What These Companies Learned While Powering the Work-From-Home Transition of 2020

From collaboration software to cybersecurity, these companies have learned a lot over the last six months.
Quinten Dol
August 29, 2020
Updated: September 2, 2020
Quinten Dol
August 29, 2020
Updated: September 2, 2020

Over the last six months, there has been a lot of talk in HR departments about how to build and maintain company culture and employee morale when workers are scattered across thousands of individual home offices. Less discussed are the technological tools — hardware, collaboration software, endpoint security systems, conferencing platforms and so on — that have made this mass transition to remote work possible in the first place. 

On the technological front, the pandemic has served to accelerate many trends that were already occurring in enterprise organizations. Digital file sharing and collaboration tools like Box and Salesforce’s Quip were already central to business operations before they saw demand surge earlier this year. BlackBerry was already working on a solution to help maintain secure remote workplaces when corporate offices began to empty out. And testing companies like Applause were well placed to probe the strengths and weaknesses of new systems as companies transitioned to contactless operations. 

In the second of a two-part series, we touched base with leaders at enterprise organizations around the country to find out how clients are using their products and services to support fully remote workforces — while figuring out their own work-from-home transitions at the same time. 

 

varun parmar box chief product officer
Box

Varun Parmar, SVP and Chief Product Officer at Box

Which of your products or services has seen the largest user growth since businesses started transitioning to work-from-home?

The workday is shifting outside of business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Work-from-home introduces flexibility into the day, plus we’re all juggling childcare and other home responsibilities. We are seeing increased Box usage in the early morning hours or later in the evenings, which, for many families, means the kids are asleep. Interestingly, we’re still powering through lunch to get work done.

Digital collaboration is increasing. Document sharing and collaboration have increased as dispersed workers and teams find new ways to connect and move projects forward. During this transition, total collaboration has grown 19 percent — measured by comparing collaboration invites sent in the last two weeks of February 2020 against the last two weeks of March 2020. During the same period, we saw file previews increase by 32 percent and BoxNotes usage increase by 22 percent.

We’re using more apps, and we’re using them together. We’re all using video conferencing, chat and messaging apps for real-time collaboration, so it is no surprise that messaging tools (like Slack and Microsoft Teams) and video tools (like Zoom and Cisco WebEx) are seeing the biggest increases in Box integration usage.

 

“Documentation has become really important when communicating decisions and priorities.”

 

What tools and strategies has your own team found useful during this extended work-from-home period?

One of the best strategies to keep teams productive during this time is embracing flexible schedules. People are balancing work with taking care of their families, sharing workspace with a partner, tending to their animals and so on, so it’s important to respect people’s schedules and give teams the ability to set their own schedules when possible.

Documentation has become really important when communicating decisions and priorities. That’s why we rely heavily rely on BoxNotes and shared folders in Box as a way to ensure everyone is aware of the details — if you missed the meeting, you still get the full context.

We’ve also started a remote work channel and virtual lunch exclusively for the product team to share best-practices, support to each other in case of challenges, and keep morale and engagement high.

 

sarah pope capgemini
Capgemini

Sarah Pope, Lead for Digital Workplace and Future of Technology at Capgemini Invent

Which of your products or services has seen the largest user growth since businesses started transitioning to work-from-home?

Our offerings around how IT can adapt to the “new normal” have been our most recent focus area. Capgemini’s customers are asking how IT can: contribute to the urgent need for cost optimization, evolve to enable hybrid virtual organizations and enable “new normal” business model transformation.

While many challenges and vulnerabilities have appeared, so have new opportunities to reevaluate current business models and ways of working, giving us the chance to improve efficiency and adaptability for the future.

 

“Increased communication, transparency and collaboration go a long way in improving our remote work experience.”

 

What tools and strategies has your own team found useful during this extended work-from-home period?

We’ve really benefited from our diverse experiences around digital workplaces in transitioning to remote work. Many of our projects were already operating fully remotely pre-COVID. We also put a huge emphasis on maintaining and rebuilding some of our cultural rituals. We’ve leveraged our teams’ existing best practices around remote work through our most commonly used digital workplace tools, following virtual meeting etiquette with some personal touches and working with our clients’ tools on projects and generally working to create a good working ambiance. 

Increased communication, transparency and collaboration go a long way in improving our remote work experience as we continue to transition to new ways of working.

 

 

alex willis blackberry
BlackBerry

Alex Willis, Vice President of Global Sales Engineering at BlackBerry

Which of your products or services has seen the largest user growth since businesses started transitioning to work-from-home?

BlackBerry works with enterprises and organizations to ensure that critical business operations run without unnecessary disruptions, and their employees can contribute from home in the same productive and secure manner as when they are in the office.

One of our offerings that has seen significant user uptick is BlackBerry Digital Workplace. It is a self-contained platform designed for work-from-home use cases. Digital Workplace offers “anywhere” secure access to any application, desktop and file. Employees, remote workers, contractors and partners can use their own devices to access behind-the-firewall content with many of the same capabilities they would have with a traditional corporate-owned and managed computer.

 

“As a company focused on enabling and securing remote workforces, we are well prepared for this transition.”

 

What tools and strategies has your own team found useful during this extended work-from-home period?

As a company focused on enabling and securing remote workforces, we are well prepared for this transition and have business continuity strategies in place.

We use the BlackBerry AtHoc crisis communications solution internally for real-time updates and communications with our employees to keep them up to date. Other intelligent security software solutions include Desktop and Digital Workplace for secure remote access for desktops and laptops, Protect for advanced endpoint protection and BBMe for secure instant messaging. 

Our Spark Suite, a one-stop-shop for unified endpoint security (UES) and unified endpoint management (UEM) has proven to be the most useful suite of solutions for the extended work-from-home period. Organizations today face an increasingly chaotic environment where cyberthreats are increasingly sophisticated and pervasive when the whole workforce has to work remotely from their personal devices and insecure network. The Spark Suite is designed to protect people, devices, networks and apps by offering improved cross-platform visibility, secure productivity applications, and cyber threat prevention and remediation, all while simplifying administration.

 

bluehost
Bluehost

Joel Diamond, Director of Product at Bluehost

Which of your products or services has seen the largest user growth since businesses started transitioning to work-from-home?

We have seen an increased interest in web hosting as businesses require a more solid and credible online presence. As the shift to digital operations continues, a website is simply not enough. It should be secure, content-rich, mobile-friendly and — let’s be honest — fast. The shift to work-from-home operations has accelerated upgrades to online presence and capabilities, in order to better reach customers.

 

“Accepting that we are not professional robots and showing more human moments has improved teamwork and creative problem solving.”

 

What tools and strategies has your own team found useful during this extended work-from-home period?

Strategic communication has become our most important practice to maintaining teams and productivity at Bluehost (which is part of Endurance International Group). The trick is to be organized and leverage the best communication format. Ask yourself, do I really need to have a meeting or would an email suffice? When thinking about timely communication with co-workers, what expectations do I have by using chat services versus email? Each communication format has stressors and subconscious expectations, and understanding that can greatly affect how your team communicates with each other. Being strategic about how you communicate can promote productivity and work life balance.  

Accepting that we are not professional robots and showing more human moments has improved teamwork and creative problem solving. For example, during a meeting I was multitasking by listening and working on my daughter’s hair. I forgot my video was on, so everyone in the meeting witnessed it. At first my response was to apologize, but I quickly realized that this glimpse into my life made me more relatable. This type of human interaction is critical to greater collaboration, creativity and candid feedback among teams. By removing the shame and opening ourselves up to a bit of vulnerability, my team is working more effectively together, sharing in the ownership of complex problems and finding new solutions. With less focus on professionalism and presentation, we can be our true selves and focus more on the problem at hand.

 

applause chief technology officer
Applause

Rob Mason, CTO at Applause

Which of your products or services has seen the largest user growth since businesses started transitioning to work-from-home?

At Applause we’ve seen a lot of inbound interest with the transition to remote work because our model is centered on distributed testing. We use a global community of crowdsourced testers who work remotely at all times, so we’ve been able to help our clients maintain business continuity as in-lab testing and outsourcing methods have become much more difficult or impossible for many brands. In particular, we are seeing increased growth in our functional testing for journeys. This is because clients are transitioning to contactless solutions in response to COVID-19, and our distributed model is perfectly positioned to test these experiences in the real world.

 

“We hold Friday beer afternoons and other online events to help bring our in-office atmosphere to a virtual setting.”

 

What tools and strategies has your own team found useful during this extended work-from-home period?

With our entire company working remote since early March, videoconferencing — specifically Google Meet — has helped us keep our regular cadence of meetings, while also adding additional stand-ups. This keeps everyone updated on one another’s projects and ensures we are aligned on priorities. Videoconferencing also keeps us socially connected. We hold Friday beer afternoons and other online events to help bring our in-office atmosphere to a virtual setting.

 

salesforce kevin gibbs
Quip at Salesforce

Kevin Gibbs, GM of Salesforce Mobile and co-CEO of Quip at Salesforce

Which of your products or services has seen the largest user growth since businesses started transitioning to work-from-home?

When shelter-in-place orders came through, we saw customers and prospects suddenly need to figure out how to run teams remotely and maintain high levels of communication and collaboration at a time of uncertainty for a lot of employees. We saw 62 percent more customers sign up for Quip, our real-time collaboration software, between mid-March and mid-April than in the three months prior, and saw users send 20 percent more messages than usual.

 

“Our design philosophy has always been to try to make a Quip document feel like a piece of paper on a table surrounded by your co-workers...”

 

What tools and strategies has your own team found useful during this extended work-from-home period?

Our Quip at Salesforce group chats have gotten livelier as we all try to keep in touch and get to know new employees that we haven’t yet met face-to-face. Because every team is distributed and remote now, we use Quip documents for plans and launches as the ultimate source of truth for updates on strategy so that nothing gets lost in an email chain. It’s how we’ve always worked, but it’s made the transition to work-from-home easier since we’ve already created those habits.

Our design philosophy has always been to try to make a Quip document feel like a piece of paper on a table surrounded by your co-workers, where anyone can speak, laugh, write in the margins or start outlining a real plan, all at once. Now that everyone is working from home and not everybody  can be at the same table, that feeling of a shared, social experience is more important than ever. If you can’t connect with your co-workers as humans, you cannot do your best work.

 

constant contact
Constant Contact

Paul Spitzer, Senior Director of Product Management at Constant Contact

Which of your products and services has seen the largest user growth since businesses started transitioning to work-from-home?

At the onset of the pandemic, Constant Contact saw a tremendous rise in email send volumes — higher than Thanksgiving, typically our busiest time of year. Three of those days in mid-March are now in our top five send days of all time. With the increased send volume, we saw an abnormally high increase in login activity and reporting views. Our customers were reaching out to their subscribers at a record pace, and monitoring the response.

Beyond email send volumes, we are seeing an exceptional and prolonged increase in social posting activity. Our social posts volume across all networks continue to rise month over month. LinkedIn posts are set to outpace Twitter posts made through our system within the next month.

 

“A fully remote team has truly leveled the playing field.”

 

What tools and strategies has your own team found useful during this extended work-from-home experience?

A fully remote team has truly leveled the playing field, and this has actually made joint calls easier. Video is a must to keep that personal connection with each other.

We are experimenting with different tools that can take the place of a whiteboard for planning sessions and allow for concurrent editing. Hangouts, Chat and Google docs are by far the most-used utilities, and we constantly use Jira and Trello. We’re also particularly fond of Whimsical for sketching out a quick workflow, process, user experience or relationship diagram. Invision and Sketch remain the most used tools for higher definition mockups.

 

Catch Up On Part One

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