Delivering value to a remote workforce: A practical approach
The overnight switch to remote working triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented amount of change to the usual ways of working. The impact will continue to be felt for the foreseeable future -- and as a result, IT departments’ approach to delivering services to their organizations will need to keep pace with the evolving requirements of this newly remote staff.
To that end, IT needs to embed itself deeper in the organization to understand the unique requirements of every single stakeholder -- be it the C-suite or the manager answering the customer call -- so that those professionals can do their jobs effectively, enabling the business to realize its strategic goals. In practical terms, what does this mean? How can IT departments put these tactics into practice in their enterprises?
Understand What’s Essential
IT teams can deliver value to a remote workforce by first understanding the core values, principles, and offerings that keep the business afloat.
Given the move to remote working, this means reprioritizing projects and removing things that are not business critical. For example, at our own company, we decided to reprioritize some infrastructure projects relating to servers and telephony so that we could focus our energies on onboarding employees, communicating with them, and making sure that they were connected.
That connectedness is what makes an organization successful at a time like this -- because while working from home existed in the past, it’s gone from something that occasionally needed to be done, to an absolute way of life.
Sometimes, figuring out which projects should be moved to the back burner isn’t necessarily as clear cut as the example above. That’s why it’s important for IT teams to establish regular meetings with other business leaders, who have their finger on the pulse of what their teams are concerned about or having issues with. This provides the clearest consensus on where priorities might lie.
Find Creative Ways to Add Value
Another way for IT teams to deliver value to the remote workforce is to identify what is considered IT 'value' by the organization, as well as the stakeholders individually. Alas, defining IT value is notoriously hard to do. It’s all fine and dandy to keep services up and running and consistently complete your tasks in a timely manner; however, that isn’t necessarily IT value. That’s expected.
To truly provide IT value, IT needs to be in lockstep with the business -- both internally and externally -- to understand needs and identify opportunities.
To take another example from my own company, one of our business units was looking to onboard a customer that had unique security requirement around how the project was being managed. The team that was onboarding the customer had expertise around delivering our product, but not necessarily in how to address this additional requirement in a creative and sustainable way.
The IT team was able to step in and deliver real value because of our expertise around various enterprise applications and project management tools that could address the specific requirements of the customer. When everyone is remote -- the IT team, the onboarding team, and the customer -- tapping into that multitude of perspectives and ideas is more important than ever.
Make It Meaningful
A third way for IT teams to deliver value to the remote workforce is to establish meaningful engagement with the stakeholders. This means a partnership with two-way communication.
For example, one thing that has been particularly noticeable during this remote working span is that while people often understand why there are certain IT requirements or why things are done a certain way, they are also looking for a collaborative experience with IT. This means that IT should be less focused on saying "you can’t do this" or "you can’t use that app," and more focused on saying "This is what we can do" or "This is how we can solve this need together." It’s the difference between a partnership and shoving things down people’s throats.
This open communication extends to being able to take criticism if a business unit or stakeholder feels like a certain IT decision hampered them or slowed them down. Having this level of honesty from all stakeholders allows IT to ask the question "Are there things that we could be doing better?" which is a crucial step on the road to truly delivering value.
The "new normal" that COVID-19 has ushered in, and the remote work that is now a way of life, is not without its challenges -- but it also presents plenty of opportunities for organizations. By following some of the practical tips outlined above, IT teams can continue to deliver value to a remote workforce for the coming months and beyond, ensuring that their organizations are well positioned to handle whatever’s on the horizon.
Van Richardson is CIO, iManage