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Teams rapid enablement: moving to a single source of truth

In my previous blog on "Things you can do right now to enable remote working", I mentioned the importance of having a single source of truth, enabling business process and managing change. In this blog, I'll explore each of these in a bit more detail, explain how these are related to business problems you may be experiencing today and offer some ideas as to what you could do to about them.

Teams rapid enablement: moving to a single source of truth

Enabling business process

If you were dependent on manual business process workflows, document approval and sign-off and manual re-keying of information between systems, then undoubtedly not having access to your office environment has made things much harder.

The idea of online forms, automated process workflow and digital document signing isn’t new, but every single day brings new incremental improvements in the cloud platforms offered by Microsoft and Nintex, so building online forms and workflows with digital signatures is getting quicker and simpler. In response to the COVID-19 restrictions, we’ve seen customers quickly automate simple processes such as Work From Home Agreement, Employee Guidelines and Crisis Communication.

Single source of truth

We need to meet, discuss and make decisions. We need the data to inform those decisions and to support our business processes.

All of this is very hard to do if we’re relying on sharing information by email. Cloud services such as Dropbox can help, providing they’re supposed to be part of your technology landscape. If not, then, inevitably, when this is all over, you’ll have business information all over the place. VPNs can help too, if the service can scale to meet the demand, but again, if your people are downloading or manually synchronising information to work at home, this presents further risk in the form of information loss, inadequate (software) virus protection, compliance risk and document version confusion.

Putting your information into a single, scalable, highly-secure and available cloud platform such as Microsoft Office 365 is, again, not a new idea, but the complexities of getting it there can be challenging.

This is a true “how do you eat an elephant” situation, with the answer being, as always “one bite at a time”.

Managing change

Even in these times of immediate, reactive, tactical responses, we can’t bypass the intersection of people and technology: adoption. To do so would cost, rather than save, money, and increase, rather than reduce, business risk. So even if it’s a minimal, bare-bones approach – which you can continue improving as you go – plan to support your people with good communication and easily accessible and understandable resources.

Five steps to reach the “single source of truth”

To summarise an approach to getting that "single source of truth”, as a five-step process:

Step one is to start the communication and adoption process early. If people won’t use what you’re about to do, there’s not much point doing it. Create – or get your Microsoft partner to create – a temporary demo tenancy so you can start playing while the hard work (below) is going on. Send out comms about the plan and advise people to watch some of the many excellent videos about using Microsoft Teams.

Step two is creating just enough of a content repository framework (or “Information Architecture”) in SharePoint Online such that it will be immediately usable and useful but can be extended and improved later without extensive re-work.

Ideally, you’d also include simple but high-value information protection settings such as retention policies, giving you an immediate “quick win”; once your content is in there, it’s automagically protected against premature deletion but can be automatically disposed after, say, seven years.

Another “pro tip” would be to switch on Document IDs, giving each document a unique ID. Embed that Document ID in the footer or metadata of a document and you’ll be able to find it even if you do have to move content later (and even if you completely re-name it).

Step three is to get your information in there. This task alone has consumed lifetimes of effort and challenged the sanity of many, but if you can stay calm and remember “not all content is equal”, and focus on what is urgently required today, you’ll be able to break this piece of the elephant down even further.

Now that Microsoft has provided its own content migration technology this process is greatly simplified, providing the ability to move content from many locations including file shares, earlier versions of SharePoint and even other cloud services such as Dropbox and Google into SharePoint Online.

You might also enable OneDrive for Business, to replace the dreaded “H Drive” and give your people their content, synchronised to their computers. Again, Microsoft’s “Mover” migration tool can help here, but before you do this step, you’ll want to consider the risk of having your business content on unmanaged home computers. If in doubt, leave it in the cloud – you can use the online versions of the Microsoft Office apps through a web browser quite easily.

Step four is to connect it all together. Your content lives in your minimalist-but-usable content repository (SharePoint Online Sites). You can now create Teams from those Sites (don’t do it the other way round by creating a Team first – that’s the “tail wagging the dog”). Your people are ready, your information is in the right place, protected and sensibly organized, you’re now ready to collaborate as a first-class cloud citizen.

Of course, this is a highly condensed and generic description. Your situation will be unique and you’ll probably want an expert partner to help, at least with the initial configuration and maybe to provide “extra arms and legs” for the migration. And you’ll undoubtedly need to keep going beyond this tactical approach, but at least you’ll have the direction and momentum to do so.

Step five is to govern your new source of truth effectively. It’s easy to “just switch it on” and that’s how Teams and SharePoint have been designed, with their “Create a Team” and “Create a Site” buttons. So yes, it is really easy to create these, but allowing this to happen in an unmanaged, “organic” manner will undoubtedly cause re-work and business risk.

There are many approaches to functional governance, from manual request-and-provision through to user self-service, so it’s worth considering what will work best for your organisation, taking into account size, transactional volume and resourcing.


This blog is part of the #ReimagineWork series. For more experts' insights, clients' experiences and to download our datasheets, click the banner.

For more experts' insights, clients' experience and to download our datasheets, click the banner #datareimagine

Posted by: Doug Baxter, Solution Specialist | 01 April 2020

Tags: Office 365, Collaboration, Microsoft Teams, Contingency Plan, Continuity Plan, COVID-19, Emergency Response, Remote work, #ReimagineWork

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