Work has changed. Here’s how Microsoft Office 365 is helping offices keep up.
For decades, the workplace has undergone gradual changes as businesses have moved from analog systems to digital systems, and then from local networks to cloud-based networks. Each new stage has required new investments in IT infrastructure, and businesses have thrived or floundered frequently based on how well they’ve kept up.
However, this past year has seen an abrupt and urgent shift in office norms, as businesses around the world have been forced to transition their entire team to remote work in home offices. This has placed incredible pressure on businesses to find and adapt workplace solutions not just for the current pandemic, but for a post-pandemic future in which employee expectations and workplace norms will have been permanently changed.
The good news is that Microsoft Office 365 has a new toolkit available to address the core needs of a modern workplace environment. Let’s take a look at what those needs are and how Microsoft’s software suite offers the solution.
Core needs of the modern workplace.
Selecting the appropriate solution for the modern workplace means understanding the core needs of businesses and their employees. The primary challenges facing modern workspaces include:
- Security. For many years, businesses have devoted security resources toward devices and networks centered around a physical office location. But as the modern workforce becomes more distributed, businesses need modern security solutions that can adapt to flexible work environments without compromising sensitive data.
- Mobility. While security is the most pressing need for businesses, mobility is a top concern for employees. Workers need to access files, data, and software programs in a range of environments. Securely and conveniently being able to sign in to a work environment from any location is the new expectation for the modern workplace.
- Team collaboration. One of the biggest attractions of office environments has long been their ability to foster teamwork and camaraderie. With employees now working remotely, businesses are searching for new ways to help their teams collaborate, even from a distance.
- Integrated cloud environment. Employees aren’t just working remotely, they’re also more device agnostic than ever before. It’s no longer realistic to expect most workers to only operate off a single work-designated device. Instead, employees may be working from numerous devices—an office work station, a laptop or tablet, and a mobile phone. A cloud environment is essential for these workflows to remain effective.
Each one of these core needs is essential for modern workers, yet achieving them is no easy feat—especially as there are few tradeoffs a business can make between these needs and still have a functional system. Fortunately, Microsoft Office 365 offers a viable solution to each of these challenges.
How Microsoft 365 provides the modern workplace solution.
While the challenges facing the modern workplace are significant, they are not unsolvable. In fact, the tools Microsoft offers solve many problems for traditional offices, while also supporting remote workers. A few of the top solutions are as follows.
1. Unified Endpoint Management.
The number of devices employees engage with over the course of their career at a company has been steadily increasing for years, made more complex by the emergence of new devices, the natural lifecycle of software and hardware, and the preference of many employees to access work documents on their own devices. The challenge is that more devices means more operating systems that need to be updated, more apps that need to be installed, and more chances for a device—and the information it contains—to be lost or stolen.
The purpose of Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) is to address the complexities of employee device usage by helping businesses keep track of various work-related devices. An “endpoint” under this management model is any device an employee uses for work. Managing these devices involves making sure employees have the right software installed, are following the correct security procedures, and are keeping data and documents synched.
Microsoft’s UEM tools include:
- Conditional access, so companies can ask for additional verification checks or restrict access to certain documents or programs under certain circumstances.
- Remote actions, which include wiping data on a lost or stolen device, clearing pre-installed apps, and performing a factory reset to restore original operating conditions.
- Device health monitoring, allowing companies to remotely determine the status of a device and whether it is still meeting performance criteria.
- Autopilot, which automatically configures devices to match existing devices.
- Hybrid Azure Active Directory, which links users, applications, and devices to allow single sign-on to cloud resources, among other things.
Microsoft Office 365 offers enhanced security tools along three fronts: threat protection, data protection, and device management. Threat protection tools guard against outside attacks, especially those from hackers trying to break into a system, malware and viruses trying to corrupt or infect a network, and phishers trying to con sensitive information from unsuspecting employees.
Data protection tools focus more on inadvertent data leaks, usually caused by human error. These may include a user sharing the wrong document by mistake, or forwarding an email containing sensitive information to someone who shouldn’t have access.
Finally, device management tools, similar to UEM tools, keep your devices up to date. Businesses can also use them to remotely access a device and to encrypt or wipe all data if it is lost or stolen.
Microsoft’s security tools include:
- Email protection against harmful documents or links.
- Multi-factor authentication for more secure sign-in.
- Windows Defender anti-virus software.
- Data loss prevention to prevent sensitive information from being shared accidentally.
- Message encryption to ensure only intended recipients can read emails, and that they can’t be forwarded to others.
- Manage access to company information on personal devices, and restrict how those files are moved.
- Fully manage company devices in order to encrypt or wipe data remotely in case of loss or theft.
3. Microsoft Teams.
Finally, perhaps the biggest challenge of the modern workplace has less to do with creating the kind of office culture where employees can thrive. This isn’t something software can deliver, but it is something software can facilitate.
Microsoft Teams addresses this challenge by offering an integrated and frictionless user experience that combines several common team functions across the Microsoft product suite.
Microsoft Teams functionality include:
- Group chat with image and gif-sharing capabilities.
- Easy video calls from chat with the click of a button.
- Group calls that can support thousands of participants.
- Recording tools for video calls.
- Security protections to prevent call hijacking.
- File sharing tools that support collaboration, editing, authorship, and version control.
We can help your business become a truly modern workplace.
At Brightline, we have spent years helping businesses make informed decisions about their IT needs. We’ve guided businesses through new compliance standards, integrated their networks with new cloud-based systems, and implemented specific industry-based solutions based on their company’s objectives. As experts in Microsoft’s newest suite of enterprise solutions, we can bring your business to the next level of modern workplace standards. Contact us today to get started.