How one Czech NGO stays connected from a distance

Jan Vohryzek / June 2020

The business world has undergone profound change during the coronavirus outbreak. Companies and colleagues are spread across different locations with varying schedules, time zones, and offices. With recent events propelling this shift to remote collaboration, many organisations are switching to tech solutions to work faster, smarter, and to be more flexible. So how do you turn the idea of the traditional office on its head, yet still work efficiently?

Founded in 1862, the Czech Sokol Organisation (Sokol) is the oldest and largest NGO for physical education, sport, and cultural activities in the Czech Republic. It has 160,000 members, and over 1,000 gyms across 42 counties ⁠— with associates of all ages, backgrounds, and thousands of volunteers.

Even before lockdowns, the organisation realised that information was scattered and processes were lengthy. It didn’t have the infrastructure in place to operate efficiently. Sokol needed a smarter way to bring its employees together.

Finding the right tech solutions

Every organisation is different, so the first step is finding the right tech to meet your specific needs. There are many solutions to choose from, so companies need to identify challenges and do their homework up front. Sokol wanted to offer its employees modern tools, with a solution that could work from multiple devices and use its own apps — and it landed on Workspace.

For Sokol, the hardest part was designing the system architecture and the deployment. It relied on early adopters in the IT department to ease into the process before rolling it out on a broader scale. So when lockdown started, and people needed to communicate digitally, they were well pleased to have the infrastructure already in place. Virtual meetings became the go-to solution — with an 800% increase in video calls since March 14th 2020. "We try to limit physical contact, but we still have to communicate,” says Sokol Mayor Hana Moučková. “ It turns out that thanks to online services, we can continue working seamlessly.”

Today all Sokol units across Czechia have access to the new tools, mostly within the framework of one unit assigned to one account. But the organisation doesn’t stop there and continues discussions about fine-tuning based on learnings, looking to set up access rights for individual user groups in the future.

Getting teams on board

Moving tech forward is important, but it’s crucial to make people want to use it. Sometimes companies tend to focus on teaching mechanics, but it’s equally important to educate employees on how the new tools impact their individual roles and enable them to work even better with everyone else.

Sokol focused on explaining the reasons and motivation behind the switch: to make work more collaborative, fast, and less dependent on location. They organised a roadshow to get in front of employees, introducing them to the Cloud environment, its features, and giving basic training. “We want our teams to feel confident and skilled while working in Google Cloud,” says Moučková.

The teams were pleasantly surprised by the positive response to the change. “We were frankly worried about their reaction. But in the end, it turned out that they saw the benefits of working in the Cloud and enjoyed mastering the system and acquiring a new skill,” adds Moučková.

Supporting remote collaboration

After implementation, the focal point has shifted to change management and embracing a new way of working. Beyond email, the teams use shared documents and communication features, emphasising differences between offline work and online collaboration. In the past, even something as simple as meeting minutes took countless steps to approve. With the ability to provide feedback and make changes in real-time, the process can now be done in minutes. Having collaborative software in place allows the teams to communicate seamlessly and work together— regardless of location. It all came down to finding the right solution and taking the time to get everyone on board.

Embracing tech has allowed Sokol to change the perception of its organisation. Not only is it one with over 150 years of history, but also one that significantly innovates and is relevant to today's world. "I think we are succeeding in moving our association into the 21st century," adds Moučková.

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