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Seamless Collaboration With The Power Of Microsoft
By Matt Kirby, Managing Director - Microsoft Practice, MeetingZone
Better, quicker and easier is something every business would sign up for in any area of their business and collaboration has been no exception. This desire has created a multi-billion dollar industry, with everyone from start-ups to global conglomerates bringing new solutions which purport to solve this quandary.
Many clients we speak to tell a familiar story of confusion within their user community of where particular solutions fit into their daily work practice, the frustration that significant investments are made with limited return and generally a huge sense of dissatisfaction as to the outcomes. However technical solutions are only a part of the puzzle.
Before evaluating technical solution’s which might address your business’ challenges, it’s essential to take time to consider all factors which could impact the outcomes your business is seeking to deliver. For example, we often hear of businesses converting their office spaces to open-plan layouts in an attempt to ‘improve collaboration’. However, without due consideration to the needs of ALL employees in the office and ensuring the appropriate business tools are provided (e.g. noise cancelling endpoints), the potential noise disruption that an open office space creates could deliver an unexpected and unwanted result.
The same consideration is required before looking to invest in products to address collaboration challenges. Many companies fall into the trap of looking for a ‘2.0’ version of the tools they are using currently, rather than opening their mind and very importantly those of their co-workers, to doing things in a different way.
Before rolling out an “all improved new product to do something very similar to the last one, but in a slightly improved way”, is consider challenging your people on their approach to everyday tasks. Does everyone need to be brought together for this meeting? Do you really need to add that user to the email chain (just in case!)? Do you really need help with this task or project, or if we gave you access to appropriate information could you do it independently?
Collaboration is a very effective way of getting work done, but it doesn’t work in every scenario. I personally find it extremely frustrating sitting on a call, in a meeting or being copied on an email chain where I offer little to no value.
Before evaluating technical solution’s which might address your business’ challenges, it’s essential to take time to consider all factors which could impact the outcomes your business is seeking to deliver
The final factor to consider is the environment in which your new solutions are being implemented. I regularly speak to companies who have spent huge sums on new technology, but have implemented on shaky foundations – e.g. infrastructure which is not fit for purpose, or without involving their people in the process and investing in their ‘discretionary buy-in’.
I frequently hear of performance issues being reported as “the product doesn’t work”, or “our users don’t like it”. Unfortunately, we often find these issues can be traced back to lazy deployments, or lack of user engagement and adoption. Whilst the choice of technology is very important, it can pale into insignificance if your users choose not to invest their time into using it to its full potential.
Collaboration with Microsoft
In the last 20 years, many clients have been augmenting their traditional telephony systems with ‘point solutions’, particularly audio, video and web conferencing, to address tactical requirements within their business. Additionally, where companies have grown through acquisition or have relationships in place with service providers in multiple locations, can find themselves with a collection of business tools which are incompatible, on different support agreements and very likely do not provide consistent user experiences across the business.
Microsoft Collaboration offers a compelling opportunity to combine omnipresent desktop applications such as Exchange (Outlook), Word, Excel, SharePoint, Yammer, Power BI and others, with commonly used communication and collaboration elements (voice, video, chat, conferencing, voicemail). Skype for Business has been hugely successful in allowing businesses to unify their assets under a single vendor, streamline work practices and offer consistency of experience.
We have also seen a new generation of vendors such as Slack building what has become known as Collaborative Workspaces, for users to convene, share information or content and communicate. Increasingly, many organizations are finding this way of working on projects and tasks (small and large) can bring quicker decisions, save time searching for content or bringing appropriate participants into the communication.
However, where Microsoft has significant advantages over Slack and others is the ubiquity of its Office 365 cloud. Teams are free within every Office 365 SKU; therefore, Microsoft has played very smartly by allowing all users unfettered access to its product, which has created a groundswell of support which is difficult for any competitor to match.
We are contacted daily by clients asking for assistance with Teams deployments including how it can interoperate with other O365 suite applications, how to enable and manage voice on a global basis or how they can leverage the incredible ecosystem of meeting solutions (audio, video, webcast) which complement the vast Microsoft ecosystem of data centres around the world.
The meeting experience is of particular excitement and is set for fantastic levels of adoption. The challenges around creating, joining and collaborating within conferences have been troublesome for many organizations. Along with the age-old issue of retaining quality within the call or video sessions, clients going into Proof of Concepts for Teams have been truly astounded as to the results.
To summarise, companies are looking for new solutions as they want (need) to change something. Some are aiming to replace what they have as it was poorly implemented, some to gain competitive advantage. Whatever the driver for change, Microsoft Office 365 offers extremely compelling answers to many clients’ questions about how to improve their collaboration.
If you're in Office 365, the tool you'll choose is Microsoft Teams.
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