This article first appeared in the June/July issue of CONNECT. Our Head of Business Solutions, Shaun Lane, talks about the positive power of digital transformation, especially in the last year.
First coined in 2012, ‘digital transformation’ was, until last year, steadily but unevenly being adopted by businesses. Led by strategy and not technology, it was those companies keen to become more agile, competitive and collaborative who got it. Then the pandemic hit and it was do or die for those businesses who hadn’t. Now, as we re-emerge into our new working normal, all the research is showing that, in response to staff feedback, over two thirds of employers are looking to keep a hybrid way of working for employees.
The right technology will therefore continue to play a role in making sure that this not only remains possible but that businesses can still flourish as well as they did pre-pandemic. In this new working world, there is no place for those businesses who struggle with technological change.
As an IT services provider we were and are uniquely placed to know what technology can do to support how we now work. Convinced cloud was the way to go, we've been a cloud-first IT provider since the early days of Office 365 and are a Microsoft Gold Partner in cloud productivity.
It was Microsoft Teams which allowed us to carry on communicating as if we were all in the office together. In the first 60 days of our second lockdown earlier this year, using Teams, we sent over 100,000 messages, spent 78,000 minutes sharing our screens with each other so we could work on projects together and had 1,750 meetings amongst ourselves – all from a team of 50.
We also used Teams to provide digital training for our clients who were struggling to use the technology in front of them. Digital literacy is key to a successful digital transformation and the correct training should not be underestimated. For instance, research by Forrester (The Total Economic Impact of the Microsoft 365 E5 Solutions) has shown that when people collaborate and share content in the cloud (instead of reverting to the traditional way of emailing attachments), they can save up to 100 minutes a week.
We’ve helped clients to digitize their processes. A sector like fiduciary is quite regimented with its policies and processes. No longer able to drop papers on someone’s desk to get a signature, we’ve built workflow automations using Microsoft Power Apps which offers a myriad of low-code solutions for our clients.
Hardware too has played a role in our digital development as workers. Working from home long term made us realise balancing a laptop on our knee was not the solution. Many people now expect dual monitors for their home set up and want to work from a defined space within their home that they can switch on and off to.
Having the right software and hardware in place has allowed our clients to continue as normal. They’ve still been able to work as team, recruit, hire and induct people into their team and just get on seamlessly with what they have needed to do.
With this confidence in their remote set-up, we’ve noticed a big client uptake in future cloud technologies with many making the move to Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service used for building, testing, deploying and managing applications through Microsoft-managed data centres. It provides software as a service, platform as a service and infrastructure as a service and supports many different programming languages, tools, and frameworks, including both Microsoft-specific and third-party software and systems and can be scaled up or down to meet business needs. And Azure Sentinel is using AI to continually scan your IT estate for security issues.
Which brings us on to the issue of security and the reluctance of some to move to the cloud because of security concerns. It’s worth noting that last year, Microsoft spent over $10 billion cybersecurity – more than a 40% year on year growth. They’ve also pioneered their Zero Trust model – never trust, always verify. What this means in practice is that every access request is fully authenticated, authorized & encrypted before being granted. Such vast sums spent on cybersecurity would be simply impossible for SMEs to replicate. Yet, by signing up to Microsoft services, these same businesses are gaining access to secure and flexible cloud services which are constantly being updated and improved.
With a degree of working from home likely to stay, there still has to be an element of oversight as to how the work is being done. Microsoft Productivity Score quantifies how businesses are using Microsoft 365 across categories like content collaboration, mobility, communication, meetings & teamwork.
Meanwhile, MyAnalytics gives individual insights in to how they work. For us as a business, it showed that during lockdown staff were not working their traditional linear hours, spending an increased amount of time working outside these hours. And now we’re out of lockdown and back in the office, my stats show me I answer all emails, received out of hours, within one hour. Is that right or is it a sign I need to find a better work/life balance?!
So where are we heading? Definitely a continuation of hybrid working which will also have a positive effect on the environment with less people commuting. Microsoft themselves have stated their intent to be carbon negative by 2030.
Technology is changing so quickly, anything could be next and it’s our job to find it, test it and work out what the benefits for our clients would be. Microsoft’s annual technology conference, Ignite, was held virtually for the first time this year and they debuted HoloLens, a mixed reality device that could ultimately do away with a need to have those dual screens at home. Imagine having a hologram of everyone in your meeting sat around your dining table at home. How exciting, or scary, is that?!