The rise of distributed first organizations has been facilitated by the ubiquity of technology over the past decade. On a global scale, 1 in every 3 people is now working remotely in some context, whether part time or full time. It is no wonder there has been a trend towards this mode of working when you consider some of the benefits of a distributed working model: lower overheads, higher productivity, better quality of life, wider access to talent, and the enablement of diversity and innovation.
A move towards more decentralized ways of working can be argued for on many fronts.
“Over-reliance on centralization is a common flaw of modern socio-economic and political systems. What’s flawed about centralized systems is that top-down decision making by a few individuals cannot respond to the information flows of complex problems, embodying all the interdependencies within and outside the system, in real time. One way to circumvent this flaw is to take into consideration technology-enabled decentralized models of organization.”
Being able to draw from a more rich and diverse set of knowledge should therefore allow a company to benefit from more effective decision making and promote innovation.
Blockchain technology is also pioneering the concept of the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), but that is for another article in and of itself.
It’s about the People…As with any business, the success of the work you do is directly tied to the team of people making it happen. People are always the most important resource. Talent management is one of the variables that can be a double edged sword when it comes to distributed teams. On one hand it can be hard to fully connect and build rapport with someone when never meeting them in person. At the same time though, hiring a distributed team allows you, as a talent manager, to access talent with skills that you would otherwise never have access to. You get to cast your net far and wide and source people from all over the world.
The ways in which you cultivate talent and culture as part of your distributed organization will depend on the nuances of your own business. It seems to be clear though, that distributed organizations are strongest when people are given the freedom to use their skills and talent for the greater good.
The digital nature of many SaaS companies today makes them ideally suited to a distributed business model. Buffer, Zapier and Github are three examples of such companies.
However, remote teams are not solely reserved for large organizations. There are hundreds of thousands of small businesses and solo entrepreneurs that are leveraging distributed teams for growing and scaling their businesses.
Distributed teams allow for a round the clock workflow. This idea was originally popularized when enterprise organizations utilised outsourcing for cheaper labour in other markets. With the always-on nature of the internet, you can utilize team members in different geographic locations to improve the efficiency of your workflow.
As we mentioned earlier, there are significant cost advantages to scaling with a distributed team. Without a necessity for a physical office, collaboration tools have reached a level of usability and availability that make them useful for startups leveraging remote teams. Collaboration, including for creative teams, no longer needs to be done in physical proximity.
You can gain a higher rate of efficiency as you are forced to streamline and systematize business processes and workflows. By documenting a robust database of your business workflows, you are increasing the efficiency at which new team members can ‘hit the ground running’. It also ensures that your whole distributed team is ‘on the same page’ when it comes to businesses systems and best practises.
Spinning up a distributed team can also help you to future proof your business. A broad diversity of backgrounds, locations and schedules can promote a positive and dynamic culture. The more inputs you have, the richer the data set you have as a business for making decisions. You can stay ahead of the curve with creative inputs from many sources, adapting to change as you scale.
At the end of the day communication is the biggest success factor for your business, whether remote or not. Successful remote teams creatively use technology to maximize communication, including synchronous and asynchronous communication technologies. There are a whole plethora of tools that now allow for these types of communication across time and space. Monday, Jira, Slack, Trello, Asana, Basecamp, GitHub, Zoom, Google Drive and a whole host more.
Even if you are a sole founder, collaborating with other founders or freelancers from around the world can allow you to save time, lower costs and gain creative insights you probably would never have otherwise thought of.
It is clear that companies of the future will no longer be bound by company walls or even country borders. Employers are starting to understand that sourcing the best talent at the right price is more important than where employees are physically located. You can start leveraging this as a sole founder too and use it to scale your business in an asynchronous manner. The future of digital work is decentralized.
Declan is the founder of DM Nutrition, Edinburgh Chapter director for Startup Grind, and works in business development for BackHug. In this inter...
Borja is the founder of Four15 Digital, a full stack Digital Marketing Agency that help businesses execute on their digital growth strategy. In this..