Four Keys to Make Virtual Working and Your Global Supply and Trade Network… Work!

Four Keys to Success

How to Add Virtual Working to Your Global Supply and Trade Network

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation rules and travel restrictions have resulted in most companies banning in-person meetings and business travel. Virtual meetings and remote work have become the new normal, at least for now.

As you navigate through these changes, you should spend some time considering how moving to a virtual working model could benefit your company. The potential benefits include cost savings from reduced travel and staffing, a smaller environmental footprint and an increase in productivity.

The key to success in virtual work is to take an honest look at your business. Then develop a clear strategy to build trust, engage people, encourage them to work together, and foster creativity and innovation.

Virtual [or Remote] Working

With the right structure and processes, virtual working can produce very powerful results for your supply chain that can last beyond the current crisis.


Understand Your Culture and Have a Plan

It’s a good idea to start by taking a critical look at the processes and culture across your organization and supply network. That way you can see what functions can be managed virtually and which ones require in-person meetings.

You’ll probably learn that face to face meetings are vital for high-trust situations such as creating new business relationships or repairing damaged ones, operating in regions where face-to-face meetings are part of the business culture, or kicking off new projects where you need to build cohesion in a team.

Once you’ve identified those functions where a face-to-face meeting is absolutely necessary, take a close look at the ones that are left. Are the travel costs justified? What about the environmental costs of flying people around the world? And with the ongoing restrictions from COVID-19 and the potential for future pandemics and disruptions, is moving to virtual working for these functions a good risk management strategy?

When you gain a clear understanding of your existing processes and culture you can make a plan to make the right changes and develop a virtual working policy that will provide positive results.


Choose Technology that Supports You

There’s a huge variety of software and online tools that promise to make virtual working seamless and efficient. But before you can take advantage of any technology platform, you need to understand how it will support your strategy and culture.

Consider whether all employees and suppliers can access and use the platform, if it can support your needs and whether it will work in other areas of the world or when employees work remotely.


Optimize Your Leadership Model and Processes

Facilitation is the key leadership skill in a virtual work environment. Leaders need to be able to create a culture and work environment where collaboration and innovation are encouraged, but they may need to do this without being physically near the teams they are leading.

This requires developing a skill set that includes the ability to motivate and manage employees, suppliers and partners remotely, foster inclusion and respect of different cultures, and understand and use technology to give employees the tools they need to do their jobs.


Keep Things Clear

Virtual working needs preparation, clarity and tracking. This means the purpose, objectives, schedule, and roles for each task or project need to be clear, communicated to all stakeholders, and well-documented.

It also means that your organization needs ground rules to make virtual meetings and tasks run smoothly. A simple company-wide rule such as “Always mute your mic when you’re in a noisy environment.” can make a significant difference to productivity.

Next Steps

A review of your processes, your supply and trade network, and your business culture will let you create a map of which functions need to be kept in-person and which ones can be moved to a virtual working model.

With the right structure and processes, virtual working can produce very powerful results for your supply chain that can last beyond the current crisis.

Various Companies Offer Free Virtual Work Software

In response to the need for employees to work from home, many large software and technology companies are offering free or expanded access to their products.

Many of these products will help with your virtual work strategy and make working from home easier for your employees.

Adobe logo, beside title of an article about pandemic software offers for working at home


Adobe Sign—Adobe offers users Adobe Sign trials, to 90 days for new users, through May 31, 2020. They hope free access to electronic signatures helps companies of all sizes with business continuity and working remotely.

Adobe Sign 90-day trial is offered for Adobe Sign Small Business and Adobe Sign Enterprise, and include the full set of features available in their respective paid versions, with some exceptions.

ENDS: Offer Ends May 31, 2020. Trial Lasts 90 Days

BlackBerry logo, beside title of an article about pandemic software offers for working at home


BlackBerry—BlackBerry Limited announced it will be offering businesses additional assistance in implementing their own remote working programs, at no cost.

As part of this commitment, BlackBerry will be offering a range of its secure communication solutions for enterprises—free of charge for a 60-day period—in order to help manage and secure employees in the ways they are most likely to be working.

ENDS: Currently no end date

Google logo, beside title of an article about pandemic software offers for working at home


G-Suite/Google Meet—Google is offering its G Suite customers free access to their advanced features, such as larger meetings (up to 250 participants), live streaming and recording.

Google Meet functionality will revert to G Suite Basic, Business, Nonprofits, or Education based on the customer’s edition. Recorded meetings will remain in the account owner’s Google Drive.

ENDS: September 30, 2020

Microsoft logo, beside title of an article about pandemic software offers for working at home


Microsft Teams—Microsoft is offering Teams to anyone and everyone, to help individuals and business stay connected during the pandemic.

The free version of Microsoft Teams includes unlimited chat; built-in group and one-on-one audio or video calling; 10 GB of team file storage, and 2 GB of personal file storage per user; and real-time collaboration with the Office apps for web, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

ENDS: Currently no end date