Is your company still stuck in that decades-old routine of perpetually updating your technology products and while continuing to ignore the underlying problems employees are having a hard time trying to get work done? 

Many companies we work with are either considering or making the move to Office 365 to solve some pretty typical problems. Some are still running Office 2007 or 2010 and have had enough user complaints that they know it’s time for that routine upgrade. Others are having a hard time keeping up with the increasing email security and privacy requirements. Some need to replace or reduce their email server infrastructure and support costs and it seems Office 365 is a better investment at this point in time. Quite often we see the upgrade to Office 365 is just focused on Exchange and Outlook or the other Office tools like Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
 
Meanwhile at the same company, executives are feeling the pressure to get their digital transformation in full swing … and they are not alone. A 2014 global survey found that 86% of CEOs are putting digital transformation as their top priority over the next few years. Creating a digital workplace is a key initiative to that transformation. But the challenge seems so big most don’t know where to start.
  
There’s no doubt your move to Office 365 will solve those typical IT upgrade, support or security problems but did you know you are a lot further down the digital transformation journey than you might think? Most companies don’t even realize the digital workplace employees are begging for, or worse have already started using their own rogue accounts,  and have integrated them into the Office 365 licenses. You have already taken some major steps in the right direction by deciding to go the Office 365 route. You just need to understand the opportunities and then get organized.
 
Personal digital transformation is years ahead of the workplace.
 
The pressure facing executives to invest in a digital workplace comes from a few major shifts. Employee expectations and competitive pressure. 

Employees now have a completely new set of norms about how to get things done in their personal lives based on consumer experiences. They likely have a better digitally transformed personal life than work life. New recruits and millennial employees not only expect to work in that environment, they often only know how to work that way. They know that mobile or remote work, distributed teams, social networks and collaboration tools are keys to success and that’s how they’ve been effective at college and university and so far in their careers. That want access to what they want, when they want, where they want … right away. Like their digital personal lives they need a digital work place also because the two are very interconnected.
  
Your successful competitors know this.  Work isn’t a place, nor is it between certain hours. Command and control is out. Performance-driven cultures where management seeks high productivity but gives employees more freedom to collaborate, determine their schedules and location is the way of the future in an increasingly complex, always-on digital workplace.  

 The digital workplace is described in many ways but these 5 key elements are likely in the description: 

  1. Cloud 
  2. Mobile 
  3. Collaboration  
  4. Enterprise Social 
  5. Data & Business Intelligence
Where most companies fail is when they try to pull these 5 elements together. Often they source standalone technologies that may provide equivalent capabilities “on paper”, but don’t “hang together” very well. The integration takes on a life of its own, and if and whenever it gets completed, it is usually too complicated for employees to wrap their heads around let alone what they really want to use. The different systems, passwords, user experiences and homegrown interfaces creates frustration and makes high user adoption nearly impossible.
    
Office 365 changes that big time.  Mainly because it is an integrated platform with non-stop roll-out of improvements to functionality and features that provide a solid foundation for a digital workplace. The often overlooked components and capabilities of Office 365 are pretty compelling when we put aside the typical reason Office 365 is now deployed aside namely for Exchange, Outlook and the Office tools. Let’s see how they line up against the 5 elements of a digital workplace. 

1. Cloud 

cloud

One Drive for Business is perhaps the biggest catalyst towards accelerating your digital workplace.  One Drive for Business provides cloud storage and access to documents is at the center of getting work done in a new way. 
Office 365 revolves around it.
  

2. Mobile 
mobile

Throw away your dongles and VPN cards. For access to your collaboration networks, shared files and work resources, Office 365 syncs all of your devices so you always have the latest version of what you need wherever you are.
You also have access to all of your other tools from anywhere and on any device with the recently released OWA for Mobile app (IOS and Android) that runs on all mobile OS environments. The IOS and Android experience is very good and is similar to the Windows Phone experience in form and function. The Office Suite of Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint online versions are more than capable of tasks using a device on the go and the robust desktop versions are available free for some licences.

3. Collaboration collaboration

SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business are not just platforms for employees to collaborate with each other; they also facilitate collaboration between companies and provide easy and smart document collaboration workflows and provide powerful versioning and privacy controls.

Skype for Business
allows you to communicate with colleagues in almost every way possible other than email. Instant Messaging, video, screen sharing and presence all have their place in the new communication environment and contribute to a faster way of listening, understanding or getting your point of view across to people you are working with. The Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint experiences are the base elements of the corporate content creation, editing and curation experience across the platform. The tight integration with Office 365 extends the capabilities of the Office platform and enables digital workers to collaborate from anywhere on any device. 

4. Enterprise Social 

social

Yammer is social engagement that allows the fast flow of ideas across social networks. One of the biggest benefits is the increase in productivity and employee satisfaction it provides companies, by streamlining the process of internal communication compared to traditional systems such as meetings, email, etc. Perhaps most importantly, it promotes collaboration and natural participation among employees, innovating, discovering new ideas and new creative ways to collaborate, etc ... SharePoint Online is being used effectively to improve traditional intranets. It provides typical web pages but also has powerful news and discussion areas, forms, automated workflows and extensibility to other business systems. It allows companies to quickly create collaboration sites to keep departments, committees, teams or projects on track. Better innovation and knowledge management are also at the heart of SharePoint which for the past 3 years has been the platform of choice for the majority of award winning enterprise intranets.  

5. Business Intelligence

business intelligence

Delve brings information to you instead of you searching for information. Its powerful search saves tons of time and keeps you much better informed than ever about what you need to know to succeed in your job. Microsoft describes it as ‘a new way to discover relevant information and connections from across your work life. Delve displays information that is most relevant for each person based on the work they are doing and the people with whom they are engaging.  With Delve, information finds you versus you having to find information.’ 

Power BI’s potential is unlimited. It all depends on how you want to look at the data as the need for companies to have business intelligence (BI) and analytic capabilities increases. Power BI provides customizable business analytics so you can see all of your data through live dashboards, reports and KPIs from data residing both on-premises and in the cloud, offering a consolidated view across the business. So as powerful and compelling as all of that functionality is, what puts it all over the top isn’t the individual components, it’s the integrated platform. Its foundation - the Office suite of tools - are so familiar to everyone the learning curve is almost non-existent. They are integrated into everything and bring a level of confidence along with it for users. 

One Drive for Business is perhaps the biggest catalyst towards accelerating your digital workplace. Office 365 revolves around it. Being able to share documents and collaborate on them is also at the heart of SharePoint, which for the past 3 years has been the platform of choice for the majority of award winning enterprise intranets. It is no coincidence that these all come together in describing a digital workplace.
 
So where to start? 

The first step is to eliminate the problem that got you in this situation in the first place. Break down the silos in thinking. Yes IT is a fairly influential stakeholder and likely a substantial cost centre with a big budget to keep the systems and technologies. Transforming to a digital workplace is an issue bigger than technology, it involves people and information that is relevant and useful for them to do their jobs.

Finding how you and your teams can best use the Office 365 components is the key to productivity. Using them in the way that works best for your needs is key. You will never have to upgrade again. Office 365 is constantly evolving with the latest tools and features. The Office 365 road map means you know what to expect and incorporate into your digital workplace.

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