By Anne Marie Ginn, Head of Video Collaboration, Logitech EMEA
The light is appearing at the end of the long, dark tunnel that has been 2020. With vaccination schemes now underway, we can (albeit cautiously) dare to dream of a general return to relative normality. Yet in the wake of the pandemic, neither our personal lives nor our work lives will ever be quite the same.
A wholesale change to working practices, and the nature of how and where we work, is set to be one of the big lasting legacies of 2020. Cal Henderson, co-founder of Slack, recently came forward to say he thinks that the age of the office is coming to an end. In a less extreme view, AWS’ CEO Andy Jassy predicts we’ll see the rise of ‘hot offices’, where employees will mostly work remotely, only coming into the office when they need to work on specific projects. And Microsoft founder Bill Gates predicts the age of business travel is over, with only 50% of business trips set to resume.
As the office evolves it’s clear employers will have to adapt their spaces in line with new, post-pandemic wellbeing and workplace trends, and create an office centred around “super experiences” that makes it a destination in itself.
So, in what ways will working practices change, and how do we see the physical workspace evolving?
Re-focussing on the employee
Ultimately, the pandemic has re-focussed the discussion on how employees can best work, and how teams are spending their time. It has also given employers the opportunity to ensure they’re in a better position to help people find a good work life balance.
Yet even after Coronavirus, it’s clear we won’t be working from home forever. The UK government says work from home orders may stay in place until April 2021 and with this in mind a flexible, and hybrid, way of working is set to stay. Employees feel that way too – a recent Simply Communicate survey found only 2% want to go back to the full week in the office.
With the digital tools available and the experience gained over the past 10 months, the idea of everyone being in the office everyday seems old fashioned and unnecessary. People don’t want to travel into an office to then just be sat at their desk for eight hours. What they want is to connect with colleagues, to learn, to be inspired and to share with others.
Whilst getting your head down to work is important, social time and collaboration is equally valued, and central to general wellbeing. For many employees, their work is central to their sense of self, their meaning and purpose, and after a long period of being at home alone, they’ll be yearning for those in-person, face-to-face experiences. This should be placed at the forefront of modern office culture and design.
An office designed for the people working in it
Offices will become destinations unto themselves – for collaboration, innovation and strengthening team relationships – and less about desk-based or task-based work. The space should also be vibrant and different.
These offices should offer a mixture of meeting rooms and open operational space, which will promote gathering for teamwork, collaboration and companywide networking events. At the same time, smaller collaborative working areas, enabled by video, will facilitate break away group work for those both physically present and working remotely. Banks of individual cubicles will disappear, and instead we’ll see occasional, dedicated concentration pods for when employees need to get their heads down between meetings. And how about relaxation pods should employees want a quick break and recharge?
Beyond work, offices also need to become social destinations in themselves. A recent JLL study found that nearly half of employees hope their office will prioritise social spaces, such as coffee areas, lounges or outdoor terraces and gardens. Common areas play a central role in nurturing informal work relationships, which improve development opportunities and help career outlook – especially crucial for people early in their work life. These spaces allow employees to maintain the inspiration, energy and social connection that comes with belonging to a physical team and environment – something which many found a real challenge to maintain virtually during the pandemic.
Flexible schedules and shared spaces will also lead to a “rightsizing” of office space, where organisations will rethink their real estate, in what will undoubtedly save costs. Some are even predicting that we’ll see the creation of an office ‘ecosystem’, which will comprise of employees working from offices, houses, and third places such as cafes, coworking spaces, and libraries.
Tech and video as the glue for hybrid working
While all of the above will support flexibility, functionality and employee wellbeing, for it to all work it needs high-end peripherals, such as Logitech’s MX Series of high-performance mice and keyboards, and collaboration software to pull it together. This tech needs to help us and not take us away from people, helping our collective mental health in environments that could be potentially isolating.
This human centred approach to work collaboration requires non-intrusive, seamless video conferencing and productivity tools. Through each space in the office, from large town hall style areas, through to smaller huddle rooms, personal workspaces and even satellite offices in the suburbs, these video solutions and smart productivity technologies can help to bring together a team as one.
Fortunately, there are a wide variety of high-quality video tools available that can fit the needs of the modern worker within each individual environment. From large 4K cameras with the ability to pan, tilt and zoom to focus on an individual speaking within a large room, to wide angled huddle room cameras for smaller groups, and webcams with integrated high-quality microphones and optics to make sure remote workers are seen and heard just as clearly as if they were physically in the office.
The hybrid opportunity
The hybrid office presents itself with an opportunity to make work better for employees, while creating a more committed and motivated workforce. There’s also potential to save money through reduced office related overheads.
Tied together by smart technologies such as video, this hybrid office has the potential to make employees happier, more motivated and equipped to do their best work. Video will pivot from being the technology we used to survive during the pandemic to the one we use to thrive.
FIVE PITFALLS PROFESSIONAL SERVICES MUST OVERCOME DURING THE PANDEMIC
By Andy Campbell, global solution evangelist at FinancialForce
The pandemic’s impact on the global economy has, and is continuing to be, one of the most severe in modern history. To put this into context, economists have already asserted that it has been three times more severe than the financial crisis of 2008, and we’re not out of the woods yet.
Even before the pandemic, businesses were navigating a wholly different landscape. The shift to a services economy, alongside the increased expectation for higher quality customer service and experience, were already piling on the pressure. Throw the pandemic, and subsequent shift to remote working into the mix, and the need to make changes – and fast – becomes even more explicit.
Much like the natural world, adaptation is key to businesses’ survival during periods of turmoil. Many services companies aimed to improve certain business functions and processes by beginning to adopt cloud-based systems, with a particular focus on the front-office. Although this is a positive development towards process optimisation, inefficiencies will remain until enterprises unite around one overarching cloud strategy.
Creating that strategy and employing it, particularly at pace, is not the simplest process, and there are common pitfalls that many businesses, especially global ones, are likely to encounter.
Outdated and error-prone processes
Operating at a global scale comes with its own unique challenges. Regional teams on the ground with their own local capabilities and knowledge are a benefit for multinationals, but a side-effect is that they often develop their own tactical, highly localised solutions. These run alongside those systems operating at a global level and cause friction.
This friction is most commonly seen between the delivery level, where quick fixes take place, and the global level, where greater consistency is needed. A disjointed approach to applications development leads to inefficient business processes, as well as centralised solutions that are rigid and difficult to maintain.
The business world turns at a rapid rate, and out of sync processes slow down a firm’s ability to respond to quick-fire changes. A fragmented systems architecture, for instance, impacts data quality, as well as its timeliness. Outdated and potentially incorrect data leads to delays and misinformed decision-making. Instead, a unified strategy is required to oversee the entire opportunity-through-delivery process and ensure decisions are based on accurate and timely data.
Front and back office – forever separate
Disparate systems, data sets and processes also lead to conflicts between the front and back office. Both offices are all too often siloed, preventing optimal visibility across the organisation throughout the sales-to-delivery process. As each is working with different datasets, in terms of both accuracy and detail, it can counteract the contributions made to business growth, and act as a barrier to the development of fresh new services.
By creating opportunities for an exchange of information between the front and back office, businesses can ensure that there is collaboration when comparing data between the two, enabling more opportunity for development and seamlessly tying the front and back office together.
Shortcomings in customer experience
Customer experience is further cementing itself as a key competitive differentiator in businesses across sectors. However, elevating customer experience calls for more than just using spreadsheets and custom software to manage the delivery process. These methods restrict the company’s flexibility when confronted with changes to the market or customers’ needs.
Maintaining agility in customer interactions is a crucial step towards success to ensure that they remain informed at any given time. By deploying a single system to oversee the whole opportunity-through-delivery process, an organisation is able to deliver cohesion and unity throughout the customer service.
Disorganisation in ongoing projects
The trifecta of remote working, complex projects and project managers with unique methods of monitoring progress, has resulted in a decrease in visibility into project status for many businesses. Subsequently, employees often end up using ‘side systems’ to complete tasks, which brings difficulties as these systems are not completely integrated into the global process.
The problems initially formed from a lack of clarity into projects soon manifest themselves into most areas of the organisation. For example, being unclear of when projects will be completed or what resources will be needed and when will eventually hinder the success of future projects. Misunderstandings surrounding available capacity can cause sales teams to over- or under- sell the sales quota, bringing additional problems for the delivery team.
The negative impact this can cause both for resource utilisation and the effectiveness of project delivery are considerable. In order to optimise the delivery of both internal and external service projects, businesses should look to deploy robust platforms for management and automation that can organise workflows and create greater visibility.
Revenue leakage is often referred to as ‘the silent killer’ of businesses as, unless you’re looking for it, it can remain unnoticed until it’s too late. Disregarding the importance of looking for revenue leakage is a common error that needs to be rectified as it can occur at any time throughout the customer lifecycle and cause substantial damage.
Gaps may commonly appear between sold revenue and earned revenue that, at first, may not appear to be a major cause for concern, but can eventually result in significant revenue loss.
Causes of revenue leakage include problems with data entry and detached systems, to name just two. Organisations which lack a single system to oversee business functions such as planning, producing, and selling, are in danger of seeing revenue leakage.
To avoid these five faults, financial services organisations can benefit from using the right cloud solution to encourage collaboration between the front and back office, enabling them to balance real-time resource demand against resource capacity, forecast capacity long into the future, and more easily convert won opportunities into billable projects.
The past year has made it clear that increased flexibility and agility should be a priority for organisations to keep up with any unforeseen developments, no matter how unlikely they may seem.
HOW FINANCE TEAMS CAN UTILISE MODERN TECHNOLOGIES TO PREDICT AND MITIGATE RISK
Carol Lee, CFO of Wrike
There is no denying that the finance function plays an important role in every aspect of ‘doing business’. Although much of ensuring strong financial health, tracking revenue, and managing budgets will take place behind the scenes, all are key ingredients which, ultimately, determine whether a business is successful. This is even more relevant in today’s climate.
Thanks to the ongoing pandemic and resulting economic flux, each and every business has faced financial challenges in recent months. As revenues continue to falter, budgets are tighter than ever and profitability is essential.
Amid the economic uncertainty, CFOs and finance teams are set to play an important role in recovery efforts moving forward. Ensuring financial wealth and a solid revenue stream has never been more important. For many, it has also never been more difficult to achieve.
The modern finance team needs to be about far more than month-end and retrospective quarterly reporting. The pandemic has highlighted how important this statement is, with sudden shifts in consumer demand for certain products and services driving drastic changes in revenue for many businesses. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, many supermarkets will have seen their revenues increase, whilst restaurants and gyms witnessed significant dips following necessary closures.
In order to survive this time of turmoil, finance teams need to be able to quickly and efficiently adapt to these changes in customer behaviour. Planning projects that are expected to yield profit is no longer enough. Finance teams need to ensure that these projects maintain profitability throughout their lifecycle, controlling financials from the planning phase through client delivery. As such, tracking budget spend in real-time in order to keep margins positive and meet customer expectations is key.
Visibility needs to be front of mind, especially in our new remote working landscape, where face-to-face communications has had to take a backseat. The right performance metrics, delivered on time, can enable finance teams to track and obtain a deeper understanding of how projects and finance strategies are progressing and delivering against set objectives. They can help to determine stress points in the business and articulate events and triggers for certain financial actions to be taken.
When utilised alongside the right modern technologies, they can even help to save projects that aren’t delivering, flagging potential problems and recommending where adjustments should be made.
Predicting and mitigating risk
Whether it’s unforeseen additional costs, tight margins, or budget burn, these are the factors that can make or break the success of a project and, ultimately, a business. By using real-time insights, finance teams can play a pivotal role in keeping the entire organisation on track. In order to take this one step further and mitigate any potential risks before they wreak havoc, finance teams need to be able to predict and plan for a series of different outcomes. This is where modern technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can help.
Tools with these technologies can help finance teams to get one step ahead and tackle at-risk projects before they cause any issues. By identifying signals and patterns based on hundreds of factors – including past campaign results, work progress, organisation history and work complexity – they provide extremely timely diagnosis and help to minimise risk throughout the entire organisation. For each project, an automated risk assessment prediction will be issued. For both medium and high risk levels, the machine learning model will also provide a list of factors that could contribute to potential delays. The insights that these reports provide can help to save entire projects.
Once a finance team knows what the potential risk might be, they can turn their attention towards what is truly important – managing and mitigating it. This can be done by assessing a project’s ‘risk tolerance’. Put simply, how much risk can you allow before you need to act. This is an essential part of any project management process, helping finance professionals to decide on the most effective response and ensuring that resources are being used in the most effective way.
As organisations across every sector fight to get back on their feet post-pandemic, ensuring long-term profitability will be a key focus. Many businesses will turn to their finance teams to lead the charge and provide the solutions and recommendations which will ensure future economic survival. As such, having a plan in place to make sure that all projects stay on track and that any potential risks to the business are mitigated before they cause a problem needs to be a priority. By investing in modern technologies – such as AI and ML – today, finance teams are setting themselves up for success tomorrow, no matter what is around the corner.
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