Should we stay (remote) or should we go (back on-site) ?
Consultant - EMEA Cyber, Risk & Advisory
Article published 7 January 2021
Human beings are social creatures by nature. Communicating, socialising, and engaging with others is almost as crucial as food and water to our survival as a species. The way in which we communicate has been rapidly evolving over recent years. With advances in technology, the internet, instant messaging and smartphones, there are many ways in which to interact with clients and customers. The global pandemic has changed some of these interactions, at least for the moment and maybe forever in some cases.
Not only is the landscape of work changing but so are our day-to-day social interactions. Virtual meetings are one such change that appear to be firmly here to stay. Remote consultation (business and medical), birthdays, university graduations, and even weddings and funerals are being conducted over online platforms.
With the phrases of the year “You’re on mute!” combined with “Can you still hear me?” still fresh in our headsets, organizational resilience has been tested as much as our own sense of humour in the face of adversity. The challenges that all organizations have faced have not been unique to them or their sector, they have been to every business large and small; each with their own challenges.
Throughout this shared disruption, BSI has shown, through its own organizational resilience, that we can inspire trust no matter what turbulence or forced changes we may face.
The question moving onwards to 2021 & beyond may well be, should we stay with remote consultancy or return to face to face? The following demonstrates some of these pros and cons of both.
Remote Consultancy Pros
One of the most significant benefits of being able to communicate through online platforms is that people can connect with clients, no matter where they are in the world. This has proven to be invaluable for our clients when it has come to time sensitive incident response such as cybersecurity response or data breach analysis. This has enabled our consultants to rapidly collaborate with clients and effectively meet their needs in a much more cost-effective manner.
From an organizational perspective, being able to hold effective meetings online as opposed to flying employees thousands of miles overseas for a meeting is clearly of financial benefit in the current climate. This allows organizations to prioritize spending on other aspects of their business to help it recover from 2020 and to once again flourish and succeed. From the perspective of the employee, there are also the benefits in that time and money is saved on commuting to work, as meetings have been held from the comfort of their own home.
Remote Consultancy Cons
You’re always ON
This is particularly true if the meeting is a one-on-one meeting with a client. Any slight lag, even if it is just for one second, may stilt the conversation or make things feel awkward. This could result in either you or the other person perceiving the interaction as going poorly. This constant need to keep up the conversation and fill every minute pocket of silence can be draining.
It’s been shown despite the increasing use of technology that face-to-face communication fosters higher quality interactions than online communication. The subtle nuances that can be missed when there may be connection issues, the micro expressions that are missed on a pixelated screen are all cues that we need as humans to effectively communicate. When denied these cues, we are at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding how the other person is truly feeling. Face to face consultation truly comes into its own here and this helps foster trust in the relationship.
Live events provide an unrivalled opportunity to meet people and develop existing relationships. Networking and meeting new people in person is much more effective for a lasting relationship than online communication. International or even local conferences, whilst still ongoing, lack the atmospherics that the traditional events have. The social element of meeting new people and the opportunities that presents cannot be easily replicated online.
Face-to-face communication is exceptionally hard to practice in large-sized organizations, especially if their different units or departments are situated at multiple locations. Face to face communication may also be unsuitable for large organizations if they have many national branch offices. This becoming more acute when those offices are scattered around the world.
Real World Implications
During the pandemic, the BSI team have delivered a vast quantity of remote consultation which in previous years would have been carried out face to face. This has meant that BSI has, as always, improved customer performance, reduced risk and facilitated sustainable growth.
An example of this level of engagement has been with a UK government client, who prior to the pandemic required full time on site Cyber, Risk and Advisory (CRA) consultancy as well as regular security testing. BSI’s approach to this was to introduce remote testing applications which allowed our security testing team to remotely carry out work depending on the organization’s security objectives, which traditionally would have required multiple team members to be onsite. Alongside this the CRA team undertook their consultancy remotely, managing multiple projects and facilitating collaborative communication extremely successfully.
Everything has its pros and cons, and remote consultancy is certainly no exception. While this use technology has some drawbacks, its advantages far outweigh the downsides. No matter what the future holds for your business, BSI will be there to be your trusted partner ensuring you continue to embed excellence, build competence and capability for sustainable growth.