Whether your business was born a multi-office operation or is just now expanding into new territory, an interoffice communication strategy is a must! Everyday work activities — like sharing ideas, booking meetings, communicating between departments and managing individual projects or tasks — can become hurdles when they cross office lines.
We’ve gathered 9 communication challenges that every multi-location business faces — including Epik and our clients — along with how you can take them on with the right outlook and technology.
1. Collaborating on work.
Management requires more attention, time and diligence for interoffice projects and communications. Even the simplest task is that much harder as colleagues aren’t always waiting in the next cubicle. Distance can quickly create breaks in your team’s rhythm, management or vision, slowing or impeding productivity.
Your managers and employees need to collaborate in real-time on systems and software that replicate or compensate for the lost simplicity of in-house team work. To close the gap, explore new communications options that offer Unified Communication (UC) tools. By combining phone and multimedia communication with your business applications, your employees can connect and collaborate on multiple levels through any devices.
That’s less time spent trying to connect to the right person on the right program with the right file and more time on task.
2. Nurturing spontaneous interactions.
More and more businesses are heralding the benefits of casual-spontaneous interactions in the workplace that seed new ideas and solutions. This is in part why telecommuting has come under fire as of late. But some of the most recent advances in voice and communication technology have solved part of the problem.
Cloud-based telecom and data networks have steadily become more fluid and dynamic, allowing exchanges between users to take place in a multitude of ways that increase the virtual space and potential for casual interactions. Mobile devices contribute as well, allowing peers to find each other anywhere through multiple devices with rich-media applications and collaboration software that make it easier for spontaneous exchange to happen online.
3. Managing and integrating multiple systems.
Building out multiple networks and continually adjusting and reintegrating was unavoidable for businesses until the last 7 or 8 years, forcing any business with multiple locations into the challenges and risks of IT development and management.
While many businesses are still grappling with internal network design and maintenance, many companies are going towards cloud-based telephony and data centers. Outsourcing network technologies has given today’s businesses the ability to leverage cutting edge systems without extensive IT departments. Best of all, cloud services across any number of locations are fully integrated, allowing new services and seats to be added company-wide within days.
Say one of your locations needs a small call-centre to manage customer service and another requires advanced call reporting to monitor training, but they’re not company-wide needs. Instead of purchasing entirely new systems and adding them to your voice network, your Hosted VOIP provider can turn on the application within days, charging by location or user.
Your IT staff can focus on core business solutions while you outsource the management of your multi-location office to telephony experts.
4. Finding the right network technologies.
As your company grows, its network and software demands will change. Each new milestone in your company’s growth will likely mean a reassessment in your systems, especially when that growth is geographical. You want a network that can easily grow in size and sophistication with your needs without extensive IT projects, which Hosted VOIP is well suited for. PBX and on-premise VOIP are behind in this sense, requiring companies to build networks in each location.
Another good thing to look for is a network service that can integrate with 3rd party applications or has a responsive platform that will adapt to changes in the industry. That way, different offices with different needs can benefit from a customized network.
5. Maintaining team cohesion.
This is particularly challenging for offices that are evaluated separately in terms of performance. This happens in academic or government offices where funding is allocated to particular teams based on proposals and planning, or between regional sales offices.
Aside from having handy collaboration and project management applications in place, something as simple as scheduled conference calls between departments and teams, or interoffice visits from company leaders can foster team cohesion.
A strong leadership strategy and unique method of measuring success without dividing locations is essential. For instance, regional metrics can be balanced out with other figures to defuse any growing rivalries.
6. Broken Telephone.
As your employees spend more time on the web or phone, critical conversations or decisions will move from the boardroom to the video conference. The decision process may change, altering typical forms of physical documentation, like taking minutes, notes, presentations or files.
You may want to document these exchanges to track workflow, work processes and collaboration. Minimize any he said, she said or backtracking with the right project documentation and call reporting applications.
It could be an advanced project management software that tracks hours, notes, emails and documents, or a VOIP system with call recording and statistics applications, or a combination of the two. Don’t leave it up to your management to keep track of everything the old fashioned way.
7. Trusting what you can’t always see.
This is an issue for highly involved business owners or managers who may have a hard time letting others take the reins. Part of dealing with this is putting in the time to hire the right people, and from there, learning how to trust others with business objectives. This becomes more and more necessary with every bit of growth. One way your telecom system can help is by easily connecting you with regional managers.
8. Training across locations.
Training new employees can be more difficult with a variety of applications or systems in different locations. With a single network across all of your locations, you can adopt one method of training new employees for the entire company. This will save time, improve efficiency and reduce employee turnover. It’s one of the ways that technology can make your HR department happy.
9. Return on Community (ROC).
This is implied by the other tips here, but still deserves it’s own note. It’s the Return on Community. We wouldn't quite recommend such an undertaking as the Zappos-lead Downtown Project (which itself may soon be suffering from interoffice distance issues), but just a mind for encouraging relationships and some semblance of community.
Although it’s not quite measurable, we know that spontaneous face-to-face interactions are highly valuable for relationship and community building. It requires that people know a bit more about each other than email addresses, signoffs or company profiles. So, whenever possible, plan a company retreat, conference or party. Get some face time (NOT the app) in with your teams. Find ways to let loose, have some fun and it will likely come full circle to improve the way people work and interact (real and virtual).
Topics: Business Phone System