Where is everybody? Working from home.
This is a continuation from our previous article on GDPR and working from home.
No doubt you would have noticed that you can get a seat on a tube, drive through central London at high speed and jay walk without getting arrested by the police. Yes, there definitely is a change in the air as everyone now is working from home. No more daily commutes just balancing a laptop on the sofa whilst desperately avoiding shaking hands with the supermarket delivery driver. Certainly, some members of staff have doing it for years, but now that everyone is at home, how do you manage a team when there is nobody there?
Right equipment for working from home.
For staff to work remotely they will need a company laptop and mobile phone. Psychologically that puts a barrier between what is a company work and what is personal. Data can be inadvertently shared on one device, and let alone the GDPR implications, information trails may get very messy. If it’s the company’s device, then it and its contents are technically and legally under that entity’s domain.
Using technology to manage staff.
As technology has given rise to greater sharing of information, so it also provides a mechanism for making sure staff are doing what they are supposed to. That being the case, through network and computer logs you should be able to produce a report of who has logged on to the system, and when. That at least shows they have done something. Now what about the times in between. Yes, you’ll see email traffic, but you want notice anything going astray until an important deadline is missed. There is no regular office chatter to remind people of timelines, so you need to find alternate methods to keep people focused.
Microsoft Teams allows for something of that office conversations to take place. Teams is Microsoft’s answer to Slack and will eventually replace Skype as the main means of internal communication. It allows chats, calls, screen share, video conferencing, documents and tasks all to be in one place. That is a good start for management overview. It is part of the SharePoint suite, which contains an on-line management system linked to all Office documents. On the admin page you have an audit trail with over 50 different identifiers associated with any document. This can indicate who has started, viewed, or modified anything within the system with its own timestamp. If you want an overview of you whole teams’ efforts, you could export it to Excel and run it to a pivot table.
The right Infrastructure.
The other issue is your domains infrastructure. If you have your own server with on premise software, you at least have the advantages of knowing where your data is stored. Your IT provider can set up people with remote desktop or use third party providers such as TeamViewer or LogMeIn. The issue is some staff member may not have permissions to all folders or all software packages. If someone updates the stock system with a signed delivery note, it may be difficult for the accounts assistant to check the source in their accounts package. Stand alone software may have a set function for each department, with segregation of duties, but it’s not so good for sharing information.
The Benefits of Cloud ERP.
This is where ERP cloud solutions come into play. If everything is available through a web browser and your entire workflow is based in one solution, then it’s much easier to manage people and business workflow. Each user has their own area of responsibility and can see only what they need to see. Sales can look through quotes, orders and invoices, whilst logistics handles purchase orders, deliveries and returns. Accounting sees all this for financials and management has an overview of progress. For most businesses, tracking performance can be achieved remotely if you have the right solution in place. Once it has been set it up properly, then that makes the whole organisation more efficient, whether you are in the office or not.
After the storm.
No doubt this current crisis will dissipate, but it will bring about a cultural change as business’s and their staff adapt to more flexible working. This will now become a permanent fixture of working life which means appropriate system need to be put in place. The potential and risks of this new way working would need to be well understood to take advantage of these new possibilities.
About the Author.
Malcolm Ford has 10 years’ experience implementing ERP software solutions for the SME market in the UK. He has to work remotely and occasionally from home.