All Things Managed: The IT Services Story Part 5
How to Implement a Successful Remote Workforce Strategy
For traditional office equipment dealers, rightsizing a document imaging device fleet is essential to the MPS they deliver to customers, chiefly to lower print costs. For dealers that also offer managed IT services, rightsizing a client’s office can lead to even bigger opportunities.
The remote workforce is no longer a trend, folks, it’s reality. Today, more and more people work from home or on the road, and more and more people seek jobs allowing them to do just that. To boot, more and more businesses—run by progressive Baby Boomers or Gen Xers, or already run by Millennials—embrace the concept of the remote workforce because making things happen oftentimes has zero to do with being physically present in an office.
“Aside from the productivity factor, the benefits of a remote workforce are far-ranging and significant: improved well-being and work-life balance, less travel and a lower environmental impact, and stronger profitability,” said Dale Stein, Co-Founder of the Technology Assurance Group. “The right technology must be in place to not only replicate the office experience out of the office but to provide a competitive advantage and drive revenue, too. After that it’s all about the human resource, how to keep employees engaged and feeling like they’re a part of the company’s solution.”
Yes, Amazon and Google play in the cloud space, but for many organizations Microsoft Office 365 is the gateway. The Redmond, Washington-based giant’s Azure platform has plenty of services to assist with virtually any area of business, as does the competition. Again, the key is for everybody to have access to the exact same things regardless if they’re in an office or outside of it, including the ability to print—Azure is just one way to achieve this goal. And the cloud provides better cybersecurity than a VPN, which not all companies are aware of but for dealers will prove to be a great conversation starter.
Reliable connectivity is another part of the flavorful, remote workforce recipe. “SD-WAN (software-defined wide-area network) enables the Internet to stay up and running, as the connection will auto-shift to cellular 5G when a network goes down,” Stein said. “Employees can continue to work as if nothing happened, and it gives businesses the protection of uptime of the information pipe being utilized. TAG introduced its members to SD-WAN two years ago, of which 20 percent are making money with it, and the market for this technology is forecast to be approximately $8 billion by 2023. It’s just beginning to gain traction, so now’s the time to hop on the train!”
Similarly, TAG’s approach with SIP (session initiation protocol, aka calls across the Internet) was a few years ahead of the market. That accelerated the organization’s ability to sell phone systems and, more importantly, to arrive at a hosted voice model earlier than many competitors. “Copper lines are going away,” Stein said. “MSPs, not to mention dealers with the proper partners and expertise, can deploy SD-WAN, install a hosted voice system, and do it for less than what the old school phones were costing. For us, we’re very interested in seeing what Microsoft, through Azure, has in store for Skype and telecom in general.”
All that notwithstanding, video is the real difference maker for the remote workforce, especially in terms of communication and collaboration. An organization that relies solely on voice is doing its staff a disservice, as eye-to-eye contact and body language are integral in building relationships and putting heart into a conversation. Think about how many times email comes across in a way that the author didn’t intend—such is life for one-dimensional items.
“Video conferencing is on the rise and will soon be a mainstay,” Stein said. “It’s a positive change for everybody in a company, not just the remote workforce, because that personal connection is, in a word, irreplaceable. A screen on a phone is just too small to produce great results, so we here at TAG use Zoom for 80 percent of our calls and meetings and it’s proven to have 90 percent effectiveness. This is going to be huge: MSPs and dealers need to be in the video game, plain and simple. If not, it’s a grave injustice to their customers.
The right technology [for the remote workforce] must be in place to not only replicate the office experience out of the office but to drive revenue and provide a competitive advantage, too. After that it’s all about the human resource, how to keep employees engaged and feeling like they’re a part of the company’s solution.” –Dale Stein
Technology is one thing, but it still requires human interaction or, perhaps, intervention. And there can be a sizeable bridge to cross when it comes to the remote workforce, such as convincing business owners, particularly in SMBs, that the strategy will be a success. Beyond that, managers must define process and then it’s incumbent on the employees to fulfill the task. Still, it puts the onus on managers to develop a fresh style that meshes with new technology and to perform at a higher level. Accountability and responsibility—to say nothing about communication—don’t go bye-bye when people work at home or on the road.
“The lazy side of management is sight: Just because somebody’s in an office doesn’t mean they’re productive,” Stein said. “The hardest thing to do in life or the office is to change or change how things get done. Some people meet change head-on, but they’re the minority. The tipping point could very well be when businesses with more remote workers instead of office goers actually have better company culture—and are more unified—than businesses where everybody every day has to report to the office.”
Key Point(s) Summary
The basic premise: Dealers and MSPs can take 25 percent of a company’s workforce and make them remote and save 25 percent of the office’s footprint. The cost savings can then foot 100 percent of the bill to move to a cloud-based model. Stein even explained that TAG eliminated $1,800 off its monthly bill, applied it to remote cloud systems, and wound up with $600 of savings a month—and saw employee productivity increase.
Granted, the whole concept is too innovative for many organizations at this juncture. But dealers that jump on the idea and start selling it sooner rather than later will outpace the slow-to-react competition, and the same applies to MSPs that haven’t yet arrived at that place. After all, you don’t want to be a “me too” business, you want to be visionary. Ahead of the game. And the consensus is that if dealers continue to just bank on growth via moving boxes, they’ll either be bought by a bigger technology company or, worse, go out of business.
The remote workforce, and everything that comes with it, is just one way to accelerate revenue, and who doesn’t want that?!
|Dale Stein, Co-Founder of TAG|
And be sure to listen to our podcast on Microsoft Azure with TAG’s Lane Smith!
The Technology Assurance Group is a managed IT “brain bank” that’s been around for over 20 years. The organization has its own IT services business and runs the Association of Managed Technology Services Providers, while also offering education on topics such as sales training & management and financial analysis & industry benchmarking. TAG can assist in mergers & acquisitions and employee hiring & retention, too. With over 400,000 customers in approximately 140 markets across the United States and Canada, TAG is a powerful resource for all things managed IT.