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Remote work opens world of pain for SA business

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Image: Itec Evolve

‘My laptop has frozen’. ‘My phone has no data.’ ‘There’s no reception where I live.’ ‘Our WiFi is down.’ ‘I can’t access my mail.’ It’s enough to make any business owner want to tear their hair out – but these excuses are going to become increasingly common as an estimated two-thirds of office employees make their remote working arrangements permanent.

That’s the warning from managed business solutions provider Itec Evolve, which says many South African companies will battle to keep tabs on their people’s productivity and outputs, ensure their staff stay connected, and keep sensitive business and client data safe in a new world of remote work.

“How are your staff connected? Are they even connected? What are your staff doing at home? On the road? And is your client data being kept safe? For many companies, the short answer is: they just don’t know,” says Itec Evolve sales lead Nick East.

Here are some of the major challenges being faced by businesses right now, says East.

You don’t know what your remote employees are really up to

Is your workforce putting in the hours you hope they are? How are you dealing with management and reporting? “There’s no way to manage and keep an eye on productivity without monitoring and tracking. Everyone knows that conducting business purely based on faith and guesswork won’t do your business any favours,” says Itec Evolve managing director Bryon Sanders. “You need data, feedback and results to set a course for success. That means being in the know.”

Effective and productive teams thrive under clear management, maintained boundaries and established performance accountability. To achieve this remotely, companies need modern technology and processes running on the latest communications systems, says Sanders.

You have way too many cellphone and data contracts

Every company has been there: a new staff member joins, and they need a new business mobile phone and contract. Often, the most affordable package is purchased, and because these ‘special deals’ change with the seasons. Eventually, you’re dealing with several cellular networks and a multitude of data plans, each with their own unique characteristics, terms, service providers and challenges.

“Dongles, airtime, data bundles, WiFi contracts, routers and a plethora of devices all make this a potential bird’s nest geared for broken lines of communication – and never mind the crippling admin,” says East. “There’s no way to know what everyone is doing with the company contracts, devices and data bundles, either. A culture of accountability is almost impossible to establish when everyone does as they like. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Connectivity at home: your problem or theirs?

In pre-COVID days, it was up to employees to ensure connectivity when working remotely. No more: it’s now solidly the business’ problem. “When people can’t join the video meeting, haven’t received the email with your instructions, or cannot access the company ERP, CRM software, CMS or archives, it makes life very difficult, and can derail progress and stunt productivity,” says Sanders.

Getting everyone on the same digital platforms is almost impossible if you’re using too many communication solutions with different providers. “It makes business sense to centralise by using one provider. Otherwise, communication ‘bubbles’ develop, and often, one ‘bubble’ can’t communicate with the other. Then there’s having to process the various bills, claims, contracts and other costs that are almost impossible to keep tabs on and can easily skyrocket when you can least afford it,” he says.

How quickly can issues be resolved remotely?

To cut a long story short: without the right communications solution, not quickly at all. “Remotely, your workforce has limited access to the IT person. Even when they do get hold of IT, there are so many devices, contracts and service providers to consider that the IT person may wish to become “unreachable” indefinitely. It’s almost impossible to manage,” says East.

“Your technical solution, or ‘tech deck’, needs to be on the ball, or your business won’t be. You can’t miss a beat on any of these issues, or else you could be the one in three businesses that becomes another COVID statistic by the end of 2020.”

So what can businesses do?

Thankfully, there’s a solution to this world of pain:  companies can make their lives easier by centralising their ICT spend in one place, with efficient, streamlined data, software, device management, tracking and monitoring solutions that they can control via one point of contact, says Sanders: “One convenient and actionable contact you can hold to account. Make communication less of a pain and more of a pleasure for your business.”

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