Welcome to the dawn of the virtual workplace. Are you ready?
At the time of writing, March 13, 2020, the spread of Coronavirus, COVID-19, is ramping up and workplaces worldwide are scrambling for solutions. As there are no signs of the virus slowing down anytime soon, businesses have little choice but to revert to their continuity plans, originally crafted to deal with natural disasters and data breeches. But when dealing with a pandemic, though, as in a recent NY Times article, one business owner states, “No one has a playbook for this.” While it is true that every industry needs its own unique plan, some fields are more prepared than they realize when facing potential quarantine. There are many businesses today who consider onsite presence by personnel to be optional and the trend continues to grow. Consequently, it is one of the driving factors behind Microsoft’s development of Office 365 and the proliferation of web apps across the board.
The first step, naturally, is to adopt a cloud-based server and decentralize technology solutions. These are investments many companies have already made, including those in the retail and manufacturing sector, which allow for seamless operations no matter where the workforce is located. It’s time to ask: Where is my business data stored? Can staff access it from home? Is my network secure?
Be aware, by scattering the workforce a set of challenges appear. The primary difficulty with workforce decentralization typically involves communication and collaboration. Emails pile up, document versioning becomes a mess with people exchanging attachments over email and frustration levels rise when people can’t find the files they require or easily reach the people with whom they need to speak. Cyber security threats are another factor to consider. According to the FBI’s 2019 Internet Crime Report, business email compromises have seen more than 100% growth year over year. Less critically, but nothing to negate, ease and speed of signing into your program(s) is another factor of successful implementation.
To answer to these many concerns, Microsoft Teams seems ready to swoop in and save the day. We at Advisicon have fully embraced this application and have encouraged many other companies to do the same. More than 500,000 organizations use Teams, as reported by Microsoft in March 2019. What started with a goal to create easier methods of communication and collaboration for a decentralized workforce, is now a productivity boon in the face of worldwide health concerns. Let’s not be too coy about this either. I understand there are many applications that people have grown accustomed to because they have been using them for so long and those applications carry with them their own set of credentials, but with cyber security threats continuing to multiply, centralizing collaborative software applications within secure platforms, such as Microsoft Azure and Office 365, is essential.
COVID-19 directly impacts live presentations and gatherings, but fear not, Teams has an answer. Live events were recently added to the platform, which allows an individual to present to 10,000 viewers. By coupling this feature with other powerful components like recording, chat logs and document collaboration (all within the same window), the software is starting to step ahead, enabling intense creativity, thought and development, no matter the location.
And for those who use supplementary programs, yes, Teams supports adding other popular non-Microsoft applications. Now we freely admit that other services offer collaboration via video and chat and they certainly each bring their own strengths. However, if you currently use Office 365, once logged into your account, you are but one click away from access to a communication mecca, versus an elaborate journey of trying to find or remember multiple passwords for multiple applications. Additionally, document versioning issues are negated, and that isn’t even considering the cost savings of adding one simple feature to your Office 365 suite.
A final bonus? With the growth in business adoption continued investment by Microsoft. For its fastest growing application, Microsoft consistently rolls out new features and optimizes existing ones.
The boom of COVID-19 fast upon us, don’t scramble for solutions for business continuity; integrating Microsoft Teams into your business may be the logical next step. With the country shifting its focus to containment through social distancing, your work commute is soon to be a click away.
Stay well out there, and remember to keep washing your hands!
Richard Wentworth is an Academy Lead with Advisicon in Vancouver. He can be reached at Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org.