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The challenges of integration in an app-driven modern workplace

It’s safe to say that our expectations around work/life balance, flexibility and remote working have been steadily changing. With new generations coming into the workforce – colloquially known as the “digital natives” – the original remote working trend has developed into a complete cultural shift in how and where we work that we refer to as the “modern workplace”.

The underlying vision of the modern workplace isn’t new, but 5+ years ago when we first started hearing the term, the technology couldn’t fully deliver on the promise and potential.

With the rapid shift to cloud and mobile, supported by the promise of ever-powerful 5G networks, multiple solutions to support the modern workplace have sprung up, like…. well you know what I mean. This proliferation of easy to deploy apps has really driven the modern workplace revolution, but the revolution has come at a cost. It has become harder and harder to ensure all these solutions actually talk to each other and work together.

In this blog, I take a look at this integration challenge and explore the three areas we believe are central to any decision making in this space – Security, compliance and governance; user adoption and fitting it all together.

 

Security, compliance and governance

  • How do you enforce corporate security policy across your tools/apps?
  • Do these applications integrate with your existing security environment, or do they come with their own security measures?
  • What do you need to do to ensure your organisation is secure?
  • How can you avoid information sprawl while managing the lifecycle?

Security is arguably the most important aspect of any tech stack. Essentially, if an application is not secured, it should not be given access to the company network. This is important because in our increasingly interconnected business landscape, the technologies we’re using are designed to support information sharing, and less about protecting it.

These are some of the specific vulnerabilities that external hackers hunt down in order to breach systems. Then there’s malicious insiders to contend with – disgruntled ex-employees are responsible for approximately 14% of data breaches; a growing problem in the enterprise1.

As a result, organisations must think beyond in-built security features and plan to ensure that the company data and network is safe and impenetrable, no matter what technologies are connected.

If we look at the Microsoft ecosystem, it’s interesting to see the scale of development Microsoft has made in extending their security capabilities beyond the core elements of Exchange and Office 365 to also integrate with the hundreds of apps that are now a part of that ecosystem. So much so that Microsoft is now considered a leader in endpoint protection according to Gartner!2

A lot of this development has been driven by the incredibly rapid adoption of Microsoft Teams, which has some extensive integration capabilities that are driving its uptake as the central hub in a modern workplace deployment. While it may not be discussed nearly as much as it should, when it comes to integrating multiple apps across an environment such as Microsoft Teams, organisations must be sufficiently prepared with a comprehensive governance and compliance policy.

Not only does this cover security and data privacy, but extends to discuss why installing a platform without sufficient planning has the potential to make information unmanageable and difficult to find.

 

User adoption

  • How will users be trained – initially and ongoing – and will it include governance?
  • How diverse are user requirements when looking at roles, departments and project teams?
  • How will user adoption be measured and monitored?
  • Can you identify power users, or teams, in your company who can become solution ambassadors?

If we use Microsoft Teams again as an example, it’s fundamentally built for people and collaboration, so ensuring people actually make use of Microsoft Teams will help complete the puzzle. If adoption is low, so too will be the productivity gains of the solution. As an end user, the amount of integrated applications in Microsoft Teams can quickly get overwhelming.

Rather than taking a more-the-merrier approach to integrations, involving users early in the process will help create a fit-for-purpose solution. Ongoing engagement is critical too – if users’ needs are not being fulfilled, the productivity stack will need to be tweaked to ensure the solution continues to support users in their roles.

Business case

One way to achieve the strong ongoing user engagement businesses desire is through the inclusion of specific measures of user engagement within the development of the business case. This can include expected savings, productivity gains and methods of measurement pre and post deployment – think time and motion studies, feedback and observations, and user engagement initiatives.

Progressive deployment

Another option is progressive deployment – whether via in-house teams, departments or use cases. For example, the procurement team may be the least influenced by the introduction of an integration solution, so they can be pushed into a later phase of the rollout. In this case, it’s important to understand the needs of each department then drive training and adoption within that department. Again, over time, adoption should be continually monitored to ensure the solution achieves maximum uptake as it evolves.

Proof of Concept

Proof of Concepts or pilots are another option. Here, IT will be well-positioned to demonstrate the benefits of a specific integration solution prior to deployment, while allowing a deeper understanding of the functionalities most beneficial to the users. Alternatively, taking an agile approach to project delivery can ensure timely deployments, while protecting the roll-out from negative outcomes such as user frustration, confusion or overload.

 

Fitting it all together

It’s widely known that Microsoft is in pursuit – and delivering – on a comprehensive communications and collaboration strategy. Like a dark star absorbing all the light around it, their platform is constantly absorbing new products and solutions, and evolving at breakneck speed as it does so.

Then there’s the growing suite of apps that target different markets and needs, plus 270 connectors (at last count) to other software platforms and SaaS services. With all these options, there is the potential to create more confusion, not less.

This is where shifting to a central platform, or hub, that shares a common identity model is beneficial. Continuing with the Microsoft example, Office 365 when combined with MS Graph, allows you to integrate and gain insights from a number of different solutions – even those outside the immediate Microsoft ecosystem. Ultimately, such an approach is more malleable and more secure than trying to manually integrate solutions from different vendors that don’t natively talk.

Outside of Microsoft there are other vendors who are also becoming increasingly integration agnostic such as Palo Alto with their PAN-OS®8.0 capabilities.

 

Data#3 solutions across the Microsoft ecosystem

Data#3 is the safe pair of hands when looking to deploy Microsoft across your organisation. We provide comprehensive strategies for Office 365, Teams and the broader Microsoft cloud ecosystem.

  1. Learn more about the ways our governance strategies will ensure a seamless deployment of Microsoft Teams and O365 across your organisation.
  2. Our security strategy workshops are a 3-day engagement, led by Data#3 in partnership with Microsoft. This includes a comprehensive analysis of cloud security against known and suspected security threats – including Shadow IT. The result is a thorough evaluation of how effectively security is being governed, monitored and managed in your environment.
  3. Drive market-leading productivity with a time and motion study conducted by our experienced consultants. Our unique business efficiency tracking techniques result in rigorous business cases, that tie productivity platforms to real business ROI.

Please contact our team for more information or to discuss any of the offers above.

1. Barney, Doug (2015). How responsible are employees for data breaches and how do you stop them? [Online] Available at: https://www.cso.com.au/article/573537/how-responsible-employees-data-breaches-how-do-stop-them/

2. Lefferts, Rob (2019). Gartner names Microsoft a Leader in 2019 Endpoint Protection Platforms Magic Quadrant. [Online] Available at: https://www.microsoft.com/security/blog/2019/08/23/gartner-names-microsoft-a-leader-in-2019-endpoint-protection-platforms-magic-quadrant/

Tags: Collaboration, Data Security, Microsoft, Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Teams, Security, The Anywhere Workplace

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