My encounter with the American vernacular is similar to many others, thanks mainly to the era of MTV etc. But there have been some ‘Brucie Bonuses’ along the way in my work through the influences of Silicon Valley. So, let’s ‘ideate’ for a moment (groan!).
July 2022 saw Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, 'Microsoft Inspire' held online once again due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over three days, we were treated to an exposé of Microsoft’s Sales and Marketing strategies for the next twelve months. Of course, no one will be surprised to hear that Security and Productivity remain at the heart of their portfolio of services. Now the former will be music to Gavin’s ears, as Nitec aims to accelerate the ‘specification’ of our customer base in the coming months, but what particularly intrigued me at the conference this year was not so much the ‘what’ concerning productivity, but the ‘how’.
Let me explain.
In the broadest sense, Microsoft has been setting the pace in providing productivity tools for years. Some argue that the Windows Operating System is their greatest-ever baseline productivity tool. Still, Microsoft’s Office suite is unquestionably the staple diet of many an office worker. Quite honestly, if you removed coffee and Outlook from the daily routine of most offices, they would implode. It’s not surprising then that Microsoft boldly labelled their first cloud version of Office the ‘Business Productivity Online Suite’ (BPOS) before it became Office 365 and, more latterly, Microsoft 365. And what a comprehensive bundle of applications you get for your money! Alongside the ubiquitous big hitters like Outlook, Word and Excel, you now have Teams, Forms, OneNote, ToDo, SharePoint, OneDrive, PowerPoint, Bookings, Stream, Lists, Planner, Whiteboard… and I could go on.
There is a reason Microsoft 365 is the productivity suite of choice for business.
However, increasingly Microsoft and their partners are not only interested in ‘what’ organisations are using for productivity but ‘how’ they are using them. Pre–pandemic primarily manifested itself in terms of a growing emphasis on training and consumption. After all, if you are getting over a dozen professional productivity tools for your monthly subscription, you would like to think you are getting value for money by consuming most of them. At Nitec, our unique approach to security and productivity got many of you up and running with Teams way before the pandemic hit. Who would or could be without a video calling platform at the heart of their organisation?
But whilst the pandemic has elevated the use of Teams and Microsoft’s other collaboration tools, something more fundamental about the ‘how’ of productivity is beginning to take root. Not since the dawn of the industrial revolution has there been such a seismic shift in work, and a new vocabulary is rising to the surface to describe it. If I had a pound or a dollar for each time the words ‘hybrid’, ‘asynchronous’ and ‘co–working’ were used to describe this new irreversible framework during the Microsoft Conference, I would be a rich man. And if you’re thinking, ‘Yeah, so what?’, keep an eye on the business news and take note of the number of companies announcing that it is here to stay. Even the public sector, in recent days, is moving the conversation beyond ‘if’ to discussing the implications of a nailed–on certainty.
A decent set of productivity tools that services hybrid work will unquestionably be essential in this ‘working from anywhere norm’, but Microsoft is already beginning to modify their tool kit with practical benefits for such an environment. Consider the following:
Who would have thought your productivity suite would prompt you to get up from your desk and go and have a stroll or send you a link to spend 10 minutes focusing on mindfulness or shorten your conference calls by 10 minutes to avoid the congestion of back–to–back meetings? If you haven’t heard of it, Microsoft Viva is already using Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence platform to infuse M365 applications with tips and tricks to look after yourself.
Ever wondered why Microsoft Teams is evolving so rapidly with new modes of meeting? At the beginning of the pandemic, most of us were glad to appear as a thumbnail on a video wall. But in the future, remote meeting participants and presenters will be, in Microsoft’s words, offering a front-row seat experience in Teams that will break down, yet further, those perceived virtual barriers.
Choice and Flexibility
I suspect many of you, like me, are sensing the changing times but are just not ready to call it for your organisation, at least not just yet. Will things swing back the other way in 6 to 12 months? Perhaps. But I will stick my neck out and say that those businesses that fully embrace a productivity style that offers the choice to their staff are likely to be more successful in addressing retention issues, as staff workers vote with their feet.
As one HR professional put it, what during the Covid pandemic has threatened to be the ‘Big Resignation’ for some has been the ‘Big Inspiration’ for others. I know which I’d choose.