Embracing the Virtual-First Approach for Your Organization’s Operations Center
Organizations are finding new and innovative ways to streamline their operations as the world becomes increasingly digital. One approach gaining popularity is the concept of the “Virtual-First Approach.” In that approach, the focus is on how the collaboration flows and how we execute our daily operations. It focuses on “building” a virtual Operation Center environment first rather than a physical one.
Later, teams may want to develop one or more highly targeted physical aspects of the operations center. These centers are built based on actual feedback on the operational needs and the organization’s priorities. These are very different from the initial thinking. The organization realizes the benefits a “virtual-first” approach provides.
In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of this approach and provide instructions on how to implement it in your organization.
The Virtual-First Approach for Operation Centers
Traditionally, organizations have built operation centers in the “real” world. They built them in dedicated office spaces first. Being part of numerous Operation Center projects, it is our experience that their overarching idea was to:
- Get people together in the same physical area,
- Break down the “silos” between disciplines, and
- Improve team collaboration, and foster continuous improvement.
Organizations invest in real estate, design the layout, and build the infrastructure to support the operations when making centers.
This approach is often expensive and unnecessarily time-consuming in the more modern world. Massively improved collaboration tools have increased in recent years. The new collaboration tools have features to support better remote working and blended workforces of the modern work environment, including; remote working and shift changes that have always been a core focus of operations center capabilies.
As these digital capabilities increase daily, it makes sense to take advantage of them. This digital capability provides a high probability for new opportunities to improve collaboration and operations. Virtually changing ways of working hold the promise of impactful changes to the operations, minimizing disruption to operations. In contrast, changing the physical space will always disturb and may well disrupt operations.
Creating a Virtual Environment
With the virtual-first approach, organizations create a virtual environment focusing on the digital side of operations, concentrating on the performance of daily activities and how people collaborate. You can often create a virtual environment from your existing technology stack to support effective communications, information provisioning, and sharing, minimizing user training and support overheads.
Once the virtual environment is up and running, it can be tested in operations and optimized. The team can then assess weaknesses that physically co-located people can only overcome – this then becomes the scope for a “real-world” operations center, more focused on a known core need rather than a “best guess.”
In many cases, a virtual center will suffice. However, having people in the same physical space over time is sometimes a clear benefit. Even in cases where you establish a physical center, the virtual one will live on, as you are very likely to have team members that are not present in the physical center yet are essential to include in daily operations.
Benefits of the Virtual-First Approach
The virtual-first approach offers several benefits over the traditional method. Firstly, it is cost-effective. Creating a virtual environment is significantly cheaper than building a physical space. Organizations can save money on construction, infrastructure, A/V equipment, and labor cost.
Secondly, the virtual-first approach is time-efficient. Virtual environments can be created in weeks, while physical spaces take several months (if not longer) to build. It allows organizations to get their improved operations up and running much more quickly and start harvesting the value in such a way as to conduct the operations months earlier than with the traditional approach.
Thirdly, the virtual-first approach allows for greater flexibility and adaptability. Once a physical space is built, making changes is difficult and expensive.
In contrast, virtual environments can be effortlessly modified and updated to meet changing business needs and include new technology available at an ever-increasing pace within a controlled space that maintains focus on daily operations. It allows organizations to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and stay competitive.
Implementing the Virtual-First Approach
Implementing the virtual-first approach is about something other than operations centers. It is all about improving operations and establishing a culture of continuous improvement in your organization. Typically, we seek to develop these through an operations center initiative in the first place.
So, Virtual-First = Operations-First.
Implementing these projects within a live operations environment can feel like changing a plane’s engine in mid-air. It is challenging to do and fraught with new challenges. In operational businesses, we need to ensure that the operation can continue undisturbed while being improved. Here are a few key steps:
- Select a platform for collaboration, communication, information storage, and sharing that will be available for all parties involved in operations.
- Select a representative part of the operations and pilot the new working method operationally. Observe, implement, reflect, learn, change, and continuously improve until you feel good about the result.
- Scale by incorporating additional focus areas of the operations following an agile implementation strategy until done.
- Assess the needs for any physical space, and if necessary, create one that meets the organization’s needs.
The virtual-first approach to building operation centers is a cost-effective, time-efficient, and flexible approach that can help organizations streamline their operations. By creating a virtual environment first, organizations can test and optimize their operations before any physical construction occurs. It allows them to save money, time, and resources and quickly adapt to changing market conditions. The virtual-first approach is worth exploring if you’re considering building a new operation center; it may be all you need.