.
All of this brings to mind the idea of a "molecular organization." Twenty years ago when I worked for a highly respected, global consulting and service firm (Arthur Andersen), the molecular organization was a novel idea: rather than thinking of a company as a place, an office with staff, it could be thought of as skilled people coming together to solve problems, drive projects, manage core operations, and functions that were non-core could be outsourced to other (potentially molecular) companies.
Today, as technology has emerged to enable individual workers to be woven together into virtual teams, with individuals who work anywhere but can still fluidly communicate, the molecular organization comes back to mind in a slightly different flavor.
Rather than thinking about the corporate boundary in terms of owned and outsourced functions, we have the ability to think of the organization as a collection of workers bound together by a technology platform that allows them to communicate and collaborate as fluidly as if they were down the hall from each other.
I won't say "I told you so," but refer you to the last post in this blog when I mentioned that snowstorms are probably something you should plan for.
It turns out that snow fell in DC on January 26-27th. About 6 inches of it. For a person who grew up in Wisconsin, 6" seemed like a nice dusting. Here is a quick overview video of with some scenes of the "devastation" from The Washington Post's Capitol Weather Gang
Working from my home office, where I have a secure, reliable video collaboration platform on my desktop that lets me communicate with colleagues and clients "like I am there" -- I am offering a free trial for anyone who can guess which one I use -- I didn't worry much about the oncoming storm.
For those who went to the office on Wednesday, the evening commute was a nightmare. The Federal Government let out early, traffic snarled and 30 minute drives home stretched to 3, 5, 6 hours. I left the office and was home in under 30 seconds.
The Washington Post reports that the inquiries into "What went wrong" have begun. But the obvious question for those of us who are used to remote work is: could a lot of the people who were stuck in traffic, who left their cars on the side of the road, who ruined a good pair of work shoes tromping through salty snow and slush have had a fully productive work day from a home office ?
This is inarguable I thought, until my power went out Wednesday night and stayed out through Thursday mid-day. No power, no internet, a computer only as long as the battery lasts, no heat, etc.
It isn't reasonable for corporations to expect employees (or to pay for employees) to get backup generators, or big enough battery backups to allow them to stay connected for days. BUT, are the hours I lost Thursday morning due to lack of power any different than the hours people lost Wednesday afternoon fleeing to get home before the advancing storm hit ?
Yes! The hours I lost at home COULD have been avoided by heading in to the office. I had a choice. Our company has a strategic asset and could decide how to deploy its people to a) get work done, b) make sure its people were safe, and c) let them know that their families were safe.
People without a telecommuting infrastructure, and practice using it, only had one choice: go in, and fight their way home come hell, high water, or "thundersnow."
Count me as another voice for choice ! Click if you want to investigate your choices for a telecommuting infrastructure.
With parts of the South covered in ice and another snowstorm predicted for the Northeast, last week is looking like a good time to update your business continuity plan.
A Telework program, planned and eased into place when the weather is unremarkable, becomes a strategic asset when the weather outside is frightful.
Many organizations fail to plan for this situation, despite storms that year in and year out result in delays, missed opportunities and schedule chaos as workers can't make it into the office and "do the best they can" from home.
Which looks more like your organization ?
And it isn't just the weather. Imagine if workers could "self-quarantine" when they get sick rather than struggling into the office and sharing their illness far and wide?
A smart business continuity plan has to include:
- the processes and procedures for deciding
- How the continuity plan is activated
- Who is eligible to work outside the office
- How remote workers keep in touch with their supervisors/subordinates
- What activites are "mission-critical"
- a technology platform for collaboration that integrates voice, data and visual communication
- simply enough that users want to use it
Then comes practice. Use it when you don't need to, so that you can use it when you need to.
Does your company have a continuity of operations plan? Are you satisfied with the results? Do you want to improve your organization's resilience to bad weather ?
No, I'm not this guy:
You don't have to buy a book or a DVD, and you don't have to attend one of my seminars.
A number of states have traffic problems, and to their credit, they have come up with a creative solution. Rather than building more roads, widening existing ones, or encouraging public transportation, they have created programs to reduce the number of people who travel by encouraging TeleWork.
For example, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, they offer up to $50,000 in reimbursement to qualified businesses that create or expand telework programs that result in at least 10 employees teleworking an average of 6 days per month.
Companies can recoup a substantial portion of the expenses for the software, hardware and services required to setup and make a telework program effective including:
- Collaboration software (e.g. VeaMea)
- New computers and peripherals for teleworkers (e.g. laptops, web cams, all-in-one machines)
- Broadband Internet access for teleworkers
- Centralized remote connectivity infrastructure (e.g. computers/server equipment)
- Telecommunications/VOIP Solutions
- Consulting Services (e.g. installation of software and hardware; teleworker support; real estate consolidation)
In short, if your company qualifies, the Commonwealth of Virginia will pay a significant portion of the cost of new technology and services for you to install a telework program in your organization and will provide resources to help you with the planning and implementation.
If you want to set up a telework program, click here to learn more about one solution for secure, multi-party video conferencing, web conferencing and collaboration and how your company might qualify for significant financial assistance!
* OK, not REALLY FREE, but a lot less than it would be otherwise
No, it was not actually that dramatic, but this article in Washington Technology was interesting both for what it said and what it didn't say.
Federal Managers sited four key reasons that Telework is not as widely adopted as one might expect given the strong policy and administrative commitments to telework's benefits:
1) Technical disconnects: difficulty of loading up people's home machines with VPN/Security Software, and Physical security of the home environment vs. the Federal building when the person would otherwise work.
* The technology to work on sensitive records without ever saving them on the home machine is widely available, so the physical security of the home office should not be a major concern. Concerns about security of home internet connections don't have to be solved by a VPN and layer upon layer of network numbing security software. AES 256 encrypted sessions allow military-grade security over public internet.
2) Out of sight, out of mind -- When people aren't in the office they may or may not be working as hard as they should, and may be hard to find when you need them.
* One solution to this is the idea of a Presence Window which shows the current status of each individual. This makes it easy to see when someone is away from their desk, actively working at their computer, on a call, etc. It also provides a simple path to open a chat or call to the remote worker so they can be pulled in to meetings quickly and easily without needing to call a support tech to wrestle with the AV equipment. Presence also provides the worker with a subtle reminder that their colleagues may reach out for them just as easily as popping into a cubicle.
3) Harder to manage what you can't see -- A large percentage of communication is non-verbal. And, if a team quietly prevents crises from occurring, they will not be as visible as those who respond to crises and resolve them by calling all hands on deck for a heroic rescue.
* A desktop video solution removes the problem of missing the non-verbal communication, and software-based solutions remove the concerns of expensive government assets sitting in people's homes. The issue of who is recognized and rewarded is pretty tough to deal with from a technology perspective, but the teleworkers certainly have the edge when the emergency is pandemic flu, or blizzards that make the roads impassable.
4) Trust vs. fairness -- Managers would trust SOME of their workers to be self-starters and get their work done offsite, but they need to be fair to all team members and offer the same options, even to those with whom they don't have the same level of trust.
* This is the elephant in the room, and it isn't a technology problem. The good news is that with Presence, and with quick click to connect meetings, a manager can keep a worker "on a short leash" even when they are not in the office. A better solution, of course, would be to move to policies and a culture that acknowledges that some people are ready for greater levels of autonomy, just as some people are ready for greater levels of budget, staff to manage, etc. After all, TeleWorking is a privilege, not a right.
Another way to think about all the above objections is to trade in the entire "go to the office" model of work for something entirely dfifferent. For more on this, check out the Results Only Work Environment. It is an interesting take on what the world of work COULD be.