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Offices without walls – How having the right solutions prevents disaster and empowers your workforce

Paul Weeden

Written by Paul Weeden

Founder & Managing Director at Foration. IT and technology fixer.

[fa icon="clock-o"] 11 May 2016 [fa icon="user"] Paul Weeden [fa icon="folder-open'] advice, productivity, Office 365, organisation, cloud

Perhaps you’re an up-and-coming startup looking to make your funds go further. Or maybe you’re looking to scale up your business without necessarily increasing property costs. In both cases, having the right technology in place could enable you to cut back on physical office space - and perhaps even make it possible to ditch bricks and mortar altogether.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 13.7% of the UK workforce work remotely on a regular basis. Yet even though virtual offices have now become mainstream, making the switch to an office without walls raises serious considerations. Questions that should be on your radar include the following:
  • Will your staff be able to work together effectively?
  • Will customer service suffer?
  • Will your data and IT infrastructure remain secure?
  • Will you be able to maintain control of your business?

Here’s how various tech solutions can bring everything together…

Working together - but separately

For at least a decade, the productivity backbone of the majority of office environments has come in the form of Microsoft Office. Whereas in the past, using Office meant installing boxed versions on individual machines, Microsoft now has a new Cloud-based model - and this model is a godsend if you’re going virtual.

Office 365 is a subscription-based service, meaning that it’s easy to scale up or down according to changes in the size of your workforce. Crucially, it also offers secure access to shared calendars, email, contacts and other shared business files from any device or location - ensuring a truly connected workforce.

How to stay in sync

Even if you are still in a traditional office environment, emailing documents around and trying to keep track of the most up to date version can be a significant hindrance to productivity. If your workforce is scattered, it becomes even more of a priority to ensure everyone’s working on the same page. Once again, Office 365 offers a solution to this: files are stored online and are always up to date, making it possible for team members to work on the same thing simultaneously without versioning conflicts.

Providing great customer service

If customer data is currently scattered across various standalone Excel files, a move to an office without walls is going to be a tall order. By contrast, a cloud-based customer relationship management(CRM) solution allows all customer and lead information to be stored in one place. It can then be securely accessed by your sales and marketing teams - whether they are at their home desktop or out in the field on a smart device.

Maintaining data security

Whether you stick with a physical office presence, go completely virtual - or opt for a hybrid of the two, no firm is immune to data security breaches. A new setup will require a revised risk assessment - but that’s not to say that security concerns ought to prevent you from making the switch.

Depending on your specific setup, a combination of encryption, firewalls might be appropriate. Rather than relying on scattered employees to install critical updates themselves, a remote update management system may also be beneficial. A system of alerts can notify you and/or your administrator in the event that an unauthorised device attempts to access the network.

Staying in control

Skype and other methods of virtual conferencing mean that there’s no reason not to be in touch with your workforce as and when required. What’s more, one of the biggest strengths of both Office 365 and cloud-based CRM software is their reporting capabilities. An Office without walls certainly doesn’t have to mean an office without effective management.

Paul Weeden

Written by Paul Weeden

Founder & Managing Director at Foration. IT and technology fixer.

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