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HC+T Update--Communicating with remote workers

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  • Jim Rink
    NETGAIN UPDATE July 2002: COMMUNICATING WITH REMOTE WORKERS ============================================ Published by NetGain: We build the blueprint for
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2002
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      NETGAIN UPDATE
      July 2002: COMMUNICATING WITH REMOTE WORKERS
      ============================================

      Published by NetGain: We build the blueprint
      for eCommunications.

      ================
      What's inside...

      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
      handheld devices.

      When we probed this issue in last month’s 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 company’s stock is tanking. And, they have no way to
      access your intranet to find out what’s going on with their employer, its
      corporate management or their shrinking retirement nest eggs. Well, they do
      know what’s going on with their corporate executives. They’re 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. You’re the PR honcho and you’re not in the
      office today. Can you access your intranet? Can you get to those online
      clipping files you’ve 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 don’t. How do they get the company’s
      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 we’ve had these
      concerns since the 20th Century. They’re not new and they shouldn’t be
      obstacles.

      That magazine article concluded, “Internet-enabled remote access and the
      implementation of (secure, private networks) are simply extensions of the
      Internet for your company’s use. If your company has made the leap to the
      Internet, it’s natural to rethink your remote-access approach.”

      The article’s 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
      million.

      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
      community.

      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 d’etre for the communities
      existence
      * Policies in the form of assumptions, protocols, rules and laws to guide
      the interactions
      * 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
      Sons).

      .......................................
      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 that’s the topic of
      next month’s Update. We’re 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, you’ll
      find our monthly Update Reader Poll. It will only take you a few minutes to
      answer the questions and we’ll share your responses in next month’s
      newsletter.

      So, be a part of the Update Community and share your knowledge and
      experiences of online communities at
      http://www.zoomerang.com/survey.zgi?JK506XSAKC24EHHTJE9SX7BM

      And, if there’s something you want us to know – be it a topic for a future
      issue or a particular problem you’re 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, NetGain’s 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
      Communications.”

      Each Webinar lasts five weeks and includes lectures, an ongoing discussion
      forum, weekly polls and a bibliography created specifically for the
      Webinar’s 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
      copy.

      * 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
      mailto:info@....


      Regards,



      Jim Rink
      Senior Contributing Editor

      =============================
      AAA Michigan
      1 Auto Club Drive
      Dearborn, MI 48126
      =============================

      jfrink@...
      www.aaamich.com
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