Productivity

Boost Your Organization’s Productivity with Microsoft Copilot and MS 365

Boost Your Organization’s Productivity with Microsoft Copilot and MS 365

DesignDATA

Associations and nonprofits are on a mission to create substantial impact, and emerging productivity tools are unlocking new possibilities for them to excel and innovate beyond conventional boundaries. Their drive for productivity is rooted not just in increasing output but in amplifying their meaningful contributions to members and stakeholders and advancing their core missions. The embrace of innovative automation technologies is key to this endeavor. A striking 80% of employees in a recent survey reported that these digital tools have not only streamlined their workflow but also significantly deepened their community relationships, highlighting the multifaceted benefits of such technologies. 

Microsoft Copilot stands out in the AI landscape for its ability to enhance the quality of outcomes and streamline processes. This tool goes beyond automating routine tasks by offering intelligent insights and solutions, thus enabling teams to focus more on strategic and impactful work. Its design is aimed at boosting decision-making and efficiency, making it a valuable asset in modern workflows. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how Copilot can be a game-changer for your organization. We’ll walk you through its impressive features and show you the real-world benefits they bring, especially when teamed up with a Microsoft 365 Business subscription. Get ready to discover how this incredible new AI tool can streamline your processes and inject efficiency and strategy into your everyday work life.  

What is Microsoft Copilot? 

Copilot is an artificial intelligence chatbot that uses large language model (LLM) algorithms, and leverages Microsoft’s proprietary Prometheus model, to generate content instantaneously based on user prompts. Its name perfectly summarizes the program’s purpose: to act as your trusty companion, helping you accomplish tasks more efficiently and preserving your energy for more creative projects.  

You can use the basic version to complete various tasks, such as writing, answering questions, coding, and even generating images. It can also mimic more complex human cognitive processes, such as solving problems, recognizing patterns, predicting outcomes, and even discerning emotions. 

Breaking down the premium versions 

Copilot operates on a freemium model, meaning that users can access most features for free but can also access more advanced capabilities with a paid subscription. 

In January 2024, Microsoft introduced Copilot Pro, a paid version for individuals to leverage the AI assistant directly in various applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. Pro users can also get priority access to GPT-4 and GPT-4 Turbo during peak times and experience faster AI-image generation in landscape format.   

Concurrently, Microsoft expanded the AI assistant’s reach to small and medium-sized businesses through Copilot for Microsoft 365. Tailored for organizational use, it integrates enterprise-grade security and compliance features. Users gain access to Microsoft Graph-powered chat, Teams integration, and customizable plugins and controls, requiring a 365 Business Standard or Premium subscription. 

What are the benefits for your organization? 

Enhanced content creation and management  

Integrating Copilot into MS 365 enhances productivity across key applications. It refines document and presentation creation in Word and PowerPoint, and streamlines content summarization in PowerPoint and OneNote, making it an essential tool for efficient content management. 

  • Document Management in Word: Facilitates document organization, creation, and editing. It can assist in drafting, referencing relevant files for detail inclusion, optimizing grammar and tone, and ensuring clarity in your main message. 
  • Presentation Creation in PowerPoint: Aids in crafting presentations, either from scratch, based on a Word document, or using organizational templates for brand consistency. It also assists in selecting appropriate imagery and organizing complex information into clear presentations. 
  • Summarizing Content: In applications like PowerPoint and OneNote, it can summarize documents, spotlighting key information for quick understanding. 

Improved communication and collaboration 

Associations and nonprofits need cohesive teamwork to achieve their missions. Copilot integrates with various Microsoft Office products to expedite mundane collaboration tasks, allowing people to gain more value from their connections. For example, it can: 

  • Summarize the important decisions from long email threads in Outlook or lengthy Teams chats – no more extensive scrolling needed to catch up! 
  • Compose a reply to someone’s Outlook email that contextualizes its content to ensure a relevant message.  
  • Create an agenda or prepare specific discussion questions to produce more efficient and effective Teams meetings 

More informed decision-making 

When engaging in strategic planning, effective data analysis is necessary for evaluating your performance, identifying any weaknesses, and setting well-aligned goals.   

To expend less manual effort on that process, Copilot can generate reports with valuable observations about your operations. For example, it can provide insights based on the data in your existing Excel tables or suggest formulas for what you want to calculate. It can also quickly highlight, sort, and filter your tables. 

Whether in Word, Outlook, or Teams, you can also engage the AI tool’s conversation feature to review documents or meetings and ask questions to get feedback you might not have considered yourself. Examples of questions might be “What actions would you suggest for my organization going forward?” or “How can I improve this plan? What is missing?” 

More efficient project management 

Copilot enables you to provide well-defined processes and workflows, so all employees know how and when to contribute to your long-term objectives. 

In OneNote, for example, you can ask the tool to create a to-do list, tasks, or even an entire project plan from your notes. After a Teams meeting, it can generate the main takeaways and action items. This will give your team explicit guidance on expectations, responsibilities, and project milestones – helping avoid any confusion. 

While subscribing to this new AI assistant for Microsoft 365 costs money upfront, it can help your organization save over time. With increased efficiency and more effective project management, you can focus on more value-added activities, better allocate resources, minimize delays, and stick to your projected budget. 

How To Get Started in Your Organization 

  1. Evaluate and Plan: Assess your current workflow. Identify how this new tool can enhance or streamline these processes and ensure your infrastructure is ready for integration. 
  2. Implement Management Tools and Policies: Partner with your IT team or service provider to establish a comprehensive management strategy for Microsoft 365. This strategy should include setting clear policies for user access and permissions, ensuring data quality and accuracy, and following best practices for AI and cloud security. This will ensure a secure, efficient, and responsible environment for using MS 365 and AI tools effectively. 
  3. Train and Support Your Team: Provide comprehensive training on new functionalities. Set guidelines for its use to maintain consistency and efficiency in operations. 
  4. Seek Feedback and Adjust: Regularly gather feedback from users and monitor the tool’s performance. Be ready to adjust your approach for optimal benefit. 

Get professional IT support when integrating innovative technologies 

More productive associations or nonprofits are much more likely to experience significant outcomes from their initiatives. Copilot for MS 365, which recently expanded to support smaller organizations, is a helpful alternative for enhancing how you manage your documents, plan your projects, communicate with your colleagues, and other critical daily workplace tasks. 

Collaborating with an IT Managed Services Provider like designDATA enhances your journey with cloud managed services. Their expertise covers every phase of integrating new productivity tools into your organization, offering comprehensive support from business analysis and system deployment to effective staff communication and targeted training programs. This partnership ensures a smooth, efficient transition to leveraging AI’s capabilities within your operational framework. 

Contact us today to discuss how designDATA can help you leverage innovative productivity software like Copilot to transform your work for more meaningful impact. 

Boost Your Organization’s Productivity with Microsoft Copilot and MS 365 Read More »

Enhance Your Productivity with Microsoft Teams Premium

Enhance Your Productivity with Microsoft Teams Premium

DesignDATA

The COVID-19 pandemic completely upended traditional work methods, instigating a sharp increase in remote and hybrid work. In response, Microsoft Teams emerged as the go-to platform for collaborating virtually in the workplace, with over 320 million active monthly users as of October 2023.

Thanks to the tool’s deep integration within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, organizations love using a unified interconnected space to make communication more efficient and cohesive. However, they’ve also felt frustrated with what sometimes felt like a one-size-fits-all technology that didn’t always reflect diverse working styles, preferences, or business goals.

At the start of 2023, Microsoft launched Microsoft Teams Premium to give organizations more options for personalizing and securing their environment. Below, we’ll break down the features included in a Premium subscription and explore ways that they can enhance productivity at work.

Advanced Meeting Capabilities

Even when conducted virtually, attending meetings can be exhausting. Along with the excessive screen time, they require considerable cognitive work, as participants must multitask, listen, take notes, and organize the next steps. With Microsoft Teams Premium, users can now enhance and streamline their virtual collaboration experience, so it takes less effort to communicate clearly and effectively.

Intelligent Recap

Intelligent Recap integrates OpenAI technology to create AI-driven meeting insights, making virtual connections more efficient. With this feature, users can reflect more purposefully on a meeting’s content after it ends. This tool can be helpful for anyone, whether you want a refresher, showed up late, had to leave early, or had to miss the meeting entirely.

After a meeting, the platform will auto-generate chapters, creating segments based on content topics. It will also make “personalized timeline markers” to highlight critical moments. There is no need to watch the entire recording; you can quickly sift through to find a relevant topic or moment, like when someone mentioned your name. With “speaker timeline markers,” you can quickly jump around the recording if you want to re-listen to a specific comment from a particular person.

AI-Generated Notes And Tasks

With Premium, you can leverage Teams to shoulder the mundane administrative tasks around meetings. The tool will highlight critical conversation points, noting suggestions for follow-up assignments so your employees can seamlessly transition from having a conversation to taking action. They won’t have to spend as much time manually analyzing the meeting notes to determine the key takeaways. Instead, they can focus on the more complex work of solving problems and making tangible business decisions.

Speaking of artificial intelligence, do you want to discover other ways to elevate your workplace productivity? Check out our free resource on unlocking the potential of AI. It includes three exclusive training videos to help boost your skills.

Live Translation for Captions

Many organizations operate with diverse, internationally located teams or run large-scale meetings and webinars with customers worldwide. This translation feature can help many users engage with a meeting’s content with fewer communication barriers and misunderstandings. You can harness artificial intelligence to translate the meeting conversation into more than 40 different languages in real time. The transcript will also automatically label and identify speakers. As a result, participants won’t have to stress out over taking notes to translate later; instead, they can use that energy to collaborate in the moment.

Remember, you can access the most sophisticated digital technology – but if you don’t have a strategy for accomplishing it meaningfully, your tools won’t yield the desired outcomes. Read these three ways to improve hybrid meetings to discover how to leverage Microsoft Teams Premium with purpose.

Tailored and Scalable Meeting Experiences

Organizations have previously felt dissatisfied with virtual meeting spaces’ limited functionality. They found it challenging to create a standardized, cohesive digital professional appearance aligned with their offline presence.

Customized Meeting Templates

With Microsoft Teams Premium, users can access customizable meeting templates that allow them to tailor their virtual events to be more consistent with their needs. In your template, you can control settings for various functions related to the chat, the lobby, reactions, or mic and camera use. As a result, administrators can predefine their default settings so that it’s frictionless for employees to comply with internal communication policies or industry regulations automatically.

The “Branded Meetings” feature also lets organizations present a consistent brand image at every touchpoint with meeting attendees, whether before they join, while in the lobby, or during the meeting, through elements such as your logo, color palette, and even custom backgrounds.

Advanced Webinars

Teams Premium gives organizations many options for controlling large-scale meetings so that their participants have a smoother and more professional experience.

Before the meeting, organizations can now use Teams to create an event sign-up page with customized branding and presenter bios. They can also more easily manage registration, with the ability to customize when registration will start and end, create a waitlist for potential audience members after you’ve reached your event capacity, and manually organize registrants if needed. During the meeting, they can now offer presenters and hosts a Virtual Green Room to chat before the official start time. Coming soon, hosts will have the ability to email attendees before and on the event day.

Enhanced Security and Compliance Features

Building a productive digital work environment also requires creating a secure infrastructure. If you don’t sufficiently protect your data, the resulting downtime can upend your operations. That’s why the enhanced security features in Microsoft Teams Premium are so important; they give organizations a safe communication platform designed to mitigate risk and keep productivity high.

Watermark

Teams Premium’s “Watermark” feature allows you to share confidential and sensitive information during digital meetings confidently. When turned on, it overlays a participant’s email over the video feed and screen share, deterring data leaks and making unauthorized disclosures more traceable. But don’t worry – it hides the watermark while attendees are engaging in their discussion so that it won’t impact the user experience.

Sensitivity Labels

Your organization can also leverage the “sensitive labels’ feature to streamline how you manage meeting security. By previously establishing your parameters for what constitutes “sensitive” content, you can quickly apply locked settings to meetings and configure blocks on specific actions, such as who can record, whether someone can copy chat contents, or whether someone can present at the session. You can now dive deeper on the admin side to determine which roles can control the recording process for each meeting.

End-to-End Encryption

You can add even stronger layers of protection for the most sensitive discussions by applying end-to-end encryption during a meeting. Although this may deactivate some of your meeting features, it will allow you to prevent anyone besides the meeting participants from consuming the content discussed – including the people at Microsoft!

Advanced Virtual Appointment Functionality

Whether you’re an association with a membership base, a nonprofit with clients and donors, or a business with customers, the new Advanced Virtual Appointments features available with Teams Premium may enrich how your team connects with individual stakeholders virtually. These capabilities empower better B2C (business-to-customer) engagement in many situations, from financial consultations and focus groups to therapy sessions and job interviews.

The Teams Premium “Virtual Appointments” app gives you a centralized location for managing appointment logistics, making it more straightforward to fit appointments into your employee’s schedules alongside their other tasks. You can also leverage the “SMS notifications” to send text reminders to attendees and the “branded virtual lobby” to offer a professional atmosphere at every touch point with the individual. With the option to look at “Virtual Appointment Analytics,” the organization can use concrete data like usage trends, wait times, and no-shows to make informed decisions about your appointment strategy.

Navigate Digital Collaboration with Our IT Solutions

Microsoft Teams Premium is a valuable solution for organizations looking to strengthen their approach to communicating and collaborating digitally. From its advanced meeting capabilities that leverage artificial intelligence to its security-focused features like sensitivity labels and end-to-end encryption, you can access diverse features to create a seamless and professional atmosphere for your team, clients, and partners.

If you want to explore Microsoft Teams Premium and other digital productivity tools for your team, our designDATA experts are here to help you implement them effectively. We’ll always be here to provide ongoing education and training when you need it.

When you partner with us for our cloud managed services and other robust IT solutions, we will build comprehensive tech strategies that meet your needs. Our team will handle sourcing, deploying, and maintaining your technology so you can focus on using it to accomplish your goals.

Enhance Your Productivity with Microsoft Teams Premium Read More »

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: Integrating a Video Into Teams

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: Integrating a Video Into Teams

DesignDATA

Three-minute read

One standout feature that illustrates the user-friendliness and versatility of Microsoft Teams is its ability to integrate common technologies into the platform. For example, did you know you can make YouTube videos easily accessible for you and your teammates in Teams?

Plus, it’s really easy to do!

Here’s how:

1. Start with the Video: Go to the YouTube video you wish to add to Teams, click the Share button, and then select Copy to copy the link.

2. Begin Integration in Teams: Click the + button at the top right of the channel toolbar where you want the video.

3. Add YouTube as a New Tab: A screen titled “Add a tab” will appear. Type “YouTube” in the search field, and click the YouTube icon when it shows up.

4. Incorporate YouTube into Your Channel: On the following screen, click Add to add YouTube to your Teams channel.

5. Embed the Video: Paste the copied YouTube URL and press Enter. When the video preview pops up, click on it and then select Save.

6. You’re All Set!: Now, the YouTube video should be visible as a new tab in your Teams channel.

Microsoft Teams isn’t just a tool for collaboration; it’s a comprehensive platform that boosts productivity in diverse organizational settings.

If you’re curious about other fantastic features of this power tool, do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our Microsoft experts.

For more valuable tools and guides, including a downloadable PDF version of this blog and other resources, be sure to visit our resource page.

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: Integrating a Video Into Teams Read More »

Microsoft 365 Feature App: Microsoft Forms

Microsoft 365 Feature App: Microsoft Forms

DesignDATA

Two-minute read

Microsoft Forms, a user-friendly application included in your Office 365 subscription and accessible to anyone with a Microsoft account, is your go-to tool for creating and sharing forms, surveys, and quizzes with both internal and external recipients.

To get started, simply choose the type of question you want to ask (multiple-choice, text-based, etc.), type in the question and possible responses. Once you’ve input all your questions, hit the Preview button to see how your survey will look on both a computer and a mobile device.

After you’re satisfied with your form, click the Share button to generate a link to the form. You can then share this link via email, a Teams chat, or any other platform of your choice.

 

The best part?

 

The recipient doesn’t need to be an Office 365 customer to fill out your form!

To view the responses, navigate to the Responses tab of your form. Here, you can view the responses directly from the form window or export them to an Excel spreadsheet.


But that’s not all!

 

Microsoft Forms has a plethora of other fantastic features, such as creating tests or quizzes and using branching to determine which questions users need to answer based on their responses. We highly recommend exploring this application further.

To help you get the most out of Microsoft Forms, we’ve created a comprehensive PDF guide detailing our favorite features. You can access it here. We believe this guide will enhance your understanding and usage of this powerful tool.

If you’re interested in other Microsoft applications that could boost your team’s efficiency and productivity, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Microsoft 365 Feature App: Microsoft Forms Read More »

The 5 Best ‘Hidden Gem’ Features in Microsoft Teams

The 5 Best ‘Hidden Gem’ Features in Microsoft Teams

DesignDATA

Having a comprehensive online team space for collaboration and virtual engagement has become essential in today’s remote and hybrid business environments. Since the pandemic, many organizations have turned to Microsoft Teams to simplify their group work and increase their virtual teams’ creativity and productivity. With more than 115 million users, Microsoft Teams has become a popular tool for managing remote work. In this blog, we will outline the best features of Microsoft Teams and how you can use them to your advantage. 

From apps designed to improve workflow and efficiency to comprehensive project management tools, there are many great “hidden gem” features in Microsoft Teams to help organizations reach their productivity goals.

One of Microsoft Teams’ best assets is integrating fully with Microsoft 365 and the apps that many team members are likely already using, like Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel, Word and SharePoint. This means that all your apps are in one location, and introducing Microsoft Teams should be a seamless transition, allowing team members to collaborate in real-time easily.

 

Want to get back to the basics and learn even more about Microsoft Teams features, themes and presenting options? Register for our next free training session now.

Here are our top five favourite hidden gem features in Microsoft Teams:

1. Bookmarks
Being able to bookmark messages and attachments makes it easy to save required actions for later. This is especially useful when you are multitasking and have multiple chats open. It is also possible to mark a message as unread if you want to tend to it later. These commands are found by clicking on the ellipsis next to a message. To find your unread or saved messages, use the slash feature by inputting “/unread” or “/saved” in the search bar.

2. Search Bar and Slash Commands
A search bar is nothing new or extraordinary and may not seem like a hidden gem feature in Microsoft Teams. In this case, however, it doubles as a command bar, which is handy for quick navigation. Commands are shortcuts for performing specific tasks in Teams like changing your status, opening a file, making a video call or starting a chat. By inserting a “/” before a word in the search bar, a list of useful commands appears.

3. Applying Background Effects in Video Chats
When it comes to virtual meetings, background distractions can be a frustrating thing to manage. There are great features in Microsoft Teams that allow participants to utilize background effects to subtly conceal their background so that only they are visible during a Teams video call. To blur the background, click the ellipsis in the bottom toolbar. It is also possible to suppress background noises during a video call. To control the background noise settings, go to your profile picture at the top of Teams, then go to Settings > Devices > Noise Suppression.

 

4. Meeting Whiteboards
Meeting whiteboards are a useful feature in Microsoft Teams that allow participants to collaborate visually in real time. There are two ways to use whiteboards in Teams: using the Microsoft Whiteboard app or the Freehand tool by InVision. Meeting participants can sketch, write and brainstorm new ideas onto a shared digital canvas, much like they would in the boardroom. This makes for a more personal and interactive experience. After a meeting has ended, the board will still be available to participants in a tab labeled “Whiteboard.”

5. Multiple Languages and Built-in Translators
Having Microsoft Teams support more than 60 languages allows for more inclusive collaboration for teams across the globe. This handy feature allows for captions in the spoken language or translated captions in one’s native language for messages and chats without leaving the app. This means that team members who are more comfortable speaking in their first language can do so during meetings or chats.

The translate function can be accessed via the ellipsis next to a message. You can also record a meeting, and have it transcribed – this is then available to team members needing a recap of what was discussed in the meeting.

6. Work Better — Hybrid and Home Office Editions
Microsoft Teams has greatly helped facilitate our move to remote work and the practical and productive functioning of this work environment. We’ve recently launched Microsoft 365 Business Voice and have found that this telephony software has also helped replicate the physical workspace in a meaningful way.

Let us help you achieve the same meaningful results and improve your company’s efficiency; join one of our experts for a free productivity consult.

The 5 Best ‘Hidden Gem’ Features in Microsoft Teams Read More »

5 Valuable EXCEL Features

5 Valuable EXCEL Features

DesignDATA

1. Auto Fill

Auto Fill allows you to take a formula or pattern that has been applied to one cell and apply that same formula or pattern to other cells. In the example below, we have used a formula to give Bob a 3% salary increase. We can then select the tiny green dot at the bottom right corner of the cell containing Bob’s new salary and hold the mouse down and drag it vertically until all of the other cells in the column are selected.

Once we let go of the mouse, all of the remaining cells in the column will be populated using the same formula that was used to compute Bob’s new salary.

2. Remove Duplicates

When analyzing or sorting through data, no matter what industry you are in, it can get chaotic and maybe even a bit messy. Depending on the way the data is imported, some sequences may be added more than once, resulting in duplication. Knowing how to remove copies of data segments is important so that the copies don’t skew the end amount.

To access the Remove Duplicates feature, tap on Data > Data Tools > Remove Duplicates. Make sure the proper dataset is selected. You can then click Remove Duplicates. You will be able to view the different columns, so ensure the “My data has headers” box is crossed off if the column names are failing to display. Simply click okay and you’re good to go.

3. Find and Search

These may seem like basic functions but they are integral and can save you tons of time. Also, it is good to know that Find and Search are not one and the same.

To access Find, click the Search (Alt + Q) bar at the top of the sheet. This will give you three options, with the top one being Find. Click on it. Find will only return case-sensitive matches, whereas using the Search feature will give you broader matches. Search isn’t limited to case sensitivity and it will find the words in pieces of text too.

Both of the features can make finding information in a spreadsheet much easier.

4. Insert Function

The Insert Function button allows you to tell Excel what you are trying to do, and it will give you a list of likely functions to solve your problem. It will also walk you through how to enter the parameters needed for that particular function.

For example, imagine you wanted to find the largest value in the list of current salaries in our previous example. You would type “Largest in a set of values” in the Search box and select “Go,” and Excel will return two possible functions that meet your needs. You can see exactly what the functions do at the bottom of the screen. Once you determine which of these functions you want to use, select the function and press ENTER.

Once you press ENTER, you will be presented with the Arguments screen where Excel will walk you through each of the arguments that the function requires. The text at the bottom tells you exactly what needs to be entered for that argument.

Once all the arguments are entered, just select OK, and your function will be entered into the appropriate cell! If you look at the formula bar above the data, you will see the function that Excel created for you:

5. Conditional Formatting

Conditional Formatting allows you to graphically depict your data based on their values. You can use colors or icons to depict the data in different ways. For example, imagine we wanted to show the difference in people’s salaries. We could use the Data Bars type of conditional formatting as shown below so that the people with the highest salaries have the longest purple bars while those with the smallest salaries have the shortest bars.

We could also use icons instead of just colors so that the people with the highest salaries have a green “up” arrow, while those with the lowest salaries have a red “down” arrow.

There are many more options for conditional formatting; be sure to try them out until you find the one that works best for you!

Want to find out more ways your staff can make the most of Excel? Don’t hesitate to get in touch. For more workplace productivity tips, you can join our free training sessions where you will be able to learn about the latest techniques and tools to help your organization achieve proficiency.

Check out these resources:

 

5 Valuable EXCEL Features Read More »

‘Phishy’ Business: 5 Email Security Tips to Protect Yourself From Hackers

‘Phishy’ Business: 5 Email Security Tips to Protect Yourself From Hackers

DesignDATA

Email is one of the best things the internet has given us. We use it to sign up for websites, apply for jobs, make payments and get in touch with friends and family. It has offered us efficiency, as you no longer need to pick up the phone to call someone or physically mail a document. However, your email is also one of the platforms hackers can exploit to steal information or launch malware attacks, making email security a hot topic. 

According to CyberTalk.org, 15 billion spam emails are sent across the internet per day, making your spam folder run on overdrive. Due to this, suspicious content may slip through, leading you to accidentally open a harmful email. Unfortunately, it is reported that 42% of employees have admitted to clicking on suspicious emails, such as downloading unfamiliar links and exposing their organization’s personal data.

An integral part of preventing this is being educated on email security best practices. Here are crucial steps to take to safeguard your email account.

1. Use Separate Email Accounts

Most people use a single email account for all their needs. As a result, information from websites, newsletters, shopping deals and messages from work get sent to one inbox. But what happens when someone breaks into it? There’s a good chance they could gain access to all the stored information and use them in fraudulent dealings.

Having at least two separate email accounts will boost your security and increase your productivity. You can have a personal account to communicate with friends and family and a professional email account solely for work-related tasks.

2. Set Strong Passwords

Some email users often overlook the importance of having strong email account passwords. You might be surprised to learn that obvious passwords like “123456” are still common. For the sake of security, set longer passwords or passphrases that contain a good mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. Make sure you create passwords that are unique to specific accounts to keep all your other password-protected accounts safe.

Remember these additional guidelines for creating a strong email password:

  • Don’t use the same numbers or letters in a sequence. 

  • Exclude your birthday. These numbers can be easier for hackers to get a hold of. 

  • The ideal combination is eight letters, numbers or symbols, collectively. Your password should not be shorter than eight figures. 

  • Use random words that don’t hold personal value. 

You should also consider enabling multifactor authentication (MFA). This creates an extra layer of security by requesting another method to verify your identity, like a fingerprint scan or a temporary activation code sent to your mobile phone.

3. Beware of Email Scams

When you see a link in an email, don’t click on it unless you have assessed its authenticity. You never know where those links might lead you. Sometimes they are safe, but other times they can infect your computer with malware or send you to a compromised website. It’s always good to know where the email message is coming from. If you are expecting a file from your friend or family, then go ahead and open the attachment. However, emails coming from unknown sources or those that have strange account names such as “@amazon6753.com” are most likely to be email scams.

These types of attacks are known as phishing and can be remarkably clever. For example, cybercriminals may masquerade as high-profile companies like Amazon, Facebook, or Bank of America to catch their victims off guard. They create emails with a sense of urgency by claiming that there is an issue with your account and that you should send them information or click on a link to confirm your personal details. This link will either install malware on your device or lead you to a fraudulent site.

Even if there were a genuine issue with your account, legitimate companies would never ask something so suspicious over email. If you get these messages, contact the company directly through a verified website or phone number — not the contact details on the email.

4. Monitor Account Activity

Periodically, watch over your account activity. Make sure to limit access privileges to apps if you want to ensure maximum privacy and security. Also, check for any suspicious activities in your logs, such as unusual devices and IP addresses that have accessed your account. This indicates that hackers may have successfully broken into your account. If this is the case, sign out of all web sessions and change your password as soon as possible.

5. Encrypt Emails and Update Your Software

Email encryption ensures that any message you send won’t be intercepted and viewed by unauthorized users. Meanwhile, installing the latest updates for your anti-malware, firewalls and email security software filters potential email scams and fixes any vulnerabilities hackers can exploit.

Sit Up Straight — It is Time to Improve Your Email Security Posture

Protecting your email accounts from various threats can be a daunting process, but with the right support, it should be effortless. When people think of cybersecurity, email may be overlooked, but it is a key element that should be monitored and protected. 

designDATA can empower your work day by giving you the time to focus on projects instead of analyzing emails, and wondering if you should open them or not.

Let’s connect to ensure that your email security is well-guarded and managed.

‘Phishy’ Business: 5 Email Security Tips to Protect Yourself From Hackers Read More »

The Benefits of Moving to the Cloud for Remote Work Productivity

The Benefits of Moving to the Cloud for Remote Work Productivity

The Benefits of Moving to the Cloud for Remote Work Productivity

DesignDATA
The Benefits of Moving to the Cloud for Remote Work Productivity

Four-minute read

The tech industry notoriously loves to use nebulous and arbitrary buzzwords, like “big data,” “net neutrality,” or “machine learning.” Rest assured, though, cloud computing isn’t one of them.

In reality, the concept of the cloud has been floating around since the 1960s (even if it was just a wild concept at the time). Since then, however, it has not only been fully realized but has matured rapidly to level the playing field among businesses of all sizes.

What is “The Cloud”?

In the simplest terms, “the cloud” or “cloud computing” involves storing and accessing data over the internet instead of in some physical infrastructure, like your computer’s hard drive. Within this definition, there are three distinct service models: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).

IaaS
This encompasses the fundamental building blocks of computing that can be rented, whether that’s physical or virtual servers, storage or networking.

PaaS
This is the next layer up from IaaS. On top of the underlying storage, networking, and virtual servers, PaaS also includes the tools and software required to build applications, including middleware, database management, operating systems, and development tools.

SaaS
As expected, this is the delivery of applications as a service. SaaS is likely the version of cloud computing that most people are familiar with because the underlying hardware and operating system are generally irrelevant to the typical end-user, who will access the service via a web browser or app.

Yes, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS are distinctly different service models, but they are not mutually exclusive. While many organizations understand and utilize more than one, the concept of the massive power-consuming data processing that is happening on the other end in a data center may be a bit ambiguous to an individual user. Moreover, cloud computing is such a large umbrella concept that you may not even know you’re using it. However, if you’re taking advantage of applications like Microsoft Teams, Google Drive, Apple iCloud, Dropbox, and a slew of others, you’re already exploiting the cloud!

Cloud Deployment Models

Cloud Deployment Models

There are plenty of cloud service providers in the market, but the most popular are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. As you research cloud providers to identify one that offers services that best fit your organization, you’ll also have five main cloud deployment models to choose from: public, private, hybrid, community, and multi-cloud.

Public
This is the classic, most popular cloud-computing model. With a public cloud, you don’t own any hardware; users access a large pool of computing power over the internet from a cloud service provider. With this model, you gain the ability to rapidly scale a service because of the vast amounts of computing power available from the “multi-tenant” architecture.

Private
This is essentially the opposite of the public cloud. With the private cloud, organizations can benefit from the flexibility of the public cloud but also gain an added layer of data security because all information is tucked away behind the corporate firewall. Therefore, companies can control precisely where their data is being held with customized infrastructure.

Hybrid
As expected, this model combines private and public cloud environments. Some less-sensitive data is stored in the public cloud, and the more sensitive projects are stored in the private cloud (which can also be on-premise servers). In the hybrid model, organizations utilize multiple vendors with different cloud usage levels to work as one system.

Community
This model represents a cloud dedicated to a few organizations within the same community. In this case, it’s not a public cloud (because it’s essentially “members only”), but it’s also not a private cloud dedicated to a single company. Although it’s not particularly popular, it’s worth being aware of.

Multi-cloud
As the name suggests, this model uses more than one cloud provider at a time for redundancy, or increased reliability. Although all public cloud providers provide options for fail-safes, accidents still happen. With multiple cloud providers, you have an added layer of security and comfort knowing that if an accident occurs with one provider, your backup provider will still be available.

How Does It Work?

At a basic level, companies rent access to anything from applications to storage from a cloud service provider rather than owning onsite infrastructure or data centers. At this point, nearly any service that doesn’t require you to be physically close to the computer hardware that you are using can now be delivered via the cloud.

Although there’s a significant amount of cloud-related information, here’s the takeaway: with an internet
connection, cloud computing allows you to work anywhere, anytime.

Benefits

Traditionally the most widely discussed benefit is avoiding the upfront cost of owning and maintaining on-premise IT infrastructure, decreased complexity, increased security, and faster deployment times. However, in this era, the focus is shifting to the benefits for remote-work productivity: connectivity and accessibility, increased collaboration, and improved efficiency.

Connectivity and accessibility
With cloud technology, users within your organization can access all your files from anywhere, using any device. All information is accessible 24/7 with an internet connection. With that freedom also comes decreased risk since files are no longer stored on any physical computer.

Increased collaboration
Switching to the cloud supports simultaneous syncing, working, and sharing files in real-time, thereby increasing the collaboration and efficiency of employees. Now the location of employees is insignificant; employees from all over the world can collaborate seamlessly.

Improved efficiency
Gone are the days when you worry about your organization’s power requirements, space considerations, expensive computer hardware, or software updates. Similarly, the downtime associated with these issues is in the past. When you shift to the cloud, your entire company can stay focused on building quality relationships that generate revenue, not on IT issues.

The Future of Remote Work

Increased flexibility, enhanced integration capabilities, improved work processes, and reduced overhead costs will continue to drive organizations to utilize the cloud. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can now compete with larger corporations as new, powerful web-based business apps shift the financial costs and bridge the “software divide” that once separated them.

With this technology, SMBs can measure significant benefits from their cloud investments, including increased productivity throughout their organization. With unbounded connectivity and accessibility, increased collaboration, and improved efficiency, your organization can operate at its intended level.

Are you curious about how you can boost internal productivity? Our experts would be honored to answer any questions you may have – and don’t forget to check out our free monthly training session focused on enabling your teams to do their best work.

The Benefits of Moving to the Cloud for Remote Work Productivity Read More »

How To: Organize Emails in Outlook

How To: Organize Emails in Outlook

How To: Organize Emails in Outlook

DesignDATA
How To: Organize Emails in Outlook
Four-minute read Productivity is becoming a buzzword for a reason –  everyone has incentives to increase it. Not only is it fulfilling for an employee to hit personal targets and complete tasks ahead of schedule, but employers are always looking to increase revenue.   To enjoy these benefits, new productivity-enhancing tools and processes are often the targets for operations leaders. But one thing that is commonly overlooked is optimizing the use of already-integrated systems. For example, a considerable time-stealer is an overwhelming email inbox. Nearly everyone can understand the overwhelm one feels when looking over their messy inbox; this overwhelm often leads to procrastination.   A disorganized email inbox not only causes procrastination but can also cause more logistical time-waste, such as the time used searching for attachments, nagging correspondence when one has not responded in a timely fashion, and simply the time it takes deleting useless emails.   What follows are our top three tips for avoiding the frustration and wasted time it takes to deal with consequences like those listed above. Because so many organizations have turned to Microsoft tools to handle the shift to remote and hybrid work, we have chosen to focus on Outlook; these tips all apply to alternative email platforms 

Use Outlook’s Rules

Use Outlook’s Rules One of the best ways to organize your Outlook inbox is to set up rules. Rules allow you to organize your inbox into different folders and have corresponding emails go directly into the appropriate ones. This way, you can check higher priority inboxes first and not have lower priority emails distract you from more important work. 

Adjust Notification Settings 

Adjust Notification Settings Now, this one takes a bit of time – but it is worth it! Over the course of a week, take notice of emails that come into your inbox that are unnecessary. For example, if you check Microsoft Teams every morning, you do not need to be getting emails to your inbox of tasks you have been assigned to or messages that have come in. Then, adjust your notification settings to ensure unnecessary emails like these are turned off.

Implement a Central Collaboration Hub 

Because organization needs have drastically changed since the creation of virtual mailboxes, email is becoming increasingly less useful. Instead, collaboration hubs tick all the communication-needs boxes for most companies. If you already have a collaboration hub implemented, email may still be pulling engagement away from the effectiveness of this hub. Ensure you use your collab hub as much as possible for communication to help clear out all of the unnecessary duplicated content in your Outlook inbox.  There are so many ways to increase productivity by leveraging your current technology. If you would like an assessment of your organization’s tech optimization needs, do not hesitate to contact one of our productivity experts. We also offer a free training session every month on different Microsoft products and tools to help your staff become more savvy and efficient technology users. Sign up for a session today! 

How To: Organize Emails in Outlook Read More »

Screenshot of Microsoft Tasks by Planner and ToDo

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: Tasks by Planner and ToDo

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: Tasks by Planner and ToDo

DesignDATA
Screenshot of Microsoft Tasks by Planner and ToDo

Three-minute read

Microsoft Tasks by Planner and ToDo (formerly known as Planner) is a feature-rich application that integrates with Microsoft Teams. This powerful tool enables users to assign, collaborate, and monitor projects and tasks using a variety of dashboards.

To integrate the Planner app into Teams, simply navigate to the desired channel and select the + (Add a Tab) button in the menu bar. When the list of applications comes up, select Tasks by Planner and ToDo. If you don’t see this listed, start typing Tasks in the search bar and you should see the app appear.

screenshot of Microsoft Teams - how to add a tab
Once selected, on the next screen click Create a new plan and give your plan a name:

Screenshot of Tasks by Planer and To Do showing how to create a plan
You will see a new tab with the Planner name on your Team’s menu bar.

The main user interface of Planner shows tasks in the bucket view. These buckets represent different groups of tasks, like Client-specific, Internal, and Webinar Series. Within each bucket, you can create individual tasks, choose a due date, and make assignments:

Screenshot of Microsoft Teams showing tasks in Tasks By Planner and ToDo

When users are assigned a task, they receive an email with the new task information. The task information can be monitored from the main Planner screen in Teams (see above). Users can also edit tasks and mark them complete using this same interface by clicking on the task to open the Task Details screen:

004_Tasks-by-Planner-and-To-Do-Task-Details
In addition to the bucket view, users also have the ability to view their team’s tasks using a charts view, which groups tasks by various categories. For example, in the screenshots below, the tasks are broken down by status, bucket, priority, and members:

005_Tasks-by-Planner-and-To-Do-Chart-View

007_Tasks-by-Planner-and-To-Do-Chart-View-3

006_Tasks-by-Planner-and-To-Do-Chart-View-2
Finally, Planner provides a list view which enables you to view all tasks in a standard list:

008_Tasks-by-Planner-and-To-Do-Standard-List
Microsoft Planner is an easy-to-use task management application that nicely integrates with Teams. Try it out to see if it could help your organization’s task management needs, and if you have any questions or would like help choosing the best Microsoft tools for your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: Tasks by Planner and ToDo Read More »

How to Use Microsoft 365 Business Voice to Your Advantage

How to Use Microsoft 365 Business Voice to Your Advantage

How to Use Microsoft 365 Business Voice to Your Advantage

DesignDATA
How to Use Microsoft 365 Business Voice to Your Advantage

Four-minute read

Learning these key Microsoft 365 Business Voice features will make you much more productive during the workday. Keep reading to get started.

Microsoft is a staple in the business world, offering essential software that significantly boosts productivity. For many organizations, operating without the Microsoft Office Suite is unimaginable.

Although not quite as well-known as some of its larger products, Microsoft 365 Business Voice is a valuable tool for companies willing to harness its power.

Unsure where to start? We’ve got a guide that can help you.

Let’s dive in.

Unlocking Key Features

To make the most of this software, you need to take full advantage of the numerous features. Many of these tools require setup, but the implementation is well worth it.

One of the most notable is the fully-customizable auto attendant. This tool expertly handles incoming calls, directing them to appropriate queues based on criteria like language, time zone, or availability.

When these callers reach the queues, they’ll be presented with a custom greeting while they wait (accompanied by music if necessary). Other notable features include audio conferencing, cloud-based voicemail management (and voicemail transcription), and direct SIP trunk routing.

It’s best to determine which tools your company can benefit from most and integrate them as soon as possible.

The Microsoft Teams Admin Center

As the name suggests, the Microsoft Teams admin center serves as a centralized location that you can use to help manage your organization’s projects and tools. You can also use it for 365 Business Voice.

This tool helps you set up cloud calling and audio conferencing. You can also contribute to a database of relevant phone numbers that are easily accessible.

You can even use the admin center to assign certain levels of functionality to specific phone numbers. For example, one phone number could be a dedicated conference bridge connecting multiple users to a single conference call.

It’s possible to do the same for call queues and auto attendants. By taking full advantage of this utility, you’ll be able to improve your level of customer service drastically.

Build Upon Its Functionality

Although Business Voice provides a large amount of utility for many organizations, some businesses still prefer to use other software alongside it.

For example, a small business owner might use Business Voice as a foundation while also implementing a different partner compliance recording solution.

This scenario is easily achievable. Microsoft 365 Business Voice is highly extensible, allowing users to expand upon its functionality. This means that those who already have a preferred contact center software don’t have to worry about any conflicts arising.

This is particularly useful for more sizeable organizations that benefit from using a large set of tools.

Train Your Team

To get the most out of Microsoft Business Voice, you’ll need to train your team on its functionality. Fortunately, the volume of training required is very low.

Employees who have experience using Microsoft Teams will likely require only 5 to 10 minutes to get familiar with Business Voice. After everything has been configured within the admin center, your employees will often only need to set up their respective voicemails before they can begin to make calls.

This makes Business Voice extremely straightforward to integrate into a company’s practices and is one of the primary reasons entrepreneurs choose to use it.

Ready to Enhance Your Business Communication?

Microsoft 365 Business Voice is more than just a tool; it’s a game-changer for your business communication needs. Are you ready to take your organization’s communication to the next level?

Discover how we can transform your communication strategies with Microsoft 365 Business Voice.

How to Use Microsoft 365 Business Voice to Your Advantage Read More »

The Best Cybersecurity Awareness Training for Your Organization

The Best Cybersecurity Awareness Training for Your Organization

The Best Cybersecurity Awareness Training for Your Organization

DesignDATA
The Best Cybersecurity Awareness Training for Your Organization

Four-minute read

Whether through device loss, social engineering tactics, phishing, or anything in between, your technology is constantly at risk of being breached. Surprisingly, your greatest cybersecurity vulnerability isn’t your hardware or software – it’s your people. 

If you want to boost your cybersecurity defenses and minimize the risk of a network intrusion, you need to bolster your first line of defense against external threats. Specifically, that includes training your employees on cybersecurity awareness. 

What Is Cybersecurity Awareness?

It’s simple: cybersecurity awareness is being mindful of present cyber threats in your daily life. As you can imagine, even minor cybersecurity breaches come with a sizeable price tag. Considering the ever-rising number of cyberattacks each year, cybersecurity awareness is undoubtedly nothing to neglect. 

Ultimately, defending against cyber threats comes down to knowing what you’re up against. By increasing ongoing security awareness training, you’ll simultaneously educate your employees on how to identify and combat modern threats, as well as instill best practices for staying security-savvy. 

Cybersecurity Awareness Topics and Best Practices 

As there are so many potential weak spots hackers can exploit, complete cybersecurity may seem unattainable. Fortunately, you can build a formidable wall to ward off cyberattacks by arming your employees with training in the proper areas. So, what topics do your employees need training in to be adequately equipped? 

Cybersecurity Awareness Topics and Best Practices

Password Management 

For starters, password length is important – aim for 12-16 characters if the system supports it. Along that vein, you should opt for long passphrases rather than single words. That way, you’ll be able to remember it easily, but it will be impossible for hackers to guess.  For example, the phrase “horse identify power hammer” would make a great password. You can craft a visual image of it in your mind, so you won’t have trouble remembering it, but no brute force system will ever guess it – a win-win! 

Also, make sure all your passwords are unique from one another. Don’t re-use your work password for your bank or your bank password for your Twitter; if they’re all the same, a hack on one becomes a hack on them all. 

Because remembering dozens of unique passwords is difficult (if even possible), use the password manager supported by your organization. If a specific password manager isn’t promoted within your organization, find out the policy on using a personal password manager for organization passwords. Password managers are great tools to keep your data safe and secure! 

Multi-Factor Authentication 

We’ll keep it short and sweet: use multi-factor authentication everywhere, even if it’s not explicitly required. This feature can provide extra layers of security that protect the integrity of all your accounts, with just one added login step. 

Phishing/Social Media Attacks

As an overarching theme, never accept an email as the only source for an information or financial request. For instance, if someone emails you asking for a copy of your W2s or for a wire transfer, be sure to get confirmation through some other source (e.g., walking by their office or calling them on the phone on a number in your directory). Leaders, make this “Identity Validation” a requirement at your organization! 

Likewise, be wary of requests that are flagged as “urgent” – these may be sent with bad intentions, hoping you’ll be lax in your security postures because they claim the request is an emergency. At the end of the day, a culture of “be secure” should be fostered over one of “immediate response,” so make sure all parties (including executives) know to follow the security guidelines. 

Remote Work 

With the increase in hybrid work models, our personal and work lives are intermingling. Employees need to be especially aware of your organization’s policies regarding doing personal stuff on a work computer and doing work stuff on a personal computer. 

In general, you want to keep them separate. If your personal computer obtains a virus and you connect that computer to the work VPN, you could spread that virus to the network. Similarly, if you download personal software (with a virus) on your work computer, you could make your company susceptible to a breach. 

Suspicious Activity Radar 

Here’s the gist: if you think an email looks a little suspicious, you’re probably right! Treat any questionable-looking email as dangerous.

If your computer seems to be behaving oddly (e.g., frequent pop-up windows, frequent crashes, unusually slow computer performance), you may have exposed it to a virus. Don’t wait for things to worsen – notify IT ASAP and let them make the determination.  

A Culture of Security  

Paired with baseline policies, email protection, anti-ransomware software, and a few other layers of defense, Cybersecurity Awareness Training is an essential part of protecting your organization. By informing your staff of their responsibilities and making them aware of modern dangers, you can adequately prepare them to identify threats early and reduce the likelihood of a successful cyberattack.  

While cybersecurity awareness is the first step, two additional steps must be followed for this to be effective. First, leaders must create and promote a culture of security, changing the collective attitudes and behaviors toward cybersecurity. Following this, employees must willingly embrace and proactively use these learned practices (both professionally and personally). 

Fortunately, designDATA offers all the quality content and tools you need to solidify your cyber defense strategy and integrate it as part of your culture. Our cybersecurity services cover all the bases to find the cybersecurity solutions that are the right fit. Not sure what you need? Book a cybersecurity consultation with our experts! 

The Best Cybersecurity Awareness Training for Your Organization Read More »

Why Email Is Dead – And What to Do About It

Why Email Is Dead – And What to Do About It

Why Email Is Dead – And What to Do About It

DesignDATA
Why Email Is Dead – And What to Do About It

Three-minute read

Email is the physical mailbox of the virtual world. It was designed to make it easy for anyone to reach anyone about anything and, thus, was built for broad, ubiquitous communication. But organization needs have drastically changed since the creation of virtual mailboxes. Now, companies require collaboration hubs that tick off all the communication-needs boxes. Moreover, not only is email becoming less useful, but it is also pulling engagement away from the effectiveness of your collaboration hub.

Below, we outline three key design features that prevent email from being a suitable mechanism for collaboration. We hope this information allows you to make an informative decision with your fellow teammates about how to shift communications to your collaboration hub.

  1. Anyone can email you about anything The ping of an email inbox can draw your attention to an important document, a marketing solicitation, or a phishing scheme – there is no prioritization. Last in is the first up, and important contextual information is missing. Who is this from? What is this about? Do I need to take any action on this?
  2.  Email inboxes are terrible knowledge repositories Information quickly gets buried in email. Depending on who is cc’d on what, conversations become fractured into an array of email strings that need to be pieced together. Teams also run into version control issues as each team member works on a different static version of the same document. All these inconveniences add up, bringing down organizational productivity.
  3. Email is built for one and done communication Have you ever selected “reply all” when you meant to send a private message to the sender? Ever sent an emotionally charged message that you wished you could pull back? Recognized a careless typo immediately after clicking send? Forgot to attach the document you referenced in the body of the message? Ever been the victim of a steady stream of responses that all essentially just confirm receipt (“I got it” / “Thanks”)? Email is simply not conducive to revision, recall, or response, and this lack often causes frustration and misunderstandings.

A collaboration hub, such as MS Teams or Slack, is designed to solve these problems. For example, messages can be easily edited and deleted. As well, information is organized by team, topic, and project, providing important context and keeping all the pieces of a conversation connected. You can also “@” someone to draw attention to the fact that they are being asked to respond. All of these factors improve the quality and efficiency of communication and collaboration. For these reasons and then some, we are currently working on getting zero internal communications via email, ensuring we take advantage of our organization’s more efficient technologies.  

If you’re curious about implementing a collaboration hub or have one but are unsure how to optimize team use, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We would love to discuss critical factors specific to your organization that will help ease the transition or improve your current workflows.  

Why Email Is Dead – And What to Do About It Read More »

Polly App

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: The Polly App

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: The Polly App

DesignDATA
Polly App

Three-minute read

Microsoft Teams is chock-full of valuable applications designed to make our lives easier. One such tool which increases collaboration and improves productivity is the Polly app. Polly is an application that creates polls and surveys. For Polly, a poll includes one question, whereas a survey includes multiple.

It’s important to note that Polly has two versions – a free and a paid version. With the free version, you can easily create polls; however, surveys are reserved for the paid version.

Before expanding on other differences between the two versions, let’s first run through how you and your teams can easily install and use the Polly app.

1. Click on the three dots at the bottom of your navigation bar, left of the screen in Teams. You can search for and download any application here and pin it to your navigation bar so that it is always visible and accessible.

screenshot of navigation bar in Microsoft Teams

2. Now, whenever you start a conversation in a channel or chat, you will see a Polly icon among the others (like attachments and gifs).

 

3. You can also add Polly as a tab into any Team by simply clicking on the + sign at the top of the intended Team. Search for Polly to add it.

Screenshot showing how to add Polly to a tab in Microsoft Teams

Now that you have Polly installed, how does it work? Wherever you’d like to access it, simply click on the Polly icon to open it. When it opens, you will see that you can create a poll template. With the free version, your choices are fairly limited, but you can choose an audience, a channel for the poll to live in, and when you’d like to send it.

Here are some options the paid version offers: templates, polls, surveys, recurring polls, greater analytics, and sending reminders.

To view the results of a completed poll, click on the View All Results button from your poll; this will bring you to a simple graph outlining everyone’s choices.

designDATA’s Microsoft Experts Can Help

Whether your organization is new to Microsoft’s tools and technology or an experienced lot, our experts can help analyze and outline the best applications to bolster your team’s productivity and collaboration. Don’t hesitate to contact one of our experts to leverage Microsoft 365 features like never before.

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: The Polly App Read More »

Critical Factors to Consider When Implementing a Collaboration Hub

Critical Factors to Consider When Implementing Collaboration Hub

Critical Factors to Consider When Implementing Collaboration Hub

DesignDATA
Critical Factors to Consider When Implementing a Collaboration Hub

Four-minute read

Implementing a collaboration hub is critical for a successful flexible work strategy. Among other benefits, team members experience improved collaboration, more effective prioritization, increased productivity levels, and greater ease locating information needed to do their jobs.

The path to this rosy future is not without challenges and risks. Lack of leadership, resistance to change, botched implementations, and insufficient staff training can drive cynicism and prevent organizations from realizing the benefits of these initiatives.

Below, we outline four critical factors that will serve to increase the speed and value of a collaboration hub implementation:

  1. Begin with the end in mind The value of a collaboration hub is its ability to improve business processes, enhance collaboration across time and space, and ultimately, empower the organization to do quality work for those they serve. Thus, it is essential to develop a project charter and go in with specific outcomes in mind.
  2. Invest in a consultative approach upfront These collaboration hubs are like houses: once you move your furniture in and start living in it, it becomes much harder to re-architect the house. It is crucial that organizations assess the way departments and teams work, what applications are currently in use throughout the organization, and where files live. Using this information, leaders can develop a roadmap to get from ‘here to there,’ one that considers change management, sound governance, and standards around how things should function moving forward.
  3. Leadership must model the way One of the most pervasive challenges we see with widespread implementation is members of the leadership team continuing to communicate and collaborate in the ways they always have. When the epicenters of power and influence pull communication away from the hub, adoption stays low. Leadership has a few essential roles to play here:
    • Leading by example in the adoption of the hub
    • Championing the value of change for the organization and its team members
    • Highlighting employees that are embodying best practices in using the hub effectively.
  4. Support staff through training The phrase ‘learning curve’ exists for a reason. We are all creatures of habit, and changing the way we work is always uncomfortable. That is why training programs are needed. Customized and job-specific training empowers staff to move through that awkward phase of adoption where we feel less than competent. Without this support, many staff likely won’t adopt the new way of working. When the team has one foot in one world, one in another, technological silos and work disruptions are exacerbated.

If you are considering implementing a collaboration hub for your organization or are in the process of doing so and have questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our productivity experts can help outline specific opportunities to improve this transition for every team member.

Critical Factors to Consider When Implementing Collaboration Hub Read More »

Hardware as a Service: The Best Solution for Companies Returning to the Office

Hardware as a Service: The Best Solution for Companies Returning to the Office

Hardware as a Service: The Best Solution for Companies Returning to the Office

DesignDATA
Hardware as a Service: The Best Solution for Companies Returning to the Office

Four-minute read

When planning a return to the office, there are two important considerations: your employees’ health and safety and their technology needs.

Whether embracing an entirely remote workforce, implementing a total return to the office space, or considering a hybrid model, organizations must ensure that all workers are safe and have access to updated hardware and technologies.

Our top recommendation to meet these needs? Hardware as a Service (HaaS). This model is the ideal way to deliver for your teams while streamlining all business functions when returning to the office.

Here are our top three reasons why:

Certainty in uncertain times

Managing technology needs in a socially distanced workspace has been one of the biggest hurdles for chief executives. In these uncertain times, a HaaS plan can provide peace of mind when it comes to keeping your organization’s technology operational and secure.

With a fixed monthly fee, business leaders can manage their expenses without unexpected costs related to hardware maintenance. This is a tremendous advantage for enterprises planning return-to-work strategies where they may need to factor in changing operational and technology needs.

As the service provider is responsible for monitoring and managing equipment, less time and money is wasted on hardware upgrades. Business leaders can focus on other priorities, like keeping their employees safe and increasing productivity.

Ensuring data and network security

With more people working from home, companies are more vulnerable to security risks. Luckily, under the HaaS model, the managed service provider will ensure that hardware is updated regularly. This includes servicing equipment, updating licensing agreements, installing security software, and providing backup and recovery solutions.

Security software updates are crucial – every day cyberattacks become more sophisticated and equipment becomes increasingly susceptible to compromise. Your MSP will ensure that essential security software, like antivirus and data security, is implemented and updated.

Backup and recovery solutions are another integral aspect of your asset security. When employees use their own devices for work, you are relying on them to secure their personal internal or external hard drives to protect sensitive organizational data – the consequences if a cyberattack is successful are drastic. Instead, the HaaS model allows you to take advantage of your MSP’s high-grade backup and recovery solutions.

rows of servers in a data center with a cloud symbol overlay

Cloud services are one such high-grade solution that is a massive benefit of HaaS. Your MSP provider likely offers several top-class private cloud solutions, all of which will protect your data far better than personal clouds. Unlike personal clouds, most MSP cloud offerings include:

High availability: seamless failover if one of your business-critical servers fails, allowing you to continuously enjoy immediate access to your data.

High security: all of the best virtual and physical security measures guard your data and are updated often.

Scalability: easily increase or decrease your virtual environment as your needs change.

Redundancy: multiple backups across several locations so your data is always safe and accessible.

Cloud sync: when enabled, you can automatically sync data across devices.

Scale according to your business needs

The pandemic has forced organizations to rethink their office spaces, and bringing employees back to work involves careful planning that may require companies to scale up or down, depending on their operational and employee requirements.

A HaaS model has built-in scalability, allowing you to add, remove, and replace hardware as your organization’s needs change, providing the best solution for companies returning to the office.

Moreover, a really valuable HaaS program will also offer hot-swapping: for a defined number of years, the MSP will replace or add any components to your hardware without stopping, shutting down, or rebooting the system. As organizations return to the office, this service is critical. The functioning of businesses moving forward is somewhat fuzzy and having the reliability and flexibility of hot-swapping is necessary.

Choosing a HaaS Provider

designDATA offers rugged, modern hardware that caters to your organization’s unique requirements. With recently upgraded HaaS services, we have five equipment profiles with upgrades and customization options for each. We would love to help ease your transition back to the office in any way.

Hardware as a Service: The Best Solution for Companies Returning to the Office Read More »

Why You Should Move Over to Microsoft Teams

Why You Should Move Over to Microsoft Teams

Why You Should Move Over to Microsoft Teams

DesignDATA
Why You Should Move Over to Microsoft Teams

Two-minute read

Every day I get asked the following questions:

⇒ How can my team collaborate better?
⇒ How can we minimize the number of applications we use?
⇒ How can I decrease the cost of the subscriptions we use?

My response is always the same: by switching over to Microsoft Teams. Here are some of the ways this all-out platform responds to the above concerns:

Save Money

Microsoft Teams does what 3-5 of your existing subscriptions do, so why not pay once and continue doing all you need to do, plus more?

One App to Rule the World

Speed up collaboration and increase your organization’s productivity levels by using one app for everything. Some of the features Teams can provide are:

⇒ Business Voice
⇒ Chat windows
⇒ Meetings
⇒ File management
⇒ Project management

Integrations

Microsoft has over 200 app integrations. Connect to other apps easily so that you can continue to collaborate. This also offers extensive flexibility, so you can make Teams work for you and customize your usage to fit every team’s unique needs.

Stay Connected – Anytime, Anywhere

Microsoft Teams addresses the need to communicate with remote, hybrid, and traveling employees. With the Teams phone app, you have immediate access to all apps and documents. You can even respond to chat conversations, join video calls, and continue collaborating on projects.

Improved Collaboration and Communication

Because of the integration with Office 365, you don’t need to switch apps when collaborating on a document. You can create the Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document in Teams, immediately share it with your coworkers, and co-author in the blink of an eye.

Other Fantastic Features

Call transfer is easy – no more blindsiding your coworkers anymore! Simply send them a quick heads up before transferring the call.
Compatibility – Teams is available on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.
Integration – Teams is fully integrated with Office 365 and can integrate with most major applications.

designDATA’s Microsoft Support

With Microsoft Teams and Business Voice, you don’t have to sacrifice the features you need or love. Our experts offer implementation and support for Microsoft solutions – if your organization requires support or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Why You Should Move Over to Microsoft Teams Read More »

Hybrid Work Models: What the Research Says to Consider

Hybrid Work Models: What the Research Says to Consider

Hybrid Work Models: What the Research Says to Consider

DesignDATA
Hybrid Work Models: What the Research Says to Consider

Three-minute read

As organizations begin to open their offices back up, they are faced with the challenge of determining what the “next normal” will look like. Some have gone remote and are never going back. Others want to return to “the way things were.” Most organizations are exploring hybrid options somewhere in the middle.

Leadership is trying to strike a balance between employees’ preference for flexibility and the desire to ensure collaboration and a solid organizational culture. The devil is in the details. Where many firms are letting individual staff members dictate their schedules, new research from MIT professor Robert Pozen and technology researcher Alexandra Samuel suggests that a more deliberate approach will yield better results.

Although their research doesn’t uncover any universal best practices – which is what I think we were all hoping for – it does highlight five key factors that every organization should consider when making decisions about flexible work. These factors – Function, Location, Organization, Structure and Culture (FLOCS) – are outlined below to help you deliver the best flexible work experience for your organization. And yes… any framework worth the space it’s printed on requires a compelling acronym like FLOCS!

Function

What are the key aspects of your employees’ jobs? If their work involves extended periods of concentration, this may favor home days. If their work involves frequent collaboration or brainstorming, in-person work likely suits best.

Location

Hiring in a single metropolitan area means you can join your teammates in a nearby office or meet up easily for one-on-one meetings. Conversely, there’s no point in making employees report to the nearest office if everyone they work with is in another city.

Organization

The organization factor represents how flat or hierarchical the organization is. If the organization is relatively flat, people working remotely don’t feel far from the “center” of the organization. If it’s more hierarchical, those working remotely may be at greater risk of proximity bias.

Culture

Companies with an individualistic culture seem to make a smoother transition to virtual work; by contrast, companies that stress “us” over “me” have been slower to adopt online collaboration.

Scheduling

This factor covers the practical issues of scheduling. Suppose schedules are similar and work is interdependent. In that case, it’s good to encourage everyone to work at roughly the same time and come into the office on the same days to benefit from social bonding and collaboration. If employees live in different time zones, it’s better to set a few common windows for real-time communications like videoconferences and let most other work unfold through email or document sharing.

In summary, there is no objective “right” answer. It becomes a matter of balancing the different factors to best suit the interests of both the organization and its people. In my view, the keywords are “equitable” and “intentional.” When policies are created as a reflex or based on the “squeaky wheel,” it increases the risk that the solution to one problem becomes the root cause of another. A diverse group of stakeholders should be heard to ensure all perspectives are taken into account.

To close, I would be remiss for not mentioning that the smart application of technology can enhance the success of any organization’s approach. If you would like the experts at designDATA to take a look at your current technology and optimize it for a hybrid work model, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Hybrid Work Models: What the Research Says to Consider Read More »

Microsoft Viva Insights and Measuring Employee Productivity

Microsoft Viva Insights and Measuring Employee Productivity

Microsoft Viva Insights and Measuring Employee Productivity

DesignDATA
Microsoft Viva Insights and Measuring Employee Productivity

Five-minute read

Employee experience is one of the most transparent indicators of business success and satisfaction. At its core, this describes the sum of all interactions an employee has with an employer, including everything from major milestones and personal relationships to technology use and ergonomics.

Despite being an essential piece of the corporate puzzle, employee experience and well-being have traditionally been swept under the rug. This is problematic since staff well-being directly affects engagement, retention, performance, and business development. At every organization’s core should be the question: how are employees experiencing the workplace?

Luckily, the pandemic has thrust employee experience and well-being into the spotlight as organizations try to determine a way to outperform the competition, attract and retain top talent, and scale with increased satisfaction. Business leaders began calling for a solution to better measure this experience, and (as usual) Microsoft came to the rescue with their new platform: Microsoft Viva Insights.

What Is Microsoft Viva Insights?

Viva Insights logo-01Microsoft Viva Insights is part of Microsoft Viva, a platform that brings together all aspects of the employee experience, from communications and knowledge to learning, resources, and insights. It integrates seamlessly into the Microsoft apps you use every day, like Teams and Outlook – as well as other Microsoft 365 apps and services – to accommodate your teams’ preferred workflow. As a bonus, Microsoft Viva Insights can also access data from your existing ecosystem of collaboration tools and services, such as Zoom, Slack, Workday, and SAP SuccessFactors.

Why It Matters

Microsoft Viva helps people achieve stability, collaborate intelligently, and find focus wherever and whenever they need it because let’s face it – employee experience is at the center of our collective success. Companies that prioritize this are more profitable and innovative than those who understate its importance.

This goes hand-in-hand with blurring the boundary between work and life. Without a healthy work-life balance, employees lose engagement, report higher stress levels, suffer from elevated anxiety, and experience alarming burnout rates. Once this happens, it’s only a matter of time until these employees leave their jobs.

Fortunately, Microsoft Viva Insights gives individuals, managers, and leaders personalized and actionable insights that help everyone in their organization flourish.

Features to Expect

Screenshot of Viva Insights dashboard

Currently, Microsoft Viva Insights is being introduced to Microsoft 365 users via Exchange Online. This preview features an initial set of personal insights and well-being experiences designed to safeguard employee privacy with unique insights visible only to the individual. By default, manager and leader insights are protected with de-identification, aggregation, or differential privacy measures. Although currently in the preview stages, Microsoft plans to incorporate Workplace Analytics and MyAnalytics under the Microsoft Viva brand.

Personal Insights

Microsoft Viva Insights enables employees to connect and maintain strong relationships with their central network contacts by prioritizing regular one-on-one meetings and keeping up with requests distributed across all platforms from one location. It has also introduced a “protect time experience” that makes it easy for users to schedule focus time so that they can experience at least a few minutes of uninterrupted work every day.

Features like these are extremely valuable to maintaining work-life balance. As communications become increasingly virtual, making it difficult to ‘step away’ from the office, Microsoft Viva Insights ensures employees remain productive during their work hours so they can effectively enjoy their time off.

Well-being Experiences

To enable people to stay organized, engaged, and mindful, Viva Insights brings well-being experiences directly to employees, including features such as:

  • Virtual commute: helps employees mindfully wrap up their workday 
  • Check-ins: helps employees pause and reflect on their day 
  • Integration with Headspace: adds meditation and mindfulness experiences 
  • Actionable insights: adds course recommendations from LinkedIn Learning to support continuous training and promote career growth
  • Daily briefing email: helps employees look forward to and prepare for the week ahead

Benefits for Leaders and Managers

A significant part of employee engagement and overall positive experiences is the connection between managers and employees. It’s vital for managers to be aware of what is going on with their employees’ work and well-being.an overall positive experience is the connection between managers and their employees. It’s vital for managers to not only be aware of what is going on with their employees’ work, but also their wellbeing.

Microsoft Viva Insights includes a set of experiences that enable managers and leaders to boost productivity across their organization by empowering their people to be their best. It also grants managers visibility into employee work patterns that can lead to burnout and stress caused by meeting overload, a lack of focus time, or time worked outside employees’ chosen work hours. By monitoring these patterns, managers can nurture the well-being of their team members by identifying relevant challenges and supporting employees’ varied work and flexibility needs.

Later this year, Microsoft plans to launch action plans to join employees and managers and give productivity a major boost. This feature will provide team members with recommendations and best practices to help them prioritize their well-being while managers assess progress against team goals over time in tandem. As a result, managers will be able to address critical questions and take actions to strengthen team resilience and boost employee engagement to ensure that their organization is ready for anything the future brings.

Regardless of the complexity of your business needs, designDATA is ready to support you by integrating Microsoft Viva Insights to measure and boost your employee productivity. Are you ready to transform your organization?

Microsoft Viva Insights and Measuring Employee Productivity Read More »

Technology and Flexible Work: Why Implementing a Central Collaboration Hub Is Key

Technology and Flexible Work: Why Implementing a Central Collaboration Hub Is Key

Technology and Flexible Work: Why Implementing a Central Collaboration Hub Is Key

DesignDATA
Technology and Flexible Work: Why Implementing a Central Collaboration Hub Is Key

Five-minute read

It’s inevitable – flexible work is the future of work. For organizations that can turn this practice into a core competency, the gains will be invaluable, like attracting and retaining the best talent and, thus, performing better for those their business serves. Ultimately, these organizations will have a massive competitive advantage.

So, how can you turn this practice into a core competency?

Conditions of an Effective Distributed Work Strategy

Unfortunately, there is no objective “right” answer. Like any organizational competency, its proper application is very much dependent on the context. It is critical to thoroughly examine the work you do, who you do it with, and how. This information will help you focus your organization’s finite resources and tolerance for change on the areas that will have the most significant positive impact.

It’s a matter of balancing the different factors to best suit the interests of both the organization and its people. In my view, two key elements are equity and intentionality; when policies are created as a reflex or based on the “squeaky wheel,” it increases the risk that the solution to one problem becomes the root cause of another. A diverse group of stakeholders should therefore be heard to ensure all perspectives are considered.

Another central aspect of implementing an effective distributed work strategy will be your team’s technology needs.

Technology bridges the divide between the various places from which team members work. It forms the foundation of how teams communicate, collaborate, and find valuable information and should ultimately be at the forefront of any flexible work strategy.

Exploring all aspects of remote work technology and their implications can be a daunting task. Where should you start?

Implementing a Single Collaboration Hub

We have found that one of the most productive places to start is the implementation of – and organization-wide commitment to – a single collaboration hub like Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Zoom.

There are many benefits to creating a central collaboration space:

  1. Knowledge workers spend an exorbitant amount of time simply looking for the information they need to do their job. Your collaboration hub becomes a single, easily searchable library of your organization’s knowledge. This includes structured and unstructured data. For example, did you know that, post recorded meeting, you can add captions to your video in Microsoft Teams? These captions become searchable. So, for example, if you are looking for any mention of “Project X” in your last ten team meetings, you can easily find each meeting where it is mentioned instead of diving into hours of recordings.
  2. Within distributed teams, especially those without a mature approach to data governance, information silos run rampant. The hub becomes a central place for real-time and time-independent (asynchronous) collaboration in all forms, including video, phone, chat, and document editing and sharing. The alternative is having “pieces of the puzzle” dispersed among different file storage locations, email platforms, productivity suites, and video conferencing applications.
  3. It offers important context for communication, allowing team members to focus energy and attention on the tasks that matter most. In the collaboration hub, communications and resources are organized with purpose (e.g., by project, department, or group) as opposed to email, where the last communication appears first, regardless of source or priority. In Microsoft Teams and the like, you can also use the “thumbs up” or other reactions to acknowledge an instruction or verify you have taken a requested action. This is far more effective than subjecting yourself to a never-ending stream of emails that convey the important information of: “I got it.”

Your collaboration hub enhances knowledge management, minimizes distractions and unproductive time, and serves as a force multiplier, amplifying the impact of individual contributors and teams.

Why do some implementations succeed where others don’t? Let’s look at how we can avoid common pitfalls:

It all starts with leadership modeling
One of the most pervasive challenges we see with widespread implementation is members of the leadership team continuing to communicate and collaborate in the ways they always have. When the epicenter of power and influence is pulling communications away from the collaboration hub, adoption stays low and, unfortunately, the value of the hub gets exponentially greater as more people use it.

Leadership also has an important role to play in championing the value that the change will bring to the organization and its people. There must be a compelling vision of the future for people to feel compelled to make a change. Leadership must also highlight employees that are embodying best practices and demonstrating effective use cases. Some organizations are going as far as to include collaboration as a performance review criterion.

Invest in the consultative piece of the project prior to implementation
It used to be a technological feat to stand up a new software program. Now it’s as easy as flicking a switch. This is a double-edged sword in that it can lead to build-before-design challenges. These collaboration hubs are like houses – once you move all your furniture in and start living in it, it becomes much harder to re-architect the house. It is important that organizations assess the way departments and teams collaborate and get work done, what applications are currently in use throughout the organization, where critical files currently live and then develop sound governance and standards around how that should function going forward.

And lastly, training
The phrase “learning curve” exists for a reason. We are all creatures of habit and changing the way we work is always uncomfortable. Being conscious that there is a valuable skill we do not have yet is painful. That is why an engaging and practical training program needs to be implemented. This will help empower staff to move through that awkward phase of adoption where we all feel less than fully competent. Training resources need to be in place to accompany the team through that technology initiative ‘death valley.’

How designDATA can help with your hybrid work solutions

The value of a managed service provider (MSP) is their ability to leverage technology to improve business processes and outcomes. This requires truly understanding the business of the organizations it serves and aligning IT operations in a consultative way.

One of the common frustrations we hear from prospective clients is that their MSP is not driving the technology agenda forward; it is not proactively facilitating the strategic conversations to anticipate opportunities and challenges. Without this level of partnership, IT cannot fulfill the ultimate promise of IT operations: serving as a vehicle to take teams from where they are to where they want to go.
designDATA is happy to share the approach we employ to achieve these results for our clients. We are always excited to exchange best practices and lessons learned with other mission-driven organizations.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you would like to explore the issues that matter most to you!

Technology and Flexible Work: Why Implementing a Central Collaboration Hub Is Key Read More »

Why MDM is Essential for Managing Apple Devices in the Workplace

Why MDM is Essential for Managing Apple Devices in the Workplace

Why MDM is Essential for Managing Apple Devices in the Workplace

DesignDATA
Why MDM is Essential for Managing Apple Devices in the Workplace

Four-minute read

Scooch over, Microsoft – Apple has entered the cubicle.

A few years ago, Macs were a rarity in offices; most professional software was designed to work on Windows machines, giving them a considerable advantage in the business market. Now, everything has changed; iPhones, iPads, and Macbooks are ubiquitous, and for good reason!

People love the Mac operating system and are familiar with how Apple devices work. Apps and business tools are increasingly Mac friendly, and Apple has worked hard to develop and highlight features that boost productivity and simplify IT management.

While implementing Apple products for businesses has been fantastic for boosting creativity, flexibility, and productivity, it’s presented a new challenge for IT teams. These teams must stay on top of managing a plethora of devices while keeping data secure and employees connected.

Mobile Device Management (MDM) is a must-have tool for an IT team to succeed; whether you’re a small or large business, you must implement the right MDM solution when using Apple products.

Let’s take a look at why an MDM is critical for your business’s management and success.

1. Security

MDM ensures that your mobile device is secure. In today’s world, mobile devices not only enable employees to work from anywhere but also open up new avenues for potential cyber attacks. MDM serves as your team’s first line of defense, maintaining company data security across all mobile devices.

Apple devices are equipped with a host of built-in security features such as FileVault encryption, Gatekeeper software verification, and TouchID. However, these features can be easily disabled, leaving your devices vulnerable. A robust MDM solution ensures these security features are not only enabled but also functioning correctly across all devices. It allows you to block specific software, disable camera access, distribute security patches, and mandate the regular creation of complex passcodes by employees.

Moreover, MDM provides a safety net for those inevitable instances when mobile devices are lost by employees or stolen. In such scenarios, your MDM solution steps in to locate the lost device, locking it until it’s recovered or remotely locking it and wiping all data, ensuring your essential data remains protected.

2. Productivity

Employee productivity is for business owners what security is for IT teams: top priority.  With cloud-based applications and mobile devices, people can work from anywhere.  This results in increased flexibility and higher productivity, but only if employees can access the data and applications they need.

MDM solutions allow your employees to securely access your company network, data, and applications from anywhere, including custom apps that may not be available in Apple’s App Store. MDM identifies critical applications and deploys them to your users.

Plus, you can even create lists of applications specific to certain job roles, departments, or users and allow access to those who need them. In this way, employees have access to the applications they need without being overwhelmed by the ones they don’t.

If an employee needs a new application, MDM makes it quick and easy to grant access and push the application to the correct device. This is quickly done through custom settings in the App Store. As well, MDM makes it simple to share important information between mobile device users. Thus, implementing a robust MDM solution is one of the best ways to foster productivity in your company’s remote work environment.

3. MDM simplifies device management

Whether your company provides Apple devices to employees or lets them use their own through a BYOD program, managing every device can be challenging.

MDM simplifies this process and offers workflows that let your team quickly set up new devices, enroll new users, reset old devices, install updates, and troubleshoot IT issues.  You can monitor devices to make sure that policies are being followed and employees are avoiding risky cyber-behaviour. You can also control access to company networks so that only approved devices can connect.

A good MDM solution allows you to monitor your devices remotely. You can quickly push settings, updates, and IT fixes to devices using over-the-air (OTA) distribution, and your team can detect issues as they arrive, having solutions already prepared.

Top-notch MDM solutions also allow you to implement time-saving practices like “zero-touch” deployment and custom scripting that enable you to customize your devices and modify account permissions as needed.

Truly – the time and cost savings realized from simplified device management are priceless.

Choosing Your MDM Solution

It’s clear that MDM is critical for managing Apple products; now to choose which solution is right for you. There are many MDM solutions on the market, and it’s integral to choose one that works with your priorities. Consider things like value, device compatibility, security features, application management, and support features.

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, don’t worry. We are here to help.

Visit our resource page for additional information like comprehensive guide on Apple IT support for macOS and iOS.

For tailored support and IT solutions optimized for Apple products, connect with our experts. We’ll guide you to the ideal MDM solution to secure and enhance productivity while managing devices with ease.

Ready to elevate your Apple ecosystem?

Why MDM is Essential for Managing Apple Devices in the Workplace Read More »

5 Reasons Why Jamf Software is the Best Apple RMM Solution

5 Reasons Why Jamf Software is the Best Apple RMM Solution

5 Reasons Why Jamf Software is the Best Apple RMM Solution

DesignDATA
5 Reasons Why Jamf Software is the Best Apple RMM Solution
Four-minute read You’re not alone in feeling like your IT team is scrambling to keep up with the rapid pace of digital transformation. Operations across the world have shifted dramatically recently due to technological developments and world events. Data has moved to the cloud, and employees are, quite literally, all over the place. While these changes may be overwhelming, there are many benefits. For example, employees can access company networks with their mobile devices through cloud-based applications, enabling them to work from anywhere. Productivity has never been higher! However, IT teams face a tough challenge: they need to stay on top of managing a plethora of devices while keeping data secure and employees connected. Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) is a must-have tool for an IT team to succeed. There’s no shortage of RMM solutions to choose from, but it’s crucial to carefully evaluate what’s out there so that you end up with a solution that suits your business. This is especially important if you have a Mac environment because not all RMM solutions have features compatible with Apple device operating systems. Good news – we’ve curated all of the essential information you need as a Mac user to choose the right RMM. Our Apple experts have researched the top RMM solutions and, based on this analysis, one solution stands out as the clear winner for managing Mac environments: Jamf software.

Need more support with your business’ Apple infrastructure? We can help! Explore our Enterprise IT Solutions for Apple and get back to working securely and confidently.

Here are our top five reasons why Jamf software is the best RMM solution for your Mac environment:

1. Apple-Specific Focus Enables Seamless Integration

Jamf software focuses exclusively on managing Apple devices. Therefore, they can offer better support and features to IT teams operating in Mac environments. As well, because of Jamf’s Apple exclusivity, its integration with Apple products is seamless.

Plus, Jamf offers zero-day support for macOS and iOS updates and security releases. This means that your business starts benefiting from new features and upgraded security on the day of its release.

Jamf also integrates easily with Apple Business Manager, allowing you to set and enforce roles, privileges and security policies using a single, easy-to-use interface. Your IT team can purchase and distribute apps and content in bulk, ensuring your employees have what they need. You can even automate real-time updates to all your apps.

2. Enterprise App Store Guarantees Access to Mission-Critical Applications

The Enterprise App Store is an outstanding feature of Jamf’s RMM solution for Macs. It enables you to create a custom app store so employees can download, install and update all mission-critical apps.

Jamf also allows you to create custom profiles for the app store so that teams or employees see only the apps they need. For example, engineers need not scroll through marketing apps and HR team members won’t have to sort through apps for technical calculations. Each sector will see the apps that pertain to them.

This app store can also display both third-party apps and programs developed in-house; a tool called Jamf Pro Composer helps your team create and deploy custom apps, software and settings.

Lastly, the Enterprise App Store includes a self-service feature that lets end-users troubleshoot and manage their own devices without submitting a help desk ticket.

3. Zero-Touch Features Simplify Device Management and Support

Zero-touch deployment is another one of the benefits of Jamf’s integration with Apple.  By integrating your device management and procurement processes, Jamf allows you to remotely set up devices when you order them so that they arrive ready for immediate use. If your company has embraced “bring your own device” (BYOD), Jamf offers a self-enrollment feature that lets users enroll and configure their devices.

Jamf’s zero-touch focus doesn’t stop with deployment. The easy-to-use interface and remote management capabilities allow IT teams to monitor devices, troubleshoot issues and reconfigure settings without ever touching the actual device. It’s time to say “so long” to dropping off your device at some shop for updates or repairs!

4. Customization That Meets Your Distinct Needs

Every company has different RMM needs, and Jamf is dedicated to providing the features and support to make RMM work for you. They recognize that small businesses may not have the same requirements as large enterprises, so they offer three Mac management solutions: Jamf Pro, Jamf Now and Jamf School.

Once you’ve chosen the Jamf software RMM solution that’s right for you, you have many options for customization. For example, you can use scripting to develop custom configuration profiles, and your IT team can set up custom smart groups based on criteria like device type, department and job role. These smart groups can be used for custom monitoring, configurations and reporting.

We’ve already mentioned that Jamf Composer allows you to create and deploy custom apps. All these features combined provide more flexibility than any other RMM for Mac.

5. Reporting Enables Data-Driven Decision Making

Finally, Jamf stands out from competitors because of its robust reporting capabilities.

Your team needs to see what’s going on with your devices to succeed at RMM. Thankfully, Jamf offers a capable and flexible dashboard feature that you can customize to showcase specific information like smart groups, policies, configuration profiles, software licenses and device types.

These dashboards allow you to stay informed about your devices and analyze data to identify problems. You’ll have all the information you need to make data-driven decisions about changes and policies for your Macs.

Sure, other RMM solutions can help you manage your Mac environment; however, none of them can match the capabilities of Jamf. With Jamf, your users have a better experience. At the same time, your IT team gets all the tools they need to manage your remote devices, maintain security and support productivity, which is why we recommend Jamf to all our Apple-using clients.

Want to Learn More?

We’ve only scratched the surface of what Jamf can do as your Mac RMM solution. If you want to learn more about how Jamf can meet your RMM needs, contact our Apple support experts. We would love to chat with you about Jamf and other solutions to help you manage your business.

5 Reasons Why Jamf Software is the Best Apple RMM Solution Read More »

Innovative Features in Microsoft Teams for Remote Work

Innovative Features in Microsoft Teams for Remote Work

Innovative Features in Microsoft Teams for Remote Work

DesignDATA
Innovative Features in Microsoft Teams for Remote Work

Four-minute read

The shift to remote work has transformed the traditional office landscape, challenging organizations worldwide to foster connection and engagement in a virtual setting. Microsoft Teams has risen to prominence as a vital tool for managing remote teams and facilitating collaboration, evolving with features designed to mirror the in-office experience.

Let’s explore five innovative tools in Microsoft Teams that enhance communication, spark creativity, and promote collaboration:

1. Announcements for everyone to see

Within a physical office space, it’s easy to make announcements to your whole team. A great new feature in Microsoft Teams that replicates this is the ability to create an announcement. This will appear as a banner at the top of a post and is a helpful way to instantly draw attention to important information about an upcoming project, meeting, or social matter.

Plus, they’re customizable: you can add a title and image to the announcement, and it can be marked as important by adding a red exclamation point. Announcements are available in channels, and it’s also possible to post one across multiple channels. You can even email them directly via Outlook.

2. Whiteboard or mural for interactive brainstorming

Whiteboard is a great feature that replicates the boardroom environment by allowing participants in a virtual meeting to sketch, write, and brainstorm new ideas onto a shared digital canvas.

Mural is just as awesome. This Teams app provides a digital workspace for real-time visual collaboration. The app allows participants to create diagrams, add digital sticky notes and more while simultaneously collaborating.

3. Virtual meeting room with Together Mode

Together Mode is an innovative new app in Teams that also replicates the boardroom. Using AI segmentation technology, meeting participants are digitally placed in a shared background to make it feel like they are all in the same room.

Not everyone in the team has to use the feature, but for it to work most effectively, every participant needs to have their camera on during the meeting. Everyone will be visible simultaneously, and their position does not change throughout the online session. This makes it easier to read body language, reactions, and create a more cohesive and engaging virtual meeting space.

4. Customized channels for collaboration

Much like having different teams hosting meetings and collaborating directly within an office, channels are a handy way to deal with project management. It’s a space where everyone who has access to the channel can collaborate, hold meetings, and have conversations. Team members within a channel can use the ‘follow’ option to receive updates about all channel activities.

5. Live reactions for communications

The lack of visual cues and personal interactions often leaves virtual-meeting participants frustrated. Plus, it can be challenging to express yourself in a virtual environment.

Thankfully, Teams has released some fun new tools for users to communicate and respond during a meeting without interrupting the flow. There are four reactions available: like, love, applause, and laugh. Participants can also click on an icon to raise their hand in a meeting – a great option to avoid those awkward moments when a few people try to speak simultaneously. These reactions are accessed by hovering over the ‘show reaction’ in meeting controls at the screen’s top right area.

Welcoming Teams software into your work environment

Microsoft Teams has greatly helped facilitate our move to remote work, promoting productivity among our teams and softening the blow of losing our office space. We’ve recently launched Microsoft 365 Business Voice and have found that this telephony software has also helped replicate the physical workspace in such a meaningful way. Let designDATA help you achieve the same results by setting up your business phone system for calling, chatting, and virtual meetings all in one app.

Innovative Features in Microsoft Teams for Remote Work Read More »

Talk With Our Productivity Expert