Strategic IT decision to empower employees to work from anywhere and anytime

Srikanth Appana, Executive Vice President IT, Bharat Financial Inclusion

Bharat Financial Inclusion Limited (BFIL), one of the largest microfinance companies in India provides financial services mainly to rural women. BFIL has presence in 18 states, 1.2 villages through 2071 branches and around 22,000 employees. 

The unprecedented pandemic which necessitated the lockdown has altered the way organizations are functioning. Work from home (WFH) is no more an option, it is a necessity to ensure business does not get hampered. However, this has brought many challenges right from connecting remote staff to conducting virtual meetings and enterprise chats. 

When virtual meetings are the way forward, collaborating individuals and teams at the same time to carry out discussions on various projects is essential to ensure productivity does not get impacted. In these testing times it is also vital that employees’ morale is high as they stay in far flung areas with very little communication resources. Therefore, organization has to ensure that each and every employee irrespective of the geographical location is involved in discussions that take place in virtual office. The strategic decision to deploy Microsoft Team as an application for communication across the organization has paid dividends.

Before lockdown:

On any typical day, be it at head office (HO), regional office (RO) or a branch phone call or email was the mode of communication to reach out to the remote staff. Agenda of the call/meeting and related files/documents were shared via email. Meetings within the office were conducted in physical meeting rooms. As BFIL has presence across the country, engaging different teams or individuals at the same time over the conference call was not possible. Given that business was conducted in a decentralized manner most of the discussions used to take place between HO and RO and RO in turn would disseminate to branches. Only, few individuals were involved in the meetings and they in turn used to discuss with respective teams and shared back any further information through email. With the current setup there was always a possibility of information distortion.

To provide seamless integration and transparency in the way information is shared, BFIL has introduced Microsoft Teams. Given that Office 365 is already in place, Microsoft Teams was the obvious choice as it fully integrates with Office 365. Besides, its end-to-end security feature is an added advantage. To create awareness and showcase the benefits and ease of using, workshops were conducted and simultaneously emails were frequently sent to the employees. Initially, a few of them have adopted it and for most of them it was just an option. However, with WFH becoming a necessity, the need and use of remote collaboration tool has increased.

During epic pandemic:

With WFH becoming the new norm, discussions were happening over the Teams where a greater number of employees across the country are able to participate and share files in real-time, review, and edit documents seamlessly. Today, conducting meetings have become easier and dependency on email decreased as conversations are happening in a more structural manner. Improved employee collaboration is leading to quicker decision-making, enhancing productivity.

Ability to communicate in real time has enhanced productivity: Given that everyone is on the Teams, to and fro communication has become real-time. In normal circumstances as email was the mode of communication while sending emails there was always a possibility of forgetting to add some people resulting in certain people missing out key points. Moreover, sending email and waiting for the response may take more time than anticipated resulting in delayed decisions. But with Microsoft Teams in place and real time communication coming into practice we are witnessing greater collaboration and instant response leading to quicker decision making. Collaborating various teams across the country at the same time to discuss on the projects has seamlessly become easy with Teams. It has also reduced the time going through the cluster of their email inbox, rather they are able to check their conversations, messages, and chats in their respective channels. This way they were able to save time and focus more on the work as they do not have to get side-tracked with random emails or wasting time cleaning up inbox. More importantly, all the discussions over the Teams can be recorded and used whenever needed. 

Employees are connected at all times: During these testing times it is crucial that all the employees are connected irrespective of their geographical location. Conducting meetings over the phone may not yield desired results. Besides, not being able to go to office and having limited resources may impact the moral. This is where the decision to use Microsoft TEAMS, a cloud-based application which can be accessed from any device from anywhere has become beneficial. Every member of the team irrespective of their location and the device are able to participate in virtual meetings and contribute. This way BFIL has not only empowered employees to work from anywhere it has also made them feel that they are essential part of the organization.

Below is an illustration of how impactful the communication tool has been during Covid-19:

From the above data one can see that 2016 meetings were conducted over Teams during lockdown period indicating high adoption levels.  And 2975 channel messages along with 66,583 chat messages were shared during the shutdown period. These figures show the ease and enthusiasm with which employees collaborated and shared information. Besides, these figures imply less usage of email. An aggregate of 7,165 calls were made during lockdown period demonstrating how the online tools are taking over traditional voice calls. The above figures indicate how successful the strategic decision to use Teams as an application for communication has been. The incredible experience of using the communication tool and the benefits accrued will surely propel the usage to greater heights in the near future.

About the Author: Srikanth is a technical leader with around 18 years of success working in multinationals and start-ups in delivering and automating multi-billion-dollar projects with robust IT architectures, adept at evaluating business needs to craft innovative solutions that improve performance, reduce cost, cut delivery cycle time, setting-up offshore facilities and extend product/service offerings to industry verticals.

Wide range of working experience in MNCs, start-ups and public enterprises with different domains like Finance, E-commerce, Marketing and Product dev/ SAAS services –working in multiple positions with prominent organizations like Microsoft, GE, IBM , currently working as EVP IT for BFIL ( Subsidiary of IndusInd Bank).

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