skyscrapersIf you look around any metropolitan area, you will see signs of commerce everywhere. These hubs supported the Industrial Revolution and brought us into the New Millennium. Skyscrapers stand as icons where work gets done, or should I say, where work used to get done.  The United States has migrated from industrial economy to knowledge economy, transforming the where, when, and how of work.  This change is the direct result of technology advancements that provide easy access to information we need for work, available from anywhere and at anytime we need it.

Internet-Of-ThingsBy 2020 it is predicted that mobile work, telework, remote – whatever you call it – will be 52% of the workforce.  The Internet-of-things (IOT) is transforming how we work, play & live. Multi-channel access through your device of choice (mobile, desktop, tablet, social media) raised our expectations. We expect all the information & platforms we need to collaborate with clients and colleagues will be available to us, 24×7, on a global scale.   As organizations are learning to leverage this business transformation, it’s imperative that SMART organizations focus not only on the types of technology that keep people connected, but also on how technology enriches an organization’s culture as well.   At the SMART Workplace we  have worked with a wide variety of organizations as they prepare to embrace this new way of working. We see two common organizational challenges – navigating both the physical (tech) and cultural (people) transitions.

A virtual team consists of professionals working remotely in various locations. Members may work out of their home, from the road, or co-work from Corporate or branch offices.  All, however, work on the same team toward the same objectives.

Virtual team members collaborate, working together across the miles by leveraging technology – instant messaging, web conferencing, Skype, online project management software, Slack, the list of available tools grows weekly.

In today’s post we’ll tackle the physical (tech) part of this transformation by suggesting 5 principles to be more tech-effective.  Next week we’ll tackle the second barrier to success – and what we feel is the most critical element to master in your organizational transformation –  the cultural (people) revolution in Part 2.

So what can organizations do to be better prepared? Here are five SMART actions every organization can take to become a SMART workplace when it comes to technology:

  1. Audit current technology. Inevitably there are things that are working really well. Just because its been around a while doesn’t mean its obsolete. Find what’s working, understand what isn’t and fill in what is missing.
  2. Involve the right people to select the tools. Invite teams from across the organization to submit ideas on tools they may be using that they like. Set up user testing groups to review the programs you are considering, bring people along as the decision is made.  There’s more to tool selection and customization, obviously. My point is, involve people early and often. For more tips on this, check out our guest blogger, Lidiane Mocko at Mocko Consulting.
  3. Admit when you’re wrong. “In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.” ― Winston S. ChurchillIn every aspect of my life I have messed up. When I do, I just admit it. Technology changes are hard. You may head down a path you think is right but isn’t. When you know you’ve taken a wrong turn, turn around and head back.
  4. Build a technology toolkit.   Just like Microsoft put together their office suite, put together the technology suite or toolkit for your teams. Make it easy for everyone to find it in one place – all the technology, including training and tips on how to use it. Making it simple from the beginning helps with tool adoption.  Continue to check back with The SMART Workplace, as we roll-out technology checklists and tool kits later this year.
  5. Metrics, metrics, metrics.  In order to effectively manage a virtual team, you must manage by results. Leaders must rely on metrics and milestones to measure team adoption rather than relying on the number of hours in the office. Progress trumps effort. Team task and project management tools are a virtual team manager’s best friend, a partner in tracking metrics that helps you understand your team better and see progress and monitor adoption without interrupting their work.   Having the correct technology in place allows the team to track its own success, and above all, enables both executive management and key stakeholders (that love metrics) to measure progress as well.

Change is hardkathy_kacher_pic, so you have to go first! Once a new technology is rolled out you need to track utilization and insure that the new tools are being used. It is so easy to go back to the way we have always done it! One idea is to include the adoption and use of new technology as part of your performance management goal setting. Also, recruit people who are in the group and across the organization to be technology ambassadors, and to be your front line in supporting people when they have questions or concerns.  ~Kathy

Once you have the right technology in place, ensuring adoption of these tools is one of the critical elements required to transform your organization into a SMART Workplace.   In Part 2 of this series, we’ll tackle the challenges of fostering connectedness and effective communication strategies that are critical when part of a virtual workforce.   For more resources on managing through change, sign up for our community here.

~ Kathy Kacher, Workforce Solutions Expert and co-founder of The SMART Workplace