Don is a designer, technologist and educator who has spent more than 20 years working at the junction of design and technology with companies and organisations across commercial, public and applied research sectors such as Oyster Partners (now DigitasLBi), The Fraunhofer Institute, MIT and Giugiaro. He speaks regularly at public forums on the transformative capability of design innovation and divides his time between the Innovation School at Glasgow School of Art, where he is Design Director, The Digital Health and Care Institute, and Chess Digital where he is Creative Lead.
The chances are that a google search for ‘how to work effectively from home’ would return considerably more content now than in February this year. Much, much more. At the risk of invoking the dreaded ‘u’ word, the last year has essentially embodied the meaning of ‘unprecedented’; in how we work, in where we work and how we plan to carry on living our day to day lives. Questions are rightfully being asked of businesses in terms of how employees are supported as new ways of working are established and evolve.
At Chess we work with customers and partners, including Microsoft, to develop and manage software that allows people to work from anywhere, so these aspects matter to us. We’re proud of our working culture that places an emphasis on employee wellbeing and support, so how the tools and systems we design can be used to help transition into a new way of working is an area we feel compelled to understand and communicate back to customers.
Clearly it has been crucial for organisations to establish and maintain open lines of communication and information flow. Three resources in particular; Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and Power Apps can help everyone stay briefed on situations and proactively support the management of business impacts. All three services can help people stay connected with the right information and stay productive.
During the pandemic Teams saw a dramatic increase in usage in line with the huge movement towards home working. In response to demand, Microsoft made a free version of Teams available to individuals and organisations with an impressive range of functionality;
- unlimited chat
- built-in group and one-on-one audio or video calling
- 10 GB of team file storage
- 2 GB of personal file storage per user
- Real-time collaboration with the Office apps for web, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
Many organisations are not aware that if they are licensed for Office365, they already have access to Teams. Some companies, depending where there were in terms their rollout of Teams, were caught a little by surprise by the sudden availability of features beyond basic functionality such as chat. Arguably the most important and vital need met by Teams was the continuation, albeit digital, of the person-to-person human interaction that we all took for granted.
There have been many instances of business quickly setting up SharePoint sites in order to address the immediate need to communicate and store the type of new and dynamic information required by home workers. A communication site with Quick Links and web parts can set up and configured in around 20 minutes, ready for populating with content.
Like Teams, Power Apps have had access to an enhanced level of functionality for the duration of the CV19 crisis. In the case of both SharePoint and Power App development there have, though adversity and necessity, emerged blueprints for the art the possible.
Chess were one of several companies who used a combination of Microsoft solutions to enrich communication with field-based employees, providing the ability to check in and stay up to date with company information.
To meet these needs, the ‘Location App’ was developed using Power Apps, with logic and information flow managed via Power Automate, and Power BI employed to drive the reporting dashboards. In terms of managing a remote workforce in a way that is effective whilst sensitive to the needs of a people who may be reacting to transition in very different ways, the tool has proven to be invaluable. Through crisis management and good planning, technology can help maintain business continuity in a move to increased remote working.
At the end of the day however, no software or sophisticated level of functionality will replace a touchpoint that does not have an immediate business impact, that of human contact. All the platforms mentioned above have the capacity and agility, individually or in combination to support businesses during a period of necessary transition and to provide the tools and environment for people to share, feel connected and be inspired.