Professional Development – Use of Technology during COVID-19
Given COVID-19 and the rapidly changing situation, Farmanco (like everyone) has had to evolve how we work and think and how we continue to offer support and advice to all our clients.
Farmanco closed all of our offices in March, and our consultants now work from home. Given that we operate over 11 offices and our consultants are spread out across regional WA and NSW, in many respects we’ve always operated as a ‘virtual company’. That is, much of our communication is over the phone and we meet altogether in person only a couple of times a year. With the requirement to stay at home as much as possible, we’re now using some of the new communication technologies we’ve had access to over the past two to three years, more extensively.
This last week (April 6 to 8) our agronomy and management teams were due to have three to four days of professional development. This is an opportunity for each team to get together and share new techniques, new developments, often bringing in external speakers to talk about new products and services.
Several weeks ago, we decided that meeting in-person was not a responsible course of action, and so we looked at alternatives; even before the more stringent social distancing requirements were bought in.
For several years, we’ve used video conferencing for a lot of adhoc meetings, both within Farmanco and with partners in other states and other countries and we have used various platforms: Zoom, Skype, TeamViewer, BlueJeans etc.
With the move to a phone system that lets us operate the business from anywhere, we started using Microsoft Teams for video conferencing and document collaboration.
Teams has worked well in smaller groups. However, this was the first time we’d used it connect all of the company; 31 people – including one of our developers in the Philippines and external presenters; and despite the fact that we had people on NBN, mobile, and satellite connections, it all worked surprisingly well.
Day 1 we discussed how we could better support all our clients through the current COVID-19 situation, and had external presenters talk to us about data protection and security, as well as looking at making improvements to Farmanco Facts.
After the ‘all of company’ meeting, teams were able to break off into smaller, separate ‘rooms’ for other discussions and talks from external contributors.
These team meetings were able to collaborate on a single document, and access external presenters, from both technology companies and chemical and fertiliser companies.
Using these technologies, we probably got as much accomplished (if not more) during this PD than we normally achieve in-person. We were able to record most of the meetings, so that if anyone missed out they can watch / listen to them at a later date.
The management team even managed an after-PD round of drinks!
While video collaboration and document-sharing technology doesn’t beat face-to-face meetings with our clients, after a short while you do forget about the tech.
In the environment of COVID-19 and isolation, we have begun to use video collaboration and document sharing technology with our clients, for one-on-one meetings – management reviews and agronomy plans.
We are also looking into doing these over video conferences and recording sessions, so that our clients can watch at their own convenience.
While COVID-19 forces us to do things differently, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a step back. The situation forces people to innovate, and Farmanco will try to make sure we keep you and your businesses at the forefront of this innovation.
If the choice is between hunkering down and just trying to get through this – or to innovate and try different things – Farmanco intends to be in the latter group!
Stay safe all!