November 12, 2021

Article
3 min

3 Ways Microsoft 365 Empowers the Modern Workplace

Microsoft’s application suite delivers far more than just its apps.

Michael Catena

Often, when I assist in a Microsoft 365 discussion with IT leaders and business decision-makers, the conversation focuses on empowering employees with productivity tools such as Microsoft 365 apps or deploying Teams for chat and meetings. Of course, these are the solutions an organization gets when it deploys Microsoft 365, but there are other solutions Microsoft includes that should be taken into consideration as well.

I like to take these initial discussions as an opportunity to really understand what my customer is trying to solve for and make sure that we highlight the entire end-to-end Microsoft 365 solution stack. It’s not uncommon for my customers to leave these discussions with a much better understanding of all the solutions that make up Microsoft 365. They are typically in a better position to make an informed decision about how we can improve their security and compliance strategies, streamline collaboration across the organization and enhance user productivity.

Security and Compliance

One of the first things I ask business and IT leaders when discussing Microsoft 365 is what tools they use for identity and access management. Typically, organizations looking to roll out new cloud solutions focus on the core of the solution itself and don’t take into consideration the importance of IAM, which can set them up for problems down the road. Also, I find that many people aren’t aware of Microsoft’s built-in security tools. 

This is typically when I take the time to educate my customers on the built-in tools provided as part of the Microsoft 365 E3 suite. For example, there is Azure Active Directory, Intune/Endpoint Manager and Azure Information Protection. The suite also includes Defender for Endpoint Plan 1, which provides attack surface reduction, next-generation protection, and centralized configuration and administration across client platforms such as Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. 

Microsoft also offers a full security suite, including solutions such as Defender for Identity and Azure Activity Directory Plan 2, providing even more identity protection and identity monitoring tools; Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps (previously branded as Microsoft Cloud App Security); Defender for Endpoint Plan 2; and Defender for Office 365 Plan 2, which provides protection against advanced threats not only in Exchange Online but also across SharePoint Online, OneDrive and Teams. 

Microsoft has also focused on providing organizations with the tools needed to meet their compliance requirements with a dedicated compliance center for setting data classifications and managing information governance, data loss prevention policies, data retention policies and labels for identifying and protecting sensitive data types.  

One of the most powerful tools is Microsoft Defender, which comes standard with the suite’s E5 enterprise license. Defender not only protects email but also provides real-time safety assessments for attachments and links. It is an advanced threat protection solution that safeguards the content employees share with one another via apps such as Teams.

Collaboration

Microsoft 365 provides users with standardized storage and workspaces, and the features they need to securely connect with their colleagues and clients. Microsoft Teams is the collaboration hub of the suite, giving users access to rich features such as chat and videoconferencing, file storage and application integration. The persistent chat feature on Teams is far more streamlined than the email workflows employees have historically used to communicate with one another. And video meetings can either be initiated on an ad hoc basis or scheduled in advance and recorded for team members to view later. 

By keeping communication centralized for a given team or project, managers and employees can avoid scenarios in which they spend valuable time tracking down mission-critical documents and information. While it can be a bit of a challenge for organizations to establish processes for creating and maintaining effective teams, the intuitive interface of the platform flattens the learning curve for most users, while the administration centers provide the necessary tools to keep things aligned to the business. 

It’s generally recommended as a best practice that organizations start with a small number of Teams and team members, and then add new users as they go. Microsoft makes it easy to add or remove Team members as needed, and any new members will have access to Team conversations and files regardless of when they join. Another best practice: Instead of creating multiple Teams with the same set of members, create channels within a single Team.

Productivity

Microsoft has made it simpler than ever to manage the day-to-day workload by providing the tools and centralized storage areas needed for users to stay productive. Today, users can install Microsoft Apps on all types of authorized devices, whether they are working from a Windows or Mac machine, tablet or smartphone. With Microsoft 365, Office apps are available from an installed client or via the web. Users can work on the same file using multiple devices, saving time and improving productivity in the process. With OneDrive, users can share folders or documents with groups or individuals, collaborate on documents with simultaneous editing capabilities, and revoke access if necessary.

During a given workday, I use up to five devices and don’t have to worry about staying connected and productive in a device-rich environment. I have access to my work no matter where my office is or which device I’m connecting with. Microsoft 365 provides organizations the confidence to deploy productive solutions to users, knowing they are in control of identity and access management.

Story by Mike Catena, a senior Microsoft 365 Solution Architect with more than 14 years of experience at CDW. He has supported Microsoft Cloud solutions since 2009 to meet customer needs for communication, collaboration, security and compliance.

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