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Your work from anywhere starter kit

  1. iStock_baona
    Francois Badenhorst

    Francois Badenhorst Deputy Editor Staff Member

    Posts: 82 Likes: 16
    5 |
    In association with eReceptionist

    Instinctively, by now, we know that we don’t actually need to be in a central, pre-agreed location to do our jobs or run our businesses effectively.

    Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed the proliferation of ‘distributed workforces’; companies where employees and founders literally work from anywhere. Some even have employees in every corner of the globe.

    The problem is the companies presented as examples are always bleeding edge, aspirational businesses, inhabiting a completely different galaxy from most everyday companies.

    Is working from anywhere reserved solely for these big players?

    Up until the recent past, the answer might’ve been yes. But these days, you can craft together a whole suite of technologies that have democratised working from anywhere. And, the tech has made it easier than ever to run a business that’s both distributed and cohesive.

    Chat apps

    In companies with smaller employee numbers, a lot of effectivity is extracted from the flat communication structure. You need something from your colleague? You ask him. That nimbleness is one of a small business’s killer apps.

    A distributed workforce doesn’t mean that needs to end. And it sure as hell doesn’t mean you need to fall down the productivity-killing labyrinth that is email. Chat applications like Slack only require an internet connection can stand in capably for face-to-face chatter.

    These chat tools are malleable; it can be used for more private, one-to-one chats in the sidebar or act as a central campfire where the entire company can contribute.

    And it’s not just for serious topics either, the tools are also brilliantly effective vectors for company culture. They offer a central hub where everyone can communicate, contribute and form a part of.

    Automated assistants

    As any resident UKBFer will tell you, a missed phone call could mean a lost business opportunity that you needed to pull through a rough patch.

    There is a constant tension between getting stuck in and the fear of not being available at the right time. The fact is, sometimes you will be unreachable, and for important calls a hastily mumbled voicemail won’t do.

    Instead, market leading solutions like eReceptionist offer an automated, professional (and, most importantly, affordable) way to field and redirect calls when you are simply unable to speak. It’s a personal assistant without the overhead.

    The service also enables you to tailor current and potential client interactions around your workflow. If you’re in a meeting, driving or just concentrating on a complex task, an automated assistant can deftly fill the gap.

    Cloud accounting and expenses management

    Back in the day, your accountant was simply a safety blanket. The relationship with the bean counter was an annual, transactional event, merely designed to keep you on an even keel with the taxman.

    The advent of cloud accounting has changed things up, though. Accounting software provides a central, paperless dashboard to track your business’s financial heartbeat. And it has given rise to a new breed of accountant-cum-business advisor.

    As always, of course, the rudiments of taxation are still covered; we all have to cross the taxman’s palm with silver at the end of the day. But the modern accountant is equipped to work with you anywhere and furnish you with the KPIs and insights you need to grow sustainably.

    Expenses are a cinch, too. Optical character recognition (OCR) technology can convert an image snapped by your iPhone camera into editable, shareable data. Capturing a business receipt now just means taking a picture of it.

    Video conferencing

    As maligned as meetings are, they sometimes are necessary. The chat apps we covered earlier are great, but they do lack the depth of a well orchestrated, goal-oriented meeting.

    Luckily, there’s a smorgasbord of options here, varying according to size and need.

    For most small businesses, a simple tool like Skype can do the job. Again, all that’s a required is a strong tether to an internet source, so your interlocutor can see your beautiful visage in full HD.

    But, meetings aside, an underrated application of video conferencing is brief, nigh instantaneous chats. Besides, sometimes it’s just nice to a colleague or client face-to-face.

    A solid project management tool

    Here at Sift’s offices, we use Trello. In essence, it’s a neat central hub where we track, consolidate, and co-align our workflows.

    Trello isn’t the only one out there, though. Other options like Airtable are offer clean solutions for even the most tech phobic among us.

    These project management tools – like most office software these days – are housed online, so they’re accessible 24/7, from anywhere. Even in a centralised office, the tools make sense as a way to effectively collaborate across different job roles.

    Over and above that, they give managers a full visibility of workflows, minimising the chance that working from home becomes a working holiday.


    Want to find out more about how eReceptionist can help you do business anywhere, check out www.ereceptionist.co.uk. And we’ve a special offer for UKBF readers – give us a call on 0800 689 3826 and quote UK Business Forums and we’ll give you a 60 day free trial instead of the usual 30

  2. ffox

    ffox UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 554 Likes: 90
    This gist of this article is good, no one can deny that the business IT trend is moving relentlessly towards cloud. Unfortunately, the content of the article paints a picture of ‘shadow IT’.

    The use of ranges of third party applications to smooth the collaboration path has had its day in the corporate world and is in the process of being ruled as unsafe. Extensive use of file share apps such as Dropbox, extensively hacked in 2012, and others have led corporate CIOs to apply strict governance to cloud use. This had led to corporate business cloud migration moving strongly towards G-Cloud, Office 365 and AWS, the security of which can all be managed from a central source in any business.

    I would advise small business to follow that lead and place security and governance first. All of the functionality described in this article can be deployed for business of any size, even sole trader, with security levels that are better than local area network and extensive DLP (Data Loss Prevention) tools, from the Microsoft, Google and Amazon stables at very reasonable cost levels. Why increase business risk?
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2016
    Posted: Dec 27, 2016 By: ffox Member since: Mar 11, 2004
    Francois Badenhorst likes this.
  3. Francois Badenhorst

    Francois Badenhorst Deputy Editor Staff Member

    Posts: 82 Likes: 16
    Shadow IT! Sounds like a Clancy novel! No, but seriously, thanks for the reply Ffox. You're very right, of course. The cloud is a wonderful tool - but there's definitely best practice.

    You seem to know your stuff - perhaps I could interest you in writing a small piece for us illuminating what's best governance? Personally, I'd love to read it!
    Posted: Jan 5, 2017 By: Francois Badenhorst Member since: Aug 25, 2015
  4. ffox

    ffox UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 554 Likes: 90
    Thanks for the invite. I have been exchanging PM with @ChrisGoodfellow regarding articles. I'm sending a piece up on Friday which outlines the need for information strategy. This is the basis of good governance. I'll cover the subject in more depth with a later piece.

    Posted: Jan 5, 2017 By: ffox Member since: Mar 11, 2004
  5. ben_demotic

    ben_demotic UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 2 Likes: 1
    I broadly agree with what ffox has said but I do think that any business needs to do a risk assessment on each system they use - I guess this is the information strategy. If the business is holding personal data or significant intellectual property, then the security controls need to be much more stringent, and these business should look at Google/Microsoft/AWS. But if the business is a design agency (as an example), they can probably be more comfortable with using tools such as Slack and Dropbox.

    But without a doubt information security needs to be everyones' top priority both at work and and at home when it comes to the internet and their data.
    Posted: Jan 13, 2017 By: ben_demotic Member since: Nov 17, 2016
  6. Dan Izzard

    Dan Izzard Digital Marketer Full Member

    Posts: 1,053 Likes: 306
    Agree with @ben_demotic, there are going to be different levels of security process for different business. I'm a huge fan of cloud services, tools and automations and they can be integrated securely (caveat - nothing is 100% risk free). Looking forward to @ffox information strategy piece.
    Posted: Jan 19, 2017 By: Dan Izzard Member since: Nov 21, 2013