An interview with IT Director and Tech Whiz, Eddie Talbot, on the tools that allowed us to move agency operations to an offsite work environment without missing a beat.
Eddie Talbot has been with BBR since 2006 as our agency’s very own MacGyver. He’s the guy who takes on every technical challenge, finds a solution and makes it happen. Before March 2020, we did not have a formal work-from-home policy and relied on coming into the office every day.
However, Eddie was thinking ahead. And in the years prior to the pandemic, Eddie selected and implemented some tech platforms that allowed us to move to a work-from-home environment seamlessly, which allowed us to not miss a beat when it came to servicing our clients and keeping operations running smoothly.
I recently sat down with Eddie to chat about the technology that he put in place that helped us create a stronger work environment. He narrowed it down to six key tools that were instrumental in the success of running our agency remotely.
1. Google Workspace
- Inability to work with teammates on the same document at the same time regardless of physical location.
- Dependence on email to share files for collaborative work.
“Remember when we had to email files to one another? Whoever thought years ago that multiple people could collaborate on the same file or document in real time? The process of stand-alone file versioning took up a lot of time and was not efficient at all. Embracing Google Workspaces has changed the way we operate for the better.”
Solution: We embraced Google Workspace eight or nine years ago and moved from working in a non-collaborative file work environment to a collaborative environment.
Now multiple people can work on the same document at the same time and all are stored in a common place.
Usage: We use it now for document storage and organization, pre-production, office communication and resources, and administrative files. We also use Google Drive as a backup destination for some of our resources. Not to mention, email, calendar and video conferencing functionality.
Keeping credentials that we are responsible for organized, secure and easily accessible.
“As you can imagine, an agency like ours that has access to our client’s precious credentials like site logins, server access, user names, passwords and credit card information is a huge responsibility. Before the implementation of LastPass, this type of information was kept in password protected spreadsheets.”
Solution: To solve this challenge, we implemented the use of LastPass. It has allowed us to keep a secure repository of credentials and share them out with varying levels of security with employees, clients and even outside vendors. It enables us to organize and completely control access to credentials.
Usage: LastPass not only allows us to manage client credentials, but also allows for individuals to create their own individual repository for password management.
This system helps you to have a unique password for every service without having to remember them all, thus offering a much higher level of security.
- No great system for interoffice communication.
- Too many email messages.
“In an agency environment, we may have up to 30 active accounts and a hundred-plus client projects going on at any given time. In addition, we have multiple in-house initiatives underway, with our own sales and marketing, professional development, human resources, onboarding and systems improvements. There is a lot of discussion to keep all of this moving forward to completion.”
Solution: Slack is a communication tool that replaces tracking multiple email messages dedicated to one topic or project. Slack is superior to email when it comes to keeping all conversations regarding a project in one place.
Usage: Slack offers a team the ability to create a system of communication channels, each dedicated to a specific project or initiative and only involving team members that need to be in the discussion around a particular project. Additionally, vendors and clients can participate in the dedicated project channels.
“Ultimately, Slack allows us to keep the history of projects all in one place. It keeps and archives entire project histories for easy reference and allows new folks to jump in and catch up on the status of a project.”
- Keeping track of BBR equipment in a remote work environment.
“With 22 full-time employees and several part-timers all working from home, equipment was issued out left and right to employees working offsite. Pre-covid, very few people had agency-owned equipment at their home. But it looks like this is here to stay and thus the need to track BBR-issued equipment like laptops, desktops, monitors, printers and furnishings became necessary.”
Solution: In walks Sortly, a simple inventory management system that allows us to track technology and equipment, promotional items, furnishings and manage our consumable inventory.
Usage: Sortly has allowed us to effectively keep track of our equipment, which is valuable to us for accounting purposes and in case of a disaster. The system allows us to track the item name, value, serial number, person equipment is assigned to, year purchased and photos of the equipment. We can also sort items by type, and because barcodes can be printed and attached to items, it allows for checking items in and out easily for team or individual use.
5. SonicWall Network Devices
- High-level network security and control.
“As with many professional services businesses, it is important in a business like ours to keep our local networks safe from malicious threats. I implemented SonicWall about 10 years ago, so it is not new technology, but it allows us to nimbly move locations and work remotely without a hitch.”
Solution: SonicWall We implemented an enterprise-level device that allows me to extend services like VPN (Virtual Private Network) tunnels safely and efficiently. This allows us to work safely interoffice as well as remotely. So whether an employee is in Colorado or Key West, they can be assured our data is being protected.
SonicWall changed our business operation because it allowed for mobility and offered us the opportunity to expand to new locations – whether it be a new brick and mortar location or from home. It allowed us to stay nimble, opening and closing locations at will, particularly since we moved locations during COVID.
“This type of forward thinking made it relatively easy to ramp up and stay fully operational from day one of COVID.”
6. Synology Technology
Challenge: We needed to allow our people to securely work on common files remotely.
“ In our industry, we work on rather large graphic files. Because of the transfer speed involved with large files, we needed a self-hosted server solution that could extend services remotely. And we needed an in-house solution that could offer a remote user a workflow that would not slow production down.
Solution: Apple was backing away from server technology, so we had to find another file server solution, and we moved to Synology about seven or eight years ago.
Usage: Synology has changed our business operation by giving us more latitude with speeds that are indistinguishable from in-house work activities versus remotely. For artists that are working on large files from home, they can sync with files on the server practically in real time. Synology also has a robust service offering and can do things like serve as a backup destination for other products such as Google Workspaces. (If you haven’t considered a backup for Google Workspace or Microsoft 365, I strongly encourage you to do so.)
“These were all technologies we had in place when COVID hit and allowed us to transition to remote work seamlessly. If the pandemic would have happened eight or nine years ago, it would have been a grim picture. But instead, we are a highly functioning agency with reliable technology that allows us to support our clients’ businesses with virtually zero down-time.”
“I must note, there are so many great tools out there, but this is what works for us as Apple-based users.”
Remember, you are creative too.