Telecommuting: 5 Mistakes Small Businesses Make

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December 18, 2017 –

The time is finally right!  You’ve decided to take the plunge and allow telecommuting for your employees a few days a week…or perhaps full time.  If you’re smart, you’re also a bit nervous.  And that’s actually a good thing.  Being prepared makes all the difference. A lot can go wrong when you make this move, but it doesn’t have to.  Small and midsized business owners can avoid these 5 common mistakes and come out with all the pros (and none of the cons) that come with allowing employees to work remotely.  (For more on the pros and cons of telecommuting for small and midsized businesses read our blog post from last week).

Telecommuting Mistake #1: Managing by Physical Observation

For small and midsized businesses, management style is often very “hands on” by physically observing the employee while they work. Whether it’s a quick chat by their desk or observing them walking down the hall, there’s a subtle implication that the employee is productive because they are physically at the office. And the management style follows suit. However with telecommuting, “managing by physical observation” falls woefully short.  Managers must evolve to leading their team with outcome-based expectations.  It’s a transition from worrying about “did they put in 40 hours” to understanding and setting expectations of what outcomes (i.e. productivity level) the manager expects from the employee in a given time period. And then holding employees accountable to the outcome.  This is good management practice with or without a telecommuting program, but for those who have managed historically via physical observation, this is an important transition.

Telecommuting Mistake #2: Ignoring the Cultural Impact

Allowing remote work for employees will have a cultural impact on the organization. It’s important for leaders to ask themselves “What are the important elements of our culture we need to retain?” And then “How can we preserve those while people work remotely?”  This doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out process. It can be a back-of-the napkin exercise, but take the time to think it through.  Ignoring the impact or pretending there won’t be one will lead to challenges.

One cultural “fail” is forgetting to be inclusive. Getting all of your team together in the same physical location on a regular basis can help.  Consider adding team lunches once a month or an “all hands” meeting on a quarterly basis with a social hour before the meeting starts. Creating opportunities for employees to physically engage with one another on a regular basis can make a huge difference in retaining the important elements of company culture.

Telecommuting Mistake #3: Not Creating a Formal Policy

Okay so this one isn’t a ton of fun, which is why it’s probably skipped so often.  Particularly in small or midsized businesses, where formal policies might feel like overkill.  But even a brief one-page document which outlines the guidelines the employee (and the company!) will follow will help ensure a successful telecommuting program. Telecommuting can also have legal implications for your business. For example, worker’s compensation policies may be impacted by the where the person is physically doing their job. Be sure to speak with your legal resource and insurance company about potential impacts. Some other elements to consider for your policy include:

  • Setting expectations on how the employee will be evaluated
  • Definitions of timelines for the program (is this a 6-month trial? Is it permanent?)
  • “Out” clauses for employees and employers, indicating that either side can change their mind and require/allow the employee to return to the office full time.
  • Requirements for following technology rules (more on that later)
  • Which roles are eligible (i.e. telecommuting may be an optional benefit, and one that is handled on a case-by-case basis by the leadership team)
  • Expectations around child care

Telecommuting Mistake #4: Failing to Implement Collaboration Technologies

(telecommuting is a misnomer.  It should be video commuting)

The term telecommuting is really a misnomer.  The telephone is a part of the story, but there is a vast array (literally hundreds) of technology solutions available to help make telecommuting a success.  Some key solution categories which we consider “must haves” include:

  • Video Conferencing
  • Central document storage
  • Group collaboration tools
  • Messaging tools

For video conferencing to be successful, you should plan on using it every time you would have just used the phone in the past.  Have it become the norm versus the exception.  Once everyone is used to it they will feel more and more comfortable with the medium, and it will help retain that sense of closeness and familiarity between team members.

For more insight on how to make your full team more productive, check out “Team Productivity and Collaboration.”

Telecommuting Mistake #5: Underestimating Security Requirements

Telecommuting employees require special security measures to ensure data passing from their home location to your office is secure and protected. To secure your systems, be sure employees are complying with the following guidelines:

  • Use of VPN to access company systems
  • Updated security patches, anti-virus and anti-malware software on their laptop/desktop
  • Email security installed to catch fraudulent and malicious emails
  • Web security – prevent employees from going to a particular website when using company equipment (either to prevent them visiting fraudulent websites operated by cyber criminals and/or to avoid websites which are outside of company policy)
  • Completion of security training to avoid falling victim to phishing schemes. (Read more on social engineering scams and the importance of security awareness training.)

Next Steps:

Avoiding these 5 common mistakes can go a long way to ensuring you’ll have a successful telecommuting program at your company.  You’ll take advantage of the benefits for your business including lower costs, improved employee satisfaction, and increased productivity for your team while avoiding (or at least minimizing) the downsides.

For more information on how to implement telecommuting for your small or midsized business, please Contact Us for a free evaluation and recommendation. You can also call us at 303-410-2845.

– The Xlingshot Team

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BYOD – Should Your Midsized Business Allow it?

November 27, 2017 –

What is BYOD?

BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device, and it has become a popular option for employers. And it’s popular with employees, too, as more and more team members want to work using their favorite (personal) devices.  In fact, the BYOD and enterprise mobility market size is estimated to double from 2016 to 2017!*  And this may be a great way to save some cash (after all, the employee is now paying for the hardware).  But it may introduce other challenges (and costs) to your business as well.  In this blog post we’ll example the pros and cons of BYOD for small and mid-sized businesses.

BYOD Pros

  • User Preference – One of the most commonly cited pros to bringing your own device is strong user preference. As mobile devices integrate into our everyday lives, people will often have specific preferences.  They may want a particular brand of device, operating system, and application.  Users become comfortable with specific systems, and prefer to work with the same ones both at work and at home.
  • Cost Savings – a BYOD policy can reduce the amount you need to spend up-front for the purchase of hardware. This can add up to lot of cash.  Particularly if your business has a lot of people working remotely in field positions, at client sites, or engaging in sales calls.
  • Improved Productivity – employees will often pay for hardware upgrades more often than a small or mid-sized businesses owner would for their team members. After all, it’s a large investment for the owner to do the upgrade without a major tangible benefit.  But for the person using the device day in and day out it’s more likely to be worth the upgrade.  With a BYOD policy, employees will more likely be using devices with the latest technologies, leading to improved performance and productivity.

BYOD Cons

  • Security Risks – The most common concern about BYOD cited by technology experts is the increased potential for security risks. By introducing a wide set of diverse hardware and technologies onto your network, you create multiple vulnerable entry points to your network, increasing the likelihood of falling victim to a cyber-attack and ransomware.
  • Increased IT Support Costs – By having a wide range of hardware and operating system types across your employees, it is potentially more expensive to provide technical support if a device is not functioning properly. Inconsistency can create different processes, different types of skills, and potentially more overhead for the IT team.
  • User Concerns – some users do not like “mixing” their private and work information on a same device. They cite privacy concerns if the work IT department can access their device, and some security measures that need to be put in place may result in users losing data if the device needs to be wiped remotely (more on this later).

Moving Ahead with BYOD

If you decide to move ahead with BYOD, there are several steps you can take to mitigate some of the cons discussed above.

First, there are multiple Mobile Device Management solutions available in the marketplace.  Depending on the solution(s), you can provide security policy implementation, device tracking, remote “wiping” of devices, application deployment, and overall control of devices.

In next week’s post we will review these solutions in more detail, and talk about how to implement a BYOD policy for your office to reduce risk and improve the process.

Until then, please feel free to Contact Us if you would like more information on implementing and managing a BYOD approach for your business.

 

*MarketsandMarkets™ INC., https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/byod.asp

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Why More SMBs are Turning to the Cloud to Reduce TCO

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March 6, 2017 –

More small and mid-size businesses seem to be taking the initiative to learn more about the benefits of the cloud.

Determining why SMBs have this sudden keen interest in the cloud isn’t all that tricky.

If you shouted, “Cost Savings!” in a room full of SMBs, you’d undoubtedly be the center of attention. And it seems as if this is also the motivating factor as to why more SMBs are looking into cloud-based solutions to reduce expenditures.

Although it seems like an oxymoron to recommend investing in new technology to control costs, cloud-based solutions can be leveraged for a greater return on already inevitable operational expenses. By enhancing productivity and overall efficiency, the cloud could help spur business growth and profitability.

Here are few of the reasons more SMBs are opening up to cloud-based solutions…

  • Containing Costs – This is the big one. Every SMB wants their business to grow but that growth is accompanied by rising costs to maintain safe, reliable, and sustainable business technology.On-premise solutions are expensive.  If you’re paying someone $60K a year to manage and monitor your technology, and most of their day is spent performing routine maintenance tasks or running to the aid of the intern who complains that something is running slow, are you really getting a return on that investment? You can do better and your on-site IT support can do more for you.The cost for cloud-based solutions have been found to be anywhere from 35% to 50% lower than with on-premise solutions. This is because the cloud can completely eliminate most infrastructure costs such as servers, databases, backup, operating systems, upgrades, migration, physical space, power and cooling, and associated in-house or third party staffing costs.
  • Greater Flexibility – No doubt you’ve been privy to an office Happy Hour conversation or two about Infrastructure-as-a-Service (Iaas) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Is that crickets we hear? Okay, well since you’re in the dark, the flexibility of the cloud makes it really attractive to SMBs. IaaS and PaaS are two increasingly popular cloud technologies because of their flexibility when it comes to big data analysis.IaaS technology is flexible as it allows an as needed rapid deployment of resources. Basically, fast expansion to accommodate growth. SMBs can pay accordingly for this on-demand usage, giving them the ability to access and analyze the kind of big data seen at larger enterprises without having to pay for necessary hardware capacity.PaaS technology gives SMBs the ability to affordably increase or decrease data storage capacity as needed. Of course, there must be a need for big data analysis that justifies the use of these technologies. Many SMBs may be just fine using Microsoft Excel for data analysis.
  • Greater Mobility – Many SMBs are turning to the cloud to provide remote employees with access to communications solutions. Through the cloud, remote workers can use smartphones, laptops, and notebooks to access documents and files for internal and external collaboration.

As you can see, it’s understandable why the cloud is being seen by SMBs as the “great equalizer” to take their business to the next level and stay competitive with even the big dogs despite budget and staffing limitations. It also helps that cloud-monitoring services have simplified the monitoring and management of SMB cloud deployments, alleviating a lot of the fear about migrating to the cloud.

Visit the Cost Control section for more information on how to keep your IT costs in check.

For more information, please contact us.

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How SMBs Can Utilize the Cloud to Build Their Business

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February 13, 2017 –

There has been a lot of talk lately about the cloud and its ability to put small to midsize businesses (SMBs) and startups on a level playing field with large global enterprises. Can this be substantiated or is it a load of trendy hype to push SMBs to cloud-based solutions?  We’ve compiled this breakdown of how the cloud can be used to boost profitability.

The Convenience Factor

It once took smaller companies and startups weeks to launch and configure their own IT infrastructure. Doing so also required a ton of overhead costs. Today’s cloud technology provides the benefits of this very same infrastructure but on an as needed and on-demand basis. SMBs can build a technology infrastructure for themselves online in less than a minute.

For example, a smaller agency that provides apps for its clients, can turn to a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud provider. A PaaS provides companies an environment that enables them to more easily host and deploy apps.  They do this by shielding developers from the hassles that come with the set up, configuration, and management of things like servers and databases.

Without having to worry about things on the infrastructure side, the company and its application developers can focus on creating innovative apps that will generate business revenue. Once their server is online and available, they can launch instantly with a 1-click deployment of their application.

Mission Critical Agility & Scalability

In the tech industry, everyone must channel his or her inner Maverick and Goose* because there is a need… a need for speed. Speed is everything and agility is mission critical. The cloud’s rapid provisioning of computer resources can offer additional storage space in mere minutes rather than weeks.

Having that kind of agility bodes particularly well for the scalability needs of SMBs. As business grows and the need to store more data increases, the cloud is flexible enough to resize your infrastructure on the fly and grow with you.

The cost of cloud-based solutions is much more beneficial to SMBs than the cost of traditional shared or dedicated hosting plans. This eliminates the high overhead that comes with buying dedicated hardware and hiring staff to run the servers.

Cloud technology has empowered SMBs by eliminating any need to make the same kind of costly upfront investments that large enterprise are able to incur. There is no longer a need for SMBs to spend thousands of dollars building out a massive infrastructure to support their big data applications. Better yet, backing up that big data is also inexpensive compared to traditional hosting solutions.

* Top Gun, 1986, in case you were wondering

Visit our Cloud Computing section for more information on how cloud-based solutions can help your business.

Contact Us at Xlingshot.com

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