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Collaboration utopia: making the business case for change

TL;DR: The dramatic impact that businesses experience when deploying a unified collaboration solution is truly transformative; positively impacting employee satisfaction, improving productivity, bolstering security and – in some cases – returning some serious ROI. To help your business understand the wider benefits, there’s a number of different ways Data#3 can help, ranging from Planning Workshops through to solution demonstrations and Teams Rooms pilot installations and trials.

Well, here we are, still talking about collaboration solutions. However, collaboration is just as important as it’s ever been and arguably even more so now. What we need from collaboration keeps changing, forcing the technology to also change to stay relevant. Or is it that changes in technology are showing us what collaboration could and should look like, which is driving the change?!

Either way, if we rewind a few years, most offices had great meeting room set-ups – until we embraced our at-home office and all the perks it provides. Now we have a hybrid workforce that craves flexibility (and the ability to sneak in a load of washing between meetings!), fast Wi-Fi and (when we do have to be in the office) a change from the way things were before.

Here’s a little of what we’re now hearing:
  • Staff, in a lot of cases, have better Wi-Fi at home and spend a lot of time in virtual meetings. What’s the point of being in the office?
  • When in the office, people don’t want to be sitting in a meeting room in a virtual meeting – the office meeting room set-up needs to change
  • Employers want staff back in the office – at least sometimes – for culture, for in-person collaboration, and to fill office space.
  • Companies are needing to revisit meeting and collaboration solutions that were put in place, in haste, to ensure they are meeting today’s functional and security needs.

As a result, we’ve been helping a lot of our customers with the business case for reviewing and improving their collaboration solutions. When it comes to making a business case though, you need more than hard-line figures. How exactly does a collaboration platform reduce operating costs, increase team productivity and ultimately, drive better business results?

Whether you are considering switching to a new platform or deploying one for the first time, this blog takes a closer look at the financial, security, productivity and cultural business case considerations for having the right collaboration solution in place. There’s more to it than hanging a TV on a wall, and providing a connection to a collaboration platform.

Making the FINANCIAL business case

Almost universally, the first thing to consider when investing in new collaboration solutions is cost, and what a return on investment looks like. To ensure you’re making informed decisions, dig deeper into all the costs you are paying right now for your various SaaS platforms, and with the options of alternative solutions.

As an example, if you are currently using Zoom for video conferencing, there are likely a few other collaboration solutions at play. You may also be relying on Discord or Slack for chat, something else for telephony, and another for file storage and sharing. Instead, it may make more sense to use Microsoft Teams (for video conferencing) and Teams Calling (in place of landline and mobile phones), allowing you to entirely replace costly telephony hardware and subscriptions while keeping your collaboration suite unified.

It’s also worth noting here that if you are paying for Microsoft E3 or E5 licenses, you already have a subscription to Microsoft Teams included – so ongoing licenses are not an additional cost.

There’s also the cost of the transition itself to account for. Is it financially advantageous to remain on the existing platform, or would a shift to a new platform offer more benefits to productivity and culture? If you currently use Cisco Webex and are considering moving to Microsoft Teams, you will need to identify any tangible cost benefits. This means being realistic about the savings in hardware and software licenses and any additional customisations that will be required. Then to effectively deploy the new solution, there are the costs that stem from resourcing and change management.

Making the SECURITY business case

The biggest message here aligns with the point raised above; if there are multiple collaboration solutions in play, you’re unlikely to have the right protection for your users and more importantly, your data. IT teams have often overlooked the finer points of security and governance in collaboration solutions, which we explore in detail in this Microsoft Teams-focused blog.

Security in Microsoft Teams
  • enforced two-factor authentication and single sign-on
  • encryption of data in transit and at rest
  • advanced compliance, auditing and reporting functionality

Tackling this aspect of your business case requires an audit of all the tools used across the business – shadow IT will no doubt be in play! Beyond this, it’s about understanding:

  • What security is built-in; what does it cover and where does it start and end?
  • Is there MFA and SSO?
  • Can IT set granular role-based policies and permissions?

IT generally takes a different view of security, so it’s the ongoing battle of managing the user experience versus control. Our blog, how to achieve mobile productivity without sacrificing security, could help you here, we’ve supported businesses in finding this balance leveraging Microsoft 365 for years.

Making the PRODUCTIVITY business case

To facilitate productivity, modern collaboration platforms provide most of your communication and collaboration tools –  apps, video calls, meetings and much more – in one single place, helping drive efficiencies across different business processes.

With a spotlight again on Microsoft Teams, here’s just some of the productivity advantages that can be quantified:

  • There’s no need to constantly switch between multiple apps from different providers. Microsoft Teams gives you the same features in a single place, plus offers a plethora of integration options for third parties to keep everything together.
  • No need to wait for email updates or trawl through different email threads to find information. Real-time group chats support efficient, topic-specific conversations that persist over time.
  • Features like co-authoring and version control, searching documents, conversations, and names available in one place can save information workers 4 hours per week*.
  • Integrated directories help employees quickly find each other and select the most effective way to communicate.
  • Readily available information and resources via the Microsoft Teams shared workspace, and the ability to confer with peers more efficiently, enables executives and key decision-makers to make decisions faster*.
  • Reduce time spent travelling for meetings with clients and colleagues, freeing up more time to be productive.
  • Centralising resources in a cloud-based location reduces user downtime.

Collaboration platforms support all employees to work more efficiently and do more, and as a result, they develop a higher sense of job satisfaction. Which leads us to the last business case…

Making the CULTURE business case

Let’s look at some of the less tangible and extremely timely benefits of rolling out a unified collaboration platform – the impact on culture.

As the new era of hybrid work begins, there’s a lot of pressure on businesses to counteract the dispersed nature of the workforce and keep teams feeling connected. Employees are accustomed to working from home where they can put on a load of washing and duck out to run an errand. An employee who commutes an hour to work only to video conference with remote employees using ageing meeting equipment and lagging Wi-Fi, well, they probably won’t be your employee for long. The key takeaway here is, you need a very good experience in the office to lure your people back and keep them happy.

One way to do this is with a platform that delivers collaboration experiences that put everyone on an equal footing, no matter where they are – in a conference room, home office, or on the go.

To better support these new hybrid meetings, Teams Rooms has released a content layout called ‘front row’ feature, designed to blur the lines between virtual and in-person meeting participants. The new layout moves the video gallery to the bottom of the screen ensuring in-room participants can see remote colleagues face to face across a horizontal plane – more akin to the in-room experience. For participants in a boardroom or meeting space, Teams Rooms has added a feature that identifies each person and makes them individuals in the video conference, ensuring everyone can be seen equally up close.

Hardware and screen integrations for Microsoft Teams can also provide that all-important lure, raising the in-office meeting immersion stakes.

In summary

The dramatic impact that businesses experience when deploying a unified collaboration solution is truly transformative; positively impacting employee satisfaction, improving productivity, bolstering security and – in some cases – returning some serious ROI.

To help your business understand the wider benefits, there’s a number of different ways we can help, ranging from Planning Workshops through to solution demonstrations and Teams Rooms pilot installations and trials.

Want to know how you can embrace the modern workplace?

View Data#3 Collaboration Solutions to help teams work smarter, download this eBook or contact a Data#3 specialist today.

Learn more about how Microsoft is innovating to help organisations make hybrid work work. Read more about The Great Reshuffle: Integrating our professional and personal lives.

* Forrester (2019), The Total Economic Impact™ Of Microsoft Teams [ONLINE]. Available here.

Tags: Cisco, Collaboration, Dell Technologies, Hardware Procurement, HP, HP Presence, Hybrid Work, Lenovo, Logitech, Microsoft, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Teams Rooms, Modern Work, Remote Working

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