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Top tips for delivering a digital workplace

Lots of businesses are currently undertaking (or considering) the transformation of their workplace solutions and devices to deliver: enhanced and standardised security, flexible working, increased team productivity, IT cost and productivity savings, motivation of their staff, and a new approach to IT maintenance. And many of these companies are turning to Microsoft Office 356 (O365) as the underpinning solution to enable the delivery of their ‘digital workplace’.

O365 is the latest productivity software offering from Microsoft; it is a cloud-based package with a new model for license subscription of a variety of office applications; giving you email storage ‘in the cloud’, enhancements to several Office tools we “know and love” (e.g. Word, Excel, PowerPoint) as well as providing new tools (e.g. Teams, Yammer, Delve). It provides a host of benefits, including: remote working options, team collaboration tools, secure document and email storage, increased productivity, regular patching and updates, central administration and increased availability.

It certainly has a lot going for it! And delivering this product is a very user-focused IT transformation, touching every employee’s device(s)… which means that the delivery of this ‘digital workplace’ will either be seen as a “giant success” putting your staff at the heart of IT delivery, or potentially a “total nightmare” if it doesn’t go to plan and impacts business email continuity.

So here are some important factors to consider when embarking on your ‘digital workplace’ transformation journey.

1. Ensure you have a clear roadmap of which O365 tools you want to roll out and in what order, and what physical device changes you want to make (if any) – there are a whole array of great new tools with O365, but there are significant overlaps and some have the potentially to be easily abused. So make sure you set out the roadmap and associated policies before commencing.

2. Document the benefits you expect to realise and how you will measure these – it is important to do this upfront, to help decision making throughout the programme.

3. It is really important to conduct a thorough upfront as-is assessment of your IT estate, including your device build(s), existing Office client versions, network architecture, messaging environment, and the entire application estate to work on the new build – do you need to upgrade, transform, standardise or remediate any of these in order to roll out? If you cannot, then how do these technical constraints impact what and how you can migrate? Application assessment (including usage profile) and application compatibility testing are vital to make this a successful IT delivery – it will be the critical path for some or many users.

4. Strongly consider device build standardisation ahead of your O365 roll out, or ensure that you can manage any constraints of rolling out without a standard build. Large productivity savings can be achieved by moving to “lightweight” standard build on modern devices.

5. For a global roll out, do the due diligence upfront to determine whether a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is suitable in all locations. In some countries there are legal data storage / hosting regulations and requirements that impact how / where you can deploy some features.

6. Decide on the most appropriate deployment approach based on resources available. This is hugely dependent on site topology, i.e. factory build devices vs. upgrades in situ using cloud based SCCM, etc.

7. Do not underestimate the business change element of this workplace transformation; this is not just a ‘new version of Office’, in many cases it fundamentally impacts business practices. Consider whether training is appropriate to enable collaborative working… Because if you want to get the most out of your licenses then you want to get people using the new tools! Therefore, work with your key stakeholders to identify a ‘hook’ for the business, so that this does not feel like an IT driven project, but instead is a pull from the business – give individual staff a personal choice so that they are part of the transformation; motivation can be achieved by offering a consumerised service similar to Apple. (e.g. customised apps, choice of device or peripherals, etc.). Identify potential super users to champion the change and help with user adoption.

8. Strike the right balance between enabling ‘easy access’ for remote working and also ensuring a secure environment which reduces data loss and prevents data breaches. Make use of the opportunity to enhance and standardise security using the native Microsoft security stack.

9. Make sure that you properly understand your licensing requirements across the business and develop a process to keep track of them during and post migration.

10. Email migration is not always a simple process; you will need to do significant advanced planning (and batching) if moving from an existing on-premise AD environment.

11. If you have a large employee base you will likely not be going for a ‘big bang’ solution, in which case you will need to plan and prepare for running in ‘hybrid mode’ for several months or even years.

12. Understand and implement your Mobile Device Management policies alongside your O365 email migration and application roll out.

13. Expect a ‘loss of control’ and a change to the way you manage and maintain your IT platform; you need to prepare for the regular Microsoft releases so that you can benefit from new security patches / feature upgrades, and also understand that you are at risk of any Microsoft outages (there were two major outages affecting some European customers in 2017) – hopefully O365 will be an improvement on your existing ‘creaky’ IT infrastructure, but don’t be fooled… O365 is not the answer to everything, it does go down, but it moves the fault (and fixing) to Microsoft, who in theory, are better placed to resolve it.

14. Annual budgeting; ensure you are prepared for a move from a capex model to an OPEX model.

There are many benefits to be realised by moving to O365, but there are also pitfalls to be avoided to achieve a successful delivery. A good understanding of your business, the right technical knowledge combined with delivery experience, and careful planning will ensure that you can avoid these pitfalls and move to a digital workplace solution that empowers your workforce.

DMW has conducted many workplace standardisation and transformation programmes. We’d be delighted to share our insights in more detail as you plan your rollout – please contact us to arrange this.