The head of the Geekforce is working from home more often, he has bought laptops for the rest of the Geekforce so they too can work from home, and there will no doubt be swearing at the computer as we discover things about our remote systems that you don't discover until you ask them to do something that they have not needed to do before. I am getting used to having him underfoot (I usually work remotely). We both have sniffles, we have enough loo-roll, but, like many small and medium-sized businesses, we are, frankly, a bit on edge.
So it seemed like the perfect time to do some digging and to start thinking about what the COVID-19 Pandemic will mean for all our business lives. and what companies can do to take back a wee bit of control.
I couldn't find that much. It's early days. There's a lot of stuff about global markets, and some advice aimed at big businesses by KPMG and their ilk, but what does it mean for the small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs who are our clients?
Well, home working is going to become a thing, and there will be teething troubles, but you don't necessarily want us for that, we haven't been a Sys-Admin for hire company for nearly ten years.
KPMG, in advice to companies for how to cope in the short term, says this
"Develop a back-up plan for impacted staff that may include contingencies for more automation, remote-working arrangements, or other flexible resourcing in response to personnel constraints.
Leverage available internal and external technology to aid collaboration and equip employees with necessary tools to work remotely both in affected areas and with individuals in affected areas as seamlessly as possible."
It is fair to say that any change of culture and working practices will put a strain on systems that were designed under a different set of assumptions, either by highlighting existing problems, which could be worked around in the office, or needing entirely new systems for new ways of working.
The good news is that there are lots of excellent third-party solutions that can be deployed in the browser to aid remote working. Whether you want a video-conferencing solution, something to aid collaborative working for staff who can no longer come into the office, or travel to meetings, a Customer Relations Management Solution or a Project Management solution, there are packages available to help you.
We like Slack for collaboration, Jira for Project Management, Hubspot as a CRM, and Starleaf for meetings, but your mileage may vary. The important thing is to look for the features that are important to your company, whether it an excellent mobile app, integration with your other systems, a clean, clear user interface, quality video, or ability to support multiple users.
The bad news is, there is a good chance that no single solution will meet all your needs, that you will need them to talk to each other and work seamlessly together, and that there may be key features that they lack, even so. For that, you want a company that specialises in Middleware or writing bespoke apps and plug-ins that help systems interconnect, and add on the features that you can't live without.
So one of the things the Geekforce, who do this kind of thing all the time, would advise you to look for in any system is a decent API, that can interface with other systems, and with custom programs and apps.
Additionally, over the coming weeks and months, with changing behaviours from both businesses and the public, stressed supply chains, and rapidly changing markets, access to robust, flexible data analysis will become more important than ever, to manage everything from operations, and R&D to procurement. Who gets access to what information, and from where will be vital, so it pays to consider your access tiers.
Fortunately, data collection and reporting, sophisticated data analysis, and fine-grained access control are some more of the things we do.
In an environment where the only thing we can be sure of is that tomorrow will look very unlike yesterday or even today, the companies who get off the mark, and are agile about changing their cultures, their working practices, and the way they use technology to maintain or even improve productivity, and make savings where they can, will have an edge on those who don't in the months to come.