Organizations often ask us what they need to set up a productive remote workplace. That’s a big question without an easy answer. But regardless of your organization’s complexities, the important thing is to use cloud-based technologies. We have compiled the seven most essential technology categories every organization should have to operate remotely successfully.
#1: Video Platform
The pandemic has accelerated the widespread use of video conferencing. These days, even kindergarteners are familiar with Zoom. In the workplace, specifically the virtual workplace, you can use a video platform for:
- One-on-one meetings when face-to-face communication is best (e.g., weekly check-ins and sensitive conversations about performance or pay)
- Staff and volunteer meetings
- Staff and member social meetups
- Virtual conferences and educational events, especially those requiring breakout rooms
Identify and prioritize requirements before starting your research. What functions do you need now and in the future? For example, do you need to record, share, and/or transcribe meetings? What’s the largest amount of people you may need on a group call at any given time? Make sure you pick the best licensing option, especially if you share the platform with chapters.
Take advantage of any tutorials offered by the platform provider and download new updates as they’re released.
Examples: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Google Meet, WebEx, Star Meet, and Slack
#2: Asynchronous Communication
To help reduce meeting fatigue and adopt a “minimal meeting mindset,” it’s essential to use more than one asynchronous communication platform to meet varying needs and scenarios. Establishing an organization-wide hierarchy of communication helps to prioritize messaging and reduce work interruptions. Using more than one asynchronous communication platform also allows you to stop relying solely on email so you can:
- Reserve your email inbox for external messages
- Share your availability status with colleagues
- Organize group discussions by project or team
- Align team-wide on modes of communication that signify the most urgency
- Provide an outlet for casual conversations (e.g., you can create a virtual watercooler channel where staff can hang out for casual conversations just like in the old office kitchen)
Develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) and protocols for:
- Response times
- Team and volunteer meetings
- Sending and storing files via asynchronous communication tools
- Availability status
Examples: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Workplace Groups, and Google Chat
To eliminate the need to send employees into an office to collect, write, and sign checks, use a payment platform. Generally, payments fall into two categories: paying employees and paying outside vendors.
Depending upon whether you classify your employees as independent contractors or exempt or non-exempt employees, there are various online payment and reimbursement options:
- Direct deposit
- Checks mailed from payroll providers to employees
- PayPal, Venmo, or other payroll apps/services
When selecting a payroll service, make sure it’s secure and remote workplace-friendly, i.e., you won’t incur extra fees because of employees living in multiple states or countries.
Don’t choose a payment processor by price alone. Instead, look carefully at customer support, security, fraud protection, and available payment options. The most popular and secure methods of payment include:
- Online credit and debit card payments
- Accepting eChecks through ACH processing
- Mobile payment apps (e.g., PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, PaySimple, etc.)
Examples: ADT and Paychex for payroll, and Stripe and Square Payments for vendor payments
#4: Human Resources Information System (HRIS)
HRIS software streamlines and automates the traditional pillars of human resources management: payroll, time and attendance, and benefits management. An HRIS –
- Houses employee data, such as salary and position history, reporting structures, and performance appraisal histories
- Provides payroll and benefits administration
- Tracks applications, resumes, and onboarding activities
- Provides HR compliance
To streamline automated accounting, payments, and billing, make sure your HRIS integrates with your payments platform.
#5: Password Manager
Employees may already be familiar with password managers since many use them for their personal logins. Password managers
- Securely store credentials (usernames and passwords),
- Check the authenticity of websites before populating them with credentials
- Autogenerate safe passwords.
When selecting a password manager for staff, choose one that can be used across all their devices. Make sure the software also offers a sharing tool so employees can easily and securely share encrypted passwords when necessary, instead of sending them insecurely via email, Slack, or text.
Examples: LastPass, 1Password, and Dashlane
#6: Project Management Tool
You should measure your remote workforce’s performance using KPIs. Therefore, to help facilitate that, we believe everyone should see themselves as a Project Manager (PM). A PM manages timelines, tracks and assigns tasks while keeping others up-to-date on progress. Therefore, to help employees be their own PM, it is vital to equip them with a project management tool.
When employees track their tasks in a PM tool, the entire team benefits from having
- Increased transparency into tasks and timelines
- Accountability of activities’ completion
- Deadline compliance
- Documents, assigned tasks, and project updates shared and easily viewed
- Reduced meetings through status reports and role assignment clarifications; alleviates “Zoom fatigue”
Conduct a thorough requirements analysis to determine the functionality needed for managing projects. (NOTE: Achurch Consulting provides these services as well as training on PM principles and the tools themselves.) Don’t select a complex system if a simpler tool like Asana would suffice. Applicability to your employees’ work and ease of use help to ensure better tool adoption.
Examples: Asana, Trello, Smartsheet, Jira, Confluence, Monday.com, and BaseCamp
#7: CRM (or Enterprise Database)
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software helps organizations nurture their relationships with their customers, prospects, and constituents. A robust CRM also assists with membership and volunteer management, event management, engagement, marketing, and more. A CRM—or for associations an Association Management Software (AMS)—stores and connects data from sales, leads, members, customers, attendees, and constituents.
A CRM or AMS tracks engagement and, as the “system of record,” produces reports used for insights and decision-making. In addition, many CRMs now include AI-powered marketing workflows and predictive analytics.
When identifying system requirements, consult all stakeholders—users of the system and its data. When you involve people in the requirements process and keep them informed of the scope of the system, they will not have unreasonable expectations. Plus, they will be more invested in the system that they helped choose.
Because of the range of systems in price and functionality, consider working with a selection consultant who is familiar with the market. They know what questions to ask to uncover your actual needs and can select the best match for your organization.
When possible, choose configuration over customization so you can stay on the system’s upgrade path.
Examples: Because there are too many to name, start your search on ReviewMyAMS and Capterra.
Pro tip: Implementing an CRM or AMS can take up to half the project manager’s time. Let employees focus on what they do best and leave the project management to an experienced implementation consultant, like the team at Achurch Consulting.
Your first reaction to this list may be, “Holy moly, that’s a lot of tools to remember how to use!” If so, you’re not wrong. It IS a lot! But, the good news is that many of these systems integrate with one another, making them easier to administer and use. The best course of action before launching any of these systems is to talk to a professional. At Achurch, we follow a “people first” model, which considers your team and culture FIRST before deciding on a system. If you are interested in learning more, contact us for more information.