Smart Working 1

Flexible Working and Collaboration

Collaboration diagram

Collaboration diagram

One problem your business might face  is how to bid effectively for work from the large organisations that can deliver a steady stream of business.

One approach is to form consortia. This allows companies to share the costs and time of preparing and submitting bids. We have worked extensively like this ourselves and  can show you how to do the same.

Once the business is secured it’s useful to be able to communicate from your work space rather than travel so much.

You may wish to share work in process – with the team and with the client. Nothing builds trust like joint working.

Most of the tools you need are free or only require a modest monthly outlay. We have researched what the early adopters do and have produced a collaborative working e-book and flexible working workshop. And the MD’s guide that we wrote for the DTI is still available here as Succeeding in the Networked Economy

Remote and flexible working toolkit

You need a means of storing documents and keeping the communication emails in one place where you can easily review the relevant conversations. Its also useful if you have a place for keeping track of milestones and progress towards results where they can be shared. We use Basecamp and have successfully managed several projects using it. We pay about £6 per month for this.

You also need to be able to chat and communicate via voice over IP (or VOIP) or video conferencing. One tool that we routinely use is Skype.  It lets you communicate free, either by voice or by 1 video conference connection. In addition it supports a chat facility which will allow up to 100 people to take part in an ongoing conversation and it supports real time transfer of files.

How to manage remote work

Setting up the technology is simple. It’s clear that there is a real time advantage of working collaboratively with people who don’t have to travel and with the current real energy based pressures to more sustainable working there are really good reasons for moving towards remote and flexible working. We are accredited workwise advisers and can help you choose solutions, justify your decisions and manage the implementation.

But there’s still a lot of resistance – mainly from managers who like to see people working. As always – it’s the people issues that hold back the potential of IT. But if BT can do it – so can you.

In practice you need to be able to set clear targets of what you expect them to do, and make sure that you keep in contact with them. The tools are readily available, but it needs discipline on the side of the manager to work at engaging the remote staff by phone, video conference and extranet. The traditional “broadcast” approach of tools like Microsoft Sharepoint has been supplemented by online communities such as Ning which allow purpose built communities for mutual support and discussion. We use it to support our alumni of the Punch Above Your Weight programme.

If you need help with setting up or managing a distance or flexible working programme we may be able to help. Please call us to discuss your needs.

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