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How to get the most out of your modern workplace technology, and why we played the guinea pig to find out

Voco uses the latest modern technology and devices, but after conducting a business-wide review of our workspace we made some significant changes to our setup.

Voco has been cloud-native for over ten years. All of our user devices connect to the internet. Our consultants use Office 365 productivity tools and SaaS applications. These are the hallmarks of a ‘modern workspace environment’, which are a given for any specialist consulting organisation with technology-led business solutions such as Voco. Nevertheless, we initiated a business-wide review of our workspace. There were a number of reasons behind the decision:

  •      First, we believe that knowledge alone isn’t enough to adequately address our clients’ needs. First-hand, practical experience gives us insight that’ll help us to drive our clients towards their business goals.
  •     Second, we take client data security and our confidentiality obligations very seriously. Our goal was to reduce the potential for a security breach, and ensure that our security controls were suitable to mitigate the risk of operating in a cloud environment.
  •     Third, we wanted to see an increase in our overall efficiency and productivity for the benefit of our clients and ourselves.

By completing the review we learned that, despite operating in a modern workspace environment, we had only been utilising a small portion of the tools and features available to us. Instead, we were operating in a legacy manner which was capping our potential to achieve maximum productivity, efficiency and security for our business.

To qualify as a ‘modern workplace’ in today’s business world, you need more than just the latest technology on the market; you need to operate your systems and utilise your tools in a way that will get the most out of your modern workplace environment; and you need the backing of your people to do it.

These changes will help you get the most out of your technology

We’ve implemented a number of changes to get the most out of our systems and our people. More importantly, we can now serve our clients knowing that we are leading with knowledge and experience.

Enterprise mobility and BYOD devices

As a mobile workplace, we wanted to achieve consistency in build across all of our company and BYOD devices. We used Microsoft Intune to automate the provisioning of our corporate and BYOD devices and to ensure consistency across all of our applications, settings and support services from day one. Greater consistency in user experience generates greater consistency in client deliverables.

We’ve also adopted a conditional-access model for our BYOD and company-provided devices. Conditional access lets us control the devices that connect to company resources. We control access to functions according to the level of compliance of a device, rather than allowing or disallowing access using a binary decision-making model.

Strong security posture

Users of BYOD and company-provided devices can inadvertently put the organisation’s data at risk. Our new conditional-access model restricts access to company systems based on user information – for example, users may have restricted access based on geographical location. This has reduced our threat vector (i.e. reducing the various avenues through which the bad guys can attack us) without stifling our employees’ ability to make use of the tools and services available to them in the cloud.

According to the Microsoft Security and Compliance Centre, Voco now has a secure score close to 300 (we look at ways to increase our score every week). The average score is around 30.

Collaboration, productivity and efficiency

One of Voco’s differentiators as a business is that we operate as a team rather than as siloed consultants. Collaboration is an important aspect of our approach to work, so the ability of our consultants to operate effectively as a team is a big priority for us.

Prior to the project, we didn’t have a system in place that gave our consultants easy access to company IP, such as documents and templates. Consultants would collaborate in different ways, meaning it was difficult to stay in touch and easy to miss important communications.

Now we have better collaboration and fewer communication channels. Client and internal communications are delineated and housed separately on our systems, so everyone knows where to store and find them. Communications are kept in context using Teams, and we link to files (instead of sending them) so that version control and document security are always maintained.

Five key learnings to help you successfully upgrade your workplace

Start with simple

There are many high-value features that can be implemented very quickly. We took an agile and iterative approach to upgrade our workspace environment with multiple deployment phases and lots of dynamic testing. Technology and systems features are always updating. For complex or customised solutions, it is sometimes worthwhile waiting for these features to mature over time for easier and more effective deployment.

Consider the unknown

The Microsoft secure score analyses your organisation’s activities, applications and settings, and compares them to a baseline established by Microsoft. This gave us a real drive to look at the features we hadn’t thought of that would help our security posture. These unknown features were relatively simple to deploy and have helped our security posture significantly. It pays to find out what you don’t know.

It’s a people change project

Updating your systems and processes forces your people to adopt new ways of working and break some work habits. Communication is a must when implementing a project such as this. Try bringing people into the trial (we had employees and contractors as separate trial groups), and always be prepared to make some compromises for the benefit of your staff.  

Prepare to compromise

There isn’t a perfect solution to upgrading your workplace and practically you can’t have it all, so it’s important to make compromises along the way. In some cases, we conceded change where the impact on our people was too high. In other cases, the changes we made outweighed their impact, and we worked to mitigate that impact as much as possible.

Keep moving

We are in a good place, but we aren’t sitting still. Having a modern workplace means staying up to date with the latest technology, be it new releases, developments or changes. We check in on these developments on a weekly basis. New requirements and problem areas are submitted to our newly implemented continuous improvement plan to be worked through on an iterative basis.

It’s not every day that businesses onboard themselves as a client and it was certainly a new experience for Voco. Implementing a review and upgrade project was beneficial for both ourselves and our clients. By working to get the most out of our modern workplace environment, we’ve got the confidence and the know-how to help our customers get the most out of theirs.

To discuss the topic further, please get in touch with the author, Dudley Harris, on +64 21 585 515.

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