How to Maximize Your Current Microsoft Technology Investments

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IT spending is forecasted to grow 2.4% in 2023. And, while Gartner has labeled organizational IT spend as “recession-proof,” knowing where to prioritize your dollars will be key to making the most out of your investments. To remain competitive, every penny of your IT budget must provide value, especially for small and medium-size organizations.

For companies that have chosen to invest in Microsoft’s cloud solutions, such as Microsoft 365, Azure, or Dynamics 365, the number of services and features available typically means deployments are prioritized based on what’s needed the most. This has been especially true over the past three years as organizations have quickly shifted to meet the demands of modern work.

Many organizations leverage the core solutions in their Microsoft 365 licensing such as Outlook, Word, and Excel, but many fail to leverage more robust offerings included like Power BI, Planner, and more. And even organizations that have deployed all cloud solutions may find end user adoption is less than desired. This results in a huge loss of money and opportunity.

To get the most out of your technology investments, it’s important to do a thorough evaluation of what you have, what it’s capable of, and what you’re using it for.

10 Ways to Drive Additional Value from Your Tech Stack

1. Review licensing deployment.

Check to make sure your licensing is fully deployed so your employees can take advantage of your investment and all the features Microsoft 365 has to offer. Look in the Microsoft 365 Admin Center if you are using direct license assignment, or in Azure Active Directory (AAD) if you are using dynamic license assignment.

2. Evaluate your infrastructure.

Is your infrastructure set up for a digital future? Consider moving to the cloud by rearchitecting your infrastructure with Azure.

  • Watch this video to learn more from Extra Space Storage about what it takes to undergo a successful cloud migration.

3. Eliminate costs of redundant applications and services.

Understanding your investment in the Microsoft cloud is key to knowing where you can eliminate unnecessary redundant costs in IT services. For example, does your company use Survey Monkey, Mentimeter, or other survey services? If you’ve invested in Microsoft 365, you can likely switch to using Microsoft Forms which carries much of the same functionality. Many organizations also find value in using Microsoft’s security stack, which provides a single pane of glass view into the full security of your business and helps to reduce redundant security services.

4. Boost employee productivity.

Disparate systems are a significant factor in employee productivity. Bringing the data and systems that employees need to access together in one workspace built for collaboration helps to boost productivity. Microsoft 365 services like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online, and Exchange Online can be used to host the data and services your employees need to access securely, whether they work from home or the office.

5. Boost employee engagement.

Employees perform best when they are fully engaged with what is happening inside your organization. Microsoft 365 services like Yammer, SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Viva make it possible to easily keep employees engaged in both work and non-work communities, a modern corporate intranet, and knowledge sharing across your organization.

6. Increase user adoption of services.

Use the data and features in the Microsoft 365 Adoption Score to prioritize areas where you can improve how your employees use Microsoft 365.  Increasing user adoption of cloud solutions improves employee productivity and engagement.

7. Improve your security posture.

Use the data in the Microsoft Secure Score and Azure AD Secure Score for Identity to prioritize how you can improve your security posture across the Microsoft cloud.  Using the features in products like Defender for Business or Microsoft Endpoint Manager is critical in ensuring your business data is secure and protected no matter where it is consumed or stored.

8. Collaborate with external users.

Many organizations choose to delay opening Microsoft 365 services to external parties for security reasons. But as your organization matures in its use of the cloud, not collaborating effectively with your business partners could be holding you back. Using services like SharePoint Online and Microsoft Teams securely with external users can increase productivity exponentially.

9. Automate your business processes.

Have your business processes scaled with organizational growth? It may be time to automate your key business processes by using automation tools like Microsoft SharePoint or the Power Platform services (Power BI, Power Automate, and Power Apps) to transform how you do business.

10. Integrate your line of business applications.

Having the right information in the right place for employees to make key business decisions is crucial. Is there data in your ERP or CRM application that is being held hostage? Free your data by integrating it with applications that your employees use every day, like Microsoft Teams.

How to Assess Your Current State

Not sure where to start? Microsoft has created several ways to assess the current state or your deployment, usage, or adoption of Microsoft cloud services. Within the Microsoft 365 Admin Center, administrators can see:

  • What service licensing has been deployed to end users
  • Microsoft 365 Usage Reports for core services
  • How users are using the services compared to other similar sized companies in the Microsoft 365 Adoption Score (formerly the Productivity Score)
  • How secure your infrastructure is compared to other similar sized companies in the Microsoft Secure Score
  • How secure your identity configuration is compared to other similar sized companies in the Azure Active Directory Secure Score for Identity

Similarly, Azure has dashboards that show current and historical consumption of services, as well as recommendations on how to save on service costs or avoid security risks. 

Gathering this information is the first step in prioritizing optimizations and increasing adoption to improve productivity and collaboration.

If you’re not sure how to make sense of the information you gather, reach out to a consulting team that can help you assess where you are and where you can improve. Sometimes an outside perspective with experience with best practices for the solution can make all the difference.

Optimizing for a Modern Workplace

Our team recently worked with a manufacturing and distribution company to help them get more value out of their existing Microsoft 365 Business Standard subscription.

The company had 28 licensed users that were solely using Office applications. There was no use of SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, or Teams for collaboration and productivity.

The company also had approximately 55 unlicensed sales reps located across the US. These sales reps were using personal email on personal devices to transfer files for business collaboration. The mix of corporate and personal devices accessing company data created additional security risks.

Additionally, the organization had two on-premises servers: a file share that contained company files (labels, MSDS sheets, etc.) and a server running business management software. These servers were manually maintained, including a nightly manual back up procedure.

The Eide Bailly team helped this client assess their goals and requirements around productivity and collaboration, data access, and security. The results were as follows:

  • External sales reps were added to Microsoft 365 licensing to provide collaboration and productivity for all employees.
  • Core Microsoft 365 services, such as SharePoint Online, OneDrive, and Teams were securely configured and deployed.
  • On-premises servers were removed or reduced in scope resulting in the removal of a manual backup process.
  • Sales reps had anywhere, anytime, secure access to Microsoft 365 services and company data, without the use of personal email accounts.
  • Advanced security features were configured and deployed to increase the company’s overall Microsoft 365 security posture.

This optimization immediately increased collaboration, efficiency, and security, and reduced waste. This focus on optimization is the key to success for organizations operating in the current landscape.

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