By now, the reality of many of us working from home has well and truly settled in. Many have been placed in this situation for the very first time, having been unable or ill-equipped to work from home in the past. Luckily, the technology is in place to enable us to remain productive whilst to collaborate effectively and positively with customers and colleagues; indeed, Microsoft Teams saw an enormous jump in March to 75 million active daily users.
That’s an increase of 70% from the previous month; i.e. before lockdown came into effect. And that’s not all; Microsoft clocked 200 million meeting participants in a single day in the same month. Add to this the other productivity features that are seen in Microsoft 365 and you have a suite of tools that is helping workers continue to operate “business as usual” as much as is practical. But what is it about Microsoft 365 that is making the service so successful in a time when users all over the world are being asked to stay at home?
Although this blog isn’t about Teams alone, it’s a great place to start. Microsoft’s unified communications and collaboration solution is now celebrating its 3rd birthday, and at the same time it has become Microsoft’s fastest-growing service.
Teams introduced a whole host of great collaboration features. For instance, despite employees working remotely, they can easily join a call or attend a scheduled meeting in a few clicks. With so many devices having video capability, engaging in video calls with their colleagues is both easy and builds a true feeling of “togetherness”, vastly improving your collaboration experience. Everyone I work with who engages in video calls always responds positively, expressing how it has been an easier way to meet up. Taking the opportunity for everyone to discuss what their working on today and any problems they might need help resolving; it’s a chance to share and talk while feeling part of a team.
I am also a big fan of the animated GIF functionality found in Microsoft Teams chat; in fact I am known for using it a lot with my colleagues! With Chat in Teams, it has a role in breaking down barriers and making conversations informal and friendly. When working from home you can feel very isolated from colleagues, but anything that makes you smile or engage in work related conversation supports the ability to collaborate and share.
But the best part is being able to create a new collaboration space instantly with a Team or Channel and is helpful in avoiding the problem of shadow IT collaboration services. Once a Team is created, the simplicity of being able to invite members to share files, capture conversations and create tasks starts to see Teams take over from Outlook as the primary communications tool.
Another powerful service that is being used by many organisations is SharePoint. It can be configured as a companywide communications tool, making it a far better way to engage with all staff. Microsoft were also quick to offer a Crisis Management site template for the coronavirus using its Communication site approach.
Then there is file storage. All files stored in Microsoft 365 will live in a SharePoint site, and that includes files you see in Microsoft Teams. Making these files accessible anywhere on any device and working from home allows for a dispersed workforce to continue achieving day after day.
Finally, we are seeing SharePoint working well as an application hosting service, with process automation and forms features available in Microsoft 365. This is part of the journey some organisations haven’t reached yet, but creating “wellbeing” forms or surveys and integrating these into a SharePoint experience – like Crisis Management – keeps a senior management team in closer contact with its employees.
If you want to get access to this and view more of what SharePoint can offer with communications then take a look at the Microsoft Lookbook.
OneDrive for Business
Complementing Teams and SharePoint is OneDrive for Business; a personal file storage tool which many people are already using in their personal life. This integrates with Microsoft Teams, and all your personal files can be stored and managed by each individual with OneDrive or Teams. I’ve personally seen a decline in organisations using other Cloud storage-only services like Dropbox.
The OneDrive synchronization tool also means that home workers can take files offline and store them on their device when an internet connection is occasionally slow. This supports a user when they update a file in their device, and the sync tool can automatically back this up to the Microsoft Cloud; a powerful benefit in ensuring data isn’t lost while maintaining it centrally in one service.
Microsoft has really been tested with so many of us working from home, but they have been building up to this level of service for years. It should therefore be no surprise to see this modern service that was able to cope with the incredible spike in daily users.
For individuals who are not used to working from home or haven’t done it that often, it can be very lonely at the start, but using the Microsoft 365 suite of tools – especially Microsoft Teams – makes the experience collaborative and inclusive. It not only makes people more productive individually but with good use of communication, it makes them feel like part of the team they left in the office.
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