Best of Inside Track: How Microsoft embraced working remotely internally in 2020

Dec 16, 2020   |  

When it became clear that employees would need to shift to working from home because of COVID-19, Microsoft pivoted quickly, taking steps to make sure the transition would be smooth for its 166,000 employees.

The team leading the charge was Microsoft Digital, the engineering organization at Microsoft that builds and manages the products, processes, and services that the company runs on.

The work that Microsoft Digital engineering teams did to make sure the company was ready for working from home included optimizing its network and VPN, ensuring its Zero Trust security system was ready for prime time, and making sure Microsoft Teams and other productivity tools were ready to help employees work from home with ease.

There are lots of tips and tricks that we use to help employees get more out of working on Teams. There’s a lot that they can do to stay effective when they need to work remotely.

-Sarah Lundy, a business program manager at Microsoft

Staying connected with Microsoft Teams

The team that deploys Microsoft Teams internally at Microsoft knew the platform would get a surge of usage once everyone started working from home.

The goal was to make sure employees didn’t feel like they were losing anything when they moved away from working in their offices, something MS Digital did with a very proactive approach to communicating all the things they could do with Microsoft Teams.

“There are lots of trips and tricks that we use to help employees get more out of working on Teams,” says Sarah Lundy, a business program manager at Microsoft Digital. “There’s a lot that they can do to stay effective when they need to work remotely.”

Click through to learn more about how Microsoft Digital turned to Microsoft Teams to help the company shift to working remotely.

Keeping your network secure

If you’ve already moved most of your employees work to the cloud, your network will be fine if they all suddenly start working from home.

That’s what Microsoft learned when COVID-19 caused the company to shift to working remotely. Thanks to the Microsoft’s Zero Trust initiative, the company had already begun using a split tunneling approach to move employee workload from the company’s virtual private network (VPN) to the cloud.

“Adopting split tunneling has ensured that Microsoft employees can access core applications over the internet using Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Office 365,” says Steve Means, a senior service engineer at Microsoft Digital. “This takes pressure off the VPN and gives employees more bandwidth to do their job securely.”

Read this story to learn more about how Microsoft has managed its network and VPN during COVID.

Starting a new Microsoft job remotely

Like new hires everywhere, newly minted Microsoft employees are showing up for their first day of work without leaving home.

Allison Koch looks at the camera and smiles from a home office.
Allison Koch is a customer success manager at Microsoft who has been working remotely since starting at Microsoft. (Photo submitted by Allison Koch | Inside Track)

“Everything about this entire process has been virtual,” says Allison Koch, a customer success manager at Microsoft who lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “I haven’t met anyone face-to-face—I met my new manager on a Teams call.”

Koch didn’t let that dampen her spirits, and neither are other employees.

Find out more about what it has been like for Koch and others to start working at Microsoft remotely by reading this story.

Trimming Microsoft Azure usage

Usage of Microsoft Azure has increased during COVID-19, so much so that Microsoft has been working hard to reduce its internal usage of the cloud product to help ease demand.

In June 2020, Microsoft shared that Microsoft Teams shot up to more than 200 million daily users, 200 million daily meeting participants, and 4.1 billion daily meeting minutes, all of which contributed to a broader increase in cloud traffic.

“That was a huge jump,” says Binu Surendranath, global process owner in Finance Payout at Microsoft. “We could meet that demand by building more datacenters—which we are doing—but we also felt that we could free up more capacity to existing datacenters by optimizing our usage of Azure internally here at Microsoft.”

Click through to this story to learn how Microsoft was able to trim its internal usage of Microsoft Azure.

Making change remotely

Lily Zhang smiles at the camera from a desk.
Lily Zhang had an impactful experience as a Microsoft intern despite never stepping on the company’s campus (Photo submitted by Aleenah Ansari | Inside Track)

This year’s Microsoft interns did their mission-critical work without ever setting foot on the company’s campus.

“I feel like I made a difference during my internship,” says Lily Zhang, a graduate student in Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley. “I got to work on a project that was meaningful and made a difference for Microsoft.”

Read this story to find out how Microsoft ensured that its interns had a high-quality experience despite never getting to walk on the campus or physically meet with their managers, mentors, peers, and fellow interns.

Learn more about how Microsoft deploys its own technology and services across the company by visiting the Microsoft IT Showcase website.

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