The new virtual office model now proliferating through the business world means that company stakeholders are all working from their own locations, “coming to work” via cloud computing.
It is certainly a radical change for all of us groomed in the 9-to-5 world of office cubicles in buildings—when we had to report on time, put in those 8 hours, and always had physical supervision. Now it’s eating breakfast, getting a cup of coffee from the kitchen, strolling over to the desk, accessing a company site through a computing device, and executing tasks all on our own.
Among the many other changes mandated by this new world is that cloud computing definitely has a “democratizing effect” on everyone involved. What exactly does this mean? Let me explain.
The Military Tradition
In looking back over recent history, it will be found that following World War II the military had a profound influence on corporate structure. This was because following that war a great many military officers were employed in senior executive positions in the private sector, and they ran their companies the only way they knew how. They dictated orders and expected them to be followed to the letter and—as was the case in the divisions, battalions or armies they once commanded—individual initiative was not expected nor welcomed.
Especially in the lower ranks employees became quite used to doing the jobs that were dictated to them, in the methods also so dictated. An office worker had very little say in how to create his or her job.
The drastic difference of today is that virtual employees no longer have all that “motivation” and direction coming from just down the hall. They must gain a full understanding of what they are doing, and be to some degree innovative and creative with how they get it done. With employees so enabled, it is much more of a employee democracy than the former structure of an enterprise.
The Cloud Computing Employee Democracy
Should this democratizing effect of cloud computing be interpreted to mean that “everyone is now equal?” Not quite, nor should it ever be (just ask anyone who has ever tried it). There will always be at the very least a goal maker and leader, and in most cases more experienced people will always be needed to supervise the workforce.
But in granting a stronger measure of responsibility to employees, it will be found that their true capabilities blossom. For perhaps the first time in their lives, they are being required to think, make decisions based on their thoughts and carry those decision through. Many an executive has been very pleasantly surprised to discover just how capable somebody was when they were allowed to step up to the plate and prove it.
So there is definitely a balance: it is certainly more of a democracy than it once was, but it is a supervised democracy. Managers and executives now need to learn (if they haven’t already) when to step in and give directions, and when to take a “hands off” approach and just let someone get on with it. It will be found that when this is truly learned and applied, it is the most efficient management method possible.
Note on Salespeople
It will be found in creating a virtual enterprise that the one group of employees least “shocked” by the drastic change from physical to virtual operation—and coincidentally needing the least supervision—will be the sales force. These are the “entrepreneurs within the enterprise” and have always been very self-motivated. Even within an office they were working on their own, and are much happier now working in an environment without the distractions that office work entails.
If they haven’t been already, they should be empowered to do their jobs just as is being done with other virtual employees. They will rise to the occasion almost immediately and you will see the results in your sales figures.
And especially in this new virtual corporate world, make sure the sales force is equipped with a flexible, intuitive CRM solution that really enables them as salespeople. An effective CRM software application is the one tool that gives them enough power, freedom and control to function at the top of their game in this new environment.
Overall, the new employee democracy brought about by cloud computing fosters a new corporate culture in which each employee is working at his or her full potential, from the bottom to the top. How do you think that affects the company’s future and bottom line?
See our other articles on the changing face of business.