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Modern Workplace Sep 6, 2019

How Microsoft can help your company get the most out of modern collaboration.

Collaboration and the modern workplace are two terms that today’s businesses can no longer ignore. Yet I still notice that people often don’t know exactly what they mean. One particular sticking point is that the modern workplace, sometimes described as the “future of work”, isn’t limited to just software solutions and contemporary office spaces. It also encompasses less tangible but tightly interwoven concepts such as corporate culture and philosophy, structure, ways of working, outlook and goals. For the modern workplace to truly flourish, all this must be connected.

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From a technical standpoint, modern collaboration means that all connection points in a company must fit together seamlessly—from new software and hardware to existing tools and solutions—and stand in harmony with the corporate philosophy. It gives employees the ability to work anywhere in the world, unfettered by network boundaries or national borders, without missing out on anything. It’s almost as if they were physically there, even when they’re absent.

 

Microsoft has recognised this development and the potential it offers. The software giant has begun thinking from the user’s perspective, putting the user experience at the centre: who needs which tools? How should they be designed and integrated so that people can get their work done as efficiently as possible? For example, the Microsoft 365 licensing model gives users fast, secure access to the entire solutions portfolio no matter where they are, so they can easily share content with others in their familiar programs. Employees are able to see immediately which documents were shared, commented and edited, and when. As a result, teams no longer have to sit in the same physical room to feel connected and work together effectively.

 

There’s no single solution for collaboration and the modern workplace.

I'm often asked, “So how do we get to this modern workplace, with its borderless collaboration?” It’s no wonder, given the variety of software, licences, hardware and tools available. Companies have to weigh their options and figure out which combination works the best while matching their requirements. That’s the challenge in a nutshell: devising a solution that matches your company’s needs like a glove. There’s not always a single, perfect solution for optimum collaboration; collaboration is a diverse field. It’s important to identify how it can help your company specifically, which is why you should first survey your company’s current situation. We’ll help you by examining the following:

  • Which communication tools and applications are you currently using?
  • Which devices do employees use to participate in meetings?
  • What technology is available in your meeting rooms?
  • Are you able to conduct impromptu meetings?
  • Do your employees work in the office or remotely?
  • Are your teams spread out across different countries?
  • How are documents stored and shared?
  • Can users access documents even when they’re not on company premises?
  • What are your users’ requirements?
  • Which tools, processes and the like are users dissatisfied with?
  • Where do you see potential for more efficient collaboration?

When we advise you, we look at what collaboration currently looks like in your company, identifying potential pain points and room for improvement. While you may already have a specific idea or product in mind when you come to us for help, we may be able to achieve that same goal with tools you already have. Or we may find a better solution to meet your requirements.  Once we’ve surveyed your present situation, we’ll sit down with you to map out your desired outcome. In other words, we’ll ask, “What do you want work to look like at your company in future?” We then use this to develop one goal after another, each one translated into specific use cases that perfectly encapsulate the challenges and preferences of both users and management. Only when this is complete do we begin looking at possible solutions and products. This approach demonstrates that the future of work is different for each company.

 

As a consultant for Microsoft solutions, I’m often asked to contribute my product expertise. What truly stands out is that, no matter what a customer needs, Microsoft works hard to find an answer. No matter what potential solution we might come up with after we’ve finished the process above, I can assure you that we can almost always make it happen, or find an answer. Microsoft has long outgrown its origins as a publisher of operating systems and Office applications to become a fully-fledged solutions provider in nearly all areas. Its software and hardware now mesh perfectly, and interfaces have been fully standardised. As a result, Bechtle and Microsoft are able, as partners, to supply our customers with everything they need from a single source—with just one contact for all questions.

 

Four common collaboration errors and how to avoid them.

A structured approach is key if you want to pave the way for efficient teamwork within your company. However, I often see businesses make the same mistakes over and over when implementing collaboration and modern workplace solutions. These can be prevented.

 

  • Jumping in head first without thorough deliberation. Nowadays, most projects require a strategy. One of the mistakes companies make is to rollout new tools or software too quickly, without thinking things through—only to discover after the fact that their employees are overwhelmed. Instead, you should take a structured approach and develop a strategy before you begin. Consider what you hope to achieve by introducing a certain solution, which deficiencies (if any) you hope to address and what direction you want this solution to take in future. When doing this, it may be useful to develop use cases to clearly illustrate actual usage scenarios.
  • Keeping employees out of the loop. Have you ever introduced a new program that none of your employees liked working with or even really needed? What happened? Most likely, a particular department came to your IT staff with a project that was then implemented without consulting any of the other users. No one informed them, asked what they needed or even gave a second thought to training them. This happens frequently when tools are introduced that cover more than just the requirements of a specific project. What to do instead? Keep your employees in the loop. Talk with them to identify their needs—and don’t forget to train them afterwards.
  • Lacking foresight. If there’s one sentence I hear often, it’s this: “But we’ve always done it this way!” The problem with this attitude is that new developments are categorically rejected without giving consultants the chance to clarify any open questions or unclear points. As a result, you may not be taking full advantage of your potential. So keep an open mind. Our world and the market are dynamic—and that’s the only way we’ll be able to find the best solutions and most efficient pathways.
  • Insisting on getting the latest device. The latest, greatest technology won’t be a silver bullet for all your collaboration issues. Unless you consider the big picture, it will only ever be an isolated solution. In most cases, you simply need to make a few adjustments or provide training in specific areas to get the most out of your collaboration solutions. The best thing to do is take a thorough look at your company’s current situation. Then think about where you want to go. Examine your overarching structures and, above all, observe how your employees currently perform their jobs. More often than not, the answers to these questions lie just down the hall.

In the end, what’s important is to identify the right solution. That’s the goal I’ve set for myself as a consultant. I would rather take my time and work out the topic at hand with a level head so that I find the perfect, tailored—and ultimately satisfactory—solution. That’s much better than hastily pushing the newest device, a great licence or seemingly fantastic tool. We consultants have extensive expertise when it comes to collaboration, and it’s important to me that I share it.

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Florian Vees
Junior Consultant