Distributed Working – The New Normal?

Remote Working? (but is it Intelligent Working?)

For the first time in history we have had mass adoption of a single technology in only a matter of weeks.  Software to handle online conferencing has been around for years and whilst ‘common’ was not being used by all users as an everyday business tool.

Kapow! (or should I say Zoom?) – suddenly everyone is using it!

The question I have been asking people is exactly what problem do they think they are solving and have they looked thoroughly at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that standalone conference call products like Zoom represent?

Panic buying doesn’t just extend to bread, hand sanitizer or toilet rolls.  What we have seen is individuals and entire companies getting swept up in the feeling that they MUST have something to communicate with (NOW!) – and failing to think strategically or carry out their normal due diligence (e.g. read the terms & conditions!).

Surely 300,000,000 gazillion Zoom users can’t be wrong?

Well yes, actually a large number of them can be!

I don’t have the space here to list out the issues and so I would suggest that you try googling Zoom (security, data privacy, court cases, etc.) in order to find out for yourself.  This obviously applies to many software suppliers – and that is the point.  You should never make a buying decision without reviewing as much information available as possible.  Don’t get me wrong – Zoom is an OK standalone product, but is it the right product for your business?

I certainly wouldn’t expect to find that the details of Clients that I invite to a Zoom meeting have then been sold on to a social media company.

So what are the alternatives to Zoom?

Hang on!  Are we jumping the gun again here?

Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves ‘What are our requirements and how does any solution fit in as part of our distributed working strategy?

OK – So the Requirements

To me – the following would be the starting point for your requirements.

  1. You want to have the ability to provide secure communications (audio and/or video) to a set or sets of your staff from any location, any device and at any time.
  2. You need to ensure that it is GDPR compliant and that user security profiles are in line with your company security policy.
  3. You need legal confirmation that your business data remains your own and is not being passed on to any other 3rd party.
  4. Usage should be logged with the option to record calls and audit them afterwards.
  5. Call details should be held as part of your CRM.
  6. It needs to be integrated as part of your overall business technology suite.
  7. It needs to be cost effective.

Product Selection

Clearly I appreciate that many companies with no technology in place needed something quickly.  However that should not mean that little or no commercial due diligence, testing or security assessment takes place.

And this doesn’t have to be a long process!  The amount of information available at our fingertips these days is enormous – and you should never be afraid to ask the awkward questions – you may be pleased (and thankful) with the response!

What is the difference between Remote Working and Distributed Working?

Remote working makes the assumption that there remains an office or offices and that the worker is working away from that office.

Distributed working does not make any distinction in location and provides for collaborative woking as part of ‘joined up’ systems.

Remote working solutions typically are standalone applications and can be seen as silos’ of data.

My Recommendation

Once you have done your homework then you will be in a better place to make the right decision for your company.  As a wise man once said to me “time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted” – and yes he was in the Army.

Being blunt – I would not even consider suggesting going with a standalone tool.  The only way forward for a modern company (small, medium or large) is a suite of business applications that are integrated, collaborative and (subject to your own security policies) can be used anywhere, at any time by any authorised user.

Starting in December 2019 for a Client based in Dublin Cloudtech carried out an independent and indepth review of the 15 most popular business suites.

There were over 40 dimensions to the review – including the ability to provide conference call & webinar functionality.  We delivered our report in February and to our immense and genuine relief there was one product suite that came top (and by an enormous margin).

This was the Zoho One Suite.

Their Meeting application comes included as part of the Zoho One Suite – and meets the minimum critical requirements that I outlined earlier.

Final Message

Whilst you may need a short term solution you should always create the time to make the best possible decision for your company.  Think what the whole company needs and will benefit from when the crisis is over.  Don’t find yourself boxed into a corner and end up with a set of standalone browser based applications.  You’re only swapping the problems you had with your ‘old’ on premise based applications with new cloud based problems (lack of flexibility, data manually cut / pasted from one to the other, security issues, expensive, etc.).

Think collaboration, security and true distributed working.