In today’s world, “working from home” is no longer synonymous with inactivity and loss of productivity. In fact, more than 34 million people in the U.S. telecommute at least one to four days a week and according to IT analytics firm Forrester Research, telecommuting ranks will expand to 63 million by 2016*. The vast majority of telecommuters report spending more time actually being productive versus commuting or combating daily office distractions.
Although the widespread availability of affordable technology and high speed Internet services have paved the virtual road for telecommuters, one of the biggest challenges is how to continue collaborating efficiently and effectively while maintaining the organization’s information assets.
Staying Connected as a Telecommuter
According to a recent survey conducted by Staples Advantage**, the B2B division of Staples Inc., telecommuters overwhelmingly rely on e-mail (96%), instant messaging (68%), video conferencing (44%) and unified communications technologies (25%) to stay connected with colleagues in the home office or other off-site locations.
"Because advances in technology continue to help dissolve geographical barriers, companies should also provide their telecommuters with tools that make it easy and efficient to collaborate and stay connected,” says Ed Ludwigson, vice president and general manager for Staples Technology Solutions, the technology products and services division of Staples Advantage.
This flexibility is crucial to a telecommuter’s productivity and success however; it can also lead to temptation. Employees working remotely may be tempted to start saving important documents, records or presentations to their desktops, flash drives, or as e-mail attachments. They are also tempted to take boxes of paper documents home so that they have what they need. These paper documents are typically the original and only copy.
When this happens, documents (and their various versions) are no longer keyword searchable, auditable, or retrievable by other users and colleagues. Worse, without the proper audit and version tracking, there’s absolutely no control over changing document content and therefore, multiple (and unfortunately, incorrect) versions of important information may exist.
Think for a minute: Have you ever gone crazy trying to locate the most recent and “officially blessed” version of a PowerPoint presentation, marketing brochure or contract? You know - the only one that’s been properly vetted, reviewed, revised, and ultimately approved by executives or your corporate legal department? And then you discover it is residing on Bob’s flash drive, which he left at home or worse, misplaced?
This kind of document disconnect does nothing to further or foster effective collaboration. And it’s precisely the reason it’s so important to develop a departmental strategy for collaboration and integrate the proper supporting technologies.
Productive Collaboration Means User Flexibility, Automatic Tracking, and Streamlined Document Control
For businesses that rely on employees who regularly or even occasionally work from home or a remote office, using an information management platform that includes online document management software with integrated collaboration and compliance tools, becomes the key to efficiency.
Electronic document management, also known as enterprise content management software, allow documents to be captured, stored and controlled centrally with all content instantly searchable by authorized users. Online document management, or browser-based software enable users to access the software from anywhere, anytime using an Internet connection.
Conveniently, audit trails can be provided in many document management systems that automatically track user access and activity information on all records that reside in the system. But true collaboration needs to go beyond merely tracking documents: True collaboration means tracking changes made to documents with version control and then actively streamlining the workflow process with event-based alerts and track-able task assignments between colleagues.
With automated version control, notes, messages, team member comments, changes, or revisions won’t be lost or duplicated because with a document management system only one person will be allowed to edit a document at any given time. At the same time, other users still have access to the most recent version of a document and can access prior versions with the click of a mouse.
Document management software with workflow automation allows organizations to easily customize and implement their own rules-based workflows to consistently and transparently apply appropriate guidelines or standards when creating, reviewing or approving documents. Manage the flow, revision and protection of documents within one, secure system without relying on e-mail or network drives. Users can send messages from within the system to multiple team members that will notify them to review a document or, if the document is part of an automated workflow they will automatically receive notifications that they have a task to perform eliminating the need to use e-mail to move documents.
Staff notes about the documents are maintained with the document within the system; no more searching through e-mails to see the conversations related to the documents. One central location for all information related to a document means fast access, document control and increased productivity.
Document Security Concerns Organizations Must Consider
Shockingly, nearly one-third of all U.S. telecommuters admit to never backing up their data, which may jeopardize their organization’s vulnerability to critical data loss or compromise. This is just another reason it makes sound business sense to implement a single secure repository that will house, protect, and manage your mission critical information.
Can you afford to risk your marketing collateral, board meeting minutes, legal documents, leases and contracts or any document that drives your business?
Contact us to find out how we help businesses of all sizes protect their information and work more efficiently.
*March 2009 report, “U.S. Telecommuting Forecast, 2009 to 2016,” from IT analytics firm Forrester Research
**Staples Advantage conducted the online survey with responses from more than 140 telecommuters at companies of various sizes and across industries. The survey, conducted in May 2011, asked respondents, who work at least one day per week from home, about their home office setup and technology, as well as their overall experiences telecommuting.