Virtual work is becoming increasingly important as the slowly developing trend toward telecommuting meets the range of evolved technologies that we have described as the Boundary Free Enterprise™. As trends in mobility, social networking, enterprise agility and Cloud IT combine to move business toward the tipping point, where virtual office work reaches widespread acceptance, it is important to consider how the new practices can best be incorporated in the business. Virtual work involve completion of jobs remotely, from home or from remote locations, without immediate physical supervision or a requirement for a central office presence. The prospect provides numerous advantages, but it cuts a wide swathe across existing practices, and needs special attention to issues of implementation, management and control. It has repercussions in technology, management, organization, personnel policies, and career development, to name but a few areas. Haphazard and poorly planned implementation could be disastrous.
While best practices exist for current visions of remote work, this has always been treated as a an exception or an entitlement rather than as a routine part of the business environment. Areas in which it has been used frequently, such as call center operations, have been relatively easy to implement, control and evaluate, operating often on a piecework basis. However, as virtual work involves more complex tasks, it will be important to get both the technology and the processes right, and this will demand significant planning.
One of the complexities of planning for virtual work is that it inherently involves two locations, both of which have separate requirements for resources, technologies, and procedures. The central office must facilitate virtual work on all levels; the home or remote office must integrate with these technologies and procedures, and, and both need to ensure that there is adequate support for performing tasks, communications, collaboration, and career advancement.
The coming age of virtual work will affect everyone. Vendors need to adapt software and hardware to meet new demands; IT departments need to find ways to facilitate virtual work; and corporate management needs to sort out management and human resources issues and their implications. From an IT perspective, virtual work greatly favors the Cloud and Mobility, both of which have contributed to expanding possibilities. Existing mobility and telecommunications programs need to be re-examined in the light of these new developments, and fitted to this important new paradigm and plans need to be made for the numerous effects these developments will have across the enterprise.
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