Today's teams are often geographically dispersed either through the travel demands of their job or permanently living in different locations.
A Kansas City-based client recently hired another employee - in the United Kingdom! Traditionally supporting the technology demands of local employees has been a demanding exercise and supporting remote employees a constant frustration, especially for the employee. Between the challenges of VPN connections and less functional versions of applications (subjecting an employee to OWA, Outlook Web Access, should be a crime), remote employees are commonly second-tier technology citizens in the organization.
The Internet connects people as never before and modern web apps take full advantage of this advanced communications network. Businesses spend millions to try and make software products behave more like modern Internet services. Products like Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint were designed and created for a world before the Internet and employees were in the same building much less the same country. Lotus Notes was conceived before Mark Zuckerberg!
The Internet has advanced a great deal in the past 20 years but most businesses still leverage technology from the 1990's. Bureaucracy, by design, protects the organization from variables inherent in change but it also protects itself even after the assumptions on which it was built are no longer relevant. There's a reason the "status quo" has a negative connotation. Most employees have access to much better technology at home than they do at work. "Sorry we don't support Macs or iPads." Why? Because the technology you're using to run your business is obsolete.
Back to our customer's new Europe-baed employee.
She was given access to Google Apps and Salesforce.com in a matter of seconds immediately when she started. This business supports both company issued devices and a BYO (bring your own) culture for computers and smartphones. Most employees use Macs but this employee wanted to use a PC - no problem! Google Apps, like any modern web app, works great on Macs or PC's and any modern smartphone or tablet. Her Google Apps account has every single feature as every other employee - local or remote. She was immediately able to chat with her coworkers, see when they were available and even use video and voice chat instead of expensive phone calls or conferencing software. She was also immediately given access to dozens of marketing, sales and human resources documents and other content stored in Google Docs and Google Sites - her applications, access and permission settings were automatically configured based on her Organization unit.
This new employee was very excited when she realized how easy it would be to communicate and collaborate with her American-based colleagues. "Only in American", she said. Well, she's in the UK and Umzuzu has completed projects on 6 of the 7 continents - the Internet connects us all. This employee's experience is possible because this international business takes advantage of modern Internet services. It's time for executives and IT teams to stop wasting time and money making excuses or virtualizing technologies of the past to make them seem more modern.
Today the Internet rules!