The cancellation of Mobile World Congress, the Geneva Motor Show and big-name withdrawals from other key industry events in response to the coronavirus outbreak means every enterprise should put remote working and collaboration systems in place.
This is not a drill
I’m no expert, but the disease, appears to be characterized by high infection rates and a mortality rate 10 times higher than the flu. International response is not yet unified, some seem in denial, and the facts are becoming confused amidst the clamor.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) hasn’t yet called for large-scale events to be cancelled, it has issued detailed advice for those planning such events.
Among other things, the agency notes that as a result of exposure at short-term events attendees will likely fall sick when they return to where they come from, infecting many more as they travel.
Common sense suggests that avoiding international events and minimizing business travel may help limit the spread of the problem.
This is what has caused some big events and major participants at such events to cancel. The idea is to slow infection rates to gain time to learn more about the virus. I have come across some hope that the illness will simply time out, as such infections sometimes do, but if wishes were stars the night would be brighter than the day.
While Apple CEO Tim Cook has said he thinks things are “getting back to normal” in China, Apple is also thought to be considering changes in how it holds its Worldwide Developer’s Conference this year.
What can your business do?
Enterprises can help buy time by encouraging use of remote collaboration systems in order to improve business resilience if infection rates rise.
Fortunately, there are many remote working and collaboration systems that can be put in place to help. An exhaustive list of all of them is beyond the scope of this piece. Larger enterprises likely already use tools such as Microsoft Teams or solutions from Cisco, SAP, or IBM for this task, and such use can be encouraged.
There are other tools. The recently-introduced Challo seems to be a promising solution because it combines both security and business-to-business communication tools. In addition to Challo, you’ll find a multitude of video conferencing solutions from many big names, with Zoom seeing rapid adoption across many enterprises.
Beyond video conferencing
There’s more to business than video conferencing, of course.( I already looked at a selection of useful tools for IT services, collaborative flow chart analysis, human resources and data analytics.)
The following selection isn’t necessarily available for both iOS and Mac, but should give you a good starting point as you seek out your own set of solutions to enable remote collaboration across your business.
Getting things done means keeping things organized, which is where solutions like Harvest for time sheets, and the powerful message-based collaboration environment of Slack make so much sense. Enterprises need to find ways to nurture teamwork, sometimes across time zones, which is why non-linear solutions like Trello, Asana and iTaskX (which I’ve heard may be used at Apple) work well.
Then there are the tools for specific tasks.
SignEasy, for example, is a well thought-through solution that makes PDF signing and management a breeze, and there is an increasing industry in the development of overarching solutions that combine multiple solutions in one place. Trello, for example, integrates third-party options such as Dropbox. It may make sense to explore some of the voice-first solutions that exist if your employees already make use of wearable devices, such as AirPods or Apple Watch.
Take a look at these sweet suites
Atlassian offers a suite of solutions that may help, including Jira. This was originally developed as an issue-tracking tool for software development, but has grown to become a project management tool. It combines many of the great qualities of broad-based collaborative environment, Trello (which Atlassian also makes), and adds useful tools developers can use, such as code and asset sharing. The company also makes a solution for collaborative document creation called Confluence.
Another great solution, for Mac, iPhone and iPad, is the Merlin Project.
This includes tools for project planning, management, employee task management, work distribution and built-in synchronization with online storage solutions such as Dropbox, iCloud Drive and more. If you want to liberate your teams, this might be the package you need.
One more solutions provider I should talk about is Zoho.
This company develops a huge range of digital enterprise tools (around 40 in total) for an extensive range of tasks, which it groups in categories for customer relationship management, workplace tools, finance, IT management and human resources.
Zoho has also begun using Mac Catalyst for some of its solutions, which may be of interest if you hope to provide your employees with consistent experiences across Mac, iPhone and iPad. Some may use Jamf to remotely provision devices across the enterprise fleet with newly chosen collaboration software.
What about budgets?
My guess is that many enterprises considering implementation of solutions of this kind right now may not have budgeted for any major spending just yet.
However, many of these solutions will provide you with limited deployments for testing and trial. And while full-scale rollout will take a great deal of planning and cost, there are tools available that may be of use if you choose to encourage more remote working and collaboration among your employees.
Who knows, you may even find your employees thank you for it?
Studies suggest remote working tools like these unleash positive productivity benefits and increase staff retention. The provision of access to online training, such as that provided by O’Reilly or any of these may help upskill employees in the event of unanticipated down time.
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