We decided to work from home almost a week before the Government started pushing for all companies to implement it in the hard times due to Coronavirus. But as we were debating this among ourselves on how to implement it, the catalyst that made it possible was our migration to Office 365 about two years ago.
How Office 365 made work from home a reality within our organization is what I want to share with you.
What Work from Home Looks Like for Big Teams?
We are a service organization, and we have different teams handling different verticals of our business. Constant communication and collaboration within the teams are a must; we also need to communicate with the clients regularly. Apart from this, a constant flow of the documents is required to keep the processes running and there are constant hand-offs among the team members before a particular work gets done.
While in office, this was easily done through stand-up meetings, ad hoc huddles, informal communication across the cubicle walls, and exchange of emails. Now all of these need replication in the ‘work from home’ environment.
We looked at multiple tools to help us achieve this; we discussed various collaboration tools, which are available for free; we also looked at the video chat tools for meetings and discussion. We were already active on WhatsApp for informal communications, so we were used too with an informal way of communication. But the other tools needed training for the entire team, and we did not have much time for doing the same.
What does Microsoft Office 365 offer?
At this point, we started to look at Office 365, beyond the essential Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook platform. We were using one drive for our storage, so we didn’t have to migrate large volumes of data to the cloud, but apart from that, we were not using the platform much, though it comes with almost 17 other applications.
While testing this, we came across Microsoft Teams; the initial product demo included this, but we never used it to its full potential or explored it deeply. As the saying goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, given the crisis and lack of time, we looked at the Microsoft Teams to understand if it can be the silver bullet to the problem, and yes it did turn out to be that.
Microsoft Teams provides collaboration features, so we need not have a separate tool for that. It provides video conferencing facilities as well and integrates seamlessly with the Outlook calendar. So calendared management and meeting issues were taken care of. It also integrates with OneDrive for sharing files, and apart from this, it has connectors for practically every app/software commonly used in an enterprise space.
Microsoft Teams has a mobile app which is simple yet intuitive and robust. We tested the quality of video and audio chats, and the tests went well without demanding high internet bandwidth.
Since one tool could cater to many objectives, our training and enablement were easy and quick. We had to train the staff only on one tool, which otherwise would have demanded a more extended gestation period leading to nightmares.
Microsoft Teams also has the facility to record sessions, which we use during a meeting or training program. These recordings can be reused or shared for references. This is also done seamlessly through another tool in the Office 365 family called Microsoft Streams as soon as the meeting is closed. If a session is recorded, the recording is available on Streams, which could be consumed within Teams itself.
The last part that was required was the security and access restrictions.
So far, it was all excellent and gave us the confidence that we can work from home with no impact on productivity. But if we cannot control access and impose a restriction, then none of these features would be of use.
Microsoft Teams has a security solution built into the very fabric of the software. In the software, you can create a Team, which is synonymous to a WhatsApp group. While WhatsApp stops there itself, in Teams, you can further go and add Channels within a Team for handling various aspects or activities of the team.
For example, if you create a team called ‘Sales’, there could be a channel within that for ‘Leads’, where you can discuss leads; then another channel called ‘Quotes’ would be a closed circuit to talk about quotation related issues and maybe another group called ‘Queries’ where you can talk about customer queries.
You can add members to the teams and also specify what they can do within the team. A member of the team gets access to all the channels created within the group. This feature gave us much-needed access control to execute our work.
How Our Work from Home Plan Flourished?
Now with the Teams in place, already functional OneDrive for file sharing and the rest of the tools in Office 365 like Yammer, Streams, OneNote to name a few, we felt confident that our work from home initiative would be a grand success. We have run this way for a week now and we have neither felt any hindrance or issues or missed the collaboration, which we are used to in our physical office space. Some of our staff are back home, some are still in their hostels, but Teams always makes us all feel we are all working from a single office location.
We have stand-up calls three times every day, where we do a video call through Teams. For our external discussions, we send out invites from Team which has also been working efficiently even if the other end—in case of external stakeholders—does not have Teams within their organization.
It wouldn’t be a hyped expression to mention that if Office 365 were not in place, our decision to work from home would have happened by force, but whether we would have derived value and productivity from it is a big question to ask.
Before you Leave
Are you still facing issues to make work from home a success? Then get in touch with the Logesys team to make it happen for you. You might like to offer the remote connectivity option to your groups on a need basis or as extra support later when the world resumes normalcy.