Technical problems with remote working: We advise you how to react.
Preparation pays off: As technology consultants and AV technology planners for future workspace concepts, we started two years ago to make our working environment fit for home office and remote work. The aim was to enable our employees to leave their workplace without interruption and resume work seamlessly anywhere in the world – if there is an adequate Internet connection.
This was not only about software tools for Unified Communication (UC). We have also expanded the IT infrastructure at all our locations and further developed our work processes so that our employees can now work independently and digitally as far as possible. In the current situation, we benefit from this because we can continue to offer our services without interruption, process current projects properly and start new projects safely. Thanks to our preparations, there was no “switching to working remotely” for us. Our employees continued to work like every day – just not at the office but at home.
We would like to share with you the experience we have gained during our preparation. With this post we start a small blog series: In this series, we will discuss typical challenges in the transition to working from home, remote working and digital collaboration and tell you how we solved these challenges.
In addition to the technical requirements, the corporate cultural, organizational and legal foundations must also be created. In our blog series we will focus on software tools, digitalized processes and the technical infrastructure.
Remote working for everyone: Challenges for many companies
In the last few days we have heard from many companies that they are switching to “remote working”. One day later there were the first reports of server crashes. The media also reported of overloads with Microsoft Teams that caused transmission problems at times. This may happen when there was not enough time to prepare and you had to react hastily to the current situation.
What many companies are not doing properly today:
Processes are digitalized in haste: All of a sudden, all meetings become digital, software tools are used hastily and uncontrolled.
Companies that previously communicated only by phone and email were now forced to quickly search for a UC tool to enable meetings and project team collaboration from home. Since Microsoft Office 365 is very common and one already owns the platform anyway, for many people the access to Microsoft teams was a very obvious choice. Don`t get me wrong: Microsoft Teams is good. However, the question is: Is it the only right tool for your work processes? UC systems enable video conferences, file sharing and chats. Screens can also be shared. But this is not always enough for true collaborative work.
Many employees who were sent to the home office at short notice are additionally overwhelmed by the situation and the possibilities of the software platforms. UC platforms tempt to use them for every phone call. However, not every coordination with colleagues requires a video conference. In the past, it was often enough to simply pick up the phone and call colleagues.
Processes determine the choice of software
Before we decided on software platforms, we analysed which processes and procedures we wanted to cover. In addition, we have further developed our work processes so that they also work digitized remotely. For example, we also had to define communication channels for the external and internal addressing of our employees. With many of our customers we see a bouquet of contact possibilities: Mobile number, fixed line, fax, instant messaging and VC address. This also complicates the cooperation.
Based on our analysis, we decided on three software tools: a UC software, a collaboration system and a web-based knowledge management system. In addition, we use IP telephony and e-mail. Because we rely on several systems and have a suitable solution for each process, we reduce the risk of shadow IT. This simplifies collaboration, increases data security and reduces the impact should a system fail. We have also defined three paths for our external and internal communication: e-mail, telephone and our UC tool. All three channels also work via employee smartphones. This means that our employees can be easily reached by customers and colleagues.
The remote infrastructure is not designed for all employees to use it simultaneously.
The reasons for the problems with Microsoft Teams was that too many people simultaneously dialled in at the same time. Therefore, the system was overloaded at times. The same applies to VPN connections from the home office to the office infrastructure. If the company servers are not prepared for massive remote access, they can collapse. In addition to adequate dimensioning, there are a number of other measures that can be taken to ensure smooth operation. For example, if access, authorization and authentication policies are not properly implemented, employees may access resources that they do not need.
As a quick solution for a short-term remedy, there are also some rules of conduct that every employee can follow: Not all employees should access the company servers at the same time. Those who are able to, should not work directly on the server, but upload the required files to their own desktop and edit them locally. You should also refrain from moving larger files. To enable unrestricted access for employees during working hours, our IT department has also moved the backup and maintenance windows to night hours and the weekend.
Employees do not have sufficient access to project, customer and company data.
If processes and projects are not sufficiently digitalized, a lot of paper is often produced. This paper must be taken along in the form of files and written documents if ongoing projects are to be further processed at home. But what if documents are not allowed to leave the company building or several employees have to access the documents at the same time?
To digitalize our projects and processes, we have installed a collaboration platform that runs in a private cloud. The entire project work takes place there. There is a digital interface for each project, on which all project participants have joint access, documents can be stored and edited. In the background runs a file server that we run ourselves. This reduces analogue files and all project participants can always access the current data stock. The project results and the entire project documentation are additionally stored in a web-based knowledge management system. This allows employees to access all relevant data from home, even after the project has been completed.
Our next blog post will be about the digitalization of communication and work processes. We’ll also give some tips on useful software tools for the individual processes.
Martin C. Wagner, Head of Marketing macomGROUP