Partners in Productivity: The Year Ahead from a Microsoft Partner Perspective

Happy employees, happy company—a new study by IBM/Globoforce shows a positive employee experience can result in a more positive financial impact for companies. But in the current digital workplace, there are many factors that can get in the way of all that joy, including: poorly handled software migrations; limited learning and development opportunities; ongoing and often unsettling changes in company direction and technology tools; security breaches; and more.

As a Microsoft Gold Partner—and 2018 Adoption Partner of the Year for Microsoft 365—we’re focused on the employee experience and the positive financial impact it can have on organizations. We understand that empowering and enabling people is the key to successfully driving culture change, accelerating digital transformation, and unlocking innovation.

We also recognize that digital transformations can create countless challenges for organizations—hurdles that are not easily overcome without having the right partner. Here’s where we will be focusing our efforts this year:

WINDOWS 7 TO WINDOWS 10 MIGRATIONS. According to Gartner’s forecast for 2019, spending on devices such as PCs, tablets and mobile phones is expected to increase 1.6 percent to $679 billion. The result will be an uptick in Windows 10 migrations, plus a greater need for Outlook Mobile and Intune training and support. Also, Microsoft will be ending support for Windows 7 on Jan. 14, 2020, which means organizations have a little less than a year to plan and execute their migration to Windows 101. It’s crunch time, and here’s why:

■ Operating system migrations are always complex, but a switch to Windows 10 is more of a transformation than a migration. With Windows 10, Microsoft ushers in a new servicing model, “Windows as a service,” which delivers security and reliability fixes at least once a month, plus smaller feature updates two times per year.

■ Ample time is needed for careful planning and execution. Among the many migration considerations: Choosing a release, deciding on frequency of releases by selecting one of two servicing channels (Semi-Annual or Long-Term Servicing), managing the update cycle, conducting extensive compatibility testing, running pilots, collecting feedback, running additional pilots, assessing skills gaps, creating and executing training and communication plans, and more.

COLLABORATION AND INNOVATION USING MICROSOFT 365. Becoming a digital organization means adopting new ways of working—and Microsoft 365 was designed with this in mind. For many companies, however, the challenge is accelerating employee adoption of Microsoft Teams, OneDrive for Business, Yammer, Outlook Mobile and other communication and collaboration tools.

That challenge may become even greater in 2019—according to Gartner’s forecast, spending on communications (fixed and mobile telecom services and unified communications technology like Microsoft Teams) will grow 1.3 percent to $1.4 trillion this year.

Adoption of Teams is particularly important—Microsoft has already begun bringing the capabilities of Skype for Business Online into Teams and no longer offers Skype as an option for new Microsoft Office 365 users with fewer than 500 seats. There’s no set end-of-support date for Skype for Business Online, but Microsoft’s plan for Teams is clear—to be a hub that facilitates smarter collaboration, elevated productivity, and increased innovation.

Teams may be designed to simplify group work, but it does have a learning curve. It requires users to adopt a new approach to work and learn their way around an unfamiliar landscape. If your organization hasn’t begun a Teams user adoption initiative, now is the time to get started.

CONTINUOUS LEARNING. According to Gartner’s report, spending on enterprise software, particularly cloud services and applications, is expected to grow faster than any other category of IT this year. “The fact that we’re going to cloud is more about agility, getting the feature functionality you need at the speed you need it,” Gartner analyst John-David Lovelock explained in a CIO Online article.

In addition to these immediate learning needs, digital transformation is also driving longer-term changes. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2022, 54 percent of workers are going to need significant retraining/upskilling. And employees, for the most part, are willing to put in the time—according to a PwC survey published last year, workers report that they would spend 15 hours per month on training or upskilling if their employer offered it.

The need for continuous learning is now indisputable, and employees are willing to spend more time building their skills, yet research suggests that organizations still lag in their L&D offerings.

SECURITY. The buzzword in enterprise security today is “proactive”—organizations are moving away from defensive, technology-focused approaches and toward proactive, process-oriented tactics. Companies are utilizing improved security features in Office 365 and Windows 10, such as multi-factor authentication, Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection, and more. They are also stepping up security awareness and training for business users in an effort to minimize human error in phishing and social engineering attacks.

Today’s enterprise tech landscape is vastly different from what it was five years ago, and it will undoubtedly change drastically over the next five years. Technology will evolve and priorities will change, but the need for a people-centric approach will not. Happy employees should always be the goal. For 2019, we’ll continue our efforts to help organizations meet that objective.

1. Microsoft will offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023 on a per-device basis, with the price increasing each year. Windows 7 ESUs will be available to Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise users with volume-licensing agreements, and will be discounted for users with Windows Software Assurance, Windows 10 Enterprise or Windows 10 Education subscriptions.


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We look forward to helping you on your journey to Digital Transformation.

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