The COVID-19 nationwide closures and social distancing measures have been catalytic. While some businesses are uncertain about their futures, others are taking this time as an opportunity to reinvent and innovate.
Presented with these challenges, we’re entering a golden age of opportunity for building online business models, spurred by necessity. What was once seen as a substandard means of giving and receiving services is now being taken more seriously than ever before, thanks in part to key technology platforms.
Here are some tools that business owners should consider in transitioning their service operations online.
Collaborative work and editing
Even before this crisis unfolded, many software providers allowed for collaborative editing of documents and files. What this means is that you and your team, or you and a client, can gain the same benefit that you had before if you were sitting in the same room working on a project on a computer.
Live collaborative editing means that users can simultaneously access a file and see each other’s changes in real-time.
Clients that participate in live collaboration benefit by being able to see “work in progress,” something that demonstrates the company’s value to them and is often lost in remote work. Company teams benefit from live collaboration by achieving “group decision making,” something that is lost in the scheme of individual editing and revising process that is common in groups working alone.
Another benefit of online collaboration is version control. By working on a file “live” online, a company can control the entire version history and roll-back edits that have been made, if necessary. These are a few platforms in various domains that allow for live editing:
Arts and creative fields:
Adobe Creative Suite allows for live collaboration through Team Projects: their tool for live collaboration on video editing.
Design, construction, and architecture:
AutoDesk, the maker of CAD and other fundamental design software features LiveDesign, its platform for real-time display and walkthrough of designs.
General office productivity:
Microsoft Office and Google Drive both offer live collaboration on their spreadsheet, word processing, presentation, and many more forms of software. Amazon offers live collaboration through its WorkDocs web-based service.
Video conferencing is getting all the attention with the meteoric rise in stock prices of video conferencing tools. It’s a fundamental part of delivering any service remotely. In the past three weeks, companies that would have never considered running their services online have now had demonstrated success, from fitness to counseling, and even live performances.
While over the past few years the differences in video quality have been evened out among the top competitors, they certainly all aren’t made the same. Some key differences make each service more or less suitable for different purposes. When selecting one, use the following criteria:
User control: What type of user control do you need? Do you want to be able to control who participates, who gets to speak during meetings, and what information they see?
Screen-Sharing/Remote Control: Is screen-sharing an important aspect of your meetings? Do you want someone else to be able to use your computer remotely during the session?
Monetization: Do you want to tie access to the video conference to payment?
Productivity and security
Some of the downsides of an at-home workforce are productivity and accountability, not only of the employees to the company but of the company to its clients.
When services are rendered remotely, the mandate to “prove” your value to your clients is increased. You need to demonstrate that you spent the time you said you would on a project and did the things that you claim to have done. Here are just a few tools that can help you do this:
Time tracking: Time tracking software enables companies to accurately count the amount of time that employees are spending on projects or at work. There are many kinds of software in this space, ranging from simple clock-in/clock-out functions to more advanced software such as HiveDesk, that takes randomized snapshots of the user’s screen while they are clocked in and builds a log of these should they need to be reviewed.
Remote desktop: Security and control of your business’s and clients’ data is paramount, and for some businesses, it simply isn’t an option to enable employees to store information on their personal computers.
Remote desktop software allows companies to give their employees access to either office-based computers or a centralized server that mimics a desktop computer and thus protects valuable information. The quickest way to implement remote desktop services is through Google Remote Desktop, but you may want to consider a service that is based on a server and has heightened access controls for enhanced security depending on your need.
VPN service: A VPN service is a more secure way for a business to access websites and services. If your company runs e-commerce applications or an intranet, you might want to consider a VPN as an added layer of security, protecting your end-users (your employees) from having the information that they’re working on being compromised.
Lean into available technology
No matter what industry your business is in, there’s likely a technology solution that can help you continue your operations during this time. Take the time to explore your options, and think about how these might increase efficiency and become a permanent fixture in your business plan.