The industry built on relationships now finds itself distanced from the clients that need it the most. In this temporary reality, many companies, both on the consulting side as well as the client side, have put restrictions in place related to travel or onsite meetings. This has forced projects to transition to a remote environment typically not seen before. Normally, some meetings with consultants happen remove via tools such as WebEx, GoToMeeting, Teams or Zoom, but hardly do activities like sales, demos, testing, training, go live support, etc.
Many of these projects are critical for clients to achieve much needed ROI, ease of use, modernization or migration. And they can’t simply be put on hold indefinitely. Given this urgency, the show must go on. Smaller consulting firms have the ability to adapt rather nimbly while we are seeing some of the giants really struggling to make the shift. Now, the good thing is that consultants are almost entirely setup to be remote, with tools like laptops, cell phones, conference technology, home office gear and more. The tools are only half the battle.
To be truly effective as a consultant, you need to help your clients make the leap, as they often may be less prepared. In most cases, many resources are now working from home, where laptops, high speed Wi-Fi, dedicated office space and more may be scarce. Our clients are dealing with immediate needs to address BYOD, security, remote VPN or application access, etc. I highly suggest clients leverage their consulting partners here. Understand what they do to make this happen daily. You can enable someone to keep a project moving with simply a smart phone if needed. Ask to leverage some of their technology if your organization doesn’t have the software such as Teams or Zoom, etc. This is a time for us all to join together, help each other, share our knowledge and overcome.
Just as our customers are racing to enable a remote workforce, be aware the bad guys are racing to take advantage of the opportunity. These items should be considered:
- Secure passwords
- Dual factor authentication
- Monitoring of cloud applications
- BYOD security
- Monitor email phishing attacks in the haphazard flurry of emails
- Bandwidth to data centers – the whole world is on the internet right now
- Monitor password sharing
- Videoconferencing software and rules for secure information
- Training of users to access and use these tools
- Communication through the crisis to employees, customers – a twist to change management
- Emergency communication channels – contact information, etc.
- Critical function backup – check printing, etc.
Your consulting partners can help with a lot of this. This is a time to draw them closer and consider them for things like staff augmentation so your teams can work on essential functions like moving supplies in a hospital.
As you task your employees to work remote, here are some helpful tips for them:
- Setup a dedicated space – With kids home from school and spouse likely also trying to work, find space where you can be productive. The kitchen table is probably not the right place. You will find yourself facing constant interruptions.
- Set work time – Let the family know this is the time you need to be able to work. Set time for exercise, family time, meals and school. The more rigid the schedule right now the more order it will bring.
- Get the right equipment – Maybe now is the time to get a Chromebook or laptop you have mused about. Ensure you have a strong enough signal and bandwidth at home. It may be time to upgrade.
- Trust – Working from home is about trusting your employees to actually work. You can’t monitor everyone, so you will have to trust them. Let them know you trust them, and they will surprise you and rise to the occasion.
- Work – Ensure you have communicated what specifically you need them to do as this may have changed given the situation. Let them know what the company is focused on.
- Leadership – Top down leadership with OPEN AND HONEST communication is critical to keep employees engaged. Overcommunicate here to ensure the teams are feeling included.
- Find the routing and “add-ons” that work for you – Know how you work and find some quick help online. Maybe you need to use Microsoft OneNote to help keep track of work, etc.
- Use video – This is possibly the most important way to connect. Calls are great but video connects people. Require it in all your meetings.
- Chat software – Deploying a tool like teams will allow work to flow in a more casual manner, avoiding meetings in many cases.
- Standardize the tools – now is not the time to try Zoom, WebEx, Skype, Teams and GoToMeeting all at once. Pick one and use it.
- Show compassion – Frustration is easy in this environment. People’s tones are often misinterpreted remotely or on a call. Believe they have the best intent and don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Have fun – Virtual water cooler meetings or trading some funny stories on Teams is much needed relief.
All activities done onsite can be done remotely. There, I said it. I broke the myth that consultants need to be on premise to learn about your process or help you improve. We can record processes with meeting software, take control of your computers, hold meetings, have conversations, provide best practices and conduct trainings and testing without being in your building. We can even do this with all your employees working from home. I think for consulting, one of the benefits of this pandemic will be that customers will be okay with consultants working more remote. This will drive down travel costs for business travel and improve the quality of lives for consultants as well as our clients. Additionally, I think now is not the time to be in commercial real estate, as once we prove folks are more productive being remote, companies will be downsizing in droves.
Realize that work will change and become more open and collaborative. Many people may now work on what was previously done by one person, and that is okay. My advice to leaders is to manage end productivity, empower and challenge your teams and expect to be impressed. If you were one of those leaders that required people to be onsite, because you felt that was the only way they could be productive, you are about to be proved very wrong.
I am happy to speak directly with anyone who needs help moving to a remote work environment. While it isn’t exactly the consulting RPI Consultants is used to, we are happy to help.