HOW GOING ONLINE HAS CHANGED PROCESSES AND COMMUNICATIONS
It is next to impossible to count how many person-hours have been spent by people at online meetings from the commencement of the current pandemic.
Duration of the global lockdown has reached 8 months and no one knows how much longer it will last. We have all formed our opinions on remote work, study and entertainment. Life in isolation and what in March seemed an abnormal situation has become normal life for all of us. It has brought certain changes which we have not considered at the beginning of this year.
Processes: Online vs. Offline
Educational sphere went online with the start of lockdown. Lots of companies had to switch to remote work. But bread will not bake itself, steel will not smelt on its own, fields are not going to self-cultivate and food products have to be delivered by someone, too. Therefore, office workers switched to remote work mainly in those companies that were more or less ready to provide this option. By such provision we mean not only IT-infrastructure but also the process itself. For instance, a number of companies just closed their contact centers, having left customers alone with their problems. There is one big box mailbox for sending the problem description, while no one guarantees that the solution will be provided. But this is a bad example. One of the good examples is optimization of client processes and order processing speed in trading companies and delivery businesses, reconsideration of back-office functions, development of telemedicine, introduction of self-service in a number of businesses.
We have carried out a survey among 104 companies who are EBS clients, and it helped us see the picture in various business spheres of Ukraine and understand how companies will work after the lockdown is over.
The survey results show that the vast majority adapt to remote work and will not hurry to get back to their offices. A number of other researches confirm that the situation after the lockdown will continue to contribute to the remote work tendency, as everyone has understood that such work is possible and has a number of advantages, along with a few drawbacks.
Accessibility vs. Safety
The role of IT department has grown significantly, especially in the eyes of those managers who previously treated IT workers as employees that had to help an accountant adjust a report and to add toner to printer in a timely manner. Now IT staff had to set up remote access to the corporate network for all co-workers literally within one day, while ensuring protection of the network and safeguarding the information management system from external influence. Obviously deficiencies of IT infrastructure did not allow a number of companies to be locked down, and such companies continued to work in offices. For this reason, some of our clients started the projects to improve and implement IT safety policies.
Technologies vs. Emotions
Skype, Zoom, Telegram, Meet and other messengers that allow to arrange online conferences burst into our life.
According to Microsoft, the number of Teams users has grown from 32 to 44 mln persons only within March 11–18, as a lot of American companies asked their employees to work from home. The number of world’s active Zoom users has skyrocketed from 10 mln in December 2019 to 300 mln in April 2020.
IT allowed not to stop the processes completely. But the customers note that online meetings do not provide for the same emotional contact among staff members as active face-to-face discussions do. Therefore, important matters continue to be discusses at conventional office staff meetings. The clients that have the geographically dispersed structure were arranging regular meetings. It was taking a lot of time and resources for travel and meeting arrangements. Quarantine has remedied the situation. The new normal has emerged in the form of online meetings. Negotiation rooms have been equipped with big screens, communication channel capacity has been increased. Distances and borders are removed at the touch of a button.
The event industry representatives were especially hard hit by the lockdown. But as soon as in May big online conferences started to be held. It was a very advanced solution, yet the speaker had to talk to the screen rather than to the audience. Emotions were quite different from those felt in live meetings. As soon as the quarantine was eased, conventional live events gradually began to come back, with all due limitations observed. New formats have become a new normal, offline + online, to preserve the event’s emotional component and have face-to-face communication, while letting everyone interested to attend the conference regardless of their location.
Time vs. Efficacy
Time. Have we got more of it?
Of course the co-workers note that now they can save time that has been previously spent commuting, and have more time for work. Has the work become more productive and efficient? It directly depends on how work processes at home are arranged and on the managers’ control of the working time use and obtained results. Managers note that at a distance the corporate feeling fades, and it is much harder to maintain the team spirit while working remotely. Besides, a number of co-workers also mention higher productivity of working in the office compared to work from home.
Document flow: paper vs. electronic
Remote work has strongly affected all those who work with the original paper records, namely: accountants, lawyers, HR staff. Documents arrive late, are often lost and take longer to process. This is especially felt by our clients that are geographically dispersed. And, judging from their requests, the use of electronic document flow inside the company and in work with contractors is turning into an excellent trend. Within a short time, we received a few requests to implement electronic document flow in companies that didn’t consider it among their priorities before quarantine.
Chaos vs. systemic work
Another challenge for a company is to ensure uninterrupted work flow during abnormal situations. Lockdown has become exactly such challenge. Those companies that have a Business Continuity Plan among their assets have almost seamlessly moved to working in new environment. At EBS, for instance, 150 co-workers from two offices have switched to remote work within one week. Not a single client project was suspended during this transition. We had a precise action plan to ensure uninterrupted work.
We also observed how the employees’ relocation project has become a separate project in a number of companies, including redesign of external and internal processes, transporting and setting up users’ PCs, arranging access to corporate information outside of the office and lots of other related tasks.
What is business continuity plan?
Business continuity plan is the list of procedures and resources required to avoid interruption and support capacity to work in case of a business emergency.
Such plan should describe:
- plan objectives, to explain to co-workers why it has been established and what has to be done by everyone involved into its implementation;
- potential risks for the company and their management;
- key business processes, their interdependence, consequences of their interruption, acceptable suspension time;
- the most probable incidents and step-by-step incident response plan;
- circumstances for the plan activation and the response unit;
- contact lists and ways of communication;
- disaster recovery plan.
Did your company have an action plan? Has it been prepared now, for the next wave of COVID-19 pandemic? If not, it’s just the right time to start.
Nataliia Pasichnyk, Senior business analyst