Article provided by Westcon
Despite all the innovations and advantages the digital age brings, companies of all sizes and industry sectors must contend with significantly increased competition from not only local service providers but global ones as well. This is putting the pressure on management to ensure employees remain as productive as possible to deliver that vital advantage in a cluttered market.
The cloud has certainly assisted in this regard by providing access to innovations that were previously only available to those large corporates with big budgets. Just consider how the cloud has democratised technology by allowing SMEs to use artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and even the Internet of Things (IoT) to produce more compelling products based on having better insights into what customers want.
Further driving the accessibility of better solutions is the increasing sophistication of productivity tools. A word processor is no longer something used to write documents, and a spreadsheet is more than just a means to process calculations. Today, all these offerings can be integrated into a centralised environment so employees can deliver on their true potential instead of being bogged down by the technical limitations of individual programmes.
“Productivity software is about creating an enabling environment for information workers to become more sophisticated content producers. Specifically based on real-time analytical insights from the data stored and processed in cloud data centres such as the two locally-based Microsoft Azure ones. How people use these solutions is a far cry from the 1980s when basic functionality was the best that could be hoped for. Now, AI brings with it the automation of repetitive tasks. At the same time, people can create any collateral they can think of that enhances shareholder value from the business perspective,” says Prebashini Reddy, Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) and Volume Licensing (VL) Product Manager at Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa.
This has seen the evolution of productivity software into what many refer to as an office suite that provides a consistent user experience while linking everything the digital employee needs to be as effective as possible.
“Traditionally, these office suites were prohibitively expensive for entrepreneurs and SMEs. But thanks to the cloud, companies like Microsoft have introduced affordable monthly subscription models that bypass the need to buy everything at once. Not only is this more cost-effective, but it reinvents the software licencing model of old by providing a better way of staying up to date with the latest updates and patches instead of buying new software every year,” says Pete Hill, executive director at Greendata.
An Office 365 environment
As such, Office 365 has radically changed the way, people view an office suite. Using this cloud-based subscription service, companies can provide access to a familiar Microsoft experience while delivering a guaranteed 99.9% uptime to business data. But this environment is not just limited to those with connectivity. Office 365 has an offline-mode that works on virtually any device irrespective of the operating system to enable people to still work whether they have internet access or not.
Using Office 365, companies can ensure the privacy of their business information with access to enterprise-grade security that incorporates data loss prevention (DLP). This gives organisations the control they need over sensitive data that complies with all regulatory requirements.
“Furthermore, during a time when businesses are letting employees work remotely, Office 365 delivers a consistent user experience across a laptop, tablet, and smartphone. It also integrates information in real-time meaning team members are always aware of what others are working on and have access to the latest files needed to complete their projects,” says Reddy.
The system has been designed to adapt to the platform an employee uses. For example, if they are reliant on a mobile device, a streamlined version of Office 365 can run that still delivers the functionality necessary to work. This ushers in a new era of collaboration that puts business efficiency at its foundation.
“Employees can work on documents with confidence that they will look the same as they move from one person to the next. It significantly reduces IT complexity by providing information on who has access to what data under which conditions. This ensures that sensitive information never leaves the corporate network while providing multi-factor authentication that incorporates biometrics to mitigate against the risk of stolen passwords to ensure only employees can log in to the company systems,” adds Hill.
Collaborate for success
What sets office productivity suites like Office 365 apart from the rest is its ability to create a collaborative environment for employees. For example, using the Microsoft Teams unified communication solution with Office 365 provides a better way of engaging with employees irrespective their physical locations. Whether this is through voice, video, text, instant messaging, and the like, information workers are always in touch with one another to ensure a project can be completed on time and on specification.
“An office suite must be user-friendly and create a comfortable environment for people to work in. Office 365 delivers this in a familiar interface that employees have been using for numerous years while introducing powerful functionality in effective ways. Office 365 is also designed with SMEs in mind. This means installing and managing the suite does not require access to well-resourced IT departments. It lets companies focus on core deliverables while employees get up and running quickly,” continues Reddy.
And as with all cloud-based solutions today, Office 365 delivers new features and updates to users as soon as they become available.
“The traditional way of waiting for a few years to get additional functionality is a thing of the past. From chatting directly in Office 365 apps to using more intelligent design and formatting options in documents, users can develop professionally-looking documents that build on the company’s reputation with clients. Another example of this innovation is Office 365 Planner that lets people plan workflows and organise collaboration in far more effective ways. Because all this is integrated into a centralised location, companies can deliver on any job requirement from software that is managed with an affordable monthly subscription. The productivity landscape has changed, and those organisations embracing modern innovations will be the ones that are primed for growth in the years to come,” concludes Hill.