Office 365 is a set of great tools but not a modern Workplace – some explanations

20. August 2019 Stefan Gohr Allgemein, Microsoft, Sharepoint, Teamwork, Workspace
The new tools that Microsoft provides for the modern workplace based on Office 365 offer enormous potential for a change in work culture and an increase in productivity in the company. But we see some challenging facts.
Office 365

The number of tools available on Office 365 alone can quickly overwhelm an employee. In our opinion, the choice of the right tool to use should not be the employee’s responsibility. Instead of burdening the employee with the selection of the right tool, constant context changes, storage locations and operating philosophies provide employees with meaningful business contexts. Just ensure a uniform user interface that ideally supports his work and offers him with fast access to all relevant data. From our point of view, this is one of the most important goals of a modern workplace. The modern workstation relieves the employee so that they can concentrate fully on their jobs. Swisscom Sharespace implements these requirements intuitively based on personalised dashboards. The employee works in projects, products or customer rooms with tasks and documents and does not have to think about the selection of the respective tool. Relevant information is placed on his start page or directly in his toolbox.

The intuitive operability reduces training costs and the complexity of everyday work for employees. An excellent modern Workplace is like a business card a figurehead of your company and can help to increase the perception of your company as an attractive employer and to increase employee retention. With growing acceptance, the risk of using shadow IT outside the official workplace decreases and reduces the associated IT security risks.

Ontology and metadata are the keys to successful data management

With Office 365 Cloud, Microsoft provides a comprehensive set of tools and secure containers to enable efficient worldwide access to corporate data. A clear set of rules must be established to efficiently manage that data in respect of findability, compliance and security.
Ask yourself, which data must be stored where and for how long, and what protective measures must be taken to protect it. The development of appropriate information architecture is a crucial task of the CIO Office. Sharespace supports companies with clear structures and, thanks to the Sharespace user interface, guides the employee intuitively to the right storage locations without having to know the information architecture.

To meet the requirements of different business areas and contexts, Sharespace provides a central administration of any business context. The differentiation of business contexts is done with varying types of workspace and is therefore not only a powerful collaboration solution, but also enables a complete enterprise content management system. The different types of workspaces are flexibly adapted to the requirements and processes of various departments regarding the data and structures. Sharespace ensures highly standardised structures per business context in the provisioning process and can automatically update all existing rooms if necessary.

The freely definable metadata for each room type plays a vital role in this, with which the provisioning and lifecycle processes can be customised and automated. With a few mouse clicks, Sharespace provides different dashboards with information aggregations. Through clear role assignments, metadata maintenance delegated to defined groups of people such as project managers. With the assigned metadata, Sharespace can significantly improve the document search, as they can be found based on the business context, without the need for maintenance when creating and editing documents.

Users only have to store their documents within the correct workspace. Policies based on the business context are stored in a central configuration. The retention times for a contract workspace can thus be defined. After a certain period of inactivity, the owner of a workspace is asked to decide whether it is still needed. Sharespace can be used to determine when the project is to be archived automatically after reaching the “Closed” status. It is easy to define security policies for each business context with customers and partners (external sharing policy) and which GDPR messages for external users.
Sharespace business contexts are the key to more simplicity for users. At the same time, IT retains complete control over the data. Microsoft Office 365 is the most modern warehouse for your data and Sharespace completes it with the most advanced fully automatic high rack for optimal data logistics.

Journey 2 the cloud requires a rethink data protection for corporations

The Journey to the Cloud is a major conceptual change in the design of information security.
In the past, systems and data in a classic IT architecture could be physically and technically secured at a central location using firewalls. All data was stored in the company’s data centre or at an outsourcing provider. Access to this data was exclusive via the company’s infrastructure and secured lines. Sensitive data could thus be protected from unauthorised access through thick walls and firewalls. But the new megatrends such as home office, mobile workforce and cloud mean that these data protection methods no longer work effectively. With the decision for a cloud strategy, only a subset of the relevant data can be found within the company’s perimeter protection. Mobile employees need efficient access to relevant information so that they can work effectively at a modern workplace.

Instead of securing IT infrastructure like in the past, individual documents and information are now protected based on the user’s identity in a cloud or cloud hybrid scenario. New tools such as Azure Information Protection and Conditional Access are available on the cloud for this purpose. To be able to apply correct protective measures per document, the identity of the user and the classification of the data according to protection requirements are evaluated. A set of rules in the cloud decides whether a user can access documents and whether further protective measures (such as a second-factor authentication). The basis for this set of rules is a correct classification of the information which is accessed. When using Swisscom Sharespace, this classification can be determined automatically from the business context and the business rules stored in the workspace template. Manual maintenance of the classification per document is not necessary, and the daily business of administrators and end users is considerably simplified. A win situation for the CIO, because the correct data classification guarantees a high level of data security in the cloud.

Better together: Sharespace and Microsoft Teams

The popularity of Microsoft teams is continuously increasing. More and more users like to use chat functions, which they know from their spare time from well-known platforms like Facebook or Whatsapp, also in their daily work. But there are some challenges to overcome when rolling out teams in an enterprise environment. When deploying a Teams in the context of projects, contracts or products, the same requirements for data security, data governance, protection of information against unauthorised access, lifecycle, archiving and GDPR must be met.
The functions provided by teams fulfil these requirements rudimentarily. If the Out of the Box functions is used to provide Teams, it is then challenging to derive the actual business context unambiguously from the few details (name, description, privacy).

There is a lack of department-specific metadata which allows a precise and automatic classification of the team. With hundreds or thousands of Teams in a company, it is difficult to keep track of them. There is no control on which information resides in which Team, nor whether a Team is still needed or can be deleted.
We, therefore, recommend that teams should be created using Swisscom Sharespace provisioning functions. Depending on the business context, Sharespace automatically provides different creation masks which queries the relevant business data.

The Sharespace provisioning process creates a hybrid workspace that can then be managed by the users with Teams or via the Sharespace web interface. Sharespace ensures a single storage location for the data.

Documents stored within teams are also automatically classified with Sharespace metadata. Since Sharespace now also manages the workspace behind Teams, Sharespace can efficiently manage the lifecycle, sharing policies, correct permissions, and GDPR messages. Therefore data governance for Teams can be addressed, and this helps users and IT alike. Users can work with the user interface they prefer, and at the same time, data always remains easily manageable for IT through Sharespace.

About Stefan Gohr

Stefan has been active in the IT business since 1991 with his own IT consulting company for network support and commercial applications. Since 1995 he has been involved in the software development of various industry software systems.
In 2002 the portfolio was extended by web development topics and portal applications with the release of SharePoint 2003.
In 2002 he founded Layer 2 GmbH, which develops and implements SharePoint solutions. Since 2007 he has been working for Swisscom (Switzerland) AG in the Microsoft development department. Currently, he leads a Project Squad, which implements solutions based on SharePoint technologies in the Intranet, Collaboration and Digital Workplace environment for large companies.

Stefan is married and father of two sons. In his spare time, he visits his son’s piano competitions and concerts or experiments with drones.