Convention dictates that a “real” business needs an office full of desks, but this comes at a price. Chances are maintaining your business premise is one of your biggest overheads. Have you stopped to think whether you could downsize your premises, share space with other businesses or even abandon an office completely?
Can your staff work just as effectively at home or on the road, rather than suffering through a daily commute to get to the office? If so, you’ll find a range of online services to help them work as a team, whether they’re on opposite sides of the room or opposite sides of the world.
Can you go virtual?
Abandoning your business premise really depends on what your business does, how it’s structured and how you interact with your colleagues and clients. If you’re reliant on specialist equipment, whether it’s a baker’s oven or an engineer’s machine, then some form of physical premise is required.
Alternatively, you might need your office space to meet with clients, whether they’re walking in to buy a coffee or sitting down to do their taxes. Even in these scenarios, it’s worth re-evaluating the work arrangements of desk-bound staff.
Consider if it’s more practical to go out to your customers, like the new generation of mobile lenders who will visit you to discuss a new home loan. You can try conducting client meetings in cafes, or simply hire a meeting room in a business centre, rather than maintain your own expensive office space.
The concept of a virtual office is perhaps best suited to information workers who don’t require dedicated space for regular face time with customers and colleagues. If you can effectively work from home for the day, or in a cafe, then a virtual office is a good fit.
Collaboration + Communication
As a virtual organization, effective communication is critical. But communication isn’t as simple as racking up a hefty phone bill or firing emails at each other all day. It’s about learning how to work as a team – in other words, collaborating.
A successful virtual team should be using online collaboration tools and project management systems to keep track of important projects and ensure everyone is on the same page.
There’s no shortage of cloud-based services to consider. Project management services include AceProject, Basecamp and CoMindWork, while cloud-based collaboration tools such as Google Apps, Office 365 and Zoho also incorporate project management features. Many cloud services are designed with virtual businesses in mind.
You’ll often find personal information management tools such as group calendars and contacts, along with business management tools handling finances and customer relationship management.These services often feature their own internal communication tools, including advanced options such as audio/video conference facilities and virtual whiteboards.
All of these services have their strengths and weaknesses, and it’s worth undertaking an extensive evaluation and trial phase before taking the plunge.
- Start by examining how you work, and then look for tools to meet your needs.
- Virtualising your office could also be the perfect time to embrace new business practices, so it’s important to be open to change.
- Be wary of vendor lock in when choosing your cloud service providers
- Evaluate your cloud provider’s flexibility and interoperability with other best-of-breed services
- Make sure you have a Plan B in case of a service outage or if you simply decide to change cloud providers.
Original article written by Adam Turner for the MYOB Blog