Every company has its own unique technical needs. These needs make a big difference in exactly what it takes to integrate remote offices. But there are a few universal steps that any business can follow during the process:
- Evaluating needs
- Seeking assistance from IT experts
- Updating and enhancing technology based on expert recommendations
- Ensuring secure, centralized data storage
When you're evaluating your company's needs, first ask for feedback from your staff on problems they've encountered. This will help you identify trouble spots. Once you have a general idea of where you need improvement, ask for technical help from an IT consulting firm or your company's IT team. These experts will help you determine your company's strengths and weaknesses and develop an integration plan.
With all this feedback in mind, you can start updating and enhancing your systems, allowing your business to operate more smoothly. Upgrading and optimizing your network will be a big part of this step. You might also consider adding newer technologies like VoIP (voice over internet protocol) and desktop video conferencing to bring your offices closer together.
VoIP technology can allow calls to be delivered and received anywhere within the company. For example, a receptionist at one branch can receive a call and transfer it to another -- or to an employee who is telecommuting from a home office. The caller won't ever know he's being transferred from location to location.
Desktop video conferencing is growing in popularity as a way for employees to efficiently communicate across time zones -- and even across the hall. Employees can see and hear each other during a video conference, which can make it a more effective way to communicate than e-mail or text chat. Video conferencing also fosters a sense of community among employees who, although they work for the same company, may never meet face to face. "People gravitate toward video," says Steve Westmoreland, CIO of Avistar, a desktop video conferencing provider. "They gravitate toward the visual image very readily because it most closely approximates regular human interaction."
The last step to integrating a remote office is to secure all the data, which we'll look at on the next page.