Success stories

Our customers come in all shapes and sizes.

We work with organisations from all walks of life, with different ambitions and requirements. Explore how we’ve helped them reimagine everyday, and align technology with their culture and business goals.

IT assessments and workshops

In this blog post our Strategic Partner Manager, Gemma Horsell, highlights how we help our partners generate sales opportunities through IT assessments and workshops.
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The benefits of the cloud

Video. Covid 19 has been a real-life use case for cloud migration, but what are the key benefits of the cloud? In this video Matt Garrett, discusses key drivers for cloud migration.
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Cloud migration pitfalls – how not to trip up!

VIDEO: To ensure the success of your cloud migration project, avoid these pitfalls at all costs!
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How to calculate the cost of cloud migration

How can you calculate the cost of cloud migration? Here we explain how a Cloud Economics Assessment provides the answers.
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5 best practices for digital transformation success

How can you ensure a successful cloud migration? In this video our Technical Director, Matt Garrett, shares best practices for digital transformation success.
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Digital transformation: a strategic approach

Cloud Business' leadership team were recently interviewed for a Sky TV programme called Digital Transformation: A Strategic Approach. Watch here >
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The new future: employee experience platforms & Microsoft Viva

Employee experience platforms are the next big thing. So, what do platforms like Microsoft Viva actually do, and how can it benefit your business?
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Remote working fatigue and how to reduce and manage it

After over a year of lockdowns and working from home the shine of remote working has dulled, with many employees feeling increasingly exhausted. We’ve compiled a few tips on how employers and employees can reduce remote working fatigue.
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Q&A with Ben Owens – IT Technical Architect

Learn more about what an IT Technical Architect does and how they help organisations achieve digital transformation goals here >
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The second digital transformation revolution

The second digital transformation revolution is here! What tools and strategies does your organisation need to be part of it?
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Digital transformation winners in the financial services sector

Businesses that were already undergoing digital transformation when the pandemic hit have seen serious return on investment in the last 12 months. Especially in the financial industry. Find out how financial firms are succeeding with new technologies.
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Your guide to a successful cloud migration

Around 76% of cloud migrations fail. Do you know why? Read about the common pitfalls and how to avoid them in our blog >
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IT assessments and workshops

In this blog post our Strategic Partner Manager, Gemma Horsell, highlights how we help our partners generate sales opportunities through IT assessments and workshops.

With Covid restrictions easing and businesses attempting to return to normal, many IT budgets and plans are being given the green light. Are your customers getting back to normal and starting to invest in IT again?

We’re experiencing an increase in uptake for some of our partner core packages, which are the first step for many organisations to a cloud migration project. These packages are workshop based and can help your customers explore their readiness, align digital transformation with business outcomes, and provides them with costs and a roadmap to a successful deployment.

IT assessments and workshops that generate new opportunities

Key packages you may be interested in for your customers include:

Microsoft Cloud Assessment: We offer Cloud Assessment services exploring Office 365 and Microsoft Azure. They address the breadth of Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Azure and provide an in-depth review of systems, security, governance and utilisation, and how best to prepare for a cloud migration. Learn more about our Microsoft Cloud Assessment here >

SharePoint Online Planning Workshop: This assessment helps your customers understand the potential of Microsoft SharePoint and plan its implementation.

EM+S Assessment: Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security can transform your customers’ organisations into modern workplaces and increase mobility and agility. Our assessment reviews all Microsoft and Azure environments and assesses where EM+S will provide greater security through key product features.

All our assessments / workshops are tailored to your customers’ specific requirements, with an emphasis on those areas most appropriate to their particular environment. Following the workshop day a comprehensive assessment and recommendations document is provided, with roadmaps and costs.

Explore all our Partner packages here >

Why partner with Cloud Business?

Here are some of the common reasons Partners work with our team at Cloud Business and how I can help you in my role as Strategic Partner Manager:

  • You need more capacity: our overflow services mean that if you don’t have enough internal resource to deliver a new project, you won’t lose the customer. We can help you with scoping, pre sales, deployment and delivery; on an ad hoc or regular basis.
  • You need access to certain specialisms: if you don’t have the expertise you need in house, or if it’s already aligned to another project, we can provide you with additional resource.
  • You want to expand your service catalogue: similarly, if you want to provide a comprehensive range of IT services (so customers don’t go elsewhere) we can fill any gaps. We can also work with you to develop bespoke services.
  • You want to be more agile: we’re quick to recognise opportunities that are suitable for our Partners, react to external changes and technology developments, and respond to demands from your customers. Our partnership transfers some of that agility to you.

Ultimately, my goal is to help your company grow, support your customers and ensure that you don’t miss out on opportunities.

To find out more about our Strategic Partner Programme, click here. Or contact me directly if you would like to explore partnering with us.

The benefits of the cloud

The benefits of the cloud are well documented. However, Covid 19 has been a real-life use case for cloud migration, which is why we’re revisiting this topic in this video interview.

Below Cloud Business’ Technical Director, Matt Garrett, explores why having a footprint in the cloud is advantageous, how with confidence in the technology growing, even regulated businesses can benefit from migrating IT to the cloud.

In summary, 5 key benefits of cloud migration

  1. The ability for companies to scale quickly with demand
  2. Cost efficiency – pay for what you use
  3. Access to the latest technology
  4. No need to be located in one place
  5. Security and compliance

The cloud vendor also manages the cloud infrastructure, so you don’t have to.

Cloud migration pitfalls – how not to trip up!

Why might a cloud migration not go to plan? In this video, our Technical Director Matt Garrett shares the key pitfalls in a cloud migration, and how to prevent them.

In summary

To avoid these common cloud migration pitfalls make sure you have addressed the following key points:

  1. Get stakeholder buy in from your senior leadership team
  2. Have a clear business case for migrating to the cloud
  3. Spend time understanding what your user community needs from the technology
  4. Know your data and what will be migrated, and what doesn’t need to be in the cloud
  5. Bring your user community on the digital transformation journey

Cloud Business has developed a tried and tested cloud migration methodology that ensures you address these issues head on. To find out more, please get in touch with our team.

How to calculate the cost of cloud migration

One of the biggest concerns IT teams have about the cloud, is how much it will cost. In the video below Gary Duke highlights how a Cloud Economics Assessment will answer that question and more, including what workloads are best suited to the cloud and would be best staying on-premise. However, to understand whether migrating to the cloud will drive cost efficiencies, you need to start by knowing how much your current on-premise environment is costing your organisation.

When you know how much your on-premise hardware and software costs, you can then compare that against the cost of cloud migration and running your IT in the cloud.

The cost of cloud migration vs. on-premise costs

Calculating and comparing cloud versus on-premise comes with some challenges. Your on-premise environment is typically a CapEx model, whereas cloud resources subscribe to a OpEx-based cost model. 

For this reason it’s helpful to consider the lifespan of your upfront CapEx investment and compare against cloud costs over the same timescale. It’s not an exact science but will give you a baseline figure to get started with.

Lift & shift or refactoring?

Another consideration is whether you go for a lift & shift migration model where all apps and data are moved to the cloud ‘as is’. While this is a quick solution your apps might not get the full benefits of cloud features, including the cost efficiencies you may be hoping for. 

Alternatively, refactoring, where apps undergo architectural or coding changes before migration, is more complex and will incur more upfront costs but they will be more cost-effective to run in the cloud.

A Cloud Economics Assessment uncovers all the assets that currently sit on your network and visualises what they will look like in the cloud. From this you can understand whether a lift & shift approach is suitable, or if refactoring will deliver the ROI and business outcomes you desire.

Watch the video below to learn more, or get in touch with our team to discuss your organisation’s digital transformation journey:

5 best practices for digital transformation success

In this video Matt Garrett, Technical Director at Cloud Business, shares 5 best practices for digital transformation success. We’ve continually refined this methodology since Cloud Business was founded, improving the customer experience throughout the process. As Matt says, the most important factor is that customer satisfaction is built into the outcome. 

Here’s a quick summary of those all important steps:

  1. Discover: our first step is to discover the existing environment and what you’re migrating from.
  2. Planning & design: good preparation is vital. This involves planning the migration, the workloads that will move into the cloud and infrastructure design.
  3. Deployment: we get all the technology ready to migrate.
  4. Migration: your on premise workloads, data and systems are migrated to the cloud.
  5. Support: ongoing technical IT support ensures your users get the most from their technology and you get positive business outcomes from cloud migration.

Best practice for a successful digital transformation project is to also have a comprehensive user adoption programme in place throughout. It’s all about taking your user base with you on the journey, getting them excited about the new technology and ensuring they have everything they need to get the benefits of the cloud. 

Are you ready for the cloud?

Our quick checklist will help you determine whether your organisation is ready to migrate to the cloud. Download your copy here >

If you would like to discuss any of the content above with our digital transformation team, please get in touch. We’d be delighted to talk you through our process and explore your business use case for migrating workloads to the cloud.

Digital transformation: a strategic approach

We were delighted to take part in a Sky TV programme last month called Digital Transformation: A Strategic Approach. Produced by Executive TV, the programme explored the impact on Covid 19 on business and how digital transformation has given many companies and organisations the agility and resilience they needed to successfully navigate the pandemic.

The story is not over yet. 2020 has radically transformed the modern workplace and many organisations are only just embarking on their digital transformation journey. Having rapidly deployed cloud solutions like Microsoft 365 and Teams to enable remote work, we continue to support companies as they transition to hybrid work and beyond.

If you would like to explore how digital transformation can support your strategic and operational IT goals, we can help. We provide various cloud assessments and workshops, such as a Microsoft Cloud Economics Assessment, that provide insights, recommendations, commercial considerations and migration plans, that ensure successful deployments of modern workplace technology. As a first step, book a discovery call with our team to discuss your goals, challenges and IT environment.

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The new future: employee experience platforms & Microsoft Viva

Buzzwords come and go with frequency in the business world but one new phrase that’s destined to be here for the long term is ‘employee experience platform’. Why? Because it puts employees at the centre of a business, combining various tools for wellbeing, engagement, learning and knowledge discovery, thereby engendering a happier, more-connected workforce. 

With millions of people around the world now operating remotely or in a hybrid situation, new digital possibilities for the future of work have become a top priority for businesses serious about supporting and developing their employees, whilst at the same time maximising their productivity. This is where the newly launched employee experience platform Microsoft Viva comes in. 

What is Microsoft Viva?

According to uctoday, Viva is built ‘to augment and enhance’ the existing Microsoft 365 applications and ‘promises a new way for team members to stay productive and continue delivering their best work.’ In addition, Jared Spataro (Head of Microsoft 365) says Viva will ‘improve remote work, in a world where anywhere work is growing more common. Viva responds to the idea that we should stop thinking about work as a place and start looking at ways to harness human ingenuity and connect employees in a changing world.’

How can Microsoft Viva benefit your business?

Viva has four segments, each working together or individually to aid the productivity, wellbeing and empowerment of all team members, wherever they may be based:

1: Viva Connections – Described by Microsoft as the ‘gateway to the digital workspace’, Viva Connections is the place where your business can amplify its culture and communicate with every individual employee. It’s where company resources like policies and documents are located, along with a constantly updating company newsfeed (similar to social media) and a place from where ‘town halls’ can be run (a large online get-together of employees, led by senior leaders, with the chance for two-way interaction).

2: Viva Insights – Viva Insights gives leaders an opportunity to track their employees’ productivity, allowing managers to access actionable information. However, unlike previous Microsoft solutions, Viva Insights is built on providing greater privacy and comfort for the employee, with personal experiences available only to the employee. Supervisors can to view trends at a team level, with the information enabling them to make sound decisions relating to efficiency and wellbeing. Viva Insights also offers guides to employee burnout and finding the right work/life balance.

3: Viva Learning – Growth and development have become crucial elements of any employee experience and, in a 2019 Linkedin report, 94% of employees said they would remain longer with an organisation if it invested in their learning. Viva Learning combines all the educational resources that may be available to your team in one space and allows leaders to nurture the growth of individual team members by assigning relevant courses, webinars or other study experiences dependant on goals or required support.

4: Viva Topics – According to Spataro at Microsoft, Viva Topics ‘is essentially a Wikipedia for the digital company’. Using AI to organise content, Viva Topics automatically presents the right information for employees, be that videos and documents, or contact details for helpful professionals. It integrates comprehensively with both Microsoft and third-party tools, enhancing both individual and team efficiency, with less time spent switching between apps.

Of all the many digital developments over the past few years, employee experience platforms are definitely one of the most exciting. And potentially one of the most beneficial to your business. In a world where everyone is working ‘anywhere’, Microsoft Viva provides an innovative, accessible solution to the problem of keeping teams integrated, productive, engaged, healthy and supported. If you would like to know more about Microsoft Viva and how it can help your business, please get in touch >

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Remote working fatigue and how to reduce and manage it

Before March 2020, many of us viewed working from home as something reserved for cutting-edge tech companies, or a ‘treat’ bestowed upon us all too infrequently. We imagined a life free from the daily commute, office politics and eating lunch at our desks, and it sounded perfect. Then COVID-19 arrived and, virtually overnight, our dreams came true.

A year later, the shine of remote working has dulled for many people. What gave us a surge of energy during the first lockdown became more of a strain during the subsequent two. Baking bread in April 2020 has been replaced with a sense of anxiety in 2021. 

So, what happened to our expected pleasure of remote working, and why has it left so many of us feeling drained? 

The truth is, when dreaming of remote working, none of us imagined doing it during a global pandemic. The term ‘remote working fatigue’ has become a buzz phrase over recent months and, despite not being an actual clinical diagnosis, it’s something that many of us are experiencing first-hand.

Working remotely, during a global health crisis, is tough. Routines have been overturned, relationships have been tested, families have been separated, children have been home-schooled, switching off from work has become harder, sleep patterns have altered, life as we knew it has been impacted and changed on every possible level. Added to this, we have all endured a year-long cycle of uncertainty. Remote working, when everything else is uncertain and difficult, has compounded our loss of structure and added a new layer of intensity for many employees.

Essentially another name for burnout, business leaders would be wise to consider the impact remote working fatigue is having on some of their workforce. Employees may be feeling exhausted, lacking focus or experiencing a lower level of motivation than before. Coupled with this, a potential return to the office – even if a hybrid pattern is to be the new norm – could also be adding stress and anxiety. 

5 tips for reducing remote working fatigue

We’ve compiled a few tips on how both IT teams and employees can reduce remote working fatigue:

1: Reduce the amount of video meetings and make some of them audio only. The pressure of being constantly ‘viewed’ can be daunting for many people. If a video catch-up can be replaced by chat or email, then do it. It could also be useful to switch off the webcam and hold a few meetings as audio only, allowing participants to move around and feel less pressured. If the video meeting is absolutely necessary, then shorten it to less than an hour to give attendees the chance of have a quick break before the next one. 

2: Less screen time should be a target for everyone, not just children. Sitting in front of your computer all day is not good for anyone. Without the daily commute or the interruptions of co-workers, many remote workers remain fixed in front of their screens. A five-minute screenbreak every hour should be the aim, and used to stretch, walk and get a drink. It’s important for eyes, posture and overall physical and mental wellbeing.

3: Get outside. Remote working should not mean consuming lunch at your desk, anymore than office working should. Use the lunch hour to take a break, and ideally to step outside for some fresh air. A change of pace and perspective is vital for good mental health.

4: Work from home has evolved to work from anywhere. If it’s not a video meeting, you’re not an active participant on a call, and the sun is shining, take your phone outside and work there for ten minutes. Vitamin D is nature’s boost for the immune system.

5: Know when to switch off. Remote working fatigue is real and, if left unchecked, could lead to complete burnout. The ease of worker longer days at home, filling the previously wasted hours of commuting with meetings and report-writing, should be avoided. Taking time away from work, staying active, and connecting with family and friends is crucial for a healthy work/life balance.

Monitoring remote working fatigue

Many of the tools that employees use to work remotely can provide data that helps HR and wellbeing teams identify when someone is at risk of fatigue. By creating dashboards in tools like Microsoft Power BI, you provide your organisation with the insights needed to manage employee wellbeing remotely.

Data can help you understand how employees are spending their time during working hours, and when someone might need support. Microsoft has also made available a Power App, the Employee Well-being Power App, which simply prompts employees to let their organisation know how they’re feeling. This is free to install and can help you spot problems and address them quickly.

Remote working is here to stay, but the fatigue that can accompany it needn’t be. If you’d like further advice on how technology can be deployed to ease remote working fatigue for your workforce, please get in touch.

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Q&A with Ben Owens – IT Technical Architect

What does an IT Technical Architect do and how can they help your organisation or company achieve your digital transformation goals? In this Q&A, Ben Owens shares a typical day in the life of a technical architect to provide an overview of the role and how he supports our customers.

If you would like to learn more about digital transformation and how technology can get you closer to your business objectives that you might have thought possible, book a discovery call with a subject matter expert like Ben. Click here >

Q: Please tell me a little bit about yourself:

Ben Owens: “I’m Ben and work as Technical Architect at Cloud Business.  I joined the business back in 2014. I noticed the the shift from on premises to more cloud-centric technologies and Cloud Business were definitely more progressive and forward-thinking in that area than many others.”

Q: Can you give a brief overview of the role of a Technical Architect? 

BO: “As a Technical Architect in the delivery team I’m involved in several areas of our projects.  From pre-sales, scoping project, technical project management through to implementation and I’m heavily involved with the lifecycle of many of our delivery project.

“Every project is different and in every engagement the key is understanding the customer’s objectives, providing options and leading with our recommended approach.”

Q: How do you start your day? 

BO: “I have two young daughters at primary school, so I’ll often get up prior to them to check my emails, Twitter and news feeds. My wife and I both work full time, so we’ll try to split school drop off and pick up duties. The benefit of the current working from home scenario is that we pretty much always spend breakfast together in the morning. After drop off, it’s to my desk and starting off the day with current projects and calls I have scheduled.”  

Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get to your desk? 

BO: “When I first get to my desk, or more likely on phone before I get to my desk, I’m usually checking technical social feeds and technical blogs or news. Unless they are quick reads, I tend to save them into a Microsoft ToDo list for reading at some point during the week. Because of the fast pace of change in the industry, there is always an abundance of news and blogs regarding new solutions, product updates or previews.” 

Q: How did you become a Technical Architect and what qualifications and experience do you need? 

BO: “Like many others I started off in IT on the service desk initially. From there I transitioned to work in client facing consultancy roles mainly with proprietary software. I made the switch to more broader technologies around 10 years ago where I’ve primarily worked with Microsoft technologies. I initially joined Cloud Business as a consultant and progressed to Technical Architect a few years later. 

“Holding good technical experience and aptitude, and staying up to date with qualifications in your area of expertise is obviously key to any IT role. But the ability to demonstrate technology functionality, lay out options and get the tone right for your audience is an essential part of the role.”  

Q: What does a typical working day look like for you?

BO: “As a first port of call, I’m usually checking in or liaising with team members on the projects I’m working on, planning the day/weeks’ tasks. The days can differ greatly depending on my priorities; I split my time between pre-sales, design and implementation work, workshops and assisting the team.

“In the past week I’ve been working primarily on a Windows 10 autopilot projects’, conditional access designs and a BYOD/Corp mobile device strategies.” 

Q: Do you stop for lunch or do you power through?

BO: “I’ll generally try to stop at lunch and get away from desk and ‘try’ to leave my phone to prevent me from checking my emails and IM’s. Now my children are back at school, I tend to take a shorter lunch and instead use that time to pick up my children from school later in the day.”

Q: How has working from home affected your working day? 

BO: “I’ve been lucky enough to have the space and set-up to work from home prior to March last year. I had worked from home somewhat previously to that, so it wasn’t too much of a shift. Personally I’ve found that working from home, in the main, has given me greater flexibility to balance work and family life.

“What I do miss is that casual interaction with the team face-to-face which in my opinion can’t be replicated virtually and often helps build good working relationships and the sharing of ideas.” 

Q: When do you end your working day?

BO: “I don’t typically finish at 5pm every day. I usually etch out time in the evening to read previously saved technical blogs, test and work on new tech to stay up to date and share knowledge with the team. I generally find that after hours provides time to focus with the least distractions.”

Q: And how does a Technical Architect relax? 

BO: “Outside of work, my wife and I try to get out and get some fresh air with the kids and get away from our desks for a walk or sometimes of the bikes. At the end of the week we have ‘family film friday’ where we all get a turn to pick a movie (don’t be under the illusion that’s the only TV we watch). I often try to do arts and crafts with the girls and have been getting more involved with my eldest daughter’s enjoyment for Lego. For exercise I play football on a Sunday evening with other school dads and also on a Monday evening in 6 a side league; it’s good to have sport back.”

Connect with Ben Owens on LinkedIN here >

Or follow him on Twitter here >

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The second digital transformation revolution

Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s Vice President for Modern Work, recently told The New Yorker that the Covid 19 pandemic has created the right conditions for a ‘second digital transformation’.

The first revolution, driven by the PC, digitised paperwork and emptied filing cabinets into servers. Physical location was still important as computing technology was local, on-premise. Since then, cloud computing has emerged and in recent years adoption has accelerated rapidly, laying the foundations for this second revolution – the digital workplace.

Digital transformation in 2021 is all about Work from Anywhere (WFA), especially for information workers. Flexible work is here to stay, with the predominant trend being ‘hybrid work’ where employees yo-yo between office and remote working. In its Work Trend Index research, Microsoft found that 70% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue (post-pandemic), while over 65% need more in-person time with their teams. In response, 66% of business decision makers say they are exploring redesigning physical spaces to accommodate hybrid work models.

Digital transformation in 2021 is people-centric

A key difference in this second digital transformation revolution is that the focus is on people. It’s about the employee experience and engagement: enabling seamless transitions between office and home, ensuring an equal experience wherever someone is working, creating innovative collaborative spaces (blending virtual and physical) and using data to monitor work patterns, employee wellbeing and performance.

So, if your business or organisation is going to be part of this digital transformation revolution, what tools do you need?

Your digital transformation toolkit

The basics

Microsoft’s Work Trend research uncovered an anomaly, “Even after a year of working from home, 42% of employees say they lack essential office supplies at home, and one in 10 don’t have an adequate internet connection to do their job. Yet, over 46% say their employer does not help them with remote work expenses.”

While technology barriers were frustrating during the first lockdown and ‘stay at home’ directive, everyone was in the same boat. Now, as employees transition to hybrid work, there is a danger of inequalities developing between those working remotely and those working in the office.

Ensuring everyone has the right technology to work from anywhere, promotes digital equality. Desktop virtualisation, broadband support and high-quality audio-visual technology help to level the playing field and support seamless transitions between the physical and virtual workplace.

High performing laptops and tablets are also a vital part of an employee’s hybrid work toolkit. In 2020 many people ‘put up’ with their home PCs and devices, often sharing these resources with other family members, and struggling to work on devices that weren’t designed for corporate use. Long term, if employees are expected to work from home for part of the week, they need corporate devices.

Device as a Service has thrown companies a lifeline, turning what was traditionally a CapEx investment into OpEx. Solutions, such as Surface as a Service, provision employees with corporate devices and accessories for a fixed monthly fee. Add ons, like IT support, can also be part of the package. Learn more here >

Workplace technology

To enable a seamless transition between remote work and the physical office, cloud apps like Microsoft Teams come into their own. We’re now all familiar with integrated tools for file sharing, instant messaging, time and project management, online meetings and calls.

Other technology to support hybrid work includes e-signatures so employees don’t have to be in a physical space to sign, or have documents signed. And to ensure that employees and guests can access and use physical workspaces safely, we need room and desk booking technology, visitor management apps and virtual scheduling tools.

Collaborative technology

Creating the right virtual and blended environments for collaboration is a significant challenge. Face-to-face contact – whether it’s a brainstorming session in a meeting room or a quick chat in the breakout area – promotes collaboration. We need to provide employees with opportunities to collaborate wherever they are, and make sure that people not in the physical office space are included.

Good quality audio-visual tech is a must. Remote workers joining a meeting online need an equal experience to those in the room. This involves provisioning meeting and conference rooms with the right equipment, and providing individuals with high quality webcams, microphones and headphones. Is it fair for a remote sales person, who needs to hit their target every month, to conduct online prospect meetings using their phone earbuds and camera when their colleagues working in the office have access to state-of-the-art audio-visual tech?

Digital whiteboards also help ensure individuals are not excluded when working from home. These capture everything on the whiteboard which can then be sent to remote workers. Even better are real time tools like Microsoft Whiteboard, which integrates with Teams meetings. This means that meeting participants can collaborate on the same whiteboard. A useful feature, Ink Grab, can also convert physical images like photos of notes or a physical whiteboard, into a vector-type image on the virtual whiteboard.

Other technology to promote impromptu collaborative moments includes ‘always on’ screens positioned in shared spaces which allow team members to see who’s in the space and chat to them. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) tools could also play a role in the hybrid workplace. Think of how game developers use the technology to provide immersive experiences for gamers and apply it to a meeting scenario or brainstorming session.

The use of your company Intranet also becomes important to help employees collaborate. Simple ideas like a skills directory hosted on your Intranet, join up distributed teams and individuals. Our own experience, at Cloud Business, has highlighted the importance of this. Our acquisition of another technology company in late 2019 meant that when the pandemic hit we were still in the process of integrating our teams. Coupled with a recruitment drive during 2020 we now have many employees who have never met their immediate colleagues in person, and certainly not the wider team.

Skills directories allow employees to identify the people they need to collaborate with and make connections that would normally occur naturally in an office environment.

Business intelligence

There are three trends identified by Microsoft that point to the need for more meaningful insights to support decision making, employee engagement and wellbeing, and improve performance. They are:

  1. Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call – in general, business leaders have thrived during lockdown compared to many of their employees who have struggled.
  2. High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce – in a global survey, one in five respondents say their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance, 54% feel overworked and 39% feel exhausted.
  3. Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energised – 60% of people between the ages of 18 and 25 in the workforce say they are “merely surviving or flat-out struggling”.

Fortunately, most organisations already have the data needed to identify, monitor and manage problems with employee engagement, stress and overwhelm, performance and productivity. As the stats below show, data can be easily accessed from the workplace technology you deploy. Creating user-friendly dashboards for leaders and managers is an effective way of providing them with the real picture of how the workforce is doing.

Microsoft compared collaboration trends in Microsoft 365 between February 2020 and February 2021. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings has more than doubled (2.5X) globally.
  • The average meeting is 10 minutes longer, increasing from 35 to 45 minutes.
  • The average Teams user is sends 45% more chats per week and 42% more chats per person after hours, with chats per week still increasing.
  • The number of emails delivered to commercial and education customers via Microsoft Exchange Online in February, when compared to the same month last year, is up by 40.6 billion.
  • Microsoft has seen a 66% increase in the number of people working on documents.

Data can also be used to monitor working patterns and ensure employees have the right technology, and environment, to perform at their best. Then other tools can be deployed to help nudge employees into better working patterns or behaviour, tackling both wellbeing and performance issues.

Putting people at the heart of digital transformation

As IT professionals and business leaders you hold the keys to many of the tools to create the right environment for a successful (second) digital transformation. However, in our view, being led by the technology is the not right approach.

Instead focus on your people. Find out how they’re doing, what they need, what hybrid work looks like for them, who they need to collaborate with, and how they need to use physical and remote spaces. As stated above, you probably already have the data needed to take a temperature check of where your organisation and people are today. Combine this with research, surveys and polls to map out what technology your people need to thrive going forward.

If you need help doing this, we’d be delighted to share our expertise. We’ve been spearheading flexible work strategies for many years and can help you develop a roadmap to navigate our current digital transformation revolution. Please get in touch if you’d like an informal chat >

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Digital transformation winners in the financial services sector

When the pandemic hit and the UK abruptly plunged into its first lockdown, many employees were left struggling with a whole range of issues; a major one being technology. Virtually overnight, employees across the world became completely reliant on whether or not their firms had already begun a digital transformation. For some, particularly in the financial services sector, there was a seamless transition to remote working. For others, less so.

The winners were those who had taken early spending decisions to invest and whose company-wide adoption of tech was already underway, or close to completion. According to, giants KPMG, PwC, EY, Deloitte UK and BDO were piloting tech tools (such as Microsoft Teams) before Covid-19 forced such a major change in working patterns. But, as the CFO of BDO, Stuart Collins, pointed out, “widespread adoption might normally have taken some time”. The pandemic vastly altered the pace of that adoption, with KPMG able to move 18,000 people in its UK and global centres on to the Teams app “overnight”, and BDO integrating the software into working life to such an extent that Mr Collins now says: “It’s hard to remember life without it”.

Ready to get more from Teams? Download our eBook exploring cloud-based calling here >

In the case of early digital investors, the role of the CFO appears to have been pivotal. As businesses increase spend on cloud based and SaaS technology, the buy-in of those in charge of financial strategy and decision-making is imperative. Being IT ready when the pandemic arrived, or at least part-way down that path, was a vindication of their early spending across a broad range of technologies and has left many CFOs fully committed to further investment; which will be music to the ears of Chief IT Officers.

Security and compliance for financial services firms

For those in the financial and professional services industry who were less well prepared, or perhaps less willing to spend their limited budget on IT, the significance of that decision to their business and its employees has been a lesson hard learnt. The ability of tech to innovate operations and improve both customer experience and employee happiness, even without an excessive spend, has been realised by many firms. The key is flexible thinking, planning ahead and being prepared to invest sensibly in a digital transformation.

The good news is that not everything comes with a substantial price tag and for smaller businesses serious about undergoing a digital renovation, there is a wide – and ever-growing – selection of solutions. Tools like Microsoft Teams, offering compliant calling and collaboration, and DocuSign, allowing electronic signatures, are eminently helpful to the financial and PS sectors and come with excellent security features to help keep businesses safe whilst working remotely or office based. “Digitalisation also makes it easier for firms to meet regulatory demands, such as record-keeping, cyber security and data compliance,” says Richard Houghton, CFO at Openwork, and “digital back-up, servicing and customer access” are becoming a basic requirement ( It really is a win-win in terms of the investment.

The speed of digital transformation is accelerating, for companies of all sizes, with the pandemic challenging the view of its importance and placing it squarely at the centre of current and future strategic plans. For customers too, their use of tech has rapidly changed, as has their comfort with it and their expectations of it.

If your financial services or PS firm is looking to meet that challenge and aims to transform or enhance their technologies, we can offer some quick advice on the solutions best suited to them and the sector.

Your guide to a successful cloud migration

The cloud provides businesses with the opportunity to improve operations, agility, security, cost efficiency and flexibility. It is important, however, to remember that unless you can successfully migrate to the cloud and then leverage the benefits, the opportunity may remain untapped.

A cloud migration that is performed inefficiently or incorrectly won’t net the return on interest that organisations are looking for. Ultimately, an unsuccessful cloud migration attempt can see businesses forced to shift back to a rigid on-premises solution.

It’s crucial, then, that organisations engage with experts to manage their cloud migration, as well as help them get the most out of digital transformation. Getting access to cloud migration experts can be a challenge for smaller businesses without an IT department or healthy budget, but fear not – a managed service provider makes expert support accessible to everyone for a reasonable cost.

Is your organisation ready for the cloud? Download our cloud readiness worksheet to find out >

Why cloud migrations fail

A common reason why cloud migration can fail is because the project manager has failed to obtain stakeholder buy-in, whether internal or external. Cloud technology has been making headlines for a few years now but is still a new concept across many industries and many businesses fear that change will disrupt their operations. It’s a project in itself to get all employees supporting change and if key stakeholders oppose or don’t see the value in a migration, then the project can’t move forward successfully.

Pressure to migrate quickly can also lead to failure. Sometimes key stakeholders are eager to reap the benefits of migration as soon as possible. Pressure on the project manager or migration manager can lead to a rushed or poorly thought-out migration. Without research and planning, businesses may lack clarity on what they should and shouldn’t migrate and end up migrating inappropriate applications. This can quickly lead the migration adrift and increase costs.

Cost analysis is also a key failure trigger. There can be multiple different costs factors associated with a cloud migration that aren’t always realised by businesses. Cloud providers draw customers in with low up-front costs and a seemingly affordable monthly fee. These prices, however, don’t include hidden costs such as data transfer allowances, fees, training, and support.

This is exacerbated further when a company misunderstands the performance requirements of applications. Certain workloads have specific technical requirements that make them poorly suited to the cloud. In a bid to solve performance issues, the first point of call is commonly to upgrade the plan, which may heavily impact ROI. This can be a particular problem for non-profits, who experience a high level of budgetary scrutiny and limited capital. The additional challenge of protecting sensitive information with often no IT staff can make it very difficult to succeed without support – the challenges mentioned above can easily be addressed with a managed service provider, who will be able to ensure cost alignment.

Cloud migration can also present business challenges surrounding security. If a business undergoes migration without the proper governance and control, there are security risks. A user might unknowingly modify security controls in a way that doesn’t follow your security policies.

In the education sector, we’ve seen this cause particular damage. The amount of student information and research stored electronically means the stakes are high and the pickings rich for attackers. The fact that educational institutions must also worry about increased bandwidth, pre-existing licensing deals, and cultural shifts only complicates matters further.

How to migrate successfully

So, how do you avoid these pitfalls? Just being aware of the reasons why migrations fail is a good start. Many of these common issues are linked; over-eager stakeholders lead to rushed deployments, and those, in turn, can lead to weaknesses in security or improper assessment of applications.

In nearly all cases, the keys to success are the same: communicate with clarity, take things at a steady pace, and obtain expert support. Usually, a phased approach to migration makes the most sense. Carefully planning which applications to include in each stage and their potential complications will allow you to meet deadlines and set clear expectations.

Working with a reputable MSP to support or even manage your migration can be invaluable. A good managed service provider will lend weight during stakeholder discussions while providing accurate assessments and an achievable migration timeline.

Managed cloud migration may not 100% guarantee success, but it will greatly reduce the risk while helping you to achieve your desired goals. Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help you remain competitive in a secure, cost-effective way.

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