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Remote Collaboration in the Time of COVID: Don’t Just Talk—Create!

Remote Collaboration in the Time of COVID: Don’t Just Talk—Create!

Published on July 19, 2020

By Bill Stevenson

Businesses around the world were caught off guard by the sudden shift to remote working in March of 2020. Work processes were suddenly migrated to Zoom calls. As an interim solution this was the best option available and in some cases it was adequate.

There remains considerable uncertainty about when fully staffed offices will return and many individuals have become accustomed to a day that doesn’t include wasting time on a long commute. So remote working is expected to endure in a much larger segment of the workforce than was anticipated just 6 months ago. Many business teams, however, have experienced degraded productivity as they have moved from collaborative meetings in the office to remote work processes.

After months of remote working, Zoom fatigue is real.  Given this environment, how can we keep remote workers more engaged and more efficient than they were in an office environment?

Software application development has long suffered from the challenge of remote working. Writing code line by line is tedious and labor intensive, so much of it has been outsourced to lower cost regions of the world. Frequently the business team create a design document, review it with a remote team via teleconference, and wait for a software release to review.  Then the cycle starts again. This sequential, distributed process is time consuming and error prone.  There is a lot of rework.

Umajin has created a collaborative development platform designed to enable business teams, designers, and developers to develop and manage digital applications.  A multiuser visual editor, many prebuilt modules, and automated execution of many otherwise tedious programing tasks provides dramatically more efficient development. The team can focus on creativity and content. Umajin provides proven and scalable capability to connect data, media, and IT services across organizational boundaries to all endpoint devices, with a consistent experience for the end user, irrespective of device used. Deployment times can be shortened by 90% or more.

Here is an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLSGjaotYJA

While Umajin is frequently used to develop mobile apps, IoT solutions, AR/VR content, and interactive kiosks, it can also be an efficient tool for business teams to collaboratively build their own digital processes that can replace many of the dozens of video calls that many remote workers now spend their day sitting through.

Replace Inefficient Zoom Calls with Bespoke Digital Process

Why use a Zoom meeting to address issues that can be done much more efficiently by a purpose-built app? Umajin’s “Software Factory” helps by accelerating the development of digital processes that support remote working. 

Many meetings are characterized by some version of the following:

  1. Providing information to the team
  2. Capturing comments from the team
  3. Securing approvals from appropriate team members
  4. Informing relevant team members of next steps.
  5. Scheduling a follow up meeting

Often this type of process can be readily replaced by an interactive application, enabling the team to accomplish the same steps without sitting through a long video conference.  Umajin enables the business team to design, develop, and deploy these apps themselves. The process is collaborative, so the team can work through the process together in real time, and then instantly publish a working version of the process to the entire team for evaluation and comments. Revisions can be discussed, implemented, and instantly published. Umajin is designed to innovate on top of IT infrastructure, so key data can be securely incorporated into the application.  Umajin is cross platform, so users can use their choice of device to participate in the digital processes—smart phone, tablet, or PC.

Getting through the digital transformation back log doesn’t have to be dependent on the wait for IT to have free resources. Business teams can define what they need, build it, and use it to replace inefficient Zoom call processes.

Engage Potential Customers with Collaborative Development Processes

For System Integrators and others developing new clients, PowerPoint on a video conference can be a particularly challenging way to engage prospects. It is difficult to read the room and tell how prospects are responding. Buying a complex project is an exercise in trust.  It is hard to achieve this remotely. Umajin’s collaborative platform, however, enables the prospect to be engaged from the first meeting. Instead of passively watching a static presentation, the prospect’s objectives can be shaped into a working prototype during the meeting.  Subsequent meetings can refine and extend the application. The client is engaged, objections can be addressed with instant changes, and the project stays in close alignment with the client’s goals.

Pivoting to New Requirements resulting from COVID

Getting back to business in the current era may imply complying with health checks, customer and employee tracking, capacity management, etc. Ad Hoc processes for addressing these requirements can be expensive and inefficient. Umajin Labs is able to support clients by rapidly building solutions that systematize the response to requirements, and enable the return to business. For example, for an office equipment supplier, we designed and developed a “digital receptionist” that provides a touchless capability to check health of employees or visitors, direct individuals to appropriate locations (and avoid crowding to enable social distancing), and keep necessary records of where individuals have been and who they have met with. This type of process can be readily adapted by the local management team to the needs of specific facilities, and updated as requirements change.

Conclusion

COVID drove a rapid increase in remote working, but this phenomenon is unlikely to retreat even if a vaccine is made available. The makeshift remote processes of the past few months needs to be updated with purpose built processes that keep employees engaged and efficient. The digital transformation efforts that were often lip service pre-covid are now likely much more critical and need to be deployed quickly.

Umajin’s Software Factory provides the tools to get there, rapidly.