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Hybrid Workplace Solutions: Utilizing Microsoft’s Tools to Enable Flexible Work Environments

Hybrid Workplace Solutions: Utilizing Microsoft’s Tools to Enable Flexible Work Environments

In March 2021 Microsoft announced the findings from its first annual Work Trend Index. Titled “The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?” The report indicates that business leaders should resist the urge to return business as usual once we are all safely able to work together in offices again. Microsoft plans on opening their offices in stages through the rest of 2021 but will create a more flexible work environment for their team members that allows them to take advantage of both the benefits of working from home and the creative energy that comes from collaborating in person.

DMC has been in "work from home preferred" mode since March of 2020, and similarly to Microsoft, we want to return to the energy and comradery of our eight offices across the US. We have learned so much over the last year and have found ways to effectively work with our team members remotely while keeping productivity and client satisfaction high. A key component of our success in the last 14 months has been our heavy usage of Microsoft's cloud-based tools and applications.

Microsoft Partner Competencies 2019

An IT Perspective on Hybrid Workplace Solutions

I wanted to demonstrate a real-world example of how a Gold Level Microsoft partner is planning for a hybrid future with the help of Microsoft technology. So, I sat down with our IT Manager, Tim Johnson, and we discussed DMC's challenges in 2020 and our plans for 2021 and beyond.

Jimmy Brady: Tim, what are your responsibilities as the IT Manager at DMC?
Tim Johnson: Internally, I manage the IT infrastructure for all eight DMC offices, both on-premise and in the cloud. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we are a Microsoft shop when it comes to our IT environment. Externally, I work with clients on Azure infrastructure projects, on-prem licensing consulting, server migrations, server upgrades, and long-term server maintenance. We are also in the early stages of assisting customers with Azure Security Center and how it can safeguard your Azure workloads.

What Microsoft licenses do we use internally at DMC?
Our main Office 365 bundles are the E3 and E5 enterprise licenses. For our CRM we use Dynamics 365. We are also taking advantage of the EMS E3 security bundle that includes Azure Active Directory Premium P1 and Azure Information Protection P1.

What unique challenges has our IT Department faced since we started working from home in March 2020?
Fortunately, we had already invested a lot of time and effort into IT security and remote accessibility before the pandemic, but we still had to make some changes starting in March of 2020. Right away, we needed to expand our VPN and telephone capacity. I was already planning to implement a new VPN Solution that offered split router capabilities and more robust security and it was up and running in early May of 2020. I also had to set up a Remote Desktop Services (RDS) solution for the Accounting Department to access QuickBooks more easily from home. We also decided to move more of our business-critical workloads to the cloud and centralized our access so that the whole environment is much easier to run remotely.

training new hires virtually

What Microsoft tools and applications did we use to meet these challenges?
Azure Active Directory P1, Azure Information Protection P1, Remote Desktop Services, Intune, and Azure.

What do you think the new workplace dynamic will be and how will that affect the IT department?
Even before the pandemic, we had the option to work from home one day a week and quite a few people at DMC were already taking advantage of that perk. We do not have the details ironed out yet, but we will definitely have a more robust IT environment that allows our team members the flexibility of working from both the office and at home while also keeping a high standard of security.

How do you plan on using Microsoft's tools to meet the new needs of our company moving forward?
We've always had a strong focus on security without an IT environment, but we are now rolling out even more tools to help us manage our team member's identities, data, and devices.

What long-term IT goals do you want to accomplish with Microsoft's tools?
I am excited to try out the new AutoPilot program from Microsoft. We have team members who work all over the world, and we can now have Dell overnight a new full image laptop anytime we have a hardware malfunction. Beyond that, I think the new capabilities of Windows Virtual Desktop are compelling. Dell now offers full support through their Dell Wyse ThinOS9.1 so the user experience will be quite similar to their current Windows PC environment.

I hope this insight into DMC's IT environment was a useful guide for utilizing the different Microsoft tools and applications for 2021 and beyond. If you would like to talk to DMC about ways in which we can help your company more fully utilize the tools in your Microsoft 365 environment, please feel free to contact the Digital Workplace Solutions Team.

Learn more about DMC's Digital Workplace Solutions

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