The Effective Virtual Workforce: Tools, Equipment, and Technologies

In order to effectively and efficiently implement a virtual workforce as an enterprise capability, there are tools, equipment, and technologies needed. This is an enterprise-wide requirement, and not something that can be done in small pieces or only for certain virtual teams. Having the right mindset when it comes to what a virtual workforce truly needs to complete its tasks correctly represents an organization's ability to provide the tools, equipment, and technologies needed to support communication, collaboration, artifact sharing, and more within its virtual workforce.

When it comes to tools, equipment, and technologies, the virtual workforce capability involves many people who all need to work together to ensure that communication and collaboration fall into place, along with management of the workforce and the workforce's ability to interact with others in completing their tasks. Because there are so many people who must be involved with the effective virtual workforce, it is very important that everyone understand what they need to do for success.

This includes the roles of the system architect, COTS engineer, integration and test engineer, deployment engineer, operations engineer, logistics engineer, manuals engineer, training engineer, safety engineer, security engineer, service architect, transition analyst, service administrator, improvement analyst, insight architect, and IT architect. Additionally, the entire virtual workforce is also affected by the tools, equipment, and technologies as the end users of these systems. With so many people involved in this enterprise capability, ensuring proper communication and collaboration within departments and between roles is a vital part of an effective virtual workforce.

Additionally, this capability is implemented through process activities such as system development, production, deployment, system operations, disposal, service development, service delivery, information technology, planning, decision analysis, work product information, performance management, risk management, and system analysis. Clearly, much of the overall enterprise is affected by the tools, equipment, and technologies needed and used by the virtual workforce.

Addressing Virtual Workforce Efficiency

There are six areas where tools, equipment, and technologies are needed for the success of the virtual workforce. These are communication, collaboration, information management, management, computational resources, and infrastructure and networking. Each and every one of these areas is unique and different, and as such has its own reasons for needing the right kinds of tools, equipment, and technologies to operate efficiently. While there are many options for different tools that can be used, the key to addressing this issue properly is understanding why tools are needed and how this element fits into the needs of a virtual workforce.

Without the proper technology and the right tools for members of the virtual workforce to complete their tasks correctly and efficiently, those workforce members can fail to advance the goals of the company. This lack of advancement could be through no actual fault of their own, but can still leave the workers feeling very discouraged and frustrated. Over time, these workers may leave the company and may under-perform, simply because they do not have what is needed to effectively work with one another and meet the company's requirements.

With that in mind, efficiency is one of the main reasons for the creation of a virtual workforce. Companies want to have a more effective way of getting things done, and they want to make sure that the workers they have are doing things efficiently. That saves time and money, and a virtual workforce is often the answer. Whether an organization has a completely virtual workforce or more of a hybrid scenario while they make their way toward total virtuality, having the right tools and technologies to support that virtual workforce remains a vital part of success.

Tools, Equipment, and Technologies Continue to Change

What worked well for communication two years ago may not be the program of choice today. Why? Because technology has advanced beyond what that program could offer. In short, something new and better came along. An enterprise that is working to build a strong, successful, and effective virtual workforce should not focus its efforts on a specific collaboration program, or a certain brand of phone system. The technology itself is important, but the reasons behind its usage and the ways in which the tools and equipment are employed are far more significant.

It is better for a company to understand why it is offering tools, equipment, and technologies to its virtual workforce, and what kinds of ways these things will be used, as opposed to agonizing over whether one software program or computer system is better than the other when they seem to handle equal tasks. There are some types of technology that simply work for a virtual arrangement, and when these are located it is generally better to continue using them unless there are new and innovative options that become available.

Any tools, equipment, and technologies used by a virtual workforce will need to be upgraded as necessary, and eventually replaced, but they will provide such a high level of value for the organization that the cost and time will be well worth it. Deploying the best tools might not necessarily lead to efficiency if the users are not well trained on these, and if the tools are not hosted on and integrated into an infrastructure that properly supports the need of users. Upgrades and changes are required to ensure that everything from the infrastructure to all the tools used on and with it provide maximum levels of efficiency for the virtual workforce.

Discussed here are the six different types of tools, equipment, and technologies that are needed for a virtual workforce. They will be defined and explained, and the usage, importance, and application of them will all be addressed, as well. Additionally, examples of how and why these are used, along with scenarios to be considered by an organization will all be included. The hope is that any company that is moving toward a virtual workforce arrangement will see what is needed to make their virtual workforce truly effective. There is much more than allowing people across the globe to talk to one another quickly and easily, and being prepared with the right technology can help a company be more successful with its virtual workforce right from the beginning.

Communication Tools and Equipment

Among the most important issues for any virtual workforce is communication. This can be categorized into two types: synchronous and asynchronous. If the people who belong to a company's global workforce have trouble connecting with one another in real time, they lack synchronous communication. This can prevent them from completing their jobs. In short, they will not be able to do what is needed efficiently and effectively. That can harm the entire company and everything they are attempting to do. But there are plenty of great ways for a virtual workforce to communicate.

Phones, email, chat, and software that allows instantaneous, synchronous interaction are all available to companies that have a virtual workforce in need of some help and guidance. All of these tools can and should be used, depending on the nature of the interactions needed. It might not be realistic to call one workforce member because of time zones, but an email providing a level of asynchronous communication can certainly be sent that will be viewed when that member starts their workday. As long as there are a number of options for communication, a workforce can focus on getting the job done.'

Another big factor for communication tools and equipment is that all of these tools have to work. They need to be reliable, and if they are not options that can be relied upon the virtual workforce can struggle. Misplaced information might mean a big problem for a task or project that the workforce was trying to complete. It could mean that a deadline would be missed, and it could also be an issue for workforce members who are relying on others to complete something so they can work on their part from that new information.

Usage and Importance for the Virtual Workforce

A virtual workforce that has plenty of communication tools and equipment is going to use those tools and equipment to benefit all the workforce members. In other words, communication tools that provide more options and better value and the ones that have features the workforce needs. There is no reason for a company to get communication technologies that go far beyond what their virtual workforce requires.

Doing that simply means spending more money than necessary for features and "benefits" that will not be useful. But when considering what to purchase a company should also look at the realism of expansion and whether there will be reasons for other types of features in the future. If it appears that the company will be expanding and will use these options relatively soon, it may be worthwhile to secure communication tools and equipment that do more than the company currently needs, provided this is affordable and logical at the time.

Because of the global nature of a virtual workforce, the right communication tools are extremely critical. They allow for the flow of information from one person to another, and they also allow for quick discussion if a problem arises and one workforce member or group is not sure how to handle that concern. Not only can they reach out to other workforce members rapidly, but they can also reach out to management and others who are a part of the collaborative effort. Good communication tools make everything a virtual workforce does easier, faster, and more efficient.

Applications of These Tools and Technologies

How to apply communication tools and technologies in the best way depends on the organization and what it needs from its virtual workforce. There are some organizations that will want virtual workers to use software that they can communicate in while they work, such as through the use of a built-in chat feature. Other companies may be fine with their virtual workforce members calling or emailing if they have questions or problems. The strictness of the company's rules and methods, along with the kind of work that is being done, will affect how communication tools and technologies are applied.

Another way to apply communication technologies is to start out with the basics and then let the virtual workforce determine what is going to be needed. This can work especially well for companies that are just starting out, or for those that are transitioning from a non-virtual to a virtual workforce. As the company moves in that direction it will add more people to its virtual workforce. It may start out with a few of its current employees working from home, and that could expand to be much more over time.

As employees who are not in the office do their jobs, they will see what is falling through the cracks. There may be gaps they would not have noticed in an office setting, but those gaps have to be addressed in order to have a successful virtual workforce. Not every virtual worker will need or use exactly the same things without specifics being required by the company, but it is certainly possible for workers who are at home or in other locations to show the company what they can and cannot do with the communication tools they currently have. If they cannot do their job efficiently, more or better communication tools will be needed.

Scenarios and Examples to Consider

When determining what communication tools and technologies to use, it is important to consider the company and its workers carefully. For example, an IT company with a large, global workforce is going to need something much different than a product-based start up with 10 remote workers who are all in the same geographical area. Both of these companies have a virtual workforce, but they will not need the same kinds of communication tools, equipment, and technologies as one another.

By taking a careful look at the company now, along with what kinds of growth and development are realistically forecast in the near future, any senior management or executives who are charged with the duty of locating the right communication technology will be able to do so in a way that helps the company save money but that also gives the virtual workforce what it needs to perform its job efficiently and effectively.

Collaboration Tools and Equipment

While communication may be the most important aspect of an efficient virtual workforce, collaboration is certainly a close second. These areas are tied very closely together. Collaboration requires good communication channels, and if a virtual workforce is not able to communicate well with one another it can be extremely difficult for them to properly collaborate. Because the two areas are so intertwined, a lot of what applies to securing good communication technology for a virtual workforce will also apply to securing good collaboration technology.

But there are differences that an organization must also be aware of, or they may end up with tools and equipment that really do not create the value they need. The main difference between the two types of technologies is that being able to communicate can be done in a more simple manner through voice, text, email, and other methods. But true collaboration often requires the sending of large files, and a number of people being able to look at the same thing at the same time. That means the need for solutions that let people all work together, along with being able to communicate.

It is this difference that organizations sometimes miss. They assume that, because a virtual workforce can communicate with one another, that collaboration will be easy. This is often not the case, and can leave a virtual workforce struggling with different ways to get information across to others. This results in miscommunication, slow-downs, and other problems that would easily be avoided with the right type of collaboration capabilities.

Usage and Importance for the Virtual Workforce

A virtual workforce that cannot collaborate with one another cannot get anything of significant value accomplished for the organization. Just like with non-virtual workforces, working together for a common good (the enterprise) is key to successful endeavors. There may be projects the workforce is handling for the company that have specific deadlines. There may be individual projects that people in the workforce are tackling that are part of a whole that all needs to come together.

No matter what the reason or how the virtual workforce is arranged, the entire enterprise must operate as a team or it will not see the levels of success it would hope for. Fortunately, there are many options for collaboration programs available on the market today. Which one would be right for a particular organization is something that company will have to determine. The size of the company, how many people are in its virtual workforce, and what the company does, specifically, will all play a role in which of these technologies should be chosen.

Applications of These Tools and Technologies

Applying collaboration technology to a virtual workforce can be an exciting endeavor. It allows the workforce to be able to do so much more than it otherwise would, and that is one of the best feelings for a workforce and a company that is focused on success. As such, it is very important to apply the tools the right way. Collaborative technology is still evolving, and there are newer and better ways to work with other members of a virtual group than there were even two or three years ago. That means this technology will continue to change in the future.

For a company that is either all virtual with its workforce or that intends to be in the near future, or for a company that will keep traditional employees but that will also have a large virtual workforce, the most important thing is to make sure the technology being purchased is technology that will grow with the company and its plans. Collaborative technology should be just a little more than the company needs, so that the company can "grow into" what it has purchased or contracted for. That can help avoid the need to purchase something new.

Collaborative technology is applied to the virtual workforce in many different ways. Most commonly it is used for several employees to work on one thing at the same time. It is the proverbial conference table, where a number of workers can gather around it, share ideas, and all look at the same project at once. Without this, it can be hard for members of a virtual workforce to effectively "see" what other members are seeing. Just trying to explain may not be enough, and having visual understanding is so much more efficient and effective when people are not in the same location.

Scenarios and Examples to Consider

Companies that are looking for collaboration tools and technologies for their virtual workforce should consider the level of collaboration that workforce currently has, and the level it actually needs. Stepping up to a higher level for collaborative endeavors can push the workforce and the company ahead of the competition. If a virtual workforce is truly going to provide value for an organization, it must be able to remotely do all the things a traditional workforce would do.

That includes working closely together on projects, and when a "conference call" can become one where there is video, drawing capabilities, and more in real time, there is a vastly higher chance of the workforce getting things done. Consider a company working on a new product, for example. While virtual workers cannot handle the prototype because of their location, they can see videos of it, hear audio of it, and work with others in real time as they mold and shape any changes that need to be made. This is far more beneficial than just reading information or watching what is essentially a commercial about the product.

When virtual workers can feel like they are in the room with others, participating in the decisions that are being made, they truly feel part of the organization. That level of collaboration is not only good for the development or products or services, but it can also help workers feel better about their jobs. This can make them more productive overall, which is a significant benefit to the virtual workforce and the organization of which they are a part. Collaboration is inclusion, and inclusion is also important to stop the virtual workers from feeling isolated and unimportant to the company itself.

Information Management Tools and Equipment

Knowledge, data, and insight management all matter when it comes to information management tools and equipment for the virtual workforce. While managing information may sound easy, it is actually a very technical and complex process. In short, there is no easy way to manage large amounts of information, and that is especially true when there is a virtual workforce component. That is generally because this kind of workforce is scattered all over the globe, and so the information it collects must be retained, processed, and transmitted in the right way to ensure it is received by the right people and handled correctly.

Knowledge management is exactly what it sounds like. The knowledge that people have and that a company has as a whole all must be handled the right way in order to benefit the highest number of people for the longest period of time. If knowledge is not managed the right way, it will not provide the level of value that is needed. This can include longer-term employees passing knowledge down to newer workers, formal company training programs, seminars and continuing education, and much more. No matter how the knowledge is acquired, it should be disseminated throughout the company to help everyone be more efficient. That includes the virtual workforce that is often overlooked.

The management of data is vital to any organization. Whether data is being collected on customers, the competition, demographics in the area, new products or services, vendor relationships, or anything else that makes the company run smoothly, that data has to be managed. Just collecting it is not enough, because the amount of raw data that can be a part of an organization's collection policies can be staggering. That is especially true for larger organizations and for those with a significant customer base. But smaller companies can also run into a data management problem if they do not have the proper policies and technologies in place.

Managing insight is a bit more abstract than the other types of information management. True insight is subjective in a lot of ways, and may not seem like something that could be easily passed along. However, there are many ways to gain insight into a situation. When one person on a virtual workforce does that, presenting what they have learned to others and sharing it with them can help add to that insight and allow other workers to build on the ideas, as well. It is one of the best ways to get a virtual workforce talking about how they can make things better for everyone involved.

Usage and Importance for the Virtual Workforce

Information management is a large part of the value of the virtual workforce. With all the data they collect and process, and all the ways they can learn new things from that data that can be passed along to the rest of the company, the virtual workforce has to have the tools and technologies it needs to manage information. Raw data is not useless, as it contains a wealth of information. When that data is not processed and managed correctly, though, most of the value that would have been gained from it is lost instead.

It is not just the collected data that matters for a virtual workforce when it comes to information management. The knowledge and insight that is gained by some workers should be accessible to other workers. If that knowledge is not stored in a place where others can access it, and not in a way that it is easily found, it will go unnoticed and not showcase its true value for the rest of the virtual workforce. Having information collected the right way, stored where it can be easily found by the right people, protected from those who should not see it, and processed so it can benefit the company is all part of the management of information.

Applications of These Tools and Technologies

Information management tools and technologies have many applications. These include allowing a virtual worker to discuss issues with customers, such as technical support. They also include the gathering of data to help the marketing team find a new target market. Additionally, they may allow senior executives to study where the company is headed and decide on a different direction. Because there is so much to offer where information management is concerned, and a number of different applications, the tools and technologies that allow for the management of knowledge, data, and insight must be available to the virtual workforce.

Scenarios and Examples to Consider

For organizations that use a virtual workforce, the management of information is different than for those organizations that have only traditional, location-based employees. Additionally, some companies are also moving toward more of a hybrid structure, where there are non-virtual and virtual employees. All of the employees may or may not need access to all of the information, so it is not only about ensuring that information is collected and processed correctly. It is also about making sure employees who need knowledge and data can get to it, and employees who should be restricted from that information cannot get to it. This can be complicated, but the right tools and technology can make it much easier.

Consider medical information, for example. There are many HIPAA privacy violations that could occur with someone's medical records. Only certain employees would be allowed to access that information, while most employees would be prohibited from seeing it. That makes the most sense for a company that handles this kind of information, but it also means that company must have the proper tools, equipment, and technologies in place in order to make sure the information is protected but also available to those who have the right to see it. This is about much more than just putting a password in place, and there are other scenarios where restricted information must be protected, as well.

The information transmission requirements for protected information are different, and much more stringent, than those that are used for non-protected information that is traveling from one place to another. Information management technologies that can protect this information properly are required, and this implies a need for the correct infrastructure and network. No matter how carefully the information is protected on one end, it is during the travel that there is increased risk. With the proper network and a strong infrastructure, there is a reduced chance of difficulty with protected information. 

Management Tools and Equipment

For a virtual workforce to successfully complete projects, tasks, and activities, it needs good management. That includes both the way it manages itself (and the way individual workers manage their time) and the way it is managed by those who are higher up in the organization. To do any or all of those things effectively and efficiently, management tools, equipment, and technologies are all needed. Not everyone who works virtually will necessarily need the same things for individual time management, but for more standard types of managing the group as a whole, it is important to use the same options for everyone.

There are effective management programs and software suites available, and the only decision the company will need to make is which one of the options they feel would be best for their needs. But making that determination and understanding their needs is not always easy. It can be more complicated when there are virtual management considerations, as well. That is due to the fact that virtual management of a virtual workforce comes with its own challenges, and requires more dedication to working together for the good of the workforce and the company. In addition, it is the area that is the least developed. That means there are fewer tools available for this virtual management capability.

The right management tools are needed in order to make sure the virtual workforce is staying on track, since management is not in the same building and may not even be in the same country or time zone. There is a balance to be struck between making sure the company can keep track of its virtual workforce and not micromanaging people who are trusted to do their jobs from a remote location. As such, management technologies and tools are somewhat unique when the workforce is a virtual one. But the importance of good management for a company's workforce is the same whether that workforce is virtual, more traditional, or a hybrid of the two.

Usage and Importance for the Virtual Workforce

The use of good tools and technologies for management of (and within) the virtual workforce is vital to the ongoing success of that workforce. That is because it is very difficult to see much success without the cohesion that proper management creates. A virtual workforce that is improperly managed is a virtual workforce that is inefficient and ineffective. While it is very important to get the right people to manage the workforce, how they do that and what kinds of tools and technologies they utilize are both going to matter.

In many cases, the virtual workforce will be managed by people who are based on the company's location. But there are more and more virtual managers today, as well. The number of management positions that are virtual will likely continue to grow as the number of virtual workers does the same. Because of the distance between workers and their manager, being able to track what the virtual workers are doing but also give them the opportunity to feel empowered to make their own decisions about the best course of action for their project is important.

Applications of These Tools and Technologies

Because management is a relatively specific field, there is only one main way to apply these tools and technologies. They will be used to keep track of virtual workers and offer those workers feedback and guidance in order to help the entire virtual workforce perform as well as possible. With that in mind, the most common application of management tools for the virtual workforce is through tracking. Virtual employees who are logged into the company's software can see all they need to in order to perform their job. But they can also be seen as logged in, and their activity on the software can be tracked.

This shows how long an employee is on one screen or another, what changes they are making, and how long they are idle. Clocking in and out of this software is another option that can be used to help manage employees in a virtual setting. Not all companies feel the need to do this, but for large employers with a global virtual workforce, it is important to be aware of what all workers are doing at all times. This can also help with performance reviews, critiques, feedback, and any disciplinary action that may need to be taken against a virtual employee who is not performing adequately.

Another way to apply management technologies and tools to the virtual workforce is through self-management and self-reporting for that workforce. In other words, employees are accountable to themselves and to one another by keeping track of their activities and milestones, and by filing reports or notes about those things. Depending on the size of the virtual workforce, the projects on which they all work, and the kind of management a particular company wants to have, this may be a better way of addressing management issues for a virtual workforce. This is a company by company decision, as what works for one company may not work for another.

Scenarios and Examples to Consider

Organizations should consider the management needs of their virtual workforce very carefully. Since these workforces generally need something different from a non-virtual workforce, just attempting to move the same methods from one kind of workforce to another will not be effective. The best example of virtual workforce management is likely companies that have virtual management workforces, as well. These managers truly understand what it is like to work virtually, so they know the specific needs of the workforce they are managing.

Without a clear understanding of the needs and requirements a virtual workforce has, a virtual manager will not connect with that workforce in a meaningful way that helps raise efficiency and effectiveness. Unfortunately, that means that management will miss the mark in attempting to motivate the workforce, and the workforce will struggle to determine how it is going to speak to management about the concerns it has. When choosing tools and technologies for virtual workforce management, companies should keep the needs of both the managers and the workforce in mind.

Computational Resource Tools and Equipment

Computers, servers, and computing resources are all much-needed items for a virtual workforce. Without these, there is often little that the workforce can accomplish. While many traditional employees also need these items, the requirements virtual workers have may mean that they need higher-end computers, stronger or larger servers, and other types of computing resources that traditional employees would not use. Being able to operate programs that allow for communication and collaboration, along with all the work that actually has to be done, mean computing power stronger than what would typically be seen in the average office.

Any company that wants to build a virtual workforce will need to take note of the kind of projects its workforce will be asked to complete. The more complex the projects, the higher the level of computing power that will probably be needed. Managing the workforce and ensuring all of its members can interact with one another properly will add to the resource needs, as well. It is not just computers and servers that are required, but the software to collaborate and address any issues that may arise. Along with that, backups are vital to ensure that important data is not lost if there is a power outage or computer problem of some kind.

Equipment for the creation of a virtual workforce may be expensive, but will generally not cost nearly as much as keeping a traditional workforce instead. Computers, servers, and software programs, along with the other resources needed, are often one-time or at least infrequent expenses. A traditional workforce has many of these same expenses, along with the ongoing cost of maintaining a location in which that workforce can be housed. With the right tools and technologies expenses can be lowered while effectiveness and efficiency rise.

Usage and Importance for the Virtual Workforce

For the virtual workforce, the use of computational resources and technology is vital. Discussing work over the phone will not be enough, and if one worker cannot see what the other workers are trying to convey there will be no cohesiveness in the finished product. In short, projects will not get done without the computational resources to make them happen. No matter how good the people in the workforce actually are, they will not be successful without the right tools to help them meet or exceed the company's goals.

Many companies that look toward starting up a virtual workforce do not realize that they need to improve their computational resources. They must step back and look at the virtual workforce as an enterprise capability, instead of simply seeing it as something that can help them save money on real estate or potentially get a little more accomplished. Any time an organization develops a virtual workforce, the key is to equip that workforce properly right from the very beginning in order to make sure it provides the quality and value that the company expects. Otherwise it can be very disappointing, and could even lead to the company deciding that a virtual workforce is not a good choice for their needs.

Giving up on a virtual workforce because it did not have the tools it needed would be a shame for a company that could otherwise benefit from that workforce. Rather than risk problems right from the beginning, choosing the proper computers, software, servers, and other resources will give the virtual workforce a chance to showcase what it can really do for the company that creates it. Hiring the right people definitely matters, but those people need to be given the resources they require if they are going to be successful.

Applications of These Tools and Technologies

The best way to be successful with computational resources and the virtual workforce is to understand how to apply these tools and technologies correctly. What is "correct" may be different from company to company to some extent, but there will also be some universal truths to how computational resources are best used. With the right computers and servers, along with proper software and other resources, a virtual workforce will be able to fulfill all its duties to the best of its ability and with true efficiency and effectiveness.

Tools and technologies that are not applied properly cause waste, in both time and money. But this does not have to happen. Using technology correctly means a quality experience for everyone who works for the company. The virtual workforce, the management of that workforce, and the rest of the employees at the organization will all be able to do their jobs better when they have everything they need and are properly trained in the use of it all. To make sure the computational resources are what they should be, working with the virtual workforce to develop and purchase the resources they actually require needs to be an important part of organizational planning.

Scenarios and Examples to Consider

The most important scenario to consider is that a virtual workforce can do very little without the proper computational resources. Whether that workforce is using the technology to make new products or improve upon old ones, or whether it is using the technology to collaborate and communicate with other employees all over the world, the virtual workforce cannot move forward properly if it does not have the resources it needs. Real estate may not be part of the resources needed by a virtual workforce as opposed to a traditional one, but computational resources are always going to be a requirement no matter where the workforce employees are located.

Companies should also consider how often they can and should update their resources, and whether they are purchasing technology that will last for a long time when they are creating their virtual workforce. If they are choosing low-tech options due to a lower price, they may be truly getting what they are paying for. Quality is very important where computational resources for a virtual workforce are concerned, and any company that values its workforce will take care to give that workforce everything it needs to become and remain as successful as possible for the long term.

Infrastructure and Networking

With the right infrastructure and quality networking capabilities, a virtual workforce can excel at whatever tasks they are given. This ability to network easily and accurately goes beyond just working with other employees in the company. It can also extend to interactions with experts in the industry, people from other companies, vendors, and much more. But if there is no infrastructure, or there are no good opportunities to network, the virtual workforce can stagnate because they do not have the options they need for growth-building engagement in their industry or niche.

A strong infrastructure offers reliability, availability, and security, ensuring that there are virtual workforce arrangements that can lend themselves to experts from outside the company. Those arrangements require strong networking and infrastructure capabilities simply because they are designed to be highly functional for everyone involved. If others outside the organization cannot use the workforce's networking capabilities efficiently, they may withdraw from helping because of the difficulties of doing so. That would harm the entire virtual workforce and potentially the entire organization, due to a lack of ability to work properly with others in order to build a more sustainable company and network.

The value of the virtual workforce's networking ability and infrastructure is not just in connecting with outside sources, though. It is also for networking within the workforce itself. The creation of strong infrastructure is what allows a workforce to interact and truly function as one unit. Unless that can be done, the workforce is just a collection of people with a basic set of goals. That is not the same as a true virtual workforce, which is more bonded and focused on operating as one unit for the company that created it.

Usage and Importance for the Virtual Workforce

The virtual workforce is a large part of the present for many companies, and will be a bigger part of the future for those companies and more. Because of that, any company that wants to grow and develop with the times will need to ensure that its workforce is ready. Networking and infrastructure are great ways to get a virtual workforce ready for the times and be sure that workforce stays prepared. Working with employees all over the globe can be challenging, but being able to interact properly with them on a consistent basis makes a difference.

While the importance of networking and infrastructure for the virtual workforce cannot be overstated, the proper usage of that infrastructure and its networking capabilities also have to be addressed. Infrastructure is only as good as the technology and equipment that created it, and networking capabilities are only valuable if they can be easily used to reach the people who need to be contacted. Without value and quality in the network and the infrastructure, there is no value in either one of those things.

A network is part infrastructure and part community. Both of those things work together to make up the value provided to and from the virtual workforce. With the right tools, equipment, and technologies, along with a proper understanding of how everything and everyone can and should work together, a virtual workforce can do so much more than it might otherwise be able to accomplish. Networking and infrastructure technology are only valuable if the virtual workforce uses them correctly, and the virtual workforce can only use this technology if it is the right technology for their needs. A company that is careful about getting its workforce the right opportunities will ensure that virtual workforce gets what is really needed.

Applications of These Tools and Technologies

Applying networking and infrastructure needs to a virtual workforce is not always easy, because every workforce and company is a little bit different. The kind of infrastructure needed by an IT company may be very different from the kind of structure needed by a company that makes a product. Their networking needs are also likely very different, because the types of people they will want to interact with will not be the same. Because of that, understanding what they want and need for networking and infrastructure may take some time. Any organization building a virtual workforce wants to make sure it has the right tools, equipment, and technologies for that workforce to operate effectively.

Starting from the ground up and building a networking and infrastructure model for the virtuality of the workforce is an excellent way for any organization to see more success with the workforce when it is completed. There may be small changes and adjustments that will need to be made over time, as the organization judges what is working well and what is not. But if issues are handled properly in the beginning it is far less likely that large-scale changes will have to be made as the workforce settles in and completes day to day tasks. Without proper infrastructure and the ability to network as needed, though, these daily requirements can become much more difficult than necessary.

Scenarios and Examples to Consider

Organizations that are creating a virtual workforce, or those that are improving upon the workforce they already have, should think about what they really want that workforce to be able to do. There are the main, required tasks that the virtual workforce is designed for, but there are generally more things that need to be done, and ways in which those tasks need to be completed. In short, a virtual workforce often does more than just the work they were assigned. How they go about doing that work matters, and if they fail to do it correctly the organization can suffer as a whole.

But these virtual workforces must be given the tools they need to complete their work, and that includes being able to reach out to others as and when needed to find information, share information, or ask questions. The infrastructure they have around them and the ways in which they can network with others will be a large part of that for nearly every organization and its virtual workforce needs. Building a strong network for a technology company is going to be different than building the kind of infrastructure needed by a virtual action workforce, and a clear understanding of what is valued and required by the virtual workforce can help the organization create what is needed from the start.

There Are Many Options for Good Technologies

As a virtual workforce gets to know one another and the tasks they are asked to complete, what they need from a tools and equipment standpoint can change, as well. Some organizations may consider setting their workforce up with just the basics, and then letting that workforce determine what it needs to be more successful. That can reduce the costs that the organization has, because it will only be purchasing what is truly needed. The downside to this is that the virtual workforce will not be able to do as much for the company from the beginning, because it will be waiting on more technology in order to perform effectively.

That can become a problem for a company that is relying on its virtual workforce from the very beginning, but should be less of an issue for a company that is willing to work into having this kind of workforce, instead of expecting it to be fully available on the first day it is created. In other words, a company that transitions to a virtual workforce more slowly may be better able to buy as needed when it comes to the tools and equipment that workforce will need. Organizations that are not looking for this slower level of transition, though, should consider their technological needs more carefully before they assemble the workforce, so they can buy what is needed and have it ready for the virtual workforce right away.

Choosing options that can be updated and ungraded is important, since buying something new all the time presents two problems. There is the cost of doing this, which is often much more than upgrading, but there is also the downtime that is created by the learning curve of a new product. An upgrade will not change things very much and may take a few minutes to get comfortable with. A new software program or larger piece of technology can take much longer than that, especially if it is very different from the last one or not as intuitive. Carefully considering all the options and working with the people who will be part of the virtual workforce to get their input can be highly valuable to any company as they plan their workforce's needs.

Choosing the Right Technologies Can Save Money and Time

Depending on the type of company and the safeguards it must have in place, it may be worthwhile to consider cloud-based technology for the virtual workforce. This will provide the needed software applications, but the software will not have to be purchased and installed on every computer. Everything is in the cloud, which means it can be used by virtual workforce members no matter where they are. There are some companies that may be concerned about using this type of technology because of the risk of hacking or otherwise leaking information that should be private. This is a rare occurrence, though, and not one that most companies are risking. With the proper safeguards, a virtual workforce can protect its data and still use cloud-based choices.

This has the benefit of cost, which is something very important to companies that are looking to create a virtual workforce. Most of the reason that companies choose to use virtual workers is due to the lower costs as opposed to having a traditional workforce. This is not the only reason, as space for workers to do their jobs and other factors may also come into play. Sometimes the talented people a company needs to hire live around the world and do not want to relocate. But many companies base their virtual workforce decisions on cost. When they do that, they need to find tools and equipment, along with technology options, that give the workforce what it needs in an easy and seamless manner at a price the organization feels they can work with.

Choosing the right technology for a virtual workforce is not always an easy task. This is why input from so many different people in the organization is often required. Asking the workforce what it needs to do its job properly also matters, because these are the people who will be hands-on with the technology the company provides. If it does not work for them or is very ineffective, the entire virtual workforce can suffer from not being able to complete tasks as quickly and easily as they otherwise would. Virtual workforces are becoming more practical for a larger number of organizations today. As that takes place, the tools, equipment, and technologies these workforces need will be in higher demand and will change and develop faster.

The Relationship Between Virtual Organizational Arrangements and the Combination of Tools, Equipment, and Technologies

It is impossible not to see the value of the relationship between virtual organizational arrangements and the combinations of tools, equipment, and technologies that are needed by the virtual workforce. Every workforce arrangement is different, and each one of these arrangements has different requirements for how it works. With that in mind, organizations should be careful to focus on the kind of workforce arrangement they have or plan to develop, so they can locate the best tools, equipment, and technologies to truly meet their needs.

As with each individual communication tool, there are scenarios to consider when it comes to the kind of relationship seen between organizational arrangements and the infrastructure needed to properly operate them. Companies that use a virtual action workforce need synchronous and seamless communication, because there is a requirement that they make rapid decisions for the protection of life and property. Examples would include companies that handle cyber attacks and related concerns.

Companies that work with medical information and related, protected knowledge generally need both synchronous and asynchronous communication, but they also need tools, equipment, and technologies that provide them with the ability to carefully and fully protect the information they work with. Discovering this can take time and effort, but it is a necessary part of building a strong virtual workforce with the proper arrangement and the infrastructure to allow it to operate in the best and most efficient way possible.

Overall, there is no single "right" way to develop a virtual workforce or to provide it with the technology it needs to be successful. These workforces are similar between companies, especially in the same industry, but they are also somewhat unique and individual, as well. By getting input from the virtual workers as to what they need to be successful, and coupling that with the knowledge and insight that senior executives in the company have about technology, the tools and equipment the workforce needs can be decided upon and provided. When an organization works together it is easier for that company to achieve success with the virtuality of its workforce, which can lead to higher levels of success all throughout the organization.

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