With so much talk about workforce reduction and the challenges companies face with too much to do and too little resources, I often get people’s attention when I talk about the value cloud computing can bring to building an on-demand workforce – I call it the new freelance economy. Adopting the principles of cloud computing – on-demand, pay-as-you-go, scale as you need the services, companies can contract quality workforces and individuals have more control to chart their career and work opportunities. An on-demand workforce can bring the best workers to companies to perform work and disband, once the work is complete.
At LiveOps we call this “cloudsourcing.” Yet, I believe we are selling the benefits of cloud computing short – it is also a tremendous asset for helping companies retain great and valued employees. As much as I believe cloud computing can introduce a new ways for us to get work done efficiently, I also believe it can enable us to rethink how we “resize” our business by allowing us to now get rid of costly overhead expenses like buildings and keep great people.
Think for a second about the investment we make in our workforce – recruiting top talent, training them, continued support and, ultimately, building our businesses based on the contributions they make. However, for all we invest, when it comes to corporate cut backs, headcount is always on the shortlist. Any newspaper you pick up today reflects that sentiment. Whether it is a call center in Omaha or an automotive manufacturer in Detroit, we are used to cutting people to reduce costs or as some would see it “tossing out the baby with the bathwater.”
I don’t believe it needs to be that way anymore. Rather, thanks to cloud computing we can actually layoff the buildings and keep the employees. West Marine did just that. In sum, the company believes the best customer service for their business is delivered by a team of boating enthusiast who share West Marines customers’ passion and best relate to their calls regarding products and services. A recent need to replace end of life legacy contact center technology gave them a chance to consider other ways to reduce overall costs for the business. One of the factors considered was shutting down a call center in Florida which, in the past, would have meant letting go of their quality call center team. By selecting a contact center in the cloud solution they were not tied to an on premise-based solution that required the people to work in the same location.
Cloud Computing enables West Marine to route every call to the best customer service agent no matter where they are located – home or retail store. And all of this change in the back-end was not apparent to their customers. What’s more, they were able to retain their valued and quality employees; plus, give them a better quality of life – no more commuting. (More on the West Marine story @ http://www.liveops.com/pdf/LO_CS_West-Marine_409.pdf)
Another upside for companies who consider sending the workforce home is lower attrition rates. Studies have shown that churn in the home agent (call center) industry is 1/10 of brick and mortar contact centers because when people are measured on performance versus face time they are more productive and deliver better results. http://www.liveops.com/resource-library/wp_remote_agent_blueprint_thankyou.html.
Cloud computing has the power to fundamentally change the way we work. This is something I am passionate about and look forward to continuing discussing on this blog. I look forward to hearing what others have to say on this matter. Also, if you can attend Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco next month, this subject is the essence of a panel I am on titled “Web Squared and the Economy of Work.”