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  • The Virtual Workforce: What You Need to Know

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    What You Need to Know About Virtual Workforce Technology

    The whole point of establishing a virtual workforce is to make it easier for employees to work from home—or any other remote location—across the country or even around the world.

    But you’ll have to decide on which technologies you’ll want to use to help your virtual workforce communicate, hold meetings, share documents, manage projects, and track progress.

    Most virtual technologies are “cloud-based” services. This means that instead of relying on your own computer or server, the technology provider stores your data on servers that may be located anywhere.

    Examples of cloud-based services many are familiar with include Google Mail and Google Calendar. As long as you have access to a Web browser, these services will work in any location on any computer provided the user knows the correct password.

    The advantage to this approach is that you don’t have to purchase software and worry about upgrades. The software is delivered as a service for a monthly fee (and in the case of Google services, free for most users).

    For a virtual workforce, consider the technologies that you’ll need. In most cases you’ll be able to find a service that costs very little, or even available free.

    Technology tools that you may need to include:

    • Project management. Technology that helps you manage, plan, and track projects—plus keep track of team task assignments and scheduling—include such tools as Basecamp and Microsoft Project.
    • Document storage and file sharing. With these tools, you can store and share files securely with your entire team, or just authorized users. Dropbox and Google Drive are some of the more widely used tools for these purposes.
    • Virtual meetings. Technology that helps you meet with your team through Web conferencing and collaborate during meetings—even share computer screens—include GoToMeeting and WebEx.
    • Document Collaboration. These tools allow your team members to co-create and edit documents in real time. Team members will see changes as they are made. One choice for this functionality is Google Docs.
    • Scheduling. These technologies help you schedule meeting times for your virtual team members. Options include Doodle and Google Calendar.
    • Mobile apps. If you have a sales or service team that’s out in the field, consider the use of existing mobile apps for smartphones and tablets that can help both increase your revenues and improve customer service. ServiceMax is one choice for service, while iPresent is an option for mobile sales teams.

    Many virtual workforce managers and technology experts disagree on which technologies are most effective. Use the lists in the game plan below to help you make a decision. And note that when software is delivered as a service, it’s usually relatively easy to switch to a different tool.

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