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The COVID-19 pandemic has seen businesses establish more flexible working practices and substantially shift to online. Steve Bennett, Enterprise Solutions Architect of OGL Computer examines how cloud-based platforms such as Microsoft 365 can be a catalyst to transformational change.

During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of Microsoft Teams – which also forms an integral part of the Microsoft 365 cloud-based platform – increased dramatically.

In November 2019 there were 20 million users, but by the second quarter of 2021 this number had increased more than seven-fold to 145 million users.

As a package, Microsoft 365 itself had over 50 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2021, an increase of 27% compared to the same period in 2020.

While no-one chose the huge disruption to businesses and their staff that lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions caused, there are signs that many business practices implemented during that period, such as remote working, will be maintained even after things get back to relative normality.

Platforms such as Microsoft 365 – which enables people to work remotely while maximising collaboration and productivity – can play a central role in enabling businesses to transform the way they work and greatly improve their interaction with customers.

What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is nothing short of re-envisaging your business for the digital age. It means creating new and better ways for your business to work, mainly by shifting your focus away from the corporate network to the Internet, principally via the cloud.

The Internet becomes the new corporate network, transforming the way you organise your business and vastly improving your customers’ experience. Running major apps using an ‘Internet-first’ strategy delivers a better and faster way of working, as users connect to the platform’s nearest point. Implementing such a strategy is very much a top-down approach, so that all teams and departments involved can collaborate to achieve a successful implementation.

Microsoft 365 can play a fundamental role in this transformation, especially for SMEs. The successful implementation of the suite of cloud-based applications can lead to a radically new and better way of running your business, anticipating what your business will look like in several years’ time. What’s more, most SMEs are unlikely to be able to afford a custom-built digital platform, but by having a product such as Microsoft 365 set up and installed by a professional IT services provider, they can avail themselves of a solution tailored to their specific needs.

There are many advantages in running a cloud-based platform instead of a traditional corporate network. These include:

  • better collaboration between employees at dispersed locations, including remote workers
  • improved productivity with users signing in from multiple devices
  • easier set-up and maintenance
  • freeing up resource that would otherwise be managing servers, licenses and upgrades

There are plenty of examples of businesses that have embraced digital transformation to fundamentally re-engineer the way they operate and to disrupt existing markets, making themselves fit for the 2020s. They include Netflix, which started life as a mail-order video and DVD hire company before transforming itself into a video streaming service, putting the Internet front and centre of its operations; Uber, which disrupted the previously low-tech private hire sector by revolutionising customer experience through a fully interactive app; and Airbnb, which transformed holiday rentals by putting the customer at the heart of its proposition.

Microsoft 365 means better workplace collaboration

By maximising their use of platforms such as Microsoft 365, businesses are revolutionising the way they work. By being cloud-centred and collaborative in nature, this approach pushes businesses to reconsider the way they work and are structured, and bring the customer centre-stage. Apart from providing a convenient way to deliver Microsoft Office apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, the platform has numerous features to enable better collaboration and flexibility, including:

  • SharePoint which provides a virtual intranet with the flexibility of cloud-based communication, providing all the features of a cloud storage app replacing local file servers, and working together with OneDrive, the Office suite and Teams to increase productivity.

  • InTune which allows for the remote management and control of company devices and apps, and the establishment of parameters on usage and restrictions to protect your business and make it compliant with legislation and best practice.

  • Power Automate - a flexible automation solution that can be customised to synergise with over 220 services, letting businesses work without unwieldly email attachments and streamlining review and approval processes.

  • Teams - an integrated long-distance meeting and team management application – including multi-user chats and video conferencing with Office-integrated collaboration – allowing users to create and amend documents in real-time. Direct Routing enables calls to be routed to appropriate staff, providing a potential alternative to a physical reception desk.

Managed services use case

Using all the apps and components included in the Office 365 suite, SMEs can run entirely in the cloud, using a virtual office space and all the options for file-sharing, security and management. But the full potential of Microsoft 365 cannot be achieved without proper and complete implementation.

There are plenty of businesses that have purchased Microsoft 365 but are not using it to nearly its full potential – something which can only really be achieved with an intimate knowledge of the suite’s features, use-cases and limitations. It is likely, therefore, that many organisations will need to involve a reputable IT services provider that will take the time to fully understand their needs, so as to realise this potential.

 

Key takeaways

  • Digital transformation is the adoption and implementation of technology to adapt and enhance the way you do business.
  • The Office 356 suite offers a range of apps and features that can enhance your business, from increasing productivity and efficiency to improving data management.
  • To find out the full benefits office 365 can bring to your business, visit OGL Computer

Want to know more about digital transformation? Visit UMi's Going Digital page and find the information and expertise to do more digitally. 

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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