Microsoft: In recent years, Microsoft has been bringing in one innovation after another. This has only gained pace during the coronavirus pandemic, during which time, Microsoft improved its products and made them more suitable for a remote and hybrid work culture. Microsoft Teams, for example, which had been launched back in 2017 and was gradually finding its place till the end of 2019, saw a rapid explosion of users during the coronavirus pandemic. Microsoft therefore added several functionalities and Teams basically became a remote workplace in one platform itself.
Though Microsoft was already on its way to letting users work from anywhere with Microsoft 365, the global pandemic sped up this process for the tech giant. Now, though, offices are beginning to reopen as vaccination drives are rapidly expanding all over the world. Amid this, Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan had an exclusive interaction with Geeta Gurnani, Country Head, Modern Work, Microsoft India to understand how the tech giant was looking at the future of work.
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What does Microsoft expect the future of work to be like?
We believe that the future of work is hybrid and that every organisation will need a new operating model for hybrid work-one that does not rely on the eight-hour, 9-to-5 workday. The shift to this hybrid model is a strategic business opportunity for every organisation. We need to rethink the entire employee experience-from creating culture to attracting and retaining talent and building listening systems. Employee expectations have changed, and flexibility will define a post-pandemic workplace. Secondly, we believe in bridging the gap between the physical and digital, and evolving with employee needs. When it comes to meeting spaces, we’re turning our pre-pandemic design philosophy on its head and designing for the people not in the room. Lastly, we’re taking the opportunity to reimagine our key business processes-from operations to sales.
What is the importance and role of collaborative technology in this future where hybrid work is the norm?
With people working more flexible hours, they need tools that support asynchronous collaboration, so they can keep things moving on their time. We need a new class of apps that are centred around collaboration versus individual productivity. Apps that enable synchronous and asynchronous modes of collaboration with real-time meetings, ad hoc messaging, document collaboration, and the business processes automation-all in a single organising layer. With collaborative apps, end users can easily work with others to complete their projects at any time, from anywhere, and stay in the flow of work without needing to switch across multiple apps and data.
How can organisations enhance employee experiences?
Empowering people to thrive in a world of more flexible work requires rethinking the entire employee experience – from safety, to how you create culture, to attracting and retaining talent. Organisations need a plan and policies that put them on the path to extreme flexibility and help them build digital empathy into every aspect of their culture – from global guidelines to team-level meeting norms that help everyone feel included and engaged. The first step to achieving this is by setting a clear flexible work policy that gives people a choice in how, when, and where they work. The key is to align as an organisation on a policy and principles to enable flexible work, and to determine what decisions will be made centrally and where local decision-making will be empowered. Additionally, it is important to empower managers and leaders to adapt the global policy to fit their diverse business needs and team expectations. At the end, it depends on the choices an organisation now makes that will impact it for years to come. It is a moment that requires a clear vision.
What are some security concerns that organisations may face in their shift to hybrid work?
In the hybrid world of work, people are now using both – corporate networks and home networks; and moving fluidly between business and personal activity online. With employees’ home networks and devices being a part of the corporate network, from a security perspective it becomes critical. Security teams must consider vulnerabilities across all these networks and devices in a comprehensive way to protect both their organisation and their people. The transition to flexible work is an opportunity for organisations to be mindful and deliberate in sculpting what their workforce will look like for the next decade and beyond – and security is at the crux of that. According to the latest data, India witnessed about a three-time increase in the incidents of cybersecurity in the year 2020 in comparison to the previous year. Through some of the cyber-attacks that we have seen in the past year, it has clearly emerged that identity is the new battleground for attacks of the future.
Microsoft recently announced Windows 365. What was the idea behind Cloud PC and what role do you see it play in the future?
With workforces more disparate than ever before, organisations need a new way to deliver a great productivity experience with increased versatility, simplicity, and security. Cloud PC is an exciting, new category of hybrid personal computing that turns any device into a personalised, productive, and secure digital workspace. It uses both the power of the cloud and the capabilities of the device to provide a full, personalised Windows experience. Just like applications were brought to the cloud with SaaS, we are now bringing the operating system to the cloud, providing organisations with greater flexibility and a secure way to empower their workforce to be more productive and connected, regardless of location. Windows 365 combines the power and security of the cloud with the versatility and simplicity of the PC. With instant-on boot to their personal Cloud PC, users can stream all their applications, tools, data, and settings from the cloud across any device. The cloud also provides versatility in processing power and storage, enabling IT to scale up or down, based on their needs. Windows 365 also simplifies deployment, updates, and management – and unlike other solutions, Windows 365 doesn’t require any virtualisation experience. With Windows 365 optimised for the endpoint, IT can easily procure, deploy, and manage Cloud PCs for their organisation just as they manage physical PCs through Microsoft Endpoint Manager.