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Monday, September 25, 2017

Microsoft Is On A Mission To Empower The Entire Workplace

Microsoft's dreams of empowering every person in the modern workplace are becoming reality.

Attendees at the annual Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando were treated to a slew of new product announcements and software expansions, all of which take Microsoft's commercial software solutions to the next level. According to a Microsoft blog post, the company is increasingly focused on not only the current workforce but also those that will enter the job market via basic computer training.

Microsoft 365 Gets A New Audience

Back in July, the company launched Microsoft 365, a complete solution that bundled Office 365, Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility + Security into one. Microsoft 365 was designed to be a "complete, intelligent solution" that would allow companies to meet employee requirements, connect a distributed workforce and provide the tools that solve customer and business problems.

At its launch, Microsoft 365 was described as a product that would allow people to work together both creatively and securely. As more companies undergo a digital transformation, there is a demonstrated need for workplaces to match the expectations of both employees and customers.

With effect from October 1, 2017, Microsoft 365 will be available to several new audiences that include educators, firstline workers (deemed to be people who engage customers first, for example)  and non-profit organizations.

Microsoft 365 Education gives teachers, students and faculty everything that they require to work in the classroom. The product combines the three elements of the enterprise version and adds "Minecraft: Education Edition" into a single package. The latter element is especially interesting, as it acknowledges the role that immersive experiences can play in a child's educational development.

"We've learned from customers that we needed to make it easier to harness the power of the Microsoft toolset in schools," said Microsoft's vice president of education Anthony Scalito. "When we announced Microsoft 365 for Enterprise in July, we heard loud and clear this was the cloud-powered solution education customers wanted as well. Microsoft 365 Education is an exciting first step in evolving from a mix of products to an integrated, holistic experience that powers better learning outcomes."

Microsoft wants to empower every worker.Microsoft wants to empower every worker.

Enhancing The Global Workforce

Microsoft also wants to increase the role of the so-called firstline worker in the digital workplace. According to a blog post, these employees are often the backbone of every company and are—as the title suggests—the people "behind the counter, on the phone, in the clinics, on the shop floor and in the field." Microsoft estimates that around 80 percent of the global workforce are firstline workers, many of whom have not been part of a company's digital transformation.

With that in mind, Microsoft 365 F1 (which has no relationship to the motor racing category, sadly) has been designed with these brand ambassadors as the focus. The software product includes several enterprise-facing applications that firstline workers may not use in their daily working practices, including business class email, Microsoft StaffHub, SharePoint, Microsoft PowerApps and Yammer. In addition, Microsoft announced a range of affordable commercial devices from HP, Lenovo and Acer that are targeted squarely at the firstline working environment.

It should be noted that the company is also making some changes to its existing suite of tools in Microsoft 365. These enhancements include harnessing the power of artificial intelligence in Excel, personalized search capabilities in SharePoint, Bing for business (currently in private preview) and LinkedIn profile integration. All of these important changes or enhancements are expected to roll out in early 2018, Microsoft said.

For example, SharePoint and enterprise-focused social network tool Yammer will now form a more integrated system. Social networks are a ubiquitous part of the connected society, so it makes sense that an internal system should mirror the experiences that people have with non-work related communication tools. According to Microsoft's product marketing manager Connie Woo, the integration will allow people to:

  • Drive organizational transparency by sharing information and giving every employee a voice
  • Form a community around a shared topic of interest or area of practice
  • Achieve a shared objective through cross organizational initiatives and ideation

One tool that will not play a role in the augmented Microsoft 365 is Skype for Business. The application is being phased out in favor of Microsoft Teams, which will handle all the communication requirements in the workplace. Microsoft Teams is, according to yet another blog post, the key element of what the company called "intelligent communications," and will become the primary portal in Office 365.

"All of this is being built on a new, modern Skype infrastructure for enterprise-grade voice and video communications," said Microsoft's Lori Wright, in a dedicated Office 365 blog post. "Our next generation, cloud-born architecture is already powering communication experiences in Teams, and is evolving rapidly. We are excited about this new infrastructure because it will provide both speed of innovation as well as higher quality communication experiences."

Why Microsoft Office Training Matters

As you might expect from a Microsoft conference built around productivity, the announcements came early and often. The company has acknowledged on numerous occasions that its suite of workplace-centric tools have been designed to empower people, a mission statement that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella repeated in his conference keynote.

A full round up of everything announced so far at Microsoft Ignite can be found here

Irrespective of when these new tools and applications are integrated into the workplace, the overarching concept for Microsoft 365 continues to be the streamlining of IT management and ongoing digitization of the workplace. And while Microsoft 365 reportedly makes it easy for companies to upskill employees, getting a Microsoft Office certification is an excellent way to take a deeper dive into productivity tools.

With so many new enhancements to existing Microsoft products, it is crucial that people take advantage of dedicated training programs. New Horizons Computer Learning Centers has over 300 locations spread across not only the continental United States but the globe and is an official Microsoft training partner.

Click here to find your local New Horizons or check out our webinars to find out the hot topics that the IT sector has on its collective mind. Alternatively, sign up for one of the dedicated IT courses and certifications that could push your career to a new level. 

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