Technology to overcome challenges

Can technology be your saviour while negotiating the added obstacles brought about by the recent coronavirus pandemic. Matt Rhodes from Quiss Technology explores the options.

The social distancing measures that have been implemented to slow the spread of coronavirus have forced businesses to send workers home, as employees are urged to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

Although it isn’t a new practice, widespread remote working across all industries is unprecedented, and some businesses may not have the technology needed to facilitate collaboration and communication between colleagues in different locations.

If businesses are to overcome the challenges that lie ahead, then they must implement technology that allows operations to continue, giving employees the tools needed to communicate and collaborate effectively.

Cloud-based platforms like Microsoft Teams have been designed as a virtual workspace, with built-in features like video conferencing allowing face to face meetings, without the personal contact.

As a Microsoft product, Teams automatically integrates with your existing Office 365 programmes, like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint and Outlook, giving you immediate access to the services you rely on most.

Featuring built-in conversation channels, Teams makes it easy for colleagues to contact one another and receive quick responses, acting as a temporary replacement for the office ‘hallway chat’.

These channels can be separated by topic to keep conversations organised, allowing employees to find information efficiently, which will help them maintain their productivity during a period of uncertainty.

Within these conversation channels, users can share files and documents with other participants, allowing them to receive feedback quickly and deliver work to the standards expected.

Using Teams as a hub for communication and collaboration will enhance the productivity of your employees even though their opportunities to meet face to face have been temporarily reduced.

While emails can also be used for communication and file-sharing, often the immediacy is lost in the inbox, as responses are delayed or emails end up being filtered into the junk folder.

Microsoft Teams has been designed to feel more like an engine room rather than a tool, offering businesses a streamlined way for their employees to share work and report back to the management team.

Remote working comes in different forms, with some employees choosing to set up a home office space with a desktop computer, while others will be using laptops and tablets to carry out their daily tasks.

Fortunately, Teams can be accessed across all devices, allowing employees to work using the comprehensive web interface or collaborate on the go using the customisable mobile app.

One of the most significant challenges businesses must overcome is the removal of face-to-face meetings, conferences and daily interactions.

Although phone calls and emails offer an alternative, neither of these have the same impact or allow for the same level of collaboration, especially if participants need to work through a document or presentation together.

Recognising the importance of these meetings in keeping track of staff progress or maintaining client relationships, Microsoft Teams has sophisticated video calls and meetings features that allow multiple participants to communicate in one call.

Once the meeting has begun and users have joined the video call, the ‘screen share’ feature can be used to display a file to all participants.

Another significant benefit of Teams meetings and conferences is the ability to record entire sessions, giving businesses a permanent record of the issues discussed.

With businesses researching and implementing technology to accommodate remote working, there will naturally be some apprehension with regards to cyber security.

In most cases, employees will be using personal devices like mobile phones and tablets to access sensitive information and these won’t necessarily have the same security measures as the office desktop computers.

However, Microsoft Teams is built with the best cyber security standards possible, including the ISO 27001 and SSAE16 SOC one and two.

With integrated mobile device management, businesses can ensure their data and fleet is kept safe, and while no software can prevent all phishing attempts or malware attacks, Teams is constantly updating its security capabilities.

Many businesses are facing an uncertain future, with no clear indication as to when social distancing measures will be relaxed.

Therefore, employers must do everything in their power to keep the wheels turning, giving their business the best chance of coming through the crisis unscathed.

With workers currently urged to stay home, technology like Microsoft Teams will ensure that operations continue running smoothly and colleagues can keep delivering the work needed to retain clients and customers.