How Microsoft embraced flexible working

Hello and welcome to our new Microsoft Enterprise Insights blog! Over the coming weeks, months and hopefully years, we look forward to bringing you all the latest and greatest news and information associated with Enterprise. We get a wealth of information which we'd like to share with you all the time so starting a blog felt like the natural thing to do.

To kick things off, we take a look at the very topical subject of flexible working - we do it, you may have just started to do it and eventually we could see most organisations adopting it. But what is it all about and how are Microsoft, early adopters of this method of working, dealing with getting the staff easily mobile? In the article below, we look at just that and speak to Microsoft UK IT Director Annemarie Duffy...


How Microsoft embraced flexible working

Microsoft runs the world’s largest SharePoint installation and, as you would expect, it is an early (and eager) adopter of Microsoft Lync. This means Microsoft is often the first to learn vital lessons about getting the most out of these powerful communication and collaboration tools. Annemarie Duffy, UK IT Director at Microsoft shares some essential insights.

The art of collaboration

The real core of our collaboration tools is Lync. It’s the service which provides instant messaging, audio, video and conference calls. I call people from my laptop using Lync and we find that about 80% of our meetings have an online element where we share documents, applications or presentations in real time. The beauty of it is that all I need is my laptop, my Windows Phone or even a web browser and an internet connection and I’m connected to the rest of Microsoft.

Our technology helps us when we need to find people within Microsoft. Every employee has their own microsite on SharePoint which they can use to share the own content and to highlight their interests and skills. We can use these sites to search for experts in a particular field and quickly reach out to them via Lync for advice and help. 

SharePoint makes it very easy to share documents and other information within a team or about a specific project. For example, I save most of my files directly to SharePoint from Word or Excel so that my colleagues have direct access to them in the right context. We don’t use network drives at all anymore.

SharePoint is also the home for critical business applications, which we call ‘large custom portals’. For example, our HR portal lets people find out about benefits, file expenses claims, run appraisals and other HR admin tasks.

First and best customer

As Microsoft’s ‘first and best customer’, the IT department here is an enthusiastic early adopter but we also do things on a large scale. For example, we run the world’s biggest SharePoint installation with more than 30 terabytes of data across 200,000+ sites. Similarly, Lync has enabled us to avoid $92m in travel costs and cut our CO2 emissions by 17,000 metric tonnes.

When we first deployed SharePoint in 2000, it was an overnight hit. It grew virally and before we knew, we had 750,000 sites and we were adding a terabyte of data every quarter. We quickly learned that we needed to apply lifecycle management to retire orphan sites when people stopped needing them.

Lessons learned

What we do now is to ensure that each site has a named owner who is responsible for it. If no-one accesses content on the site for a while, we contact the owner. If there’s no response to two emails, we lock the site and then, after 90 days, we delete the site. This ensures that we don’t spend money hosting sites that nobody needs. We also apply more governance to the content of sites: we have people classify the data on each site in terms of business impact so that we can ensure that it is protected properly.

Holding hands

You can have the best technology in the world but it is useless if people don’t actually use it. This is why we set up the Work Smart programme. It falls somewhere between informal, on-the-job training and formal classroom learning. We have a series of short ‘how-to’ documents to help people get started and we run monthly bite-size training sessions. Topics include advanced Excel, administering a SharePoint site or hosting meetings on Lync.

It’s all focused on helping people be as productive as possible. People assume that everyone who works at Microsoft is a complete techie geek but like in most companies people need a bit of hand-holding to get the most out of technology – they’re interested in doing their job and we’re interested in giving them the tools to make them more effective. Work Smart is the way we align both goals.

We have seen that the combination of advanced technology, appropriate governance and targeted staff training accelerates teamwork and productivity. The software is essential but our experience is that you need to pay attention to the peopleware too.

Download Microsoft Work Smart productivity guides

Posted by Howard
Content and Communities Manager, Microsoft UK Enterprise Team