Microsoft Office 365 – Making Group Work Bearable

At the age of 17, I started law school. The week prior to starting, I dragged my dad to PC World; he purchased me a black Samsung Notebook and in addition Microsoft Office 2011. I would be lying if I recalled the price of it, but it wasn’t cheap

Before progressing any further, I should point out that 17-year-old me was not tech savvy, I was a novice who had grown up handwriting essays and notes.

During my induction week, I was provided with an email address and password, and advised that lecturers’ main point of contact would be email; so, I bookmarked the URL to my university’s 365 Exchange, and that was me a law student.

I spent the next 5 years using my email account as a personal remote storage system; typing my essays and notes, saving them locally before quickly emailing them to myself before heading into university, where I would print the documents out, submit them or distribute them. This became a process- an illogical, unsafe, and timewasting process. However, most students I knew were doing the same, or similar.

However, when I reflect on being a student the only thing that tarnished my experience was surprisingly not the all-night cramming sessions, exams, or even the coursework. It was group work. Lecturers would joke, knowing the implications of assigning group assignments. I could handle the one group member who refused to pull their weight, as I favoured the utilitarian approach; rally together and get it done, for the greater good.

What I found unbearable was trying to organise time together. Further, group assignments presented an array of hurdles that had to be overcome; Although trivial, the first hurdle was merely trying to find a table in the library: big enough for your group, yet in area that allowed for conversation. However, you were required to meet, as the question had to be divided and assigned and collective brainstorming was essential. You then had the task of trying to piece 5 individuals work together, in a coherent seamless manner. Communication was difficult, you had a Facebook group, but sharing files/images/presentations was no easy feat. The normal solution was to arrange a meeting in the library, each handing each other a hard copy of your section, and emailing a copy over to the person who had offered to lace the assignment together. I mean, we always got there in the end, but group work tested more than your research skills – it tested your patience.

In retrospect, I had a 0365 license, my university had a section of the website explaining the features, but I never got educated on how to utilise my Microsoft license. Therefore, along with most other students I improvised, using my own methods. I didn’t know I could download the Microsoft Office applications onto my laptop for free (sorry dad) I didn’t understand OneDrive’s capability, or know that SharePoint even existed (co-authoring and instant access to group members work would of saved headaches).

Moreover, Skype for business would have eradicated the need to meet in the library; I could have chaired the discussions from the comfort of my couch. Further, the group member who didn’t pull their weight, if you really wanted? You could audit the activity of each group member through conversation history, versioning etc and provide that to your lecturer. The Microsoft license I had would have saved me so much time, stress, and money -if only I knew how to use the applications correctly.

What scares me is that team work continues into the work place. The reality of team work is that it does encourage innovation and increases productivity. Companies need to help staff help themselves. Team work is about collaboration, and collaboration really does solve a multitude of problems, and with the right tools it can be an enjoyable experience.

That is why, as a Microsoft partners have a duty to educate their client base to ensure they are getting the most out of their licenses. We are hosting an array of free Cloud Workshops, email me if you think you would benefit from attending gillian.green@clicknetworks.co.uk

Advertisements

Cyber Security – Late to the Party

Cyber threats have always been a real, intangible threat; yet the legislation surrounding cyber security has been lacklustre to say the least. With the internet playing such a fundamental role in many people’s lives, there has been an apparent struggle to balance protecting the virtual world, in a way which is financially viable for all businesses.

Those in the IT sector began to breathe a sigh of relief at the tail end of 2016; not only was cyber security being brought to the forefront of business owner’s minds with the introduction of the Cyber Essentials Scheme, but more importantly the Government invested £1.9 billion into the NSCC. NSCC’s aim is to bridge the cyber skill gap by growing and developing talent, allowing them to defend against cyber threats. This strategy aims to bring the UK to the forefront in cyber security

However,  the events in May 2017 showed the consequence of a society where cyber security has for the last decade been put on the back burner, it appears that businesses of all sizes do not realise how imperative cyber security is. Although IT infrastructure plays an integral role in most businesses, in reality a huge pressure has been placed on companies such as ours to not only supply IT managed services, but encourage our clients to invest in cyber security measures. This has been tough, why should people be concerned, when the main legislation governing cyber security received royal assent over a decade ago?

The catalyst for change is the NCSS, and it is an exciting time for the cyber community. However, for an institutional pillar, as instrumental as the NHS falling victim to the global coordinated ransomware attack on Friday highlights how late to the party the NCSS is. It has now come to light that the NHS had failed to merely apply the security updates earlier this year, despite being warned that their outdated systems were vulnerable to cyber-attacks. If cyber security had been governed by laws which encompassed modern advances, would the NHS of come to a halt last Friday? Possibly not.

A silver lining to come from the ransomware attack is that it forces people and companies to realise the ambiguities in their cyber security, making the threat of cyber-attacks feel tangible-  which in turn will encourage people to mitigate the risk by investing in their IT infrastructure, or simply will ensure that people do not ignore their security updates. This coupled with the investment in the NCSS will ensure that cyber security remains a priority. Moving forward, we are excited to see the developments made by the NCSS over the next five years, as we believe this investment will ensure that the UK becomes an innovative leader in relation to cyber security.

Microsoft Office 365 … Leading the Way Amidst the Digital Transformation Wave

I have spoken about the cultural shift we are witnessing in the UK, and delved into the realm of the Digital Transformation wave that companies up and down the country are embarking on. However, a problem I am occasionally faced with is trying to change clients’ perception of the word “subscription”

Often, it is ingrained in individuals and companies to avoid leasing or borrowing: money or products. Many associate borrowing, with the inability to own outright the product they require, resulting in them feeling indebted. Differentiating subscription from leasing is key during the advisory stage of migrating clients to the cloud. However, with the phenomenon of services such as Netflix, the younger generation are more understanding of this change of business structure that so many companies are switching to.

Microsoft are no different. They still offer Office as an “intangible product” – the office suite in a box (Office 2016), which you can purchase by paying a one-off fee. However, they have changed their game plan, striving to make consumers view their office suite (Office 365) as a service opposed to a product you can own. Microsoft Office 365 should play an integral role in a company’s digital transformation journey.

Office 365 if explained correctly, is in itself, a deterrent to Office 2016. With the internet age fast evolving, issues such as piracy have obviously played a role in Microsoft’s change of business structure; however, besides from this, the subscription model is without a doubt a key player in helping businesses evolve – it enables companies to continuously retain their competitive edge, without having to foot the bill for it time and time again. Office 365 is an annual subscription which allows your company to scale at a rate that suits you – eradicating the need to invest heavily in IT infrastructure.

There are a few key differences between Office 2016 and Office 365;

Firstly, if you are on the fence whether Microsoft is for you; you can have a 60-day trial run of Office 365. Free trials allow you to test drive the Microsoft application stack, to see if you can seamlessly integrate them into your business processes; without this free trial, you may be taking a stab in dark if you are not already familiar with Microsoft products. However, unlike Office 2013, there is now an obvious absence of a free trial with Office 2016. This is a bold move from Microsoft, as they are in essence putting stumbling blocks in the way of prospective customers. However, Microsoft are really pushing for partners like us, to take the time to explain the advantages of migrating to the Office 365 application stack.

With the workforce transforming into digital nomads; mobile / cross platform is integral to the modern-day office. Employees want to be connected 24/7 and want the freedom that comes with being able to work from any device, anywhere. With an increasing number of companies introducing hot-desking and as many staff working out with the office; being tied to a desk is stifling productivity and efficiency. With the Office 365 subscription, users have multi device access of up to 5 devices; meaning they can download and use Office 365 onto their mobile, tablet, PC, mac and laptop. If you want a user to have multi device access with Office 2016 you are required to purchase the office suite for each device ( you can get Office online, which is equivalent to Google docs for free, but this option is not ideal for being the core service of a business process)

However, in my opinion the biggest benefit of the subscription based model is; when you pay your monthly fee, annually for licenses you receive the latest releases, editions and upgrades that Microsoft unveil- for no additional fee. This means that you are exposed to the latest technologies as and when they are released. In comparison; to upgrade Microsoft Office 2016, you must purchase the new edition at full price – there is no discounted, upgrade fee available.

Gone are the days of buying an office in a box. Subscriptions should be viewed as a change of business structure, rather than indebting the customer. Having the ability to buy/cancel licenses as and when necessary removes the financial burden previously placed on businesses. Purchasing Microsoft licenses for staff can now be a small expense, rather than investment. Further, with multiple types of licenses available enables you, as a business owner to create a bespoke bundle of licenses (with different applications) to suit your workforce. The key for digital transformation is utilising the latest technological advances; purchasing Microsoft licenses aids you in this journey and makes digitally transforming achievable by all business, regardless of size.

GDPR in a Post-Brexit Britain

With Brexit fast approaching, or looming (depending what side of the fence you are sitting) many clients have asked whether GDPR will be applicable to them, as they are UK based businesses –  incorporated and trading within the UK. I have always advised, with confidence that the UK will adhere to GDPR.

Until this point, my opinion was mostly an assumption, an educated guess even; if the UK did not remain firmly on the GDPR band wagon, alongside all other EU member states then we would be ostracizing ourselves – and to do so on an issue which has a direct impact on citizens would be detrimental to not only businesses, but to individuals too.

This year, the UK has taken drastic steps in emphasising how integral data protection is, and have invested money into the National Cyber Security Centre; to ensure that we become world leaders in the fight against cyber-attacks and to nurture and grow home talent in STEM subjects. Moreover, with the introduction of the Cyber Essential Scheme as a bench mark of commercial, cyber security we knew that this was the State getting involved in the cultural shift we are witnessing within the UK. Yet, these steps were lackluster, as neither of the above had the sanctions at their disposal to act as a deterrent.

Now, with Matt Hancock (the UK’s Minister of State for Digital) releasing a statement of intent in regards to the new Data Protection Bill, finally cements the fact that the UK are putting the onus back on us, the data subjects – making sure that the safety of our data remains a priority; and those who handle it are transparent, clear and held accountable in instances of data breaches.

In Matt Hancock’s statement of intent he said ;

“Our measures are designed to support businesses in their use of data, and give consumers the confidence that their data is protected and those who misuse it will be held to account.

The new Data Protection Bill will give us one of the most robust, yet dynamic, set of data laws in the world. The Bill will give people more control over their data, require more consent for its use, and prepare Britain for Brexit. We have some of the best data science in the world and this new law will help it to thrive.”

The Data Protection Bill incorporates GDPR in full, which will ensure the seamless transfer of UK data across Europe in a safe and controlled manner. The significance of this statement of intent is that now businesses can focus on preparing and amending their processes to align with the obligations imposed by GDPR. Currently, the UK is encapsulated in a realm of uncertainty. Brexit is unprecedented territory, and the legal landscape post-Brexit is unnervingly unexplored. The dilemma with a state of unknown is no one knows how to prepare or if it is worthwhile acting. However, with the stance on Data Protection now being clarified, means that businesses still have plenty of time adjust and amid this period of uncertainty, there is now a clear path to follow in relation to Data Protection.

TechHer – Tackling The Tech Gender Gap Together

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the TechHer event, hosted by Microsoft in the TVP. As I walked into the foyer, I scanned around the network breakfast meeting and although I didn’t expect to be, I was shocked. It was a room filled with women. There is something unfamiliar to me to see a congregation of powerful women in one room. I could sense it, through the level of conversation flowing naturally round the event, the feeling of confidence was oozing out of these women, it was contagious. Every single person there had passion about the Tech company they worked for, the role they played and about the day ahead.

I guess the first indication of my naivety should have been when I was shocked to be greeted by women and not men- an ingrained expectation that my male counterparts will always be a part of important events?

However, before I go any further I should provide a brief background; I am what society would deem a “white, privileged, middle class female”. I have never felt inferior to my male colleagues, or experienced first-hand sexism. Being a female has never held me back. I like to say that I stand on the shoulders of all my great female predecessors, who had to smash through more glass ceilings than I can imagine to allow me to succeed today- this is a cop out though.

Further, I was cocooned in a bubble; having been educated at an all-girls school, I was encapsulated and inspired by the female staff, whom I witnessed being promoted through the ranks of the faculty. It was drilled into me from the age of 5 that the world was my oyster, I could achieve anything I wanted if I applied myself. My school gave me a strong sense of empowerment – this is rare and I have never taken this stance for granted. So, I applied myself. I finished school and continued in my bubble of privilege to study Law at university (again, I say privileged as I am Scottish, therefore my university fees were funded for me).

Taking the above into consideration, I hold my hands up and say; I failed to look at what was right beneath my nose. I am the only female employee in my team, I am surrounded by males that are inclusive, and ask me for advice and trust the advice that I give and I have never been victim to the legendary “take notes mentality” that so many women are subjected to, I truly feel equal. However, there is no escaping the fact that I am still the only female in my team.

After taking part in the TechHer event, I not only left feeling excited to be part of this seemingly small female movement, co-existing with the wave of digital transformation, but I left with a sour taste in my mouth. I rashly drafted an article but I couldn’t publish it, as I wanted to read more on the reason behind the gender in-balance of the tech world, and I focused my reading to Scotland.

I was surprised to learn that I fall into another stereotypical statistic. In Scotland, women make up only 18% of the workforce in the tech industry, and half of all these roles are filled by female graduates who come from a non-computer science related backgrounds. We come from roles such as law, business studies, creative arts, etc. Although, I may be making a leap of faith, I interpret this to mean that almost half of the female workforce, (which is already disproportionate) although working in a technical field, will not be themselves technical. Which means there is a distinct gender skill gap which needs to be filled.

I believe, that girls do lose interest in computer science subjects at school, but this to me is due to a lack of education around the fields they can aspire to join. I did not know when I was 14 that if I was to pick computer science, rather than business management as a subject choice, that I could one day work for a tech giant such as Microsoft. Furthermore, if I had known that I would be an invaluable asset to a start-up company in the financial sector, an exciting and unprecedented industry, I know I would have pursued computer science. This is where the solution lies. For teenagers, they need to be sold the dream, school children are already so invested in the cyber world: be that with YouTube, Facebook or Google. Computer Science lessons need to encompass the career prospects, so that teenagers engage and understand the possibilities that studying STEM subjects opens to them.

By 2020, Microsoft want 50% of the technical field to be female and I feel I have a duty to ensure that women are not lost in the midst of companies embarking on their digital transformation. I want to ensure that the skill gap is filled by the brightest female graduates who pursue a career in technical field; the way to do this is to try and get into schools and put on interactive presentations in an attempt to sell them the digital dream.

I don’t think in Scotland the problems is employers being reluctant to hire females, I believe the education system should be doing more to prioritise the fastest growing industry. I feel a sense of guilt in regards to my ignorance in relation to the gender imbalance which is so prevalent in the industry I am heavily invested in and I feel I have a duty to help – even if I make only a minimal indent, it is a worthwhile cause to invest time in.

I ask all those working in the tech industry, infiltrate schools and run workshops. It may seem like a small task to do, but if we can target 13 and 14-year-old girls to continue on in STEM subjects then we are in essence, safeguarding women’s vital role in the tech industry. Microsoft are the leaders in this campaign and are inspiring their partners to lead the way in this wave of gender equality.

GDRP – 10 Points To Consider

On the 25th May 2018 the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, and it is the single most influential change to the law surrounding data privacy in over 2 decades. With the intention being to unify data protection across Europe, organisations have a duty to ensure that they process, store, and delete data in a transparent manner. GDPR’s purpose is to give back control to citizens in relation to how their data is used. This shift involves defending the privacy of data, conferring an unprecedented respect to people’s identity and therefore, their freedom.

GDPR supersedes domestic law (the Data Protection Act 1998) and intends to ease the flow of personal data across the 28 European Member States. With the internet now being a virtual reality lived by the majority of the EU Community, it is only right that we have a regulation in place to represent this cultural shift. In recent times, concerns have been mounting in relation to the treatment of individual’s personal data; in many instances individuals are subject to electronic surveillance, where they without realising it publish their data online via social media and other platforms – without understanding the implications of doing so. Many felt that the world George Orwell imagined in 1984 was slowly coming to fruition.

Therefore, GDPR places individuals at the centre of the new system; conferring them several rights, whilst ensuring that the law surrounding how their data is collected, processed, stored, and disposed of is free of ambiguity – being transparent and clear.

However, with GDPR attributing responsibility to businesses, how will GDPR directly impact you, and how do you prepare for it?

  1. Key Decision makers within your organisation need to know and understand the impact that the ratification of GDPR will have.
  2. Information you hold – processes need to be created and cemented in relation to how you retrieve, store and share data. Ideally, a process of internal information auditing will be introduced.
  3. Update your Data Protection Policy to incorporate the changes introduced by GDPR – ensure it is visible to all employees.
  4. Ensure you encompass individuals’ rights – by this, you need to ensure you can provide individuals with the data you hold on them in a readable format, and have processes in place whereby you can delete an individual’s stored data.
  5. Subject Access request – update procedures to ensure they align with the regulation in relation to how you handle requests within the new timescales etc
  6. Do you have a legal basis for processing the diverse types of data you store? You must identify said legal basis for processing data and document it.
  7. Consent – you will have to review how you are seeking, obtaining, and recording consent. GDPR puts a lot of emphasis on obtaining true consent, and ensuring consent was physically given.
  8. In relation to children; stricter verification will be required to verify an individual’s age and emphasis is placed on gathering parental/guardian consent in relation to any data processing activity.
  9. Data breaches – GDPR imposes a 72-hour time limit on organisations to report any data breaches. Therefore, a streamline process is required to detect, report, and investigate personal data breaches.
  10. The new regulation requires certain organisations to assign a Data Protection Officer. Does your organisation meet the criteria set by GDPR requiring you to designate one?

This is merely the basics, of course, However, as every organisation is different, the steps above must be tailored to suit an individual business’s needs – this will vary between sector, market and size. GDPR is an essential starting point for organisations, due to the cross-cutting nature of privacy – a fundamental right in the business sector– it will have a significant impact on enterprise management. ClickNetworks can assist you in becoming compliant, ensuring you understand what needs to be done before the regulation becomes enforceable.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is Upon Us

cropped-cloud-eventbrute.png

The fourth Industrial Revolution is here; like all its predecessors most of the population are oblivious that we are amid the industrial revolution- it has snuck up on us. This may be merited to the fact that technology over the last two decades has been cutting edge, innovative and has been released at rapid speed. Therefore, we haven’t as a society stopped and appreciated the technical advances, just taking it in our stride.

Unlike my previous post where I mentioned that many feel suffocated by George Orwell’s 1984 prediction becoming a reality. Over the last 2 decades the movie Back to the Future has become many techies’ world – Nike have even released self- tying trainers this year..

However, like all industrial revolutions the catalyst is not one piece of technology: rather a culmination of technologies arriving at the same point of time. This is how we are amid the fourth industrial revolution; yet as a society remain on the whole, unaware- it has encroached upon us .

An industrial revolution can be defined as increasing productivity, whilst decreasing labour; with an overarching wave of protest from the working class whom, are resisting the change due to concerns over their livelihood.

However, if most people don’t know we are amid a revolution, how do we know that we are?

Professor Klaus Schwab in his book “The Fourth Revolution?”  identifies three decisive factors:

  • Velocity: Contrary to the previous industrial revolutions, this one is evolving at an exponential rather than linear pace. This is the result of the multifaceted, deeply interconnected world we live in and the fact that new technology begets newer and ever more capable technology.
  • Breadth and depth: It builds on the digital revolution and combines multiple technologies that are leading to unprecedented paradigm shifts in the economy, business, society, and individually. It is not only changing the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of doing things but also ‘who’ we are.
  • Systems impact: It involves the transformation of entire systems, across (and within) countries, companies, industries and society as a whole

Now, a buzzword that has been trending online and in the media, is “digital transformation” – this to me, is a process which businesses need to embark on to not only remain competitive, but to survive and flourish during the fourth industrial revolution. The problem I feel is that the phrase is lackluster, it appears to give businesses a choice – as if to remain digitally stagnant is viable.

The key to embarking on a digital transformation journey is to do so with industry experts. This is not a cheap sales pitch. The reason I say this, is companies like ClickNetworks have experts who can keep you afloat during this transition period by providing you with solutions that not only optimise your current IT estate/ infrastructure, but pave the wave for continuously growing and evolving alongside the latest technologies. No one should advise you to scrap your small business server that you purchased last year – this would be irresponsible and financially draining. However, they should introduce you to the concept of hybrids, and Microsoft 0365 licenses, and the benefits of using Azure as part of you Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity policy and plan – embarking on this journey before the impending death of your hardware lifecycle will prevent knee jerk decisions that may not suit your company’s processes and planning your digital transformation journey eradicates rash decisions which can result in solutions that are not quite right for your organisation.

The fourth industrial revolution should be embraced; but do so at a pace which you can sustain and utilise the applications that Microsoft have provided to assist you and your business processes.

gillian.green@clicknetworks.co.uk