Much is made of the benefits offered by Microsoft Office 365 in terms of anywhere working - ensuring business employees are able to be productive across multiple devices and a variety of locations. Business leaders are well aware of the potential benefits of online productivity solutions in this regard, and are increasingly taking the opportunity to reshape their workforces. Company bosses want to see their people spending as much of the working day as possible conducting value-adding tasks, and hosted IT is becoming a key weapon in their armoury.
But Office 365 has a range of other, associated benefits, aside from allowing employees to keep working on the move. It is not just the 'where' and 'when' that interests business leaders in terms of anywhere working - firms are also looking at how they can boost collective performance using cloud-based solutions. In an ever-more competitive business landscape, businesses and organisations are using digital technology to break down geographical barriers and work together more effectively.
The advanced communication and collaboration tools offered by Office 365 create an array of opportunities for effective teamworking. Equipped with mobile solutions and remote access to their work file and documents, employees can not only work productively on their own, but also contribute to shared projects with colleagues based in other locations. Changes they make to a file or document are made available to other users in real-time, while instant messaging and conferencing technology allows instant communication. Employees can use Office 365 to remain in constant contact wherever they are, making it easier to work on inter-departmental projects and bring people together from different parts of the business.
ABB adopts Office 365 for collaboration and messaging
One of the latest companies to deploy Office 365 is ABB, a global power and automation technology company which has 145,000 employees across 100 countries. The firm recently turned to Microsoft's subscription productivity suite in a bid to consolidate its collaboration and messaging solutions - ensuring workers are empowered with the latest available tools. Seeking a single platform for productivity, communication, collaboration and enterprise social activities, the company considered Office 365 to be an obvious choice.
Andy Tidd, chief information officer at ABB Group, said the migration would offer multiple benefits for workers across the company. "Office 365 will enable us to transform communication and collaboration among our employees, surfacing the best and most innovative ideas across the organisation," he stated. Mr Tidd added that his company plans to take full advantage of the planned integration between Office 365 and Yammer, in order to further increase the range of remote working options available to staff.
Dalhousie University seeks collaborative tools
But it is not just private companies which are benefiting from the use of Office 365 - public bodies and third sector organisations can also take advantage of enhanced communication and collaboration tools. Dalhousie University, one of Canada's top research-intensive institutions, is an example of how the productivity suite can bring people closer together. The university - which has 20,000 students and more than 1,000 members of academia - is aggressively shifting to cloud-based productivity solutions in order to create a comms infrastructure fit for the 21st century.
Dwight Fischer, assistant vice-president and chief information officer at Dalhousie, said the university is looking to outsource day-to-day service management, enabling staff to concentrate more on their core roles. And Microsoft's cloud-based software suite has a key role to play in achieving this goal. "Office 365 frees our information and technology services division to deliver collaboration tools at a level far beyond what we'd otherwise be able to do internally," he claimed.
Mr Fischer noted that Office 365 is helping to meet "intensifying demand" for more integrated services "over a rapidly proliferating range of online and mobile platforms". He added that fast-growing remote campuses are further driving distance education needs - increasing the number of students and staff who stand to benefit from online collaboration. Mr Fischer claimed that Office 365 can fill the gaps between other programs and services, delivering a great deal of functionality within a reasonable timeframe, and - crucially - at an affordable cost.
Using Office 365 to achieve organisational goals
"We lack true collaborative tools in our existing environment," he stated. "While we do have a learning management system in place, we don't have across-the-board unified communication tools, video, voice, instant message or availability awareness." Mr Fischer claimed that Dalhousie needs better document collaboration and common calendaring between all areas of the university, in order to allow both individuals and teams to maximise their potential.
"Lync, SharePoint and Outlook, in particular, address these needs in a scalable, secure and manageable way," he claimed. "We also need a fully integrated experience that encompasses the full suite of collaborative tools that students are using today." Mr Fischer said the migration to Office 365 should meet the university's multiple needs - delivering the functionality and collaborative tools required by end-users, while also reducing cost and complexity in terms of IT management. For Dalhousie, it looks like a win-win situation.
Posted by Alex Boardman