The new Microsoft Office: The best mobility opportunity for SMEs, and a new opportunity for the channel

The modern worker wants to be more mobile and collaborative than ever before, and modern SME business owners can see the commercial advantage in having their businesses become more nimble and more flexible in how they engage with their employees.

That kind of flexibility and mobility requires the right software technology solutions. Solutions that maximise productivity and efficiency and are effortless to actually use.

Unfortunately, true mobility has been something that has been out of reach for many SMEs. Lacking the resources to invest in mobility, and uncomfortable with the potential risks that poor or ad hoc mobility solutions introduce to the business, SMEs have been struggling to find the same competitive advantage that enterprise enjoys by untethering their staff from their desks.

This is where Microsoft’s new-look Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium comes in, as a solution that is heavily weighted towards enabling genuine mobility, at a price and technology point that is within the SME’s comfort range. This solution, as the most comprehensive and collaborative that has yet been seen in Office 365, also provides the channel with all-new opportunities to have productive and highly strategic conversations with their customers.

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Dealing with mobility’s biggest challenges through Office 365’s key features

Two-thirds (67 per cent) of CIOs and IT professionals believe mobility will impact business as much as – or more than – the Internet did in the 1990s. From the employee’s perspective, 77 per cent feel like they’re more productive when they’re working offsite.

Enabling remote working and mobility can benefit businesses. SMEs however, have five key challenges that make mobile enablement a challenging, if not entirely out of reach, aspiration:

  1. Infrastructure investment. SMEs simply don’t have the resources or skillsets available to them to undergo the kind of large scale, multi-year business transformation exercises that large enterprises do, of which enabling mobility is one key outcome.
  2. CapEx Vs. OpEx. SMEs can generally find the money to cover OpEx costs as they arise (a monthly bill for a service, with the total cost being spread out over a period of time). OpEx purchasing fits in neatly with the kinds of cashflows that SMEs rely on. However, any CapEx expenditure, such as the outright purchase of new technology assets (such as mobile devices, computers, and new software applications) is much more difficult to budget for, especially if the goal is a whole-of-business approach to mobility.
  3. Security. Data shows that 60 per cent of businesses that suffer a data breach go out of business within six months. Given that SMEs need to be risk-adverse by nature, this statistic can be enough to make them reticent in investing in mobility, because the potential for lost or stolen devices, or unsecure email and sharing of documents, certainly introduces a new data security risks into the organisation.
  4. Lack of IT capabilities. Most SMEs don’t have dedicated IT teams. They might have a single IT generalist managing the company’s assets, or they might have a phone number for a freelancer to help when something goes wrong. This can limit the kind of solutions that a SME can roll out into the organisation – generally speaking, if the business owner or another designated IT manager can’t handle it alongside their day-to-day responsibilities, chances are, the solution will be beyond the SME’s reach.
  5. Overly restrictive technology. Finally, too many SMEs, recognising their limitations around resources, become far too restrictive about what devices and solutions an employee can use outside of the office. This results in poor mobile performance and productivity as the employee grapples with unfamiliar technology. True mobility solutions should be as device agnostic as possible, to allow a seamless use of technology by everyone in the organisation.

These are all challenges that Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium addresses as it enables a mobile workforce. As a solution that is designed to be cost-effective for SMEs and enterprises alike, Office 365 Business Premium includes all the standard Office apps (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and OneNote), installed across PCs, Macs, tablets, and mobile devices – it is completely device agnostic. Even more pertinent to the mobile-orientated professional, however, Office 365 Business Premium also includes a suite of collaboration tools that don’t require specialised infrastructure or IT capabilities to deploy and manage. Tools include the following:

  • HD video conferencing, complete with instant messaging and screen sharing.
  • Microsoft Teams, which moves conversations out of cluttered email chains and into elegant comment streams that are easy for the whole team to access at a glance.
  • The ability to directly draw onto documents using a pen through the Ink Effects technology, allowing for faster, smoother feedback loops with mark-ups and highlights on the document, and more rapid team-based document construction.

The management of a mobile workforce can be a headache for the SME. In addition to properly tracking an employee’s performance, and ensuring that teams are aware of one another’s movements, SMEs also need to concern themselves over what to do in the event of a stolen device; if all the data is stored locally on a mobile worker’s laptop, and that device should fall into the wrong hands, the ramifications for an SME could be business ending.

Office 365 Business Premium addresses both of these challenges. To help organisations remain cohesive, and for team members to remain aware of what their colleagues are up to. Outlook now integrates natively with Microsoft Bookings. Bookings is an enormously useful tool that allows an individual to set up a forward-facing website where clients, co-workers and others can book appointments and see, at a glance, the availability of a person.

Meanwhile, to help with security, Office 365 Business Premium now gives the IT manager or business owner a great deal of real-time control over documents. If an employee leaves the organisation, or accidently leaves their laptop in the back of a taxi, it’s possible to instantly deactivate the account, so all confidential documents and emails are immediately locked out from the device. This feature doesn’t require IT expertise, which is especially relevant to SMEs, where dedicated IT staff might only be on a part-time or contract basis, and where possible the business owner takes responsibility of the IT management.

Office 365 Business Premium is also priced to suit the needs of the modern SME. New users can be added to the licensing bill effortlessly, and users can also be removed from the license instantly, meaning that the SME only pays for what they use.

The three selling points of mobility to SMEs

When the channel takes mobility solutions such as Office 365 Business Premium to their customers, there are three key benefits that will be delivered through the solution to ensure a rapid ROI for that minimal monthly fee:

  1. Enhanced Productivity

    As already discussed, Office 365 Business Premium has a host of tools that would allow a remote worker to collaborate seamlessly with their colleagues from anywhere, at any time. Coupled with new features in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other applications to allow for faster annotation, better and more instant graphs, and quicker presentations, the new Office 365 Business Premium emphasises speed and efficiency at work.

  2. Data Sharing

    Office 365 Business Premium makes seamless data sharing a snap. OneDrive provides teams with a secure, cloud-based storage resource that can be worked from and kept updated in real time. Additionally, Microsoft Teams shows a clear flow in interactions between team members; one of the issues when emailing documents around is version control – it’s too easy to accidently distribute old versions of a document, which then creates additional work for the entire team. Office 365 Business Premium’s applications and centralised storage ensure that everyone’s on the same page.

  3. Cost Management

    SMEs are always concerned with cost and cash flow. Because Office 365 Business Premium packages up the entire suits of tools and services into a single monthly per-user fee, the reseller can in turn make pricing predictable and reliable, reducing the reliance on multiple in-house or third-party applications and ad-hoc expenditure on updates or new software. With Office 365 Business Premium, all updates are provided free of charge and pushed out automatically, bringing with it new features and maintaining security through frequent patches.

The benefit to the channel

Historically, mobility solutions have generally been targeted towards the enterprise, and so SMEs that look to allow their employees to work outside of the office has often had to resort to consumer apps (which are never good for security), and the kind of BYOD computing where individuals simply use whatever applications happen to be on their own devices. Overall, the typical SME that does enable mobility approaches it in an undisciplined, ad-hoc manner.

This is also a nightmare for resellers and other channel partners, who are generally engaged with their client to bring order and stability to the IT environment. Finding a solution that allows the reseller to remove the ad-hoc approach to mobility is often priority #1.

Resellers are almost certainly having conversations about mobility with their customers already. Perhaps a new employee wants to be able to access their work email from their personal tablet or phone, or perhaps the organisation wants to recruit someone from interstate for their skills, but that individual can’t move. Rather than go without the skills, enabling remote work is a solution, but at the same time the SME business owner will want to make sure that the remote individual can still participate as part of the team.

Every SME wants answers on how to enable mobility. Office 365 Business Premium is an opportunity for the channel to offer a solution to that question in terms that will appeal to the typical SME – the full solution is neatly bundled into a single monthly fee, it’s not expensive, and the day-to-day management can be handled without needing dedicated IT resources.

One example of the successful application of Office 365 to a SME can be found in America, where Office 365 helped a company called Detroit Wallpaper address its escalating mobility challenges. “Detroit Wallpaper was at that awkward stage: too big to run on disparate platforms, devices, and applications, and too small to justify a significant investment in IT infrastructure,” a report on the mobility solution rollout notes.

“So Young and Kubacki (Detroit Wallpaper’s owners) transformed the IT backbone of their company to Microsoft Office 365 in 2015 with help from local managed IT service provider Red Level.

“With Office 365, the Detroit Wallpaper staff could work together better than ever before; the founders no longer had to play the role of IT facilitators and had more time for the creative side of the business. After standardising on Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange Online for email and other Office 365 applications such as Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, the team found it easier to track finances and create sales presentations. When they went to the next level by deploying Microsoft 365 Business and its additional collaborative tools, the benefits grew.

Click here to read the full case study on how Microsoft Office was able to help Detroit Wall Paper

What’s next for Office 365

For resellers, Office 365 Business Premium, as a new SKU from Microsoft, is an opportunity to start conversations around modernising the IT environment. The typical SME can’t finance a complete digital transformation exercise, perhaps, and many SMEs do feel like the large transformation projects being undertaken by enterprises leaves them in a poor competitive position. But that’s not to say that they can’t take steps to modernise and then future-proof their environment.

One of the key benefits of Office 365 Business Premium to the SME – and something that makes it a compelling pitch from the reseller – is that Office 365 is a Cloud service, and therefore continually updated with new features, which customers get instant access to.

This allows Microsoft to be highly responsive to market trends. Right now, the key trend is in enabling mobility in the SME space, however, as new trends emerge, Microsoft can be highly responsive to those emerging needs too. That too benefits the channel as well, as it opens the door to ongoing consultancy and support services and helps them to help their customers stay right on top of emerging technology developments.

For more information on the new-look Microsoft Office, the benefits that it brings to the end-customer, and what it offers to the channel, click here.

Resource Centre Link: Everything you need to know about Microsoft Office 365

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