Microsoft 365 is an amazing product with almost endless possibilities. This can sometimes make it challenging to take advantage of all the benefits Microsoft 365 has to offer and to utilise all its features and possibilities in the smartest and most beneficial way possible – without purchasing unnecessary additional services. In this webinar on Thursday March 29th, Product Evangelist Mark Grasmayer takes you through the process of how to make sure you maximize the value you get out of Microsoft 365. In this article, we’ll also share some insights we’ve gained from polls during the webinar.
Shaping Microsoft 365 for your organisation
Let’s start at the very beginning; because that’s where you ideally should start thinking about why and how you should use Microsoft 365.
The bottom-up influence on business technology
During this entire process, it’s important to understand that software decisions are no longer solely made top-down, where at ‘the top’ a list of requirements is created and software that matches those criteria are pushed to the bottom of the organisation.
End-users now have more power, both when it comes to the voice they have within the organisation, and when it comes to their own technology-capabilities. Furthermore, they often have the power to purchase software or use consumer software.
With the Digital Employee Experience becoming increasingly important for users, there’s more and more focus on if the tools actually contribute to people doing their work sufficiently and efficiently, as well as if they like working with them. It’s no longer just about top-down requirements regarding for example security, infrastructure and compatibility.
Additionally, business technology increasingly resembles consumer technology; in the ease of use as well as how easy it is to acquire. This gives people more choice in which technology they want to use, and makes it very easy to start using it. And perhaps they’ll start using it instead of technology that has been pushed top-down and that they don’t like. Organisations should therefore bear in mind that the people who in the end use the software should always be in the centre of any technology project.
Step 1: Create your Microsoft 365 Dream Team
In many cases, it’s the IT department that makes the decision to start using Microsoft 365. This is often part of their strategy to move to the cloud.
However, not just one department should have the final say; it should be a group decision. Think for example of the C-Suite, the HR department, Corporate Communications, someone from Line of Business or department level, and someone who is responsible for Innovation or Business Transformation. They all have a different perspective that’s very valuable to shaping your digital workspace and Microsoft 365 proposition. By involving every one of them, you have the best chance of an optimal end result.
During the webinar, we asked the participants in a poll who was involved in Microsoft 365 implementations in their organisation. Where some of the results were as expected, there were some surprises:
Poll results: Who is involved in Microsoft 365 implementations in your organisation? n=74
This is especially surprising since HR can offer very valuable insights into for instance people’s work processes. We would advise to involve people from all these business areas.
Step 2: Defining your goals and linking them to tools
So you have your dream team. Now what?
Now it’s time to look at your goals. Not for Microsoft 365, but for your organisation. Because those should be the core of all your (technology) decisions. It is because Microsoft 365 is so amazingly useful and versatile, that many organisations decide to start using it. After this, they start looking at how it can contribute to their organisational goals. We consider this to be the wrong way around.
Three levels of organisational goals
You can divide your organisational goals into three categories: strategic, tactical and operational.
- Strategic goals: the goals on a high organisational level, such as increasing employee productivity or getting recognised as an innovative organisation to attract talent.
- Tactical: these can often be seen as ‘sub-goals’, on a department or business unit level, that get more specific about how the strategic goals will be reached, such as decreasing the number of meetings and making sure that all applications and information are relevant to people.
- Operational: even more specific goals having to do with actual actions on an individual or team level, such as that everybody uses Single Sign-On to access applications.
Naturally, we were curious about what kind of (digital workspace) goals the participants of the webinar have set within their organisation – if any. So we asked them in a poll:
Poll results: Does your organisation already have goals for the digital workspace? And if so, on what level? n=74
We want to emphasise not to start talking about tools until you’ve set clear goals.
Select tools to reach your goals (Tools – not brands)
So you should find tools that can contribute to achieving your goals. Another important thing to keep in mind here, once you’ve reached this stage, is to focus on the tools themselves – not the brands providing them.
So when you’re looking for tools, ensure that you’re focused on product categories as ‘identity provider’, ‘intranet’ and ‘digital workspace’, instead of immediately zooming in on specific brands.
Step 3: Evaluate and test drive existing tooling
So if you don’t have Microsoft 365 already and you’ve orientated, there’s a very good chance Microsoft 365 is indeed a great fit for you. And now you also know what tools your organisation will need to achieve its goals.
The next step is to see if the tools you need are available in Microsoft 365. Does the amount of available tools enable you to fully reach your goals? Does it offer everything you need? See if this is the case before you invest in anything else.
Your Microsoft partner will definitely be able to help you with this. The Microsoft landscape is broad, and your partner can help you to find and implement the right tools, the right way.
Adding additions through integrations
Despite the extensive range of tools in Microsoft 365, you may still be missing something. If this is the case, you still have a couple of options to unite everything. It would however be important to choose tools here that have an open system and enable you to integrate (parts of) them into other systems.
For one, you could look into the possibilities of integrating other tools and tasks with the help of Power Apps.
Also, if the tool is not connected to Microsoft 365, you can look into if the tool can be connected to and integrated into your existing digital workspace or intranet.
Step 4: Selecting the brand of a tool
When you’ve decided what type of tool you need to compliment your Microsoft 365 landscape, it’s time to select the brand. Next to the obvious criteria such as pricing and security, there are several other criteria that are important to consider. Think of:
- Which brand is best in reaching your goal?
- Can you integrate it in your portal, intranet, dashboard, workspace?
- Does it have APIs to connect applications and automate processes?
- Is there an active development community?
- Do you trust the people behind the software solution?
- Is there a solid partner network?
Also, ask yourself if the tool will not only support you today, but develops enough to support you in the future as well.
Case studies: how to leverage Microsoft 365
Next in the webinar, Mark discussed three case studies of customers who used Workspace 365 in different ways in order to get more value out of Microsoft 365.
Case 1: Simplifying access to documents on any device
The customer wanted to access documents on any device and reduce infrastructure costs. They wanted to make it easier to use documents, including from the file server.
They were not ready yet to completely migrate to SharePoint, so they struggled with the file server. Since they were not allowed to use Microsoft F3 licenses, so they were forced to use E3 to let frontline workers access the file server.
With the Workspace 365 Document App, they united all files from SharePoint, OneDrive and the file server. With this, they were able to use an F3 license (€8.40) instead of E3 (€31,50), because most employees only needed Office Online.
Case 2: One application portal to access everything
This customer wanted to offer secure Single Sign-On to all relevant applications, from any device.
They had the MyApps portal within Office 365. However, this didn’t offer one overview of all applications – it was a separate portal. Together with other systems, they ended up with four different portals that didn’t all show relevant applications.
They integrated all their local, hosted and web applications and intranet within Workspace 365, using Azure AD services for Single Sign-On. In the workspace, they set conditions on applications so that people could only see what was relevant to them. They further secured the workspace using Multi-Factor Authentication.
Case 3: Uniting people with the intranet
This company consisted of three companies that merged together, and had different SharePoint intranets. The goal was to create one portal to both work in and in which remote workers could be reached.
A solution was needed to combine multiple infrastructures and communication streams. Also, the SharePoint intranet didn’t generate traffic, because employees focused on their work, not the intranet.
With Workspace 365, they created one portal with applications, as well as news from SharePoint and the Announcement Centre for targeted messaging. This way, intranet and work were united. The organisation made it impossible to access applications from anywhere else, so people had to go through the portal. This ensured (important) communication would always be seen.
Innovation using Microsoft 365 and other software
Let’s zoom in on the possibilities of Workspace 365 as a tool to get more value out of Microsoft 365.
An open system to customise your ideal workspace
Workspace 365 has a lot of integrations with Microsoft 365. With for example Windows Virtual Desktop for remote applications, Azure for authentication, and Exchange for contacts and the calendar.
But besides Microsoft 365, we also integrate systems from other vendors. Because we believe that a workspace should be future-proof and vendor-agnostic. We realise this in several ways:
- Integrate existing and new tools using APIs
- Integrate information, communication and processes
- Use Micro Apps for secondary tasks: leave requests, expense claims, and more
- Research phase: request and deploy applications
Through the API of other systems, we can integrate your other services and unite them with Workspace 365. We create Micro Apps for organisations to bring specific tasks and information to the workspace, and help you to create your own. This helps you to keep people in their workflow by preventing the disruption of work and streamlining processes.
This open system also works the other way around: you are able to integrate solutions into Workspace 365, but also to implement features from Workspace 365 into other platforms. Think for example an existing intranet or Microsoft Teams. This enables you to create one starting point of people’s days, wherever you want it, including the benefits of Microsoft 365 as well as Workspace 365.
Key highlights and takeaways
To summarise, these are the most important take-aways from the webinar in a nutshell:
- Create a digital workspace group
- Set goals and link them to tools (not vice-versa)
- Create a tool inventory and see which tools are already available
- Use (or reconsider) your selection criteria to evaluate the brand for tools you need
- Discuss it with your Microsoft partner
Help us maximize the value of Microsoft 365
We constantly develop to keep improving our platform and enabling organisations to simplify work and to get more value out of their existing systems, as well as their future systems.