Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Small business: going big on mobility

Keeping up with an event-driven mobile workforce

For event management business Cattleyard Collective, success hinges on its ability to mobilise staff quickly and effectively on behalf of clients. The transition from traditional IT infrastructure to a robust cloud-centric setup was essential in keeping staff responsive and agile.

Cattleyard Collective is a small event management business that also provides touring support for artists. As business picked up, the staff of nine spent more time scattered across the country than in the office. The travel schedule was particularly gruelling during touring season.

"Our shows in regional Australia are often back to back, meaning we can be in chilly Bendigo one day and tropical Townsville 12 hours later," said Kathryn Holloway, director of Cattleyard Collective.

"The show will finish at 10.30pm, we'll throw everyone into cars to Melbourne, and at 5am the next morning, we're at the airport ready to board a chartered flight to Queensland. With such tight timeliness and logistics, we need to be able to collaborate instantly with both on-ground teams on the run, learning and adapting for the next show."

Google Apps was deployed, all staff members were trained to ensure adoption, and the sharing of all information from across the company -- save for client-sensitive materials -- became a requirement for the entire team. Additionally, all of the data stored on the cloud was backed up daily to a local server. Flexible work arrangements were also made to support the mobility movement.

"Each team member can work from home one day per week and, via Google Apps, they are able to be up to date with what is going on in the office," she said.

"It has also meant that team members are able to have flexible office start and finish times to suit their lifestyle and work habits, yet still be available if a situation is urgent. It allows for time to be taken to work within the offices of clients or co-producers, and still be able to access company information via their apps."

The ability for employees to transfer information between team members and events regardless of location or device has, according to Kathryn, saved valuable staff hours that would have otherwise been "wasted in travel time to sites or meetings".

"We're planning events like Groovin The Moo, which takes place across six states, with multiple teams based in different states across Australia. This ability to collaborate in real time keeps us informed and reduces lag time," she said.

The transition to cloud-based apps didn't happen overnight. Staff had varying levels of technology experience, and, as such, it took time to train up team members to the point where they were confident enough to use the new tools as a daily driver.

Kathryn said that timing the rollout during a quiet period aided in keeping the transition as stress free as possible for team members.

Previously, each staff member was using their own hosting service to work on a project, which Kathryn said created high levels of email traffic, timelines, and meetings, in addition to distracting IT issues.

"A fair bit of time was spent reconfiguring devices, phone calls with varying service providers, and periods of time with communication failure -- generally around critical deadlines."

While streamlining day-to-day operations has made the task of maintaining a workflow while away from the office considerably easier for staff, Kathryn advised other business owners to focus on the key imperatives and to ask plenty of questions before committing.

"The most important thing is to collectively figure out the top three things you need from technology in your business. Then start researching. If you're not technology savvy, don't be shy," she said.

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