Hybrid work: 3 tech questions CIOs should ask

Looking to implement new tools that facilitate your hybrid work environment? Start with these questions
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Hybrid work technologies are hot these days, as CIOs and other decision makers sift through new, emerging, and legacy solutions to determine which ones are right for their business. Talent and company growth, workforce distribution, team culture, and other such factors all need to be considered before making an investment.

Here are three important questions to ask as you evaluate new hybrid work tools and services.

1. How do I help hybrid work teams bond?

Lockdowns and quarantines have taught us to adapt to virtual meetings. But video meetings never match the in-person experience. Happy hours, office holiday parties, and conference room huddles all share the advantage of enabling face-to-face discussions. And while virtual meetings may never be as effective as in-person ones, you can facilitate some important aspects, like forming connections and bonding, in both approaches.

[ Want more real-world advice on managing remote teams? Read Remote and hybrid work: 3 new leadership rules. ]

As a CIO, think about how you can help your employees and teams bond in each meeting place. There are some great tools available for conversing and building relationships in a hybrid setting. For example, we use Hopin, which does a great job of creating virtual, hybrid, and in-person events. We’ve used it for many events, and it has offered useful features in each scenario. For example, when folks can’t be together in person but want to “meet” other people, there’s a networking feature in which participants can connect with each other and enjoy a few minutes of conversation – much like speed-dating or casual networking at an in-person conference.

2. With an evolving workforce, how do I onboard teams?

As companies scaled during the pandemic, they experienced first-hand the opportunities and challenges that came with it. One major hurdle has been facilitating the connection between new and veteran employees. Our company had a distributed workforce even prior to the pandemic, for example, but rapid growth tested our ability to onboard teams at scale.

How do I onboard 100 engineers scattered around the world in 12 months? How do I ensure employees are productive in a reasonable timeframe? These are the types of questions all tech leaders should be asking, especially as digital transformation takes center stage. New technologies and solutions have flourished and it’s worthwhile to look at options that cater to your business. An important concern is onboarding at scale and with speed.

[ Related read: Hybrid work: 3 cultural pitfalls to avoid. ]

Half the battle is keeping up with newly hired talent. Ask yourself if your solution can help you organize the topics and content that needs to be learned and dispersed among your teams. How effective is the onboarding process, and is it going without a hitch?

One way to find out is to look at how your existing team helps newcomers. In our onboarding, for example, developers who are creating a user story for the first time can view videos of the process in real-time. This can simulate the experience of a new hire looking over a colleague’s shoulder to learn.

3. Can I maximize an existing solution?

Look for solutions that have pivoted to offer their customers new value in an entirely new setting. Smart businesses and technologies prove their resilience by evolving to meet the needs of the changing world.

The beauty of a hybrid or multi-cloud environment is being able to choose what suits the business without being locked into a major investment. With any investment, it’s wise to reevaluate what your money and time are paying for, especially if it’s easily integrated into your current needs and situation.

Prior to the pandemic, our organization had shared office space. While we didn’t utilize that space for much of the past two years, it has gradually become valuable again, allowing us to create a true hybrid environment without having to commit to permanent office space. Employees in key cities can meet at a shared workspace close to them to get face time and in-person collaboration time when necessary.

Consider tools that can replace whiteboard sessions, allowing users to collaborate by drawing, revising, and sharing charts and diagrams. This is a great way to collaborate in a hybrid workplace because employees can see processes that are evolving and changing.

The best way for you as an IT leader to maximize the benefit of hybrid technologies is to ask the questions that are most relevant to your company. Every business’s bottom line varies. Each workforce distribution is different. Each team’s culture has its own unique brand. Ask the questions that matter most to your unique business.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Sanjay Gidwani is Chief Operating Officer for Copado where he manages operations and customer success. After six years working at Salesforce culminating in the position of Vice President, Success Cloud, Sanjay joined Copado to help guide organizations on their journey to DevOps maturity in order to maximize the power of the Salesforce platform.