Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Managing Remote/Branch office

If a company has multiple small or medium remote offices then it is a challenge to manage the remote team and office infrastructure.
Major Challenge includes:
a. IT support and solutions
b. Technology Challenges
c. Remote team interaction and management challenges

IT infrastructure acts as both the essential foundation for all of your Business’s systems and applications.
A bad IT service for an office site office can result in reduced productivity, loss in business, dissatisfied customer/staff.

If the remote office is small then it is hard to provide them a permanent IT staff and then it can lead to poor IT service.
Things one should take care while managing remote office would be.
1. Bandwidth/Connectivity: -Reliable connectivity is the most crucial component for any remote office. Count on good ISP and better SLA. A site to site VPN is must for security reason between head office and branch office.

2. Manage System Centrally:- IT can save cost for onsite IT staff

3. Use SaaS Model: - you can use hosted application to increase productivity. There are many companies which are offering complete productivity suite which include mailing, calendaring, File/Data sharing, ERP, CRM via Saas. Examples are Net Suite, Sales force, Microsoft.

4. Security Software/Hardware: - Access control system for staff entry/exit, anti-virus for their desktop/laptop, Intrusion detection system for network. Deployment of security software/hardware to remote office can help to protect the remote office effectively.

5. Telecommunication: - By the user of smart phone or Blackberry you can do emails, you can call, you can schedule meetings, which is a great relief for a mobile staff and all on the real time with no delay. Example windows smart phone/Blackberry

6. Teleconference: - Teleconference allows multiple users to dial into a central number. You can host it internally like Asterisk VOIP Solution or can use hosting service. Skype is also a good service if you want to use with budgeted solution. It is real time and you can make quick decisions.

7. Web conference: - it is a program that can help you see other user desktop or shared space. It is a real time online meeting space. It is very useful for demos and presentations . You can use VOIP to add the voice as well. Examples are NetMeeting,WebEx

8. Video conference:-it is an alternative to meet the users/stall in person. Save a lot of travel time. Example :- Polycom http://www.polycom.com/usa/en/products/telepresence_video/video_conference_systems/room_systems/index.html

9. Information Sharing/Gathering:-you can use Twiki for knowledge sharing and documentation across teams and organization. It is like a document repository for an organization. Other options are wiki /SharePoint portal/CRM/

10. Instant Messaging: - It sends and receives written messages within a single pop-up screen shared by two or more users; it could be the fastest way for discussion in written form. It is faster than email and you can see who is online/offline. A webcam is additional advantage to this. You can see the person to whom you are interacting. If org can afford then they can deploy there in house chat service like Jabber. You can organize it by creating room per team, per project or per office .Examples is Jabber/Yahoo/MSN/Gtalk.
11. Leverage VMware Virtualization technology/ Citrix for remote and branch office :-

Remote sites such as regional offices, retail stores and bank branches present unique challenges for IT organizations. Management complexity, inadequate infrastructure and a lack of administrative resources can make it difficult for companies to deliver consistent and scalable IT services to their remote offices in a timely manner. Virtualization is a great way to address these issues, and VMware offers solutions for remote and branch office management that will help you: http://www.vmware.com/solutions/remoteoffice/

12. Email Infrastructure/mailing lists: - Mail is the primary mode of communication in the corporate world now. Mailing lists are also time tested tool for communication. Organize mailing list per project/team and send updates. You can archive the communication as well. Ex. Exchange/Sendmail/MailMan
13. Code Sharing/Bug Database: - If the organization is in software filed then they could have a centralized repository of the source code the engineers are writing. Examples of software are , CVS/SVN. And for filling the bugs one can use Bugzilla/JIRA application.
14. Tools for Home Office Support:- You may need to give home office support as well, in that time pcanywhere/vnc/teamviewer tools are quite handy. You can login to user machine without VPN.

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