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Technology: The Key to Making Remote Work, Work

By Wes Sovis posted 01-12-2021 15:54


a tablet and employee
When you talk to association executives about how their remote work situation has been, experiences vary greatly. The struggling organizations have a common denominator: slow or non-existent adoption of the necessary technology to set their employees up for success.

Even if your association has made a successful pivot to remote work, there are almost always new technologies and platforms for organizations to lower costs, increase productivity, and ensure your team is as well-connected as possible.

We reached out to three tech gurus in the association space, Ryan Carterand Wes Salisbury of Maner Costerisan, and Tree Kent of Providence Consulting, to provide us with some additional insight on tech in the era of #WFH.

When it comes to technology in the association industry, most association leaders don’t know what they don’t know. Association management is pulled in so many directions that staying abreast of the latest technology advancements tends to be, very understandably, relatively low on the to-do list.

Ryan Carter points out that a little legwork can significantly increase the technological resources available to the association. “Typically, associations don’t know the full tool suite available with a product like Microsoft Office 365. Using applications like Teams to hold virtual meetings [can be] the glue to keep staff connected with the membership.”

Utilizing the entire offerings can eliminate duplication of tools, like using Microsoft Teams included in Office 365 instead of Slack for communications. But eliminating software duplication isn’t the only way to save money. Ryan also points out that 501c3 organizations also qualify for ten user enterprise licenses for Microsoft 365 for free.

How does an association incorporate effective communication and task management when working remotely? The key is to lean into these new virtual platforms and use them to their full potential.

Wes Salisbury says organizations will get out of these resources what they put into them. “Getting accustomed to your organization’s chosen software helps eliminate technical issues that can derail meetings and collaboration.”

By taking the time to learn the full potential of Outlook 365, Google Business Suite, and other online platforms, employees will streamline processes and operate on the same page. Pick a platform and use every feature available — chat, video calls, calendar integration, task management, and more. Software these days has so much functionality and features — don’t be afraid to dive in and explore. Salisbury provides this example for us.

“Software like Teams has many other collaboration tools beyond just meetings. There is intercompany chat, document storage, and sharing and task assignment features within Teams as well. Each of these platforms offer a wealth of features — identify and utilize what your employees need to do best to their work.”

“Do you know that saying, “this meeting should have been an email? That’s real.” says Tree Kent. While Zoom and other virtual meeting platforms make a meeting with team members easy, it doesn’t make the meetings themselves more productive. Tree has some excellent tips for making sure you’re not wasting a coworker’s time.

  • If it’s just a quick question, don’t schedule a meeting. Use your team’s chat function.
  • If a decision needs to be made, call a meeting.
  • If a process or outcome needs to be documented, send an email rather than calling a meeting.

Meetings themselves don’t necessarily mean productivity. If you’re spending four or more hours on Zoom calls per day, you and your team should seriously consider if it’s the best use of your time.

As the old adage goes, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Now is the perfect time to move your software and data storage from on-premise to the cloud. The move offers organizations a host of advantages. As Salisbury explains, “Moving to the cloud allows access across almost any internet-enabled device. This allows your employees to have more direct access to your data with fewer worries about VPNs, remote desktop, etc. It helps make onboarding of new employees easier with fewer moving parts to go wrong.”

Cloud solutions for an organization’s data offer an advantage that’s becoming increasingly important; added security. Carter adds, “Knowing that their (the association’s) data and applications are secure, located outside their typical brick and mortar structures in the event of a traditional system breach is a major plus.”

Tree and I discussed cybersecurity at length, and her insight was this: your organization’s biggest security threat is your own team. “Everyone thinks they can spot a phishing email,” Tree told me, “but the reality is that the vast majority of breaches and hacks are caused by internal staff.”

Tree says that association leadership can mitigate these risks by ensuring their staff has regular training on how to spot malicious attempts to access databases. Additionally, Tree recommends that employees have access to an IT professional who can help them recognize threats in real-time, rather than try to deal with an attack or hack after the fact.

Tree, Wes, and Ryan have seen it all, so what can their experience tell us about how to manage and consider our technology’s impact on our organizations as we work from home? Their sage advice may save us from headaches and heartbreaks down the road: Make sure your team has what they need to succeed.

“Don’t skimp on laptops and portable tablet devices, “ says Ryan. “If you go cheap, the quality of your meetings and staff’s ability to be productive will decrease. Be sure remote staff have good cameras and audio components like mics and headphones. If workers plan to work fully from home, be sure they have a solid internet connection. Spend a little cash to make sure they have what they need to stay connected, signal boosters, better home wifi routers, and so on. A little new tech can go a long way to better productivity.”

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