In this blog, we discuss how to use Microsoft 365 to improve workplace collaboration so you’re not bound by location or tools.
Today’s workplace is radically different from the workplace of the last century. The speed of technology advancements largely dictates it and a shift in social norms, forcing business leaders to constantly adapt to a new way of managing, supporting and accommodating talent.
From digital to mobile, the changes have been monumental, allowing people to connect across continents and devices in ways simply not possible – or affordable – a few years ago. Now, employees can work remotely and embrace the modern workplace with teammates around the globe. People prefer laptops and mobile devices to desktops. And customers now expect to connect virtually.
Employees also expect better communication tools, which can impact a candidate’s choice of employers. With increasing competition for a limited talent pool, being a technically sound company can make a difference. Finally, with increasing security needs, companies need to feel secure in their workplace collaboration platforms and tools so they can manage risk.
To thrive in this ever-changing work environment, we find organizations clamoring to identify tools that help them collaborate better, remain competitive, and work faster to meet the needs of customers and employees, whether they’re on-site, hybrid, or fully remote. That has given rise to the digital workplace.
A Culture of Workplace Collaboration
Despite all these changes and advancements in technology, the fundamentals of “working together” are no different than they were in the last century or even the last decade. We still must work alongside each other. We still must use information to make decisions. We still benefit from bringing many minds together to solve problems.
Those fundamentals have contributed to Microsoft’s rise as a leader in office productivity for organizations. Early on, the software giant saw a need to build and sell software tools that help employees work together.
To address changing workplace elements, Microsoft’s most significant push and investment in recent years has been into remote tools with Microsoft 365, a digital workplace that offers users a portable and integrated experience. With it, employees can access their company’s information hub at any time, from anywhere, to collaborate with clients and colleagues in ways unheard of only 15 years ago.
Microsoft Office Then and Now
Once upon a time, Office was simply Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. But that hasn’t been the case for quite some time. Over the years, Microsoft has continued to expand that core productivity suite – which has been around since the 90s – penetrating the market with new tools that have become essential to modern business.
As mindsets shifted, making the cloud the platform of choice, Microsoft further adapted its toolset to meet the demands of its business users, officially launching Office 365 in June 2011.
Since the first release of its Office 365 toolset, Microsoft zeroed in on a growing need for a digital workplace that provided secure, cloud productivity services for users to collaborate in real-time and access information online from any place, on any device.
As businesses demanded more, Microsoft delivered, which led to the rapid progress of Office 365. In the 2013 version, Microsoft moved its product to a subscription model, allowing companies to purchase capabilities as needed. Over the next two years, Microsoft continued to innovate, adding more tools and features for the enterprise to capture market share.
Today, Microsoft 365 (Business) – as it’s renamed its suite – consists of a robust suite of tools ranging from its initial products to new file storage hubs and communication tools like SharePoint Online, Microsoft Teams, and OneDrive. Microsoft Teams, for example, creates space for continued collaboration in the workplace by not only giving employees a place to message each other or take virtual meetings but also by connecting with Microsoft’s other tools, so sharing projects is a seamless experience.
With today’s additional tools like Microsoft Loop and Microsoft Viva, the platform is doing its part to make communication, feedback, analytics, goals, learning, and organization as simple to do as possible. But none promise to transform collaboration and workplace productivity as much as Microsoft’s latest expansion into artificial intelligence with Microsoft Copilot.
Introducing Microsoft Copilot
As Microsoft works its way into the future, it’s drawing attention to enhancing secure productivity by providing organizations with the ability to become an AI-powered business with Microsoft Copilot, enabling improved collaboration between team members and expanding efficiency and productivity.
Microsoft Copilot combines the power of large language models (LLMs) with data in Microsoft Graph and Microsoft 365 apps, which enables it to provide personalized and contextually relevant content tailored to each user’s preferences. When it comes to workplace collaboration in an AI-powered business, the platform’s seamless integration into Microsoft 365 solutions such as Microsoft Teams can significantly enhance productivity and creativity by having Copilot in Microsoft Teams act as an AI meeting assistant, taking meeting notes, summarizing what’s been said, and even performing sentiment analysis around a topic.
Copilot doesn’t only give insights into meetings, however. It can also automate certain communication tasks, like sending reminders or scheduling meetings. It can help facilitate brainstorming sessions and organize information so that priorities are at the top of the list. Beyond collaboration, Copilot can help you find information and provide insights into data within an Excel spreadsheet, create a PowerPoint presentation based on a specific topic in only minutes, or help with writing when you get a case of writer’s block in Microsoft Word. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
Understanding the building blocks necessary to enable Copilot to work in your organization can help you unleash the full potential of the tool’s intelligent assistants across your workforce in a secure and compliant manner. As you prepare for Copilot, it’s important to understand your technical readiness as it relates to licensing, data searchability in your Microsoft 365, and data security initiatives in your organization.
Adopting the Future
For the first time, companies have a better, more familiar, and more streamlined foundation for secure collaboration in the workplace – and Microsoft continues to build out product capabilities to support growing digital workplace needs that not only help increase productivity and efficiencies in the workforce but also ensures secure collaboration that is supported by an entire product line of robust security and compliance capabilities.
While it’s easy to obtain one of the various collaboration tools available in the market, such as Zoom, Slack, or Dropbox, it is important to consider the lack of integration they provide in creating a cohesive workplace. As Microsoft 365 continues to develop its platform of integrated capabilities, it’s important for your organization to stay up to date on releases and have a communication strategy in place for when it becomes available to your employees so there is a common understanding of the new capabilities and how they work together.
From secure communication and collaboration to file storage, content creation, workflow automation, and AI-powered solutions, Microsoft 365 provides a holistic approach to collaborating in a modern workplace where employees can execute their tasks in a fully integrated environment. Not only does that free up time and increase productivity, but it also boosts employee job satisfaction.
Here are a few steps to keep in mind to drive adoption:
- Emphasize its importance. Users will gravitate toward Microsoft 365 if they understand how it can help solve business challenges and how much easier it will make their lives. Stress to your employees that now they only have to use one platform to:
- Locate and securely share documents and files.
- Find and connect with company employees and experts.
- Form communities, groups and teams.
- Communicate through chat, voice and video.
- And more.
- Lead cultural change. Help users move from their previous applications by providing them with daily tips to increase their understanding and awareness of the new technology.
- Engage leadership. Identify and engage business stakeholders and influencers early in the process so they can model adoption.
- Establish governance. Set clear policies for usage, security and management of content to ensure there’s no confusion from the beginning.
- Pilot new features. Before rolling out a new application or feature to the enterprise, test usability with a small group of users from different areas of the organization. This will help you work out the majority of kinks before your IT team becomes overwhelmed with support tickets.
- Create an implementation campaign. Build an effective internal adoption roadmap and channels to capture user feedback.
Adoption is a continuous cycle that doesn’t end after the launch date. As your business needs change and new services are released in Microsoft 365, the adoption cycle will continue to be a key component for your organization.
Improving workplace collaboration will always be a major topic among organizational leaders, whether your team works in person in an office, from the comfort of their desks at home, or are in and out of one workspace during different days of the week. As long as that’s true, platforms like Microsoft 365 will be available with new and improved tools to help team members change and adapt how they work together.