Get Ready for the Virtual Office

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The new virtual office model proliferating through the business world means that company employees can work from wherever they can get an Internet connection and companies can dispense with the cost of maintaining physical offices through the power of cloud computing.

Does your organization really need to rent or own physical office space?  “The new virtual office model proliferating through the business world means that company stakeholders are all working from their own locations and coming to work via cloud computing, says Nikolaus Kimla, founder  of PipeLiner, a CRM software provider. “It’s certainly a radical change for all of us groomed to the 9-to-5 world of office cubicles in buildings,” he adds.

But like lots of other things cloud, mobile, and social computing are rapidly combining to make the traditional office a costly and unnecessary anachronism, at least for knowledge workers, which are increasingly what most workers are. Through the Internet and the widespread digitization of the economy you can conduct almost any business activity virtually, in electronic space rather than in a physical facility. Especially for a CFO, there is nothing that you cannot do electronically.

With infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) you do not even need a physical facility for your systems and technology.  The IaaS provider takes care of it. All you and your co-workers need is a connection to the Internet and a browser, available in any smartphone, tablet, or laptop.  With the right security on your device, you could do even your most sensitive business through a free connection at Starbucks.

Need to arrange a meeting? Choose from any number of online meeting websites. They are cheap, sometimes free, and easily accessible. Again, from Starbucks if that is your preference. (If you are the type who jumps up and down and shouts at meetings, maybe you should find someplace other than Starbucks.)

Want to switch calls around like you used to be through the company PBX? Try an online unified communications provider. You will get all the capabilities of the old phone system and more, such as find-me capabilities that pass your call along to other numbers you may be using.

You can have all your old software and applications, running in the cloud and managed remotely by your own IT people. Or, you can upgrade to the latest software through software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers like Salesforce.com , NetSuite, or Intacct.  You have hundreds, even thousands of applications to choose from. You might even combine some of your old apps with some new SaaS apps—mixing and matching the best of both worlds.

You can even dispense with face-to-face management of your people.  There are plenty of online tools to monitor and measure what they are doing. Heck, you can adopt online gamification to measure and monitor and, when merited, reward worker performance.

And you don’t even need to give up the pleasure of chatting around the water cooler with your co-workers.  Numerous websites provide social lounges where you can hang out virtually with others.  

However, you do give up a few things:

  • Commuting—NO commuting headaches, delays, hassles
  • Parking—NO driving into work and parking
  • Stop burning up gas and tolls—fewer car repairs, reduced wear and tear on your car
  • Not dressing up like a CFO—save money on wardrobe, dry cleaning
  • No office expenses

We’re talking about the virtual office and it has certain advantages, according to a report from Wipro: The virtual office offers time-to-market and cost advantages. It centralizes corporate data and applications in a virtual data center typically in the cloud but managed by your own IT remotely. Because the virtual office is a service, cost and performance are based on service-level agreements (SLAs) and are therefore easier to scope, manage and account for. Through the virtual office’s advanced application store capabilities, users can easily request any application they need, and software license management becomes a simpler and more efficient process.

wiredFINANCE is not saying that shifting to a virtual office is easy or simple. You need to think this through and prepare carefully. From a technology standpoint, these are proven components although assembling and integrating it all will take some effort. Much more difficult will be change management—figuring out how your business processes will work in the virtual office and how people will conduct their individual activities. And don’t underestimate the attraction of the physical office. While many people will gladly give up the daily commute to the office others will resist.

 

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