Why this is just the beginning: Understanding the opportunity behind a digital-first workplace

Claudia Piscitelli, Change & Adoption Lead

A few short weeks ago, we were humbled to be recognised with an Advanced Specialisation in Adoption and Change Management by Microsoft. We are one of only two partners in Australia who have achieved this specialisation. Receiving that news reminded me of why I love what I do, and it got me thinking about the role of change management and technology as enablers for transformation. Plenty of businesses were already on the path to digital transformation well before the impacts of Covid-19 hit. But what was originally a five-year plan has been accelerated to mere weeks because of the pandemic. As the old saying goes – necessity is the mother of invention.

As conversations around returning to the workplace start to emerge, it’s important for companies to apply a long-term lens to their business strategy. One that carefully considers both the employee and customer experience, and the role technology will play to support those experiences. While the easing of restrictions will mean a return to the office for some, there will be a large cohort of workers and employers who will continue to work remotely for some time.

We are well and truly in the middle of creating a new future for our working lives and the way business is done. Companies like Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook have already begun planning for remote work to become a staple for future and current employees. So, what does this mean in practice? And how can companies gain a competitive edge by looking at the opportunities that come with a digital-first business strategy?

First and foremost, the catalyst for success – whether it be to improve internal functions or better serve customers – is investing in the right technology. Many of us have experienced first-hand how technologies such as Microsoft Teams can enable businesses to ‘keep the lights on’ by helping us communicate and collaborate with each other. Over the past few weeks, I have seen and been part of a lot of discussions around rapid deployment of cloud technology to support remote working. But introducing these technologies is only the very beginning. I have always believed it is not the technology but how we use it that drives value and outcomes.

Before the pandemic, companies like Microsoft were already investing big to help organisations get the most out of their people by empowering them with the right technology – technology that is suited to the modern landscape and the challenges we face today. Our current circumstances have only accelerated the inevitable move towards a more flexible, diverse and digital workplace. There are huge benefits that come with a business model that prioritises digital-first. For example:  

  1. It provides access to new pools of talent and, more importantly, helps retain existing talent, because there is less emphasis on being near the office and more emphasis on skills
  2. It will improve diversity and spread economic opportunity beyond bustling city centers to other regions and communities
  3. Less commute and less travel = better environment and better quality of life… need I say more?

From a change management perspective, now is the perfect time for companies to critically evaluate their long-term business model and start planning for the future. In some ways, this crisis has created the perfect storm for digital transformation in the workplace. Why? Because it has shifted everyone’s priorities. All the right players are paying attention and making changes – from executives, through to IT, HR, communications, and everyone in between.

So now that you have the right environment for change, how are you going to use it to your advantage? What new norms are you going to introduce? How are you going to use the lessons learnt from this time to transform your business? When answering these questions, make sure to consider these two crucial things:

  1. What success measures you are going to put in place to track progress and identify areas for improvement (for example, leveraging SWOOP or Workplace Analytics to capture rich insights)
  2. How your change management strategy is going to support bringing staff ‘on the journey’ to transformation. For example, who else will need to be involved and what communications and training staff may need. Because ultimately, this is about changing behaviour to drive impact.

Want to learn more? Talk to us about technology adoption and change management at info@engagesq.com.

Office Safe – Prepare your employees to safely move back into the workplace

Are you ready to keep your staff safe when they return to the office?

People across Australia are venturing back to the office – but to keep everyone safe, some things will need to be a bit different. The need to respond swiftly and offer effective solutions will be a priority for many businesses.

To reduce the risk of potential infection and disruption in the workplace, businesses will need to implement new safety plans to comply with government regulations and social distancing practices.

Managing staff locations and office attendance on a rotating basis will be a new challenge for managers and HR teams, as well as ensuring all employees are clear on the right practices and understand the options, locations and spaces available to them.

Teams Shifts Activation

Employers will need to be ready to answer the following critical questions when staff begin to return to the office:

  1. Do you know where your employees are – and are they following new OHS requirements?
  2. Do your staff know where their colleagues are so that they can best plan their workday?
  3. Do your staff know when they can be in the office (or will they be the person who pushes the company over the office limit)?
  4. Will there be meeting rooms available for them to work effectively with a mix of colleagues who are in the office and working remotely?

Our team has been trialling a range of effective measures, both internally and with our clients.

Luckily, Microsoft have some great tools available to help you respond to these challenges quickly and easily by leveraging “Shifts in Microsoft Teams”.

These features are not just for organisations with a front-line workforce, “Shifts” can also be deployed for office-based teams.

Activating the following Teams capabilities can help all organisations to overcome these challenges, by:

  1. Helping employees plan where they will be – without exceeding the number of staff in the office at any one time. Managers and team leaders can create schedules to comply with HR rules, allowing employees to opt-in (or be rostered on) to work in the office.
  2. Giving teams visibility of their team’s whereabouts, and meeting room availability through calendar integration – not just in Teams but also in their Outlook calendar.
  3. Empowering collaboration – enabling employees to collaborate through document sharing, news bulletins and videos.
  4. Implementing an efficient process for scheduling changes that are tailored to how managers and employees work.

We will deliver

We’re ready to help you setup “Shifts” (and other tools) to ensure the safety of your staff.

  1. Discovery sessions – work with your HR and OHS teams to review existing workforce management systems and collateral, as well as office logistics considerations.
  2. Application configuration – configure Shifts to provide employees with a customised experience whilst considering business priorities. Optionally, we can also implement one or more automated flows to prompt staff to provide more detail of their plans.
  3. Change management – physical and virtual change management recommendations to help employers get back to work safely and securely.
  4. Training sessions – tailored sessions for managers and end users to empower them to use the application efficiently.

Work completion time frame: 5 – 10 working days

To find out more information, contact us at info@engagesq.com

Meet Rabia – Our very own Microsoft MVP

The Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) is not awarded to just anyone in the tech industry. It’s a highly acclaimed and sought-after achievement that recognises outstanding contributions to the Microsoft community – and can only be received following peer recognition and nominations from existing MVPs.

The most recent intake saw one of our own, Rabia Williams, recognised as an MVP for Office Development. She’s been working at Engage Squared for the past 15 months, leading our development efforts on a range of major projects for our large financial services and banking clients.

Rabia is a true tech enthusiast who excels at solving problems with creatively coded solutions. Her tag line, now famous within Engage Squared, is “I will code for pizza” – and she really does, we tried! It’s easy to see why she was nominated as her passion for Office 365 development shines through everything she does!

After having interviewed Rabia about her thoughts about becoming an MVP, she commented that being a woman in tech, she feels that she can finally contribute to discussions on stereotypes about women or any other minority groups in technology (who are equally as hard-working as she is). Her message is simply inspiring those groups to rise up and claim what they deserve.

To her, being awarded MVP is a constant reminder to be a better version of herself, refining her work to its utmost quality, the credibility of the replies she provides to others, her social responsibilities, and being a visible point of contact within the Microsoft community.

Rabia’s notable achievements at Engage Squared

Rabia has been a star performer at Engage Squared, leading our delivery of major projects for several key clients in the last year.

This includes ANZ Bank, where she led the upgrade of their legacy Intranet from 2010 to 2016, upgrading and refreshing .Net code – some of which was more than 7 years old. She has also been at the forefront of our SharePoint Online work at ANZ, leading our local and remote development teams to create their new intranet portal on SharePoint Online.

At Suncorp, Rabia has been leading our technical activities to implement a new Intranet based on our modern Office 365 Intranet Accelerator. She wears multiple hats, across DevOps, development, and architecture.

And recently, at V/Line, Rabia took on responsibilities as technical lead to deliver a new Intranet based on our accelerator.

Community contribution

Her dedication to both the Microsoft and wider developer communities has seen Rabia recognised for contributing to the office365-cli open source project amongst a number of others.

This is what really sets Rabia apart from the rest of the population: her willingness to help others and how she is constantly striving to leave footprints of knowledge and expertise wherever she goes.

Her most recent activities within the Microsoft community as an MVP include presenting at M365 May, where she conducted two sessions:

And if that wasn’t enough for you, she featured in a Microsoft 365 & SharePoint PnP Weekly Episode, talking about the ease of working with SPFx, to challenges of cloud-based authentication, and to being involved with the tremendous growth of Microsoft Teams apps/extensions.

“Rabia’s professionalism, enthusiasm for the product and the ease with which she was able to guide the client staff through the new functionality was exactly what was needed. She made an extremely positive impression with the client and us”
Some standout feedback from a partner last year

You can catch Rabia on LinkedIn here, otherwise reach out to us if you’re interested in her consulting services for your next project!

Microsoft Teams vs Zoom

How Microsoft Teams will never have an incident like ‘Zoombombing’

Lauren Simonson, Mark Woodrow

Microsoft Teams vs Zoom

With the majority of the population being forced to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, many have turned to videoconferencing platforms to undertake work meetings and also virtual social gatherings.

Educational institutions, government agencies, places of worship and a whole array of other companies have shut their doors, leading them to look to platforms that make remote work accessible. But, it’s imperative to do your homework to make the right technology choices before jumping in.

Many organisations have made the switch to online platforms, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, to be able to host videoconferencing meetings, but what distinctly separates these two is the transparency of information on your privacy, data and security.

Zoom have indicated that their easy-to-use interface ticks the box for a simple solution for online meetings, video conferencing and group messaging. However, with their skyrocketing user numbers, this has placed a magnifying glass over the company’s policies, specifically around their data security and encryption.

Zoom users have raised their concerns about the software with a new buzz word: Zoombombing – this is where uninvited guests attend meetings and chats. Reports have come back from consumers deeply upset from the Zoombombing incidents they’ve experienced, their apprehension on Zoom data being shared with Facebook and the company’s misleading claims on the end-to-end encryption of the meeting software.

Why you should review your Zoom settings

Security experts, lawmakers, and government agencies (including the FBI) have warned that Zoom’s default settings don’t have the state-of-the-art security and compliance requirements needed in this day and age for virtual meetings.

Each Zoom call has a randomly generated ID number used by participants to gain access to a meeting. These are public and if shared around, can result in surprise visitors joining. Researchers have found the IDs can be easy to guess, share and hack.

The risk for a public meeting is an uninvited guest joins and uses Zoom’s screen-sharing feature to broadcast unsavoury content in your meetings, with consumer reports that these types of incidents aren’t unique to just them. To prevent this, you need to check your Zoom settings.

To see your current settings, go to Settings on the left-hand side and against Who can share / Who can start sharing when someone else is sharing, ensure to select Host Only can share. Once you save your settings, future meetings that you start will have sharing disabled by default.

You can change settings for screen sharing on mobile devices and during a meeting but be careful you know all the participants before opening up the screen share capability to all participants.

The advantage of Teams is that many security features are already built in

Teams has powerful privacy and security controls where you can manage meeting participants and who can access that meeting information.

With Teams, you can control who from outside your organization can join meetings directly, and who waits in the online lobby. Conveniently, you act as the moderator, designating presenters and who can screen share.

For additional control, remember to use Attendee and Presenter roles. This gives the Presenter full control but stops Attendees from muting other people, removing people from the meeting, or sharing their screens without the Presenter’s permission. Also, make sure you ask your Teams (O365) admin to block anonymous users from joining Teams meetings.

You’re able to give people guest access from outside your organisation securely while still retaining control over all your data. Recordings are only made available to those on a call or meeting invitees, where these recordings are securely stored and protected by permissions and end-to-end encryption.

Questions raised about how secure data is on Zoom

In recent weeks, there have been a number of data privacy concerns around Zoom.

There are reports that the Apple iOS version of the Zoom app sends some analytics data to Facebook; even for Zoom users who don’t actually have a Facebook account (according to a Motherboard analysis of the app). This data could include a device’s model, network provider, time zone, city, and unique device identifier advertisers can use to send targeted ads. Zoom is currently being sued in California for allegedly giving personal data to outside companies, including Facebook, without fully informing customers.

Questions have also been raised over whether Zoom is right to claim its data is end-to-end encrypted– which implies that no one, even Zoom itself, can read chats. Online news site The Intercept calls their definition ‘misleading’, as Zoom can itself access unencrypted video and audio from meetings. Under certain circumstances, it turns out, multiple people in a meeting might be able to read private messages. Depending on where these are downloaded, private messages could also be revealed in Zoom meeting minutes.

Zoom appears to be taking these issues seriously, with their CEO Eric S. Yuan having announced a 90-day feature freeze, shifting all their engineering resources to focus on Zoom’s trust, safety, and privacy issues. Zoom’s waiting room feature, and meeting room passwords, are being introduced as default.

Microsoft Teams has far superior built-in security capability that’s ‘out of the box’

“When you use Microsoft Teams, you are entrusting us with one of your most valuable assets—your data and personal information. Our approach to privacy is grounded in our commitment to giving you transparency over the collection, use, and distribution of your data.”

Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365.

Microsoft Teams advanced security and compliance capabilities for customers, includes:

  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Single sign on through Azure Active Directory for the Office 365 suite
  • Encryption of data in transit and at rest
  • Advanced Threat Protection
  • Communication compliance
  • Data retention policies
  • Data loss prevention

To summarise, Microsoft Teams has the capability and sophisticated architecture to ensure your security, data and privacy are the highest priority. Not only this, but as a collaborative tool and part of Office 365, it integrates with the Microsoft stack of products making it a natural part of your workday, whether in the office or working remotely.

Microsoft Teams, the chat-based workspace in Office 365

To read more on Teams and to test this for free yourself, go to:

About the authors:

Lauren Simonson manages sales and partnerships at Engage Squared.

Mark Woodrow is the O365 Evangelist at Engage Squared.