In July 2013, Microsoft IT published its Annual Report which covers major trends facing our own business today. In this excerpt from the Annual Report, IT and Business leaders will read how Microsoft IT dedicated significant resources to enhance mobility in 2012. These efforts have played a key role in accelerating the company's ability to create products and services, and improving its ability to respond to the global needs of employees, external partners, and customers.
- Enable a mobile workforce
- Bring your own device
- Service-responsive web site design
- Managing distributed teams
- Global competition for talent
- Team collaboration and productivity
Accelerate the Organization
Our world is becoming more digitized, more interconnected, and more dependent on easy access to information. While some companies struggle to understand how to respond to these trends, CIOs who define and drive inter-organizational initiatives to adopt mobile technologies and processes add value to the business.
That said, embracing mobility might not be as simple as it sounds. CIOs can start by reviewing their Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, or modifying authentication and access systems to connect employees to business-critical information from mobile devices; these actions are good first steps. However, achieving business mobility also involves designing facilities that cater to a mobile workforce, or – potentially the most challenging – driving change in corporate culture across organizations by promoting new management practices that enable remote teams.
Is the effort worth it? Microsoft believes that achieving business mobility is key to maintaining a competitive edge. We encourage you to read the following samples of key areas of investment at Microsoft to see how Microsoft IT is helping the company drive adoption of mobility at the technology, facility, and management levels.
New World of Work
Microsoft's New World of Work program combines the efforts of the company's IT, real estate, and facilities teams to enhance the workplace environment. In particular, the company is re-thinking how to design facilities to meet the needs of mobile employees and teams.
IT and Facilities Partnership
By combining smart office designs with key Microsoft technologies, the New World of Work program has enabled employees to be more mobile and productive while reducing costs. This approach allows employees with diverse work styles to coexist and be equally productive in the office environment and when working remotely.
Since its inception, the New World of Work program has opened several facilities around the world, including offices in Amsterdam, Singapore, and most recently in Guangzhou, China.
Purpose-built for the mobile worker, the new Guangzhou office is key to supporting the company’s growing business in South China, providing 160 individual workstations, lockers to store personal items, 6 bookable meeting rooms, and 33 small focus rooms for ad hoc meetings.
Small, Dynamic Office
Sharing and collaboration capabilities are critical for a mobile workforce, so along with both wired and wireless network connectivity to support laptops and mobile devices, the facility also provides large conference screens that can host live online meetings through Microsoft Lync.
In order to ensure a positive experience for people new to the facility, Microsoft IT formed an IT Ambassador team to help new workers familiarize themselves with the facilities and offer technical assistance for any issues that might arise (such as connecting a mobile device to the appropriate printer, or reserving a meeting room). Facilities personnel also held a First Day User Move-in IT brown bag lunch to ensure that users could be productive on the very first day the office opened.
Finding team members, colleagues, and even available desks in buildings that have a high percentage of unassigned seats is often an issue for a mobile workforce. Microsoft IT addressed this need by providing a Windows Phone application that uses location-based services (LBS) to identify available workspaces and locate people.
Microsoft IT also streamlined the available desk space by using a USB integrated network/display hub with 27” screen that uses a single cable to connect everything from the monitor and network, to the Microsoft Desktop 2000 wireless mouse and keyboard.
The result was a smaller and more dynamic office environment that catered to a highly mobile workforce. Microsoft projects that this will reduce operating costs by 24 percent over a five-year period, which would compare well against the average 14 percent decrease in costs across other sites that have undertaken similar projects.
Web Redesign for Mobile
Today’s corporate website is a business-critical tool that frequently acts as a customer’s or partner’s first sales, marketing, and support experience. How people access the web has also changed radically in the past two years. To browse the web today, it's just as likely that people will reach for a mobile device as they will a traditional laptop or desktop computer.
As CIO, you recognize that your corporate web site is a valuable asset that often acts as the front door to your business. So how do you generate the curb appeal that keeps customers coming back? Do you invest in developing and maintaining a mobile version of your website? How far down the path of supporting parallel web properties for your traditional and mobile sites do you go?
Similar to other companies, Microsoft markets, sells, and supports its products and services from its main website, www.microsoft.com. Microsoft.com is one of the busiest websites in the world, attracting over 228 million unique visitors each day. Customers with different interests―from consumers looking for Xbox and Surface product details, to small and medium-sized businesses signing up for Office 365, to large enterprise customers wanting to learn about how they can improve their business operations by incorporating Microsoft technologies―all come to Microsoft's website.
With the launch of Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface, Microsoft IT saw an opportunity to help the business by enhancing the Microsoft.com site to improve the user experience for both mobile devices and desktop systems.
Partnering with Microsoft’s marketing group, Microsoft IT embarked on a 10-week project to redesign the Microsoft.com homepage with the following objectives:
- Simplify and Unclutter
Research and user feedback on the old page design indicated that users preferred a simplified page with a cleaner look. The new design addressed this point by implementing:
- A simplified navigation to help discoverability of downloads, support, security and shopping by reducing the number of top-level toolbar items from nine choices to five choices
- A visually uncluttered page where the top of the page has few elements, with a tease to show progressively more detailed content as the user scrolls down to view more
- Present a Great Experience on Any Device
Microsoft IT implemented progressive features, adaptive content, and responsive layouts to ensure that content and images reflow, resize, and crop automatically based on the device's screen size. This adaptive rendering ensures images display properly and links are easily clicked or tapped without any zooming required.
- Align Styling with the Modern Look-and-Feel
Microsoft IT wanted to help the business showcase its latest products by incorporating the modern styling found in Windows 8, Microsoft Surface, and the new Windows Phone. Customers now have a more consistent and recognizable Microsoft experience across the homepage, the online Microsoft Store, the Download Center, and Support.
- Reduce Management Efforts, Redundancies, and Cost
Microsoft IT saw an opportunity to reduce programming, maintenance, and hardware costs by implementing a single web site that caters to any visitor device, be it desktop, tablet, or mobile.
The result of the redesign is a new home page that showcases Microsoft products with a purpose. Microsoft IT has delivered a cross-device website experience that aligns to the company’s product strategy and that provides an emotionally powerful experience for users.
The new website is also helping the bottom line, saving Microsoft IT U.S. $250,000 in hardware in 2012 and reducing its website programming headcount costs by 50 percent. Moreover, this single platform frees Microsoft IT from needing to add more mobile servers or balance between desktop web and mobile web servers in the future.
"So now we find ourselves in this odd position where Microsoft is actually more design-forward than Apple!"
Anthony Wing Kosner / Forbes.com
In order to support business operations around the globe, IT organizations need to adopt solutions and processes that enable employees to be successful wherever and whenever they work. Although cloud-based services such as Microsoft Office 365 provide the technological means for people to work, communicate, and collaborate online, tools are only half the story. A CIO also must ensure that his or her organization fosters a corporate culture where geographically disbursed teams can be as productive as co-located teams.
As one of the world’s largest companies with 94,000 employees spread across 112 countries, Microsoft has a large number of geographically disbursed teams. These teams are critical to Microsoft’s global footprint and help the company cater to regional customers’ needs. The following list is a set of remote team management best practices from Bev Hess, Microsoft General Manager in Microsoft IT, who has spent years managing global remote teams, and who currently supervises 150 people in 32 countries.
- Use Microsoft Lync to Communicate Instantly with your Team
This includes having the hard management conversations through Microsoft Lync as soon as one is warranted. Don’t wait for some future face-to-face time. Bev says Lync serves as her team’s walk down the hallway to have conversions.
- Be a Good Listener
Video conferences aren’t as useful when a large number of people join a meeting. Instead, listen carefully to what people say – the audio has much more value than the visual aspect.
- Embrace your Team’s Cultural Diversity
Relate to team members’ cultural differences in the way you work. This includes supporting personal time for different religious and secular holidays, scheduling team calls at different times to accommodate multiple time zones, and incorporating regional feedback into IT to build better operational processes and products for different regions.
- Pair Team Members from Different Time Zones
If you have project meetings held mostly during U.S. business hours, encourage team members in different time zones to buddy up. They should have hand-off meetings and ensure that they stay connected without having to work every night. If needed, managers should be able to propose alternate meeting times that are more conducive to their remote team members. Bev’s team uses Yammer to have conversations across time zones, which allows members to contribute and build on conversations in progress, and recognize great individual work.
- Provide the Appropriate Infrastructure
Ease people’s transition to working remotely. What kind of support do you offer to new team members who are just leaving the traditional office-based work environment? They might initially feel more isolated working from home instead of at the office, so consider creating a mentorship program that pairs up new team members with an experienced remote worker.
- Promote Life Balance
Give people flexibility in their work hours and allow them to manage it themselves. For global remote teams, focus on managing the outcomes and letting people work when they need to work to get the job done.
“Face to face doesn't necessarily equal quality management. You need skilled managers regardless, and they must be comfortable having the hard conversations.”
“I can hire the best talent wherever they are, and rarely make them move. We look for the best talent where we need it, and hire for that.”
Bev Hess, General Manager / Microsoft