Autumn Edition 2021
WELCOME TO OUR
It’s been an interesting summer, as the desire of some to get back to normal - or whatever might pass for normal these days - has collided with the understandable caution of others.
We’ve found ourselves in the middle of it, with the vast majority of the briefings and events you and your colleagues organise to keep us informed still virtual, even as many of them include a discussion of hybrid working somewhere along the line!
So in this, our second issue, we reflect on some of the ideas and lessons we’ve picked up along the way. Hopefully you will find them both food for thought and useful feedback.
- The Freeform Dynamics Team
IN THIS ISSUE?
The challenges of working across timezones
Tuning your asset mix to cover key stakeholders
Random thoughts - our take on some topical issues
How are you managing the cultural changes wrought by hybrid working?
Who is Bryan Betts?
Content recap - Highlights from some of our recent work
THE CHALLENGES OF WORKING ACROSS TIMEZONES
Anyone working in a multinational industry will know the challenge of working across timezones. For some, such as east coast Americans working for west coast companies, or a few Londoners I know who work a lot with the US, the solution can be simple - adjust your life to match the other timezone.
But for comms professionals trying to organise analyst and media events, the challenges are doubled. Notably, because there’s also no absolute requirement for people to turn up, as there might be for an internal project or company meeting - the event itself has to be enough of a draw.
If you’re hoping to draw attendees from around the world there’s several options. They range from a single event, perhaps at midday on the US east coast (US timezones do seem to dominate here, for some weird reason!), with a catch-up recording for later, to three consecutive follow-the-sun events eight hours apart.
So, what’s best - and doesn’t expect your CEO to be awake for 24 hours on the trot? The obvious answer is to use pre-recorded segments, but please, if you’re asking people to put time in their diaries, make sure there’s enough of a live component to justify it.
There’s all sorts of possibilities for that live section - a Q&A with regional bosses or a case study with a local customer, to suggest but two. Just don’t make the whole thing recorded, otherwise your attendees will feel shortchanged - and may be rather less willing to oblige you with diary time in the future.
TUNING YOUR ASSET MIX TO COVER
When clients commission analyst material to support marketing activity, they often ask us for generic assets with a broad appeal. This is great to enable reuse but is not ideal if you want maximum impact. Whether it’s written, graphical or video content, it will generally perform significantly better if it’s tailored for specific stakeholders. Focus on their priorities using language that really resonates, and they are much more likely to engage and respond.
And targeted assets have become more important than ever. Most significant technology decisions nowadays involve both IT and the business. As the graphic below shows, this is true no matter how activity starts and who is driving. We then also need to consider how interests vary within each camp - e.g. CIO vs Architect vs Developer, or Finance vs Marketing vs Operations. So with this in mind, how well does your current asset mix cater for the range of stakeholders involved in buying your products or services?
Is a vaccine passport enough?
As societies open up again, people are looking to meet in person, singly or at large meetings and conferences. The question is, can these go ahead safely using just evidence of vaccination, a negative test result or proof of having already had the virus? Early indications are that these measures alone may be insufficient and that social distancing and masking may be with us for some time to come.
Feel the noise
One of the bigger issues around a prospective return to ‘the office’ is people’s awareness of and sensitivity to noise - and that’s both background noise and the noise we make with phone calls, etc. Indeed, they may have almost forgotten what it’s like to be in an open-plan office! What could - and should - you do to prepare and protect them?
HOW ARE YOU MANAGING THE CULTURAL CHANGES WROUGHT BY HYBRID WORKING?
However hybrid and remote working pan out, one thing is certain: office culture will never be the same again. Indeed, for many it’s “Almost like having to learn the job all over again,” as it was described to me in a recent meeting.
One group that’s strongly affected by the culture shock is those young people who joined the desk-based workforce during the pandemic. For them, the ‘employee engagement’ and the social element that comes from being in the office may be hugely welcome after the relative isolation of working-from-home (WFH), but the changes – and expectations – must still be carefully managed.
To go on, any organisation that’s been managing WFH properly is likely to have seen hierarchies flatten during lockdown. Traditional authority models and patterns will have shifted too, with good managers managing by results, not by time spent in the office.
Dress standards have also changed. Those pyjama bottoms which were invisible on Zoom won’t be welcome in the office, but it’s clear now that few of us need formal attire to get the job done. We may even see the final demise of the suit, as those industries that hung on to it finally recognise its redundancy. A small point in itself, but a very visible sign of cultural change.
How will organisations help their people navigate these changes? It turns out that hybrid working isn’t just a matter of letting people telework a few days a week, it’s also a mindshift – a new way of thinking, collaborating, and everything else involved in office work. Interesting times, as they say.
ANALYST PROFILE: BRYAN BETTS
Role: Principal Analyst & company beer-guru
(In)famous for: Judging in beer competitions, cycling through central London traffic, talking too fast after drinking strong coffee, a long-standing fascination with data storage technologies.
Biggest personal challenges: Getting the kids up and moving so we’re at school on time, and stopping the puppy from eating the hamster!
Biggest challenges at work: I’m not the strongest at data analysis, especially when it involves multiple Excel spreadsheets. But fortunately we’re a team, and there’s others who can help with that – then I can get on with the interpretation, which I am comfy with.
Most rewarding part of the job: The opportunity to really dig into a subject properly, whether it’s a new technology, a new application area or whatever. Many writers these days find themselves having to flit between subjects way too rapidly, so for me as an analyst, the ability to get into something in depth and then to write about it at length can be very rewarding.
Best advice for new analysts: Don’t be afraid to have an opinion, but be prepared to debate and validate it.
From our discussions with CIOs and business executives, there’s a matter-of-fact consensus that hybrid working is the future. The conversation has now moved on to discussion of what this translates to in practice, including the decisions that must be considered and the investments that need to be made.
While the ongoing shifts in culture and working patterns will take a while to reach steady-state, those more advanced in their thinking agree that some things don’t need to wait. As an example, most are already thinking of how to design and build a systems and facilities infrastructure that can flex as things continue to evolve. A great opportunity for the right suppliers.
One of the other interesting market developments we have seen is a growing recognition of the link between employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX). It’s something we discussed in a recent piece we published originally on Computer Weekly (see link below in recent content). The challenge, though, is that this is shaking things up from a budget, stakeholder and decision-making perspective. We’ll continue to watch how things evolve in this area, so look out for more analysis on our website in the coming months.