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7 IT changes progressive organisations (like yours) make to boost productivity

 

Have you ever strategised with your leadership team and come up with an idea that could deliver outstanding results for your organisation, only to realise you don’t have the IT setup to make it happen?

If that’s happened to you, then it might be time to take action. There’s a world of opportunities for progressive companies that make the right changes to their IT environment. Some require significant planning and execution, but once completed, give you the foundations to build upon in the future.

In this article, we’ll share seven changes organisations like yours are making right now to make the best use of technology and empower their people to do more. What would be the first change you’d make in your organisation? Let’s get started.

1 – Go cloud-first

If you’re still using legacy, on-premise systems to store your business applications and data rather than migrating to the cloud, you’re missing out on most of the productivity benefits available.

Getting your data into the cloud is essential to get the best results from any of the changes we’ll mention in this article. Once you’re up and running in the cloud (and your data is correctly organised and easily accessible), you can make use of productivity game-changers like Copilot for M365 (Microsoft’s AI assistant).

Going cloud-first also enables closer collaboration between team members than ever before. For example, cloud-based document sharing removes the need to email attachments asking for reviews and edits (and all the version control headaches that it brings), replacing it with co-authored documents or @mentions that alert your team members when they need to provide input. The cloud also removes the need for a VPN, as your cloud platform handles authentication via methods including multi-factor authentication (MFA).

Migrating to the cloud also makes financial sense. Organisations running on-premise infrastructures typically find that refreshing their hardware on a 3-4 year cycle is the single largest cost. Moving to the cloud means you don’t have to refresh servers and hardware in this way, so you avoid that CapEx expenditure. In addition, with the cloud, you only pay for the infrastructure you use and nothing you don’t. There’s no power consumption, cooling, maintenance or physical storage to pay for as there is with on-premise infrastructure. Finally, the cloud is flexible and scalable, with the ability to add or reduce capacity to cope with demand changes. It’s no wonder Microsoft estimates you can save 54% on infrastructure costs by migrating to Azure (their cloud service) compared to on-premise (1).

2 – Enhance security

We live in a world where cyber-attackers use increasingly sophisticated methods to try to infiltrate essential networks, steal business-sensitive data, and even steal money from accounts. At Doherty Associates, we work with many financial services organisations that hold a wealth of sensitive client and market information, making them a tempting target for cybercriminals. It’s paramount that they take appropriate cyber security precautions – and it’s something we help them achieve.

A good way to start beefing up your approach to security is to comply with relevant industry standards, such as Cyber Essentials or ISO270001. Cyber Essentials is an industry-standard from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, which demonstrates that you have the fundamental processes and controls in place to prevent the most common cyber-attacks in your organisation, while ISO270001 is an international standard for information security management. 

However, it’s also essential that you get your cyber security in order from a productivity perspective. Your prospects and clients are likely to be just as knowledgeable about the many cyber threats out there. They won’t trust you with their business if you can’t demonstrate strong security credentials. If they send you a third-party risk questionnaire and they’re not satisfied with the answers, they’ll take their business to a competitor who can.

3 – Leverage business intelligence

Gut instinct can only take you so far. Making use of data from inside and outside your organisation to make faster, better-informed decisions is essential in today’s business environment.

For example, you could leverage your data for predictive analysis to better anticipate changes in demand, meaning you can run human and capital resources more efficiently. Other organisations set up business intelligence to gain real-time insights into operational efficiency, customer behaviour (on and offline) and security.

Of course, you can’t manage what you can’t measure, so you need to set up methods to collect business data in your organisation, extract the right insights and analyse them effectively. This can be a challenging task depending on how you previously organised data in your organisation. However, it can pay big dividends. When your data is correctly classified and easily accessible, you immediately become more agile and productive.

It’s likely that your organisation has large amounts of data that you could use to improve efficiency. Putting in the effort now to get your data organised correctly can pay off significantly in the future.

4 – Go mobile

Since the end of the pandemic, many companies have operated a hybrid working model where employees spend some days on the business premises and others working remotely. This brings several significant benefits, not least the ability to access a wider talent pool of employees who enjoy the freedom of hybrid work.

Whether you operate a hybrid or fully remote model, IT is the enabler that makes it all happen. The key is using IT to ensure that your entire workforce has the same experience working in your building as they would anywhere else, including access to the same systems 24/7. People working remotely shouldn’t be disadvantaged.

To start operating a hybrid model in your organisation (and start gaining the benefits), think about the tech tools you can use to streamline communication and collaboration. Microsoft Teams is a great example, as it allows you to control your entire Microsoft 365 suite. You also need to look at cloud-based tools that facilitate easy access to your systems, such as Azure Virtual Desktop.

Finally, security is paramount in hybrid work models, as cyber-attackers know the cloud-based solutions you’re using and will try to exploit vulnerabilities to infiltrate your network. Invest in security solutions such as endpoint security, cloud platform monitoring, and managed detection response to safeguard your system.

5 – Eliminate Shadow IT

Is the IT you provide for your people up to scratch? Do you give them tools that allow them to perform their roles to the best of their ability, or is the tech you provide sometimes a hindrance rather than a help?

A sign that you may be on the wrong track is if people in your organisation prefer to use their own tools, which they’ve bought themselves, rather than the ones you give them. For example, instead of using the instant messaging tool you bought to communicate between themselves, your people just use WhatsApp. This is known as ‘Shadow IT’.

As well as being massively inefficient, as you’re paying for tools people don’t use, it’s also a significant security and compliance risk. So, if you discover Shadow IT being used in your organisation, follow these steps:

  • Tighten up security policies in your organisation, outlawing people using their own devices and software
  • Ensure you have cyber security tools in place to protect your organisation from Shadow IT, so only authorised endpoints can access your networks, data and solutions
  • Give your employees the tools they need to do their jobs properly, so there is no need for them to substitute with Shadow IT
  • Educate your employees on the risks of Shadow IT and share best practices for using devices on your organisation’s network

6 – Leverage automation

When progressive companies spot situations where people are performing repetitive, manual tasks which require minimal creativity, they investigate whether these tasks can be automated. When you get the computer to do the work, you gain several productivity benefits, including:

  • Less risk – Automation minimises instances of human error
  • Speed – Computers can generally perform these tasks faster (and can work around the clock)
  • Better allocation of resources – Your people now have more time to devote to tasks only humans can tackle, such as those that require creativity, strategy and empathy

Microsoft Power Automate is a powerful platform to automate workflows and processes in your organisation. It’s designed to be simple to use without much technical knowledge, resulting in cohorts of ‘citizen developers’ emerging in many organisations. Power Automate empowers non-technical people to create automations themselves, taking care of repetitive tasks in their specific roles. In addition to boosting their own productivity, citizen developers don’t burden your specialist developers, who can now focus on more high-level tasks that match their skills.

To get started, audit your business processes and look for tasks that could reasonably be automated. Then, investigate what solutions are out there. At this time, it’s highly likely that generative AI will be part of the solution – which leads us to point 7.

7 – Harness the power of AI

AI is a key enabler for business right now, helping progressive companies everywhere get more from their IT. It’s not about replacing people as the scare stories might have you believe. Instead, it’s about using AI as a tool to get more productivity by allowing people to streamline the more mundane and repetitive tasks and spend more time adding value.

The AI tool we’re seeing organisations getting the most value from currently is Copilot for Microsoft 365. This is your AI-powered, always-available workplace assistant, embedded in the Microsoft 365 apps you use every day, like Word, Excel and Outlook. What separates it from other AI assistants is that it can access data from your organisation’s Microsoft applications and use it to generate new content.

You can instruct Copilot for M365 to complete repetitive or time-consuming tasks, freeing up your time to focus on more creative activities. Examples of the functions Copilot for M365 can take off your hands include:

  • Document creation – Ask Copilot for M365 to summarise action points from a Teams meeting and email it to the other attendees
  • Data analysis – Ask it to collate data from reports (e.g. sales figures) to generate a visualisation
  • Catch up – Missed a Teams meeting? Ask Copilot for M365 to pick out the parts of the discussion most relevant to you and deliver a summary

Of course, there’s risk involved with AI. For example, you need to ensure your organisation’s data is set up correctly to prevent it from being accessed by people who shouldn’t be able to access it (either on purpose or accidentally). However, this is certainly possible when you have someone with the right expertise on your side.

One of the great things about Copilot for M365 is that it is designed with security in mind. Because Copilot for M365 is embedded in your Microsoft 365 environment, it can also access your organisation’s internal data, including files, emails and chats. However, Microsoft guarantees the protection of your data and will not use it to train their large language models. Therefore, if you use Copilot for M365, you can be sure your sensitive data will not leave the safe confines of your organisation. It’s valuable peace of mind.

Next steps to upgrade your IT setup

Those are our seven IT changes you can make to boost productivity in your organisation. Which ones are most relevant for your business?

At Doherty Associates, we help organisations like yours overcome their IT challenges and set up systems that raise productivity, set you up for the modern world of work, and keep you secure.

To find out more, visit our Optimising Your Business page.

Sources:

1 – Microsoft Tech Community

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