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Is the “Office Paradigm” Dying?

One of the rules for creating content for blogs or podcasts is to avoid topics that put a time stamp on the content. This article however is going to break that rule this time. Ultimately the content of blogs and podcasts is shaped by and created for the times we are living in. Significant events like the global coronavirus pandemic infiltrate every facet of our lives.

Empty Office

Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, is quoted as saying “Anywhere the struggle is great, the level of ingenuity and inventiveness is high”. Taking this statement at face value, it is quite likely that the current “level of ingenuity and inventiveness” globally is at the highest level it has possibly ever been.

Businesses have had to change a lot very quickly, simply to survive. Normal and long accepted ways of conducting business have died instantly without us having a choice in the matter. For example, when engaging with new clients, the norm would involve face-to-face meetings. Now online meetings are the only option for the majority of businesses. Businesses and individuals also have to now adopt options which previously were not deemed the best way to do business or were considered as only applicable for certain industries or types of business. For example, some businesses embraced flexible working hours and work-from-home employees before the crisis arrived. Now many businesses are forced to adopt this model.

This is where the “inventiveness and ingenuity” during “struggles” comes in. It is interesting that many businesses are considering keeping remote working in some form beyond this crisis. These businesses are making some of the temporary changes more permanent, like renegotiating office leases, renegotiating conditions of employment and implementing more permanent technology solutions to support this model.

Now this article is certainly not suggesting ‘one-size-fits-all’ for remote working. The nature of this model does not suit many businesses and industries. However, there are business owners who have gone this route because they didn’t have a choice but they have seen the possible benefits of extending the approach into the future. Remote working employees spend less time travelling to and from the workplace each day and therefore can spend more time with their loved ones, whilst still doing the work required of them. In some cases employees are even more productive. Businesses have made changes which come at an expense to accommodate remote working employees, but they are also seeing savings which in some cases exceed the new expenses. The overhead savings in office space is often greater than the addition expense of the technology solution which enables remote work. Travel allowances and claims reimbursed to employees for business travel is also reduced and can easily outweigh the cost of online meeting platforms.

It is early days in this global health and economic crisis and no-one really knows exactly what the future will look like. Perhaps the world will return back to its original state? There is a lot of evidence to suggest this will not be the case, and there is enough for us to consider the question:

Is the “Office Paradigm” Dying?

 

Bitrix24 Solutions – Business Consulting

To ensure that consulting assignments with clients are successful, every business consulting company must closely manage various aspects of the assignment. Some of the key aspects include:

Storing and sharing up to date documents with all consultants involved in the assignment, as well as with the client

• Proving visibility to the internal and client team members of the dates and times for all planned activities and meetings

Plan and track the progress of all projects and tasks, and communicate progress updates to the relevant stakeholders

• Generate consultant time-sheets and materials usage reports for billing purposes

Business Consulting Solution

It is essential that documents are stored in a central location, which is accessible by all the consultants assigned to working with the client, as well as by the relevant client staff. Document repositories which are available via a cloud service are the most convenient as they are accessible by both internal and client staff, and these services usually offer customisable access permissions to ensure the appropriate levels of document control and confidentiality are in place. The Bitrix24.Drive provides a cloud storage space where access rights can be set at a drive, folder or file level for internal and extranet users, as well as the ability to integrate with external services like Google Drive and One Drive.

It stands to reason that meetings with clients need to be scheduled and confirmed. Also, it is important that key meetings are visible to not only all of the consultants engaging with a particular client, but also with the client’s representatives who are attending the meeting. By booking these meetings on one central platform ensures that any changes to scheduled meetings and/or venues are available immediately to ALL attendees. It is also important that meeting details like the list of attendees, location of the meeting venue and the meeting duration are saved for record keeping and billing purposes. The cloud-based Bitrix24 personal, group and company calendars are available centrally to internal and extranet users alike. The calendars are integrated to the platform’s CRM and Project/Task management features ensuring key events are linked to clients and all related meeting tasks are tracked respectively.

The majority of consulting engagements are conducted on a project basis, where defined tasks must be completed by agreed due dates and where agreed deliverables must be achieved by certain milestones. It is necessary to regularly monitor the percentage completion of the projects or tasks against the agreed plan and communicate the progress to all of the key stakeholders. The Bitrix24 Tasks can be linked projects or parent tasks, assigned to people as the responsible, participating or observing party, linked to specific clients in the CRM, and have the actual time take to complete versus the planned time to complete recorded.

Processing the time and materials used for consulting assignments needs to done using accurate and up to date information, so that client invoices are raised timeously and without errors. It is best to capture the consulting time and resources allocated to each client in a central ‘system’, which provides some automation to aggregate the time and costs by each consultant or each client contract. It is also critical that the actual time and resources allocated to a client’s account are reconciled against the originally quoted and planned time and resources. Bitrix24 has the capability collate the consultants’ billable consulting hours from work time reports and the products sold as materials during the engagement, and raise client invoices which are linked to the original quote.

Regardless of the size of the consulting company or the industry that it services, consulting businesses will be in the best position to deliver on their customer service and contract profit objectives with Bitrix24.

Remote Work: Key Considerations

When people or companies are faced with “flicking-the-working-remotely-switch” for the first time, it often turns out that it is not always as easy as expected. There are obvious enablers to working remotely, but there are also other factors that also need to be considered.

Working remotely

The obvious physical enablers will include finding a space to work, that is comfortable and can accommodate everything needed to be productive. To mention a few things: a desk and chair, sufficient light, good ventilation and a good cup of coffee! Although working remotely may be done alone, it is not possible to work alone. Being able to communicate with customers and colleagues is essential. So having a telephone or mobile phone, a decent internet connection and possibly a scanner are necessary.

Often change to working remotely is not quick because some work is required before hitting the switch. Company’s processes need to incorporate any steps specifically related to working remotely, for example how to use and process electronic documents. These electronic documents should be made available to employees on an online platform and the employees should be trained on how to complete and process the forms digitally.

Work is also required before the remote working switch can be flicked on the systems used. The cloud or online platforms themselves must be acquired, configured and supported before the remote work switch can be flicked on. Also, every remote worker must have a user account on the required platforms, with the correctly configured access permissions.

Lastly, consider the company culture and the employees’ personality types when going remote. Companies where there is a hierarchical and autocratic culture, with a high degree of management control, will have more difficulty in moving to working remotely than a company with a culture of trust, collaboration and empowerment. Any predominant personality traits in the workforce will also influence the success of remote work. Introverts usually tend to adopt working alone more easily than extroverts, especially for longer periods of time. Gregarious natured employees will require more opportunities to use online meetings and telephone calls.

Much of what has been mentioned can be addressed quite easily if working remotely has to be implemented quickly. However the difficulties, and even possibly the success of working remotely, is dependent on how it is implemented and if there is enough in place when flicking the switch.

Bitrix24 Solutions – A Remote Office

More and more of the work force today is becoming more mobile and working remotely. This has largely been enabled with the advances in and accessibility to technology. Many employees can work effectively outside of the traditional office, making use of client locations, coffee shops, co-working spaces and even their homes. Many companies promote this approach, with employers investing in the right tools and empowering their staff with the right training and development.

Remote Office

For some companies, developing a workforce that is capable of working remotely is an intentional choice, because they believe the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. However, there are often circumstances which force other companies to permit staff to work remotely, rather than this being as a result on an intentional choice. Extreme personal circumstances like an extended or chronic illness of a close family member, mixed with the employee’s ‘irreplaceable’ value to the company, force the company into permitting the employee to work remotely. Alternatively, unexpected or uncontrollable circumstances like natural disasters disrupt the physical workplace, forcing employees out the door to work remotely.

It is better for companies to embrace a culture of a remote workforce and prepare themselves to have staff operating remotely rather than being forced into this way of operating due to uncontrollable or unforeseen circumstances. Bitrix24 Cloud is the perfect tool for companies to create the digital workplace for staff to communicate and collaborate with each other, plan and track projects, deliver the desired customer service right from the first lead to the final invoice. Bitrix24’s CRM Marketing, Contact Centre and integrated Telephony ensure companies stay connected with their customers via multiple communication channels.

Clarity enables Success

There is a business cliché that says “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. This statement has been around for some time and the concept of managing by measuring is widely accepted. The principle behind the statement is that success is possible if there is clarity to start with.

Clarity enables Success

Performance management is typically associated with the statement “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. An entire business, a business process or function, or individual staff members can be more effectively managed if key performance indicators are tracked and compared to a performance target.

A slight variation of the statement talks to continuous improvement, “If you don’t measure it, you won’t know if it improves”. All too often businesses embark on improvement initiatives without measuring the performance before the change is implemented. If we don’t know what was happening before the change, how will we know if there was improvement after the change? It is also important that not only the outcome is measured, but also that the inputs (or levers, i.e. those things that will be changed) are identified and measured. Without knowing which change and how much of it affected the outcome, how do we know if there was real, controllable and repeatable improvement?

The principle can also be applied in staff training and development by stating “If you can’t explain it, you can’t teach it”. The induction of new staff is often done by existing staff that often have limited experience, understanding or ability themselves. This means the new staff can only have the same (or lower) ability as the existing staff. It is better for new staff to be inducted by using procedures which document best practices and clearly defined job descriptions.

Being intentional and by putting in some effort at the start of any endeavour will bring the necessary clarity. Getting clarity up-front certainly does not guarantee success. However without it, the chances of success are greatly reduced. So, unlock the door to success with the key of clarity.

Bitrix24 Solutions – Real Estate Industry

Bitrix24 is used in numerous industries including manufacturing, financial services, retail, travel & hospitality, information technology, logistics and non-profit organisations. The ability to simply and quickly implement Bitrix24’s extensive features makes this platform an obvious choice for many applications. For those applications which require more specialised solutions, Bitrix24 can be customised to deliver the ideal solution for almost any industry.

Real Estate

This couldn’t more true for the property industry, whether it is for residential or commercial properties that are bought & sold or rented. Bitrix24 is ideal as a communication and collaboration platform for any size real estate agency. Shared calendars ensure all agents are up to date where show houses are concerned, while client emails sent from the webmail are recorded on the client’s timeline. Key documents can be publicly or privately stored online and linked to the specific deal. Bitrix24’s project and task management is also perfect for managing processes, ensuring each process step is tracked and assigned to the responsible person. The CRM module assists with managing client contact details and relationships, as well as managing marketing campaigns and providing SMS updates to clients.

The Bitrix24 Cloud plans cater for any size real estate agency and the extensive global Partner network ensures it can be quickly and effectively implemented. Over and above the available Partner assistance, the extensive online support and resources ensure using Bitrix24 is successful and sustainable.

Visit the Bitrix24 page to find out more or Contact Us if you have any queries.

Making Better Choices

Everyday choices have to be made. They may be simply choices like which coffee blend you’ll start your day with to bigger choices like which property to purchase or which new product to roll out to market. There will probably be several alternatives available to choose from when making the decision. Most often the alternatives will be compared and a choice will be made. Is this a best approach to selecting the best alternative? Not really. Why?

Making the Right Choice

The list of alternatives is usually based on what existing suppliers can offer or sell, which are the cheapest alternatives and which alternatives the few people who are involved in the choice have used before. Choosing an alternative this way is simply picking the ‘best of the bunch’ rather than picking the best for what’s required.

Making choices like this often means that the final choice is less than optimal with inadequate features or characteristics to meet the need and is poor value-for-money since it often includes unnecessary/unused features or characteristics in the purchase cost.

To avoid this problem it is essential that the list of required features or characteristics must be known BEFORE any alternatives are considered. That way the selection of alternatives is more focused, the alternatives can be compared to ‘the standard of what is needed’ rather than whatever is on the table, and lastly it is more likely the final choice will best satisfy the needs or requirements.