So while Washington DC witnesses history being caught in a record breaking snow blizzard with most offices being closed it spawns the necessity of the existence of a virtual office setup. It has been reported that 3.5 days of federal offices being shut in the capital, so far has cost the government around $350 million. This could turn out to be a 5.5 day shutdown, which translates to a $550 million loss, considering that this part of the world is not equipped to handle a snow shower of this magnitude and reviving the city to its usual glory would take about that much time.
The best part is that this figure is just the loss that the government would be facing because federal offices are shut down. A tally of the amount of money that would go to remove the snow from the streets, get the power back and get the public transportation system up and running is an entirely new budget. That being said, let me get to the importance of a virtual office setup and how most of this money could be saved if everyone was working from home.
The model is simple, have all your information on the internet, virtual offices on the net, meetings held through the internet and phone lines to fall back on. Considering that I am part of such an office as I type and considering that I have been exposed to such an environment, the whole concept in itself is quite interesting and intriguing to me. Ofcourse it is a feeling that is hard to grasp unless experienced. Just imagine if everyone from your CEO to your intern is working from home with just a laptop, a reliable power line, the mother of all gifts/discoveries, the internet and a phone connection.
The virtual office setup is based on cloud computing and its the whole value add to such an organization. So snow storm or not, federal closures or not, you'r travelling around the world or not, you still have the flexibility of being in the thick of it all and work goes one as it should. This with a combination of services such as the gmail corporate account and the loads of goodies that come about with it, more importantly free (with just a cost associated with the corporate mail-box), is a potent combination to the existence and survival of any low investment small business enterprise.
Google corporate mail has almost all the features as the general gmail. This means one to one meetings can be held through video chats. Meetings can be minuted/edited and shared realtime using the google document, with hazels related to version control being taken care seamlessly, ignorant to the user. Projects can be managed using the google excel documents. Though dear google, to further enhace the current setup here is a list of potential additional features you can incorporate to tap into the small business enterprise market going forward, after all President Obama has declared that SBE's are the way out in the furture -
1. Gtalk should have a facility to accomodate more than two people, a conference of sorts.
2. A tweak-able dashboard feature within your existing igoogle or google documents would be very effective.
3. Some kind of a project management tool embeded within the google documents structure would be the ultimate gift for any manager.
4. Some kind of a time site entry tool would also be great.
There should be more integrable features for various other departments in a SBE, such as the accounting and human resource but I'm still figuring out the challenges in that part of the world, so maybe I'll update my list as and when I figure out the requirements. But if this were to be implemented within the google corporate email workframe imagine the amount of money Google could make and imagine the amount of savings each of the SBE's could make!
I am not sure how effective such a setup would be for a large organization though but for all your budding entrepreneurs who give that 'company of yours down the road', a serious thought, this is indeed the most viable, relieable and cost effective setup to run your organization.
In addition to this with "real time" being the buzz word in todays age any step towards providing data, reports, dashboards, project status, public transportation timings, exam reports and scores on a real time basis would give your organization the much needed boost over competition, the typical "one small step for man and a giant leap for mankind" scenario in the information age.
Ofcourse there are sides to this setup that still need to be addressed, such as:
1. What happens if there is a power failure ?
2. How would you still manage to keep the receptionist at the front desk functional in a virtual office scenario ?
3. How to extend this concept to labs, maybe impossible though. Example, hardware testing or automobile assembly. Which goes to say this concept is only good for software related work.
These are a few hrudles I can think of right now, but going further I may just update more.
Google has quite a few interesting applications and they are definetly on a roll with far more innovative applications that seem to be converging various applications into one compact "gmail" setup. Having said this, it is note worthy that I had written this post just to promote their Buzz. I was awestruck at where technology is heading (or rather converging) that I thought it was worth while to bring a few interpretations, if you may, on my side of the world to the rest of the world.