Distributed workforces, where teams are spread across more than one physical location, are not a new concept, but the pandemic has pushed many companies to adopt hybrid models of work and has further shifted the balance of work from analog to digital.
In this article, we share some of the technical, procedural, and cultural challenges distributed workforces face, and offer a bit of insight to help you navigate them.
Distributed Workforces Defined
Distributed workforces can take many forms. Dealer networks like Chevrolet or John Deere, for example, might consist of a combination of on-site staff and field sales that are always on-the-go. Brick and mortar retail locations like Scooters Coffee or Hy-Vee typically maintain a large corporate headquarters, but employ thousands of employees across state lines.
Distributed workforces are sometimes confused with remote/virtual teams, but they are different models and often face different challenges. While they may be geographically dispersed, virtual teams can be considered a homogenous group — everyone works remotely and there is no central office location. As an example, We Write Code has employees who work from home globally, and on-site in our amazing Des Moines, Iowa headquarters.
Generally speaking, it’s simpler to standardize processes and access to resources across homogenous groups. Getting everyone on Google Drive and Slack, for instance, might be the end-all-be-all communication solution for a virtual digital agency.
But what sort of challenges arise when your organization is truly a distributed workforce that consists of dozens of locations around the country or world? Adding to that, the complexity of having employees at each location having a wide range of technical skill sets?
Here are a few challenges we have seen:
- Consistency: Sales team not having access to branded pitch decks, up-to-date spec sheets, and playbooks when they’re working with clients for extended periods of time off-site.
- Training: Maybe some employees have been trained years ago to fill out paper sales slips and fax or scan them for submission.
- Communication: Maybe service technicians are accustomed to getting service manuals delivered via snail mail.
- Antiquated Technology: A scenario that we frequently see are inventory or ordering “systems” built around shared Excel spreadsheets!
Digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight, but technology – and now the pandemic – have rapidly accelerated that process for many companies across the board.
How do you even begin digitizing your processes and bridging the gap between legacy processes and workflows, and online cloud based tools? Here at We Write Code, we utilize Slack, Google Drive, Google Meet, and Atlassian products to keep our teams connected. We’re a dev shop, so we have a little bit of an advantage in already being set up with distributed tools. We understand the digitally dispersed landscape because we use it. Are you finding the transition a struggle? That’s where we come in!
We Write Code delivers custom software solutions built around your specific business needs, whether that means building new applications, modifying existing, or integrating between them. We’re also not a “specs-up-front” dev shop. Distributed workforces take many forms, and your use cases and requirements may vary significantly. We prefer taking a partnership approach — working together to discover, understand, and agree on the problems we’re trying to solve before figuring out viable solutions.
If you’re looking for ways technology can help transform your business, from accelerating your operations to reducing your legacy processes and increasing communications and consistency, let’s start a conversation.