COVID-19 | 17 March, 2020

How Office 365 can help professional service firms enable remote working

COVID-19 is putting business continuity under the microscope. While vaccine-seeking scientists remain confined to labs, many businesses are asking employees to stay at home. That’s why savvy solicitors, accountants and other professional services firms are ramping up remote working—or quickly learning the ropes. So, what are the technology considerations your firm needs to make to enable remote working?

What is remote working?

Remote working is anytime, anywhere working. 

At home, in a cafe or the move; it doesn't matter. If you’re collaborating, creating or communicating outside the office, you’re working remotely.

 

Why has it never been more critical?

Crashing stocks. Cancelled events. Conferences in limbo. The full public health impact may still be unclear, but pandemic disruption is already severe. Recent government reports even suggest court cases may soon take place via video conferencing.

BakerMcKenzie recently shut (and reopened) its London premises and there’s no guarantee the law firm won’t close again—along with numerous other professional services firms—as government and industry react to increasing infection rates.

Remote working offers firms increased flexibility, productivity and business continuity. In fact, a study by Stanford University claims remote workers are 13% more productive than in-office workers. But more importantly, it will prove essential for firms who want to protect both people and services during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The practice enables professionals to optimise effectiveness while enhancing wellbeing: this much prised ‘work/life balance’ takes on new resonance now actual lives are at stake.

 

Virus protection - Essential tools for remote working

Many firms are now asking whether their offices may need to close. But don't worry, many businesses can function perfectly well without physical premises, provided their employees can access the data, systems and people that power work. Many firms already have robust and viable continuity plans in place which have a focus on remote working. But to help those still striving to enable a remote working policy, Microsoft is offering a free 6-month Office 365 E1 Trial, including Microsoft Teams, to help businesses beat COVID-19.

 

Microsoft Office 365

Office 365 is a cloud-based suite of software which includes (among others) Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Planner, Skype and Access. 

The subscription-based, software as a service (SaaS) model gives employees on-demand access to the essential tools of business. All they need to start remote working is an internet connection and a phone, laptop or tablet. With each user able to download Office 365 on up to five devices, accessibility to files, emails and colleagues on the go is increased.

Everything is stored in OneDrive, a storage service which automatically updates whenever a user edits a document, ensuring files remain current for all collaborators even during self-isolation. Firms can authorise approved users and determine editing permissions to ensure the right people get the right information instantly.

And securely. Storing critical data in the cloud, rather than directly onto machines, reduces the risks from theft or breakages. If laptops, mobiles or tablets are stolen or lost, files still cannot be accessed by those without the necessary access credentials. If a device is affected by fire, flood, hard drive failure or another breakage, critical data will still be available - enabling unhindered business continuity. Furthermore, Microsoft spends $1 billion each year, maintaining and upgrading cybersecurity for all users. This is beneficial for professional service firms, who share and handle sensitive data regularly. State-of-the-art methods are employed to maintain the cybersecurity of any data sent or stored in the o365 suite. Office 365 is also GDPR compliant, includes compliance auditing, and also tracks and flags unusual activities such as suspicious login patterns.

That’s information sorted. What about the communication that is so vital to professional services firms?

 

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams integrates with Office 365 and is also included in the free license. The teamwork-focused group collaboration software enables remote working without the remote feeling, allowing colleagues to connect from anywhere via text, audio and video across multiple devices. This makes it ideal for legal firms and accountants, or indeed any business with disparate teams that need to discuss strategy and coordinate client work during (or after) the coronavirus crisis.

With Microsoft Teams, users can view, share and discuss documents in real-time. It also makes virtual meetings easy, through remote communication tools such as Microsoft Exchange Online and Skype for Business. As well as the full Office 365 suite, Microsoft Teams can integrate with many third-party apps, making it an ideal platform for professional services firms that rely on case management or accounting software, for instance.

Many organisations might worry there’s already enough chaos and confusion without a new IT system to implement. But Microsoft Team’s intuitive, easy-to-use interface ensures the uptake process is painless. Together with popular apps like Word, Outlook and Excel, employees can hit the ground running.

 

Conclusion

Social distancing doesn't have to push teams apart. It could even bring them closer together. With the right technology, remote working will minimise disruption and maximise productivity; enabling your professional services business to survive the economic impact of COVID-19 and thrive long after.

Oosha’s hosted desktop comes with Office 365 built in - giving us ample knowledge of the set-up and deployment process. Our team will be happy to discuss any needs or questions you may have on enabling remote-working - whether you ultimately decide to deliver the solution yourself or with us. 

Remote working relies on the cloud. But which kind is right for your professional services firm? Explore the competing benefits and considerations between Public, Private and Hybrid cloud models in our 16-page eBook.

Posted by Matthew Newton

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