Eight Steps to Consolidating Collaboration

Many organizations have accepted that ways of working, and indeed entire operating models, will never be the same again. As a result, many are considering replacing bespoke content management systems with a simplified cloud-based platform strategy that enables employees to work from home easily and allows the business to source talent from a global marketplace. There are eight steps on the path to a consolidated collaboration platform:

1. Assess how current content access and collaboration limitations are holding your people back.

Review current pain points and trace them back to their source. Firms that continue to rely on their own physical servers and on-premise data centers to store and manage everything, for instance, are likely to have experienced the biggest issues gaining access to the latest files and client information during lockdown.

2. Remember one of the biggest takeaways of COVID: that even big firms can change quickly when they need to.

We saw this firsthand during the lockdown. Large professional services firms – which ordinarily might take nine months to conduct risk assessments, vet vendors and consider options from every angle before choosing and implementing a solution – were suddenly strikingly agile. When necessity called for it, they were able to make and enact decisions within days – even with due diligence.

Many had started down the road to deploying Microsoft 365 and were planning or had started Microsoft Teams pilots on a small scale, but the need to get something in place to meet demand turned these pilots into full rollouts, with tens of thousands, and in some cases more than 100,000, users deployed in weeks.

3. Whatever the plan, make it in the cloud.

In 2020, it makes no sense to persist with proprietary storage area networks (SANs), physical servers and on-premise backup scenarios, when the latest and best IT capabilities are all readily available in the cloud – and managed around the clock by dedicated experts.

4. Allow for data migration.

Any platform migration needs planning, so many firms favor a hybrid approach – where they embrace a new platform for new activities but continue to leverage existing systems for a time.

However, now many firms are turning to a “big bang” approach to platform consolidation and replacing legacy technology that has held them back during lockdown. This is now seen as a “must do” to ensure they can operate efficiently – rather than sinking investment into trying to make multiple on-premise systems available and able to work together for remote workers.

It’s not just about the data. End users must be able to access and work with their content productively. Ensuring the content is effectively consolidated, organized and associated with projects and available to the right users is all key in actually delivering on productivity and quality that will provide additional ROI.

5. Give thought to change management.

Although a hybrid/gradual approach to migration allows professionals to adapt to the change, harnessing a familiar platform like Microsoft 365 minimizes the need for formal change management and new staff training. Because everything is channeled seamlessly through already familiar interfaces like Outlook and Teams, knowledge workers don’t have to change the way they behave to have more intuitive access to the content and connections they need.

6. Let go of the past.

Professional services firms have found that it is possible to halve the costs of specialist content management systems by consolidating project activity and related documents and correspondence on a mainstream platform already used extensively from department to department, sector to sector, around the world. So the case for leaving costly legacy investments in the past is strong.

7. Prioritize the mobile experience.

For too long, professionals using specialist document management applications have lacked a decent mobile experience, hampering their ability to work flexibly from anywhere.

Post-lockdown, secure remote and mobile access to core business applications and content has become a core expectation. Look for a solution that supports offline access to content, too, so professionals aren’t interrupted in their work if they lose their internet connection.

8. Look ahead.

Digital transformation isn’t just about what firms want to achieve now. It’s also important to consider future potential, especially as technology is advancing all the time. Beyond the cost and resilience benefits of consolidating document management and client engagement management in the cloud, firms might also look to automate more processes.

The Power Automate functionality in Microsoft 365, for example, is extremely powerful for streamlining and automating workflow. Firms can start by tying applications together so that data can flow more fluidly between them without manual intervention.

The way people work has been transformed and there will be no going back to how things were done before the lockdown. There is a real opportunity, right now, to push through change that will revolutionize mobile and flexible ways of working, ensuring the organization can continue to collaborate effectively and be responsive to change.

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Alan McMillen
Alan McMillen is CEO at Repstor. Repstor specializes in optimizing Microsoft 365 and MS Teams productivity and information control for professional services firms and legal teams.
Alan McMillen

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