Is Your Agency Set Up for Remote Success?

August 26, 2020// Category: Agencies // Author: Omari Valentine

Businesswoman having online business meeting from home

Nearly six months into the coronavirus pandemic, America’s businesses are still adjusting to the current environment and trying to navigate how to connect to customers, keep employees engaged, streamline operations, and stay in business during these uncertain times. 

In this context, remote capabilities and multi-site operations have become more important than ever before. Here’s everything you need to know and how to start boosting your multi-site capabilities today. 

 

The Broader Context 

Remote, multi-site capabilities were already extremely important for years before coronavirus hit. In many ways, they were revolutionizing many businesses’ relationships with technology. 

 

The Push Toward Data-Driven, Cloud-Based Operations 

Over the last 15 years, hardware and on-premise, single-site systems have slowly been replaced by cloud capabilities, smartphones, WiFi, and fully-integrative and analytics-based apps. This switch has brought both immediate and long-term benefits, including: 

  • Increased reliability and availability of information in the cloud 
  • Increased data security, since cloud-based, online providers generally take control of patches and other security protocols 
  • Scalability and flexibility that just wasn’t achievable with on-premise systems 
  • Increased connectivity as agencies can manipulate and store data across devices and tech 
  • Better analytics and operational capabilities using more robust, multi-site technology 
  • Lower costs, with no up-front high hardware costs and lower, subscription-based payments over time

 

That said, some of this technology can be difficult to implement company-wide, which is why many businesses found themselves struggling to pay catch-up at the start of the pandemic. 

 

The Importance of Remote Operations Post-COVID19 

Now, in the post-coronavirus context, many of these cloud-based, multi-site benefits have quickly become have-to-haves. As stay-at-home orders went into effect and businesses were forced into completely online and remote operations, they had to scramble to find ways to communicate with employees, understand their data, control their operations, and keep their companies moving (you can learn more about how marketing changed during COVID-19 here). 

Those that already had robust remote capabilities in place likely found this transition to be fairly smooth, while those who still relied on on-premise legacy systems faced months of stress (or perhaps even went out of business altogether) as they tried to quickly piece together a system. 

If you fall into the latter category, you’re not alone. The reality is that the push to modernize and move toward data-driven technology and cloud-based operations comes with huge challenges, and it can be difficult to know what tech to use, how to integrate your systems, how to make heads or tails of your data, etc. 

No matter where you fall in this process today, these tips and best practices will help you enhance your remote capabilities and get your agency ready for the future. 

 

Six Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Agency’s Multi-Site Capabilities 

 

1. Empower Employees With User-Friendly Tools 

At the start of the pandemic, many businesses began to rely completely on their older, piecemeal virtual collaboration platforms. A typical use case here involved an organization working with its calendar on Asana, messaging on Slack, video calls on Zoom, and email over the Gmail platform. 

This kind of disjointed communication has its shortcomings, including: 

  • Unstable or unpredictable video calls 
  • Unorganized, incomplete information sharing and storage 
  • Security threats as team members work on personal devices 
  • Increased pressure on IT departments 

 

This, of course, points to a wider concern: tools that don’t fully integrate or communicate with one another simply don’t cut it in the context we live in today. Now, businesses need tools that provide comprehensive, fully integrated capabilities with few delays or informational gaps.

That’s why we recommend that you replace your disconnected systems with a robust communication tool like Microsoft Teams. The goal here is to have a comprehensive tool from which you can chat, voice, video, schedule, manage tasks, etc., all from one centralized, fully-integrated platform. 

That way, your team won’t be held back by technological concerns. 

 

2. Enhance Security Training 

Security is a huge risk in the work-from-home (WFH) context. Hackers know that employees are working from their personal devices, and they have used the situation as an opportunity to increase their ransomware, phishing, and malware attacks. 

That’s why it’s important to modernize your infrastructure, improve security procedures and provide your employees with additional training. To this end, employees should have: 

  • Access to a VPN 
  • Strong, unique passwords for all of their systems 
  • Training about what to look for in suspect emails and suspicious activity 

And remember – just one attack could seriously cripple an organization, so it’s important to make sure that employees are always clear and refreshed on this important information. 

 

3. Re-Establish Agency Culture 

The biggest potential loss in a remote environment? Collaboration, innovation, and social cohesiveness that comes from talk around the office. 

After all, informal and unscheduled facetime allows for a level of impromptu interaction and creative collision that you just can’t replicate in a remote context — and this loss can seriously impact your agency’s collaboration, culture, and innovation if you let it. 

To avoid this, you have to acknowledge this change and make up for it in any way you can. This calls for strong leadership, management, and support. Specifically, decision-makers must come up with rules, norms, and key metrics aimed at both preserving and enhancing your company culture and values.  

Also, keep in mind that you have to pay extra attention to your remote team if you work in a hybrid environment. In a hybrid scenario, the in-person team tends to take center stage. This can make the remote people feel disenfranchised or ignored, which can translate into the major culture and employee satisfaction concerns. Leadership must take extra steps to ensure this doesn’t happen. 

 

4. Firmly Establish Priorities and Areas of Focus 

You also have to develop a strong understanding of where your agency falls on the remote scale – and where you need to focus and optimize your operations. 

Are you going to go hybrid or completely remote? Would your organization benefit from reduced real estate costs as you continue to WFH? Do you need better access to top talent to keep your team organized? Does your employee experience need to be improved? Is employee productivity suffering in a remote environment? 

These are all important questions to answer and plan for. If you don’t know exactly where you focus, you won’t be able to optimize in an organized fashion, and your operations could feel out of control. 

When determining these priorities, you should be clear about: 

  • Your purpose: The ultimate why 
  • Your metrics: Tangible metrics and KPIs that can help you measure how you’re doing 
  • Your components: The what, or the tools you will use to meet your goals. 

 

5. Consistently Measure Results 

You can’t fly blind if you really want to see improvement. That’s why you need to have a strong handle on your numbers, your analytics, and how they measure up to your broader goals and KPIs.

This, of course, is applicable when it comes to big-picture metrics like marketing efforts, sales, and website performance. But keep in mind that it can also be particularly important when it comes to measuring new things like employee productivity in the remote environment. 

At Netflix, for example, they don’t limit paid time off or specify how much time employees must work each day. Instead, they simply measure outcomes and expect their employees to spend the time they need to deliver great results.

This kind of model can work particularly well in a remote context, but it requires a keen understanding of results and where to push employees further. Figure out what new metrics you need to measure, then, and get those systems in place ASAP. 

 

6. Maximize Transparency 

Nobody really knows how an agency will continue to change or what the landscape will look like over the next week, month, or year. In such an uncertain context, it’s easy to let communication fall by the wayside as you wait to gather information yourself. 

That said, you must always remember that confusion and lack of transparency are the enemies of efficiency. This is particularly true in the current context, which is why you should remain fully transparent with your employees, customers, partners, lenders, and other business associates. 

For example, let your employees know what to expect about their job security, their future work environment, and any updates to their benefits or salaries. Similarly, keep lenders and financial institutions informed about where you stand financially so they’re prepared if they need to help. 

That way, everyone will be prepared and informed about what’s to come. 

 

Final Thoughts 

Businesses of all types today are facing a time of unprecedented change and transformation as they continue to adjust in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. 

One thing that’s for sure? 

Remote operations and multi-site capabilities are going to play a crucial role moving forward – and the agencies that adapt accordingly will fare much better than their competition. 

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