MailGuard 26 March 2020 09:03:14 AEDT 3 MIN READ

Remote working & Microsoft Teams: What we’ve learned so far

Q&A with Craig McDonald, CEO & Founder, MailGuard

With the rapid transformation of our workplace from a mostly physical environment, with small groups and individuals orbiting our offices in remote locations, to where we now find ourselves 100% virtual, the change has been dramatic and sudden for most.

Depending on where you are in the world, you may be voluntarily working remotely, or you may be in a city or country that is in lock-down.

For the most part, it means a reliance on remote, cloud-based infrastructure, that we have until now seen as somewhat of a luxury. Infrastructure that enables new ways of working, but we still had the old, familiar workplaces to fall back upon. It seems like overnight, that all of that has changed and our ‘new normal’ is mass online virtual offices (MOVOs). The media is reporting that digital conferencing apps have seen a massive increase in usage, with Microsoft Teams adding as many as an additional 12 million daily users in one week).

We took the opportunity to ask some questions of our CEO, Craig McDonald about what that means for MailGuard.


What has your experience been like so far?


So much has already been said about the tragic events unfolding around the COVID-19 pandemic, and my heart goes out to everyone. Whether you’re directly impacted, or indirectly experiencing the uncertainty and nervousness in the community, it touches us all – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and economically.    

But I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge what for our business has been a revelation. We have been using Microsoft Teams for quite a while now. As a Gold Microsoft partner, we are big advocates for the platform, however this crisis has taken that reliance to another level. It has been a real test of what is possible, and I am pleased to report that for my business, it has been a wonderful experience.

What we have taken for granted as a platform working in the background, has now become a key pillar of our daily life, helping my team to remain productive and connected, regardless of where they are located. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has identified, remote working is a novel experience for many, and I’m happy to say that the move to Microsoft Teams has been a smooth and seamless transition for us.


How did you prepare for your workforce to be 100% dispersed?


These changes have been very sudden and unexpected, however we have been in training for DR for a long time now, by using so many of the cloud-based platforms that our business relies on every day. The transition has been seamless.

Specifically, with Microsoft Teams, we have set up company-wide channels, and smaller groups to reflect the way that we would normally work and communicate in a physical office. Plus, we created specialized groups for instant incident and emergency comms.

Otherwise, there has been some testing with each team member to ensure that Teams is setup correctly, and that their audio and video is working fine. That meant some low-level training too for those that were not as familiar, and sharing links to all of the Microsoft tips, help and resources that are online.


How has Microsoft Teams helped with collaboration?


Teams is so intuitive, and natural to the way that we work. From IM to quick voice calls, the quality and user experience is excellent, so there hasn’t been any problem there.

The many different sub-groups allow for very specialized communication with no-one missing out. 

Plus, there have been huge demands on the network, so file sharing has been a blessing to enable people to collaborate on files. Externally, as well, collaboration has gone off without a hitch.


What other measures have you implemented to make the most of the new working arrangements?


A lot of it comes down to maintaining contact visually, and even with voices. We’ve mandated a minimum of daily voice/ verbal meetings to make sure that our staff keep speaking during this time of isolation. It helps to keep them in sync and allows them to cover off more complex conversations in a group environment.

Our small group stand-ups are in Microsoft Teams too, so everyone catches up on plans, achievements, and stays in touch to keep everything moving smoothly.  

Wherever possible, we have integrated Microsoft Teams with the other operational software that we’re using, to keep track of everything and flag any issues early. We’re even building a custom bot in-house.


What measures are you taking in your businesses to help your employees transition smoothly to a virtual, remote workplace? Share your views in the comments section below.