To say the past couple of years has turned the world on its head would be an understatement. From small local businesses to global enterprises, organisations have been forced to pivot to new location-agnostic operating models – and at speed.
At the heart of this transition, is the people and teams within businesses who have responded to the accelerated pace of change the pandemic brought, and adapted in response to market conditions, to customer and employee needs and to new opportunities. But this transition has not been easy: whilst smaller organisations are typically more agile and have the flexibility to adapt and overcome challenges, we’re all still learning and experimenting.
Technology helped SMBs to quickly adapt and respond during the pandemic – finding ways to keep running and even discovering new ways to create revenue. And it’s now helping to solve the challenge of transforming the employee experience in the hybrid model. But beyond that, it’s also paving the way for the future of business: one where the way we interact with customers and stakeholders is modernised and transformed — and also one that’s increasingly accessible and affordable for businesses of all sizes.
The ‘new normal’ is hybrid
Rob May is a leading cyber security expert, and founder of IT support and managed services provider Ramsac. On the transition to new ways of working, he explains, “Many people think that they’ve been doing hybrid since the first lockdown, but I disagree with this. For example, if everyone is working remotely and connecting in for a video meeting, they all have the same experience. For me hybrid is about the reality that often you will need to work with people (colleagues and clients) some who will be physically present and some remote. The challenge that we have is to make the experience equal for everyone.”
At Microsoft, we firmly believe that hybrid work is the future: the ‘old normal’ of everyone in a single office, or a fully-remote team doesn’t necessarily empower people to maximise collaboration. A hybrid approach to work, where all working styles are catered for in a flexible way, allows teams to do their best work in the setting that’s right for them, on whichever device or workplace setting they prefer.
Empowering your people with technology is key to making the transition to hybrid work a success, and Microsoft 365 with its suite of powerful applications is the foundation for making it happen.
“Hybrid working requires a business to rethink how work and collaboration is done digitally, whilst combining that the best elements of conventional teamwork,” May adds. “Microsoft 365 brings a wealth of software tools and supported hardware to empower business leaders in supporting their people and processes whilst also addressing the specific needs of differing working locations.”
A core part of this effort is Microsoft Teams. Teams brings the office to you, enabling you and your team to create great work together — wherever you are.
While the physical office is the real-world environment in which employees can meet, interact and collaborate in person; the pandemic has proven that employees have the autonomy and agency to be productive wherever they are – and that some people work better in different environments. Microsoft Teams brings everyone together, no matter where they’re physically located, to connect and work flexibly and productively. Whether it’s all-staff team meetings, breakout sessions for smaller projects, or one-to-one catch-ups — Teams provides a reliable and high-fidelity platform to seamlessly communicate, collaborate, and streamline processes.
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Futureproofing for the next big communications transition
We’ve seen significant communications transitions over the decades, from the digital TV switch-off in 2012 to the shutdown of legacy cellular services, as 4G and 5G adoption continues to accelerate.
But there is another transition that isn’t as well-known: in just four years, the UK will terminate its Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), more commonly known as the classic analogue copper phone lines that have been the bedrock of our telephony since its invention.
Openreach will finalise the transition to a full Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution, where phone calls will be routed and transmitted digitally over the internet in 2025. This transition is a welcome one, bringing a wealth of new features to telephone users (not to mention the end of scratchy phone line interference and hard-to-hear conversations).
However, not everyone is ready for our VoIP future — or in cases, even aware of it. A recent survey from Zen Internet found that 72% of businesses remain reliant on copper phone lines, and one-third of smaller businesses are completely unaware of the transition.
But those with Microsoft Teams will be one step ahead: with access to Teams Phone — a cloud-based telephony solution, you can find all the features of a classic office phone system into the Microsoft 365 world.
It’s also simple and efficient: Teams Phone and Microsoft 365 Business Voice routes inbound calls to a ‘classic’ landline number straight to the employee, wherever they are and whichever device they’re on. From an experience perspective, the person calling doesn’t know the difference—aside from the inherent benefits of VoIP, such as more reliable and higher quality conversations, easy conference integration, and easy call queue management and transfer features to route calls to the right department or individual.
Beyond enhancing employee communication and interaction in the new hybrid work world, Teams Phone can provide a transformative experience for your customers and external stakeholders.
Powerful collaboration for businesses of all sizes
Microsoft Teams is an incredibly versatile and powerful solution for businesses of all sizes. However, for smaller businesses and scale-ups at the beginning of their journey, sometimes you only need the essentials to get going.
Earlier this month, we unveiled a new entry-point for our customers: Microsoft Teams Essentials.
Microsoft Teams Essentials builds upon the free tier of Microsoft Teams, adding several key features to help foster collaboration, connection, and productivity in the hybrid world of work—and is the most competitively priced online meetings and collaboration solution in the market.
Microsoft Teams Essentials is easily integrated into your existing email and calendar services—like Outlook and Google Calendar—and provides unlimited group meetings for durations up to 30 hours and capacities up to 300 people—perfect for smaller businesses. Plus, 10 GB of cloud storage for each user. Priced at just £3 per user, Microsoft Teams Essentials brings the dynamic Teams experience to the smaller business, empowering them to do their best work—not for the ‘new normal’, but the hybrid work world of today, and tomorrow.
For more information on Microsoft Teams and to try for free, go to aka.ms/hybridsmb.