Andrew Millard is the Director of Marketing eCommerce for Citrix Online Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Andrew has worked for Citrix Online for three years. Before joining the company he was Acquisition Manager for T-Mobile Direct, where he was responsible for Post-pay, Pre-pay, Business (SOHO and small business) and Data Proposition across all channels, including web and telesales. His success in developing channel-specific marketing strategies reflects his belief in the critical value of creating highly targeted and compelling propositions, promotions and communications for simple and easy-to-use web-based screen sharing solutions.
Andrew’s responsibilities at Citrix Online include demand generation for both EMEA and Asia-Pacific and leading the overall marketing strategy for the expansion of the Citrix Online portfolio across these regions. He is a strong advocate of ‘workshifting’ and is committed to the Citrix Online approach, which he believes makes a real difference, directly meeting the needs of today’s business by enabling people to work more flexibly and collaboratively.
Andrew Millard is a career-long marketer, having gained BA (Hons) Marketing from Huddersfield and a CIM Professional Diploma.
Last year saw every kind of disruption to business life that could be imagined – snows, floods, volcanic ash and transport strikes. These events bring in their wake considerable business losses, lower productivity and even damaged reputation. Using facilities for remote working, organisations can avoid such losses and save up to £12,000 per employee through reduced costs of travelling and office space. The technology of ‘workshifting’ allows users to connect to corporate systems securely from anywhere and continue to be productive anytime.
Each year has its share of events which prevent companies from functioning as normal. However, 2010 can lay claim to experiencing a level of business disruption which is unique in recent memory, both in terms of the range of natural and man-made events and the scale of the ensuing havoc caused across both the UK and more broadly throughout EMEA. As a result, companies should consider the need for a reappraisal of existing working practices in coping with such business interruptions.
In both January and December 2010, Britain experienced some of the worst snowfalls for many years. The commercial impact was devastating: a survey commissioned by Citrix Online found that in January, as many as 124 million working hours were lost in just one week, equating to £1.35bn in lost productivity.
In April, Britain and much of the rest of Europe was hit by the fall-out from the volcanic ash cloud. The effect was immediate and unprecedented in scale, as 300 airports were paralysed and hundreds of thousands of travellers were stranded abroad. In addition, many thousands were unable able to fly between airports within their own country.
While the summer saw an inevitable increase in levels of absenteeism when key World Cup football matches were shown, in particular those involving their national teams, businesses in the UK in particular also had to cope with a number of regional and national transport disputes throughout the year. n the case of the underground strikes in London in September, up to 5.2 million hours were wasted by commuters. These events forced employees to make alternative - and typically more costly - travel arrangements, frequently at short notice. I
This ‘perfect storm’ of disruptive events was completed by the substantial increase in crude oil prices feeding through to the pumps. All the signs are that this problem will get worse rather than better, again forcing businesses to consider alternative ways of operating in order to minimise the impact on their cost base.
In response, it has become increasingly important to enable greater collaboration, both internally between remote colleagues and with third-party customers and partners, in order to minimise the disruption such events cause the business.
The need for Workshifting
In managing the unexpected, businesses need to develop policies and communicate clearly in advance with staff, so that they know what they need to do if it is not possible to get into the office. Supporting this, it is important to equip them with remote access and conferencing technologies which will help employees remain productive even when they are unable to get to their main place of work.
Communicating with customers, using phone redirects and remote access software, for example, allows working productively wherever an employee is located. However, if clients or customers are likely to be affected, it is essential to let them know as early as possible and keep channels of communication open. In addition, if travelling to the office or client/partner meetings is impossible, instead of cancelling, businesses should consider conducting the meetings online instead.
Underpinning all this is the need to put in place a continuity leader. If the unexpected happens, it is wise to have one person in the organisation responsible for co-ordinating efforts and informing all staff of the potential impacts and company policies.
In all cases, to be truly effective the business needs to support its employees by enabling remote working or ‘workshifting’ - ensuring that staff can be equally productive when they are away from the office, whether on a planned or unplanned basis.
Cutting staff travel will bring with it the significant benefit of reducing the corporate travel budget, in addition to minimising the organisation’s carbon footprint and enhancing the work-life balance of its employees.
A recent Telework Research Network study undertaken in the US - ‘Workshifting: The Bottom Line’ - reinforced the positive aspects of a more flexible approach to employment. In one key finding, for example, 40 per cent of US workers have jobs that could be done remotely, from home or elsewhere, at least part of the time.
This should come as no surprise and has similar implications for businesses on this side of the Atlantic. If the bulk of your work is done on a computer, it should not matter where that computer is located. In fact, studies have shown that working outside the traditional office - otherwise known as ‘workshifting’ - can provide significant benefits to employees, their employers and the environment.
Critically, the survey found that in making such an investment there were measurable benefits to please the holders of the corporate purse strings. Workforce flexibility can save employers up to £12,000 (US$20,000) per employee per year, with workshifting saving between £2,500 - £13,000 in travel and work-related costs.
Companies with such policies in place can realise up to 18 per cent savings in property, utilities and office expenses. At the same time, four in five employees believe that offering workshifting options help in recruiting and retaining the best staff. This is supported by analysis which shows reported staff turnover rates cut by 25 per cent and typical productivity increases of 27 per cent.
There are significant tangible gains to be made, yet are firms throughout Europe and beyond recognising these benefits and learning lessons from this continuing stream of external pressures? Are they taking the right kinds of corrective action to reduce the level of disruption such events inevitably cause? The evidence to-date would seem to indicate a cautious ‘yes’, but progress is slow.
Two UK-wide surveys undertaken by YouGov on behalf of Citrix Online following the snowfalls at the beginning and end of 2010 provide some valuable insights here, in looking at how small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are responding and the types of preventative measures being taken to ensure the business continues to run as smoothly as possible.
The good news is that one in four businesses is feeling more confident in the ability to deal with major disruptions such as snow. An example of this is that, in just one year, the number of firms allowing more staff to work from home during the snows had jumped three per cent to 28 per cent. Less positively, almost 60 per cent still lack any business continuity plan as a response to such disruptions.
However, with more than half reporting that staff were late into work, or did not make it at all, too many are still being caught out when hit unexpectedly by external events, with little opportunity to put in place alternative short-term, one-off arrangements.
In responding to these internal and external pressures, the key to successfully creating a more mobile, ‘work anywhere, with anyone, at any time’ environment is to improve remote collaboration, by enabling staff to easily and securely access both the corporate network and communicate with colleagues and third-party customers and partners. The goal is to create a workplace environment in which location is no longer a barrier to operational effectiveness.
Each business is likely to have to address a number of operational and cultural issues, in order for staff to play their part within a more flexible workplace. However, with the increasing consumerisation of technologies - in which individuals are looking to use personal communications devices such as iPhones and iPads for business and social use - and a different attitude to work/life balance, this is unlikely to prove the cultural hurdle it once was.
At the same time, technology has become an affordable enabler rather than a barrier to change. So, what should a best practice collaboration solution look like? It should allow, for example:
• Access - staff should be able to access the corporate network from any location, quickly, easily and safely via any communications tool, including the latest intelligent devices such the iPad
• Remote meetings - using the latest HD web conferencing, enable remote meetings to effectively replicate all the key attributes of the face-to-face meeting
• Training - with the increasing cost of training, ensure that this can be effectively undertaken remotely with flexible remote training and webinar tools – ensuring full engagement of internal staff or customers and equivalent levels of retention, at a fraction of the cost
• Support and management - solve technical problems remotely, keeping the individual and the network running with the minimum of downtime.
In short, by enabling staff to stay effective, irrespective of location, through the provision of web-conferencing and other collaboration tools, businesses can go a long way towards avoiding the typical problems caused by business disruption. Irrespective of whether this is as a result of snows, floods, volcanoes or transport strikes - and over the past year or so we have had them all - this ensures ‘business as usual’, whatever the situation.
Looking ahead, with the 2012 Olympics in London just around the corner employers will also need to brace themselves for yet more potential disruption. In the UK there will inevitably be increased pressure on public transport systems and local roads during these events. More broadly across EMEA, this could also result from large numbers of staff wanting to take time off to watch major events where home athletes are expected to do well.
What is clear is these problems are not going to go away. The difference is that the solution is now in the company’s own hands.