Virtual Office Models (Part 2)

In my first “Virtualization” post, I looked at the idea of a virtual office at a very high level, starting with some of Ubertor CEO Steve Jagger’s ideas and then outlining three distinct models. Today I will drill down a little more on the models and characterize them in a bit more detail.

Full: Totally Virtual with Zero Office Space

The Totally Virtual model has employees loosely banded together and all working from remote locations via multiple enabling technologies. Collaboration takes place through web conferencing, screen sharing, RSS feeds, and other remoting platforms. Often location transparency is provided by a combination of local number forwarding and internet-based telephony services such as Google Voice or Skype. Most roles in the company are probably filled with non-employee outsourced solutions, and therefore the company must rely heavily on repeatable process to have any scale. Technology clearly plays a huge part as an enabler in this model.

Basic: Central War Room

The Central War Room model requires having some minimum footprint of open-plan, multi-use office space. The space is generally used for either isolated “hotel-style” workers (5 desks = 200 hours of office space per week / 40 employees = 5 hrs of office time per employee per week) or for a fully collaborative space where team members can come together to draw, point, and interact in person on occasions that merit direct communication. Typically in the second mode you would find all usable vertical space covered with a substance which can be used as a dry erase medium. In any case, desk space, Wi-Fi and whiteboards are the three main resources in these spaces.

Light: Traditional Office with Some Virtualized Business Functions

Can’t get rid of the office? Outsource for some non-core business functions:

  • Find a bookkeeper
  • Get rid of your phone system (Use cell phones or the aforementioned VOIP offerings

Find an outsourcing specialist for the following:

  • Marketing (millions of web marketing firms)
  • Sales (Telemarketing companies, appointment setting firms, sales rental companies, channel marketing firms, affiliate networks)
  • Accounting (Most companies don’t file their own taxes, but think about bookkeeping: bank reconciliation, payroll processing, etc.)
  • Software Development (ranges from higher-end software consulting companies like mine, to off-shoring firms)
  • IT (Many different offerings here from reactive break/fix to proactive monitoring)
  • Hosting (rackspace is one of the world’s leading hosting providers)
  • Drafting (Software tools mean Engineers no longer need draftsmen in their offices)
  • Legal work (Pre-paid Legal is the simplest of these)
  • HR (everything from head-hunters for hiring, to PEOs for maintenance, to Insurance networks for benefits)
  • Call center

One other thought on this model: Do you think you’re absolutely the best and cheapest for what you do? Unless the answer to this question is unequivocally, “Yes!” you may be leaving some margin on the table by not outsourcing.

Comparing the Models

In the next entries of this series, I will further explore these models and cover more specific aspects of virtualizing your business.

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