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I’ve spent the last two days at Microsoft’s Ignite conference with our Technical Director, Chris, learning about what’s coming next in their product roadmap and how their cloud and software services can help businesses to work smarter and stay safe. The conference is aimed mainly at large and enterprise size companies – one demonstration showed how a company with 283,000 computers manage their users – but it was excellent to spend time with Microsoft’s experts and see how the latest Microsoft software and services apply to the micro, small and medium sized business that I’ve spent the last 20 years looking after with Systemagic.
So here are my 3 key takeaways from this year’s conference!
Microsoft are bringing new features to its products faster than IT pro’s can keep up, let alone the people actually using these things. It’s easy to decide that you’re happy doing what you’ve always done, using what you’ve always used, and to simply ignore all the hype. Microsoft’s experts demonstrated some features today that had the lecture room hugely impressed, but even I felt I’d never remember these clever new advancements once I got stuck in to the daily grind of work.
However it’s a huge mistake to keep working as you always have – doing what you already know how to do. New products like Planner, PowerBI and the latest functionality of OneDrive can save your business huge amounts of time and effort, making life easier – and as we all know, time is money and better productivity should mean more profit or better still, more spare time! So my major takeaway was that it’s totally worth investing some time learning about what’s new. Luckily we’re holding some free breakfast seminars at Systemagic over the coming months to demo lots of clever new Microsoft tools, so if you haven’t already then get yourself booked in! I hear January is already booked solid and February is filling up fast.
Teamwork, collaboration, co-authoring, productivity…it’s all IT people go on about these days (ok, along with security and flexible working. We’re like broken records.) I fondly remember when Systemagic was smaller and collaboration happened naturally – everyone spoke to everyone every day, everyone knew everything so we collaborated by default. But aside from a business reaching a certain size where it’s not possible to speak to everyone all the time, the huge shift towards having team members working from home or from other locations means that very few businesses can still rely on good old fashioned conversation to make sure everyone knows what’s going on. Email is great, but there are few things more annoying than checking your email to see you’ve been included in a conversation that’s already 20 emails long and you have to read the latest version and delete the rest.
So collaboration is important and is something all businesses ought to think about. Microsoft Teams is hands down my favourite MS product and it has now developed from being a simple instant messaging platform to a single bit of software that pulls together everything. Your phone calls, your calendar, your files, your to-do lists, your meetings. You can share documents, edit documents, chat, video call, voice call, run your entire business from one application. In the two days I’ve been away I’ve kept on top of everything using two applications – email and Teams – and both from my iPad and my phone. So yes, collaboration is a buzzword and yes, IT companies are probably guilty of banging on about it too much. But it’s worth considering, especially if you’re also one of those from Part 1 who have chosen to ignore everything and carry on like normal.
There are so many features being added to IT systems and software all the time that it’s a full time job to keep up. Coming along to a conference a few times a year doesn’t get you close. What Microsoft are great at is listening to their partners and customers and implementing what’s asked for – so every time you have a moment of “argh if only I could just do…” then the answer is “you probably can, you just don’t know how”. This is why it’s always better to ask – my guys on our helpdesk don’t know every feature either, but they know where to look and who to ask.
How can I stop these annoying emails that say they’re from the boss but actually aren’t? It’s easy, you just need Advanced Threat protection enabled. Why do you need to use that annoying VPN when working remotely? You probably don’t with SharePoint and OneDrive. Why does it take so long to configure a new laptop for a new user? It won’t if you have InTune and AutoPilot. Why do I need that expensive noisy server? You almost certainly don’t as long as you have a fairly good internet connection.
So if you ever think there must be a way to work smarter or make something better or faster or easier, there probably is an answer. We work hard to educate all our clients but it’s impossible to talk to everyone about everything – especially when “everything” is changing on a monthly basis. So please ask – it’s what we’re here for – and in the meantime when you get a call or email from one of us it’s probably worth a cursory skim-read before it gets deleted in case we can save you time, money and hassle with some advice.
So that’s it – my almost entirely non-technical report on a hugely technical Microsoft Ignite conference, aimed at the micro, small and medium sized businesses that so often get stuck in an IT rut, doing what they’ve always done, and weren’t mentioned once in the entire two days at Microsoft Ignite 2020.