HC+T Update--Communicating with remote workers
- NETGAIN UPDATE
July 2002: COMMUNICATING WITH REMOTE WORKERS
Published by NetGain: We build the blueprint
1. We Asked And You Told Us:
2. Providing Access To Insiders From The Outside
3. Is This An Information Economy Or What?
4. Online Communities for Knowledge Sharing
5. We'd Like Your Views About Working With IT
6. Plan To Attend NetGain U Virtual Webinars
7. This Month, NetGain Consultants...
8. About NetGain
9. About This Newsletter
1. WE ASKED AND YOU TOLD US: OFFSITE COMMUNICATION IS LAGGING
While one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. over the past three
years has been the wireless telecommunications business, many of your
organizations continue to wrestle with the issue of communicating with
employees who work out of their cars, at customer offices or other remote
locations. For example, only 10 percent of your companies provide PDAs or
other handheld devices to more than a quarter of your employees. At half of
your companies, less than 10 percent of all employees have company-supplied
When we probed this issue in last months Update Reader Poll, we found that:
* At least half of the employees at 60 percent of your companies have
remote access to their intranets
* Only one-third have remote access to their e-mail from wireless devices
* 16 percent can fill out forms on your intranets from handheld devices
If the answers to any question stood out, it was that only about half (56%)
of your organizations have Web sites accessible from outside your
companies facilities that remote workers like sales reps, drivers, pilots
and others can use to check their e-mail or access your intranets.
These results track with what you told us about your written communications
plans to communicate with off-site employees. Less than one-third (32%)
of your companies have them.
2. PROVIDING ACCESS TO INSIDERS FROM THE OUTSIDE
by Pete Shinbach, APR
I read an interesting article the other day. Its title, IN Through the OUT
Door: Giving remote workers access to your corporate network via the
Internet can be a good option piqued my interest as I had just reviewed
the results of our monthly Reader Poll.
If our sample of Update readers is representative of the larger universe of
corporate communicators, PR specialists and IROs, one conclusion is clear:
business communications, as practiced by business communicators, remains
something constrained by the four virtual walls of the corporate network.
Access to corporate information remains a nice to have and not a must
have. So, imagine these scenarios:
* Your CEO and three corporate officers were woken up this morning by FBI
agents who promptly arrested them. Your company is a national, publicly
traded corporation that has thousands of installers and maintenance people
riding around the countryside in trucks. They have 401-K plans with your
company and your companys stock is tanking. And, they have no way to
access your intranet to find out whats going on with their employer, its
corporate management or their shrinking retirement nest eggs. Well, they do
know whats going on with their corporate executives. Theyre shown on the
evening news doing a perp walk. See Aldephia.
* One of your biggest customers files for bankruptcy. That customer pays
you $80-million a month for services you provide. Their stock, once a
darling of The Street, is now trading for about a dime a share. There goes
three-quarters of a billion dollars a year in revenue and, along with it,
your stockholders investment as they watch your stock price lose 25
percent of its value in one day. Youre the PR honcho and youre not in the
office today. Can you access your intranet? Can you get to those online
clipping files youve set up? Can you get to your media list? Your analyst
list? See BellSouth and SBC.
* Your company makes & sells one of the most popular prescription drugs of
its kind on the market. This morning, the National Institutes of Health
announces that one of its research studies shows that your drug can cause
cancer. You have thousands of sales representatives visiting thousands of
physicians who serve tens of millions of women patients around the country.
Those doctors know about the NIH study and want to know about your drug.
They want to know what your company is doing. Some of your sales reps have
Palm Pilots or Blackberries but most dont. How do they get the companys
news release announcing its response to the NIH study, the FAQs that your
PR and marketing departments have put together and the latest data sheet
for the drug? See Wyeth.
Giving remote workers access to your corporate information via the Internet
is difficult to do. There are valid concerns for security, access,
equipment compatibility and other technical concerns. But weve had these
concerns since the 20th Century. Theyre not new and they shouldnt be
That magazine article concluded, Internet-enabled remote access and the
implementation of (secure, private networks) are simply extensions of the
Internet for your companys use. If your company has made the leap to the
Internet, its natural to rethink your remote-access approach.
The articles from June 1988.
Pete can be reached at pete@...
3. IS THIS AN INFORMATION ECONOMY OR WHAT?
by Shel Holtz, ABC
Wall Street's gyrations of recent weeks has led many of the analysts and
pundits out there to scoff at the notion that we're in a "new economy."
Same old economy, they proclaim; the notion of a "new economy" bottomed out
with the Dow Jones Industrial Average. But the truth is, regardless of
whether the market is up or down, we ARE in an "information economy." What
that means, according to business consultant and futurist Jeff Hallett, is
that information has become the primary means of production. Before we
entered an information economy, the primary means of production were land,
labor, and capital. These are still vital, Hallett says, but without
information, the output is of far less value.
If information is the most important thing workers deal with on a
day-to-day basis, it makes sense that workers have access to information
wherever they're doing that work. The number of telecommuters continues to
grow. Salespeople are most productive when they are with customers.
Employees travel to business meetings. In other words, it's not uncommon
for employees to do their work from somewhere OUTSIDE the firewall. Why,
then, is intranet content available only INSIDE the firewall?
The answer can be summed up in one word: Security.
I don't buy it. The role of the computer security department is to ensure
employees can get at the resources they need while protecting company
assets. Their job is NOT to deny access completely. To do so is to protect
company assets at the expense of productivity and profitability.
Consider how Pepsi Bottling Group is providing remote access to its
intranet. The company's 700 soda fountain technicians used to spend
unproductive time on the phone that could have been spent fixing some 1.3
million vending and fountain machines. Using remote access technology,
dispatchers retrieve everything technicians need to know about a particular
job from the company intranet, then transmit it to the handhelds the
technicians use in the field. On completion of the job, the technician
transmits an electronic bill back to the company and, simultaneously and
automatically, notifies the stockroom which parts were used so they can be
replaced. As a result, Pepsi answers calls 20% faster and has saved $7
Or take Alaska Airlines, which counts flight attendants and pilots among
its employees. These workers don't have offices, but often need information
the company communicates through its intranet. The solution was to build
the intranet on the World Wide Web. Information that isn't sensitive is
available for anyone (including you) to see at http://www.alaskasworld.com
Content that is proprietary is protected by a robust authentication scheme.
Or Premier Inc., a healthcare enterprise that has blurred the lines between
its intranet, extranets, and Web site. Logging in identifies you as an
employee, a member of a hospital staff, or a supplier, and provides only
the content to which you are entitled.
A solution is available that will provide access to the content employees
need when they need it, wherever they may happen to be. Restricting access,
though, is no solution at all.
Shel can be reached at shel@...
4. ONLINE COMMUNITIES FOR KNOWLEDGE SHARING
by Tudor Williams, ABC
Anyone using the Internet for a while comes to the realization that there
are a lot of others using the Internet with similar needs, knowledge and
aspirations. Futurists are beginning to see and define the Internet in more
than technical terms. The very fact that it is people who make the Internet
function gives it a social character. The future of the Internet is being
redefined in terms of its social impacts on the people who use it. Virtual
or online communities are emerging as people of similar interests or needs
find each other, interact and share their knowledge.
But an online community is more than a collection of people who communicate
online. Exchanging email between departments in your organization does not
create an online community. Communities are built on relationships between
people with common interests. Developing mutual interdependencies between
people provides the foundation upon which a community can be built online.
Successful online communities must do more than satisfy individual members
needs. The community must also contribute to the overall well being of the
A community sharing knowledge must be more concerned with the collective
outcomes that derive from the exchanges of knowledge. These outcomes might
include new knowledge, insights, innovations and creativity that are shared
within the community. These outcomes add collective value to the community
in terms of its aspirations and goals.
A community needs sociability -- a collective purpose, shared goals, roles
for its members and policies generated to shape the social interaction
online. To develop a successful community also requires usability --
systems that support the knowledge sharing. The members of the community
must be able to communicate with each other, find information and navigate
the community with ease.
Two great examples of organizations that use online communities very
successfully (and profitably) are Buckman Laboratories and World Bank. Both
organizations have carefully and strategically enabled communities of
employees, customers, suppliers and regulators to evolve around
commonalities of knowledge sought and shared. Each community consists of:
* People who interact socially online to satisfy their needs or perform a
specific role in knowledge sharing such as facilitating or advising
* A shared purpose that provides the reason detre for the communities
* Policies in the form of assumptions, protocols, rules and laws to guide
* Systems to support and mediate the social interaction and facilitate the
sense of community.
The communities also have some core attributes:
* The members engage in repeated, active participation that result in
intense interactions, emotional ties and shared activities.
* The members have access to shared resources
* There is reciprocity of information, support and services among the members
* There is shared context of social conventions and language
Finally, there is one lesson both the Buckman and World Bank organizations
learned - communicating via the Internet is no substitute for face-to-face
human interaction. The online community, to enable effective knowledge
sharing, must provide the opportunities to embed the relationships formed
online through face-to-face encounters.
A useful resource for those of you who would like to delve in to the nature
of online communities in more depth is Jenny Preece's book "Online
Communities: Designing Usability, Supporting Sociability" (John Wiley and
Tudor is available at tudor@...
5. WE'D LIKE YOUR VIEWS ABOUT ONLINE COMMUNITIES
What do chat rooms, message boards, blogs and Listserves have in common?
They are all a form of online community services and thats the topic of
next months Update. Were going to look at how the various aspects of
online communities affect business communications. But before we do, we
want to hear about your experiences with online community building. So,
would you take a few minutes and click over to
http://www.zoomerang.com/survey.zgi?JK506XSAKC24EHHTJE9SX7BM. There, youll
find our monthly Update Reader Poll. It will only take you a few minutes to
answer the questions and well share your responses in next months
So, be a part of the Update Community and share your knowledge and
experiences of online communities at
And, if theres something you want us to know be it a topic for a future
issue or a particular problem youre having with online communications
just drop us a note at info@....
6. PLAN TO ATTEND NETGAIN U WEBINARS
Even as summer winds down in August, NetGains online professional
development series continues with three five-week seminars.
* Shel Holtz kicks off the month with Managing Message Overload in the
Workplace on August 5
* On August 19, Shel is joined by Tudor Williams and Pete Shinbach for a
timely Webinar, Building Trust Online.
* A week later, Shel & Pete team up to address one of the most
often-asked-for topics: Integrating Internal and External Online
Each Webinar lasts five weeks and includes lectures, an ongoing discussion
forum, weekly polls and a bibliography created specifically for the
Webinars topic. While other online seminars make you attend at a
specific time, our program lets you get involved at your convenience. For
more information and to register, go to http://www.netgain.org/webinar.htm.
7. THIS MONTH, NETGAIN CONSULTANTS...
* Taught employees of a Texas-based utility how to write effective online
* Reviewed a redesigned external Web site based on recommendations that
emerged from an earlier site audit and analysis.
* Agreed to provide intranet and Web consulting services to a mid-West
health care organization.
8. ABOUT NETGAIN
NetGain is a group of high-end communications consultants who work with
leading companies and associations to help them achieve strategic
communication objectives using online technology.
NetGain delivers onsite and online consulting and professional development
programs. For information, send e-mail to mailto:info@....
To find out more about NetGain, send an e-mail message to
Senior Contributing Editor
1 Auto Club Drive
Dearborn, MI 48126