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Benjamin Franklin once said ‘Out of adversity comes opportunity’, well out of the current national emergency, we are seeing what can be achieved where there is a clarity of focus, a clear end objective and a desire to move at pace. In my current role at Somerset West and Taunton Council, we have just delivered a project to deploy Microsoft Teams across a 400 strong workforce in less than 4 weeks. This is something that would have taken many months in normal times.
When the announcement was made that all offices were shutting and staff would be working from home, it became apparent very quickly that even though the Council had the infrastructure that enabled people to log on, access what they needed and communicate through email and conference calls, this wasn’t going to provide the level of collaboration and productivity needed for the essential work that the Council provides.
Though there were already plans to roll out Office 365, nothing had started so we knew we had to act fast to prevent staff trying to fill the void themselves with products on the market offering video conferencing and social media style chat. So the usual project planning, preparation work, pilot groups, communication planning etc., were replaced by a rapid technical workshop with help from the Microsoft FastTrack Service to get the configuration sorted. Then a quick test of the technology by a select few and straight into deployment for our Covid-19 response group, all within days. Over the next 3 weeks over 400 users received a 30 minute remote set up and user training session from a group of incredibly enthusiastic and quick talking project team. User guides were produced, regular communication sent and support always available. Thankfully one the benefits of Microsoft Teams is its ease of use so generally people were immediately up and running.
This extremely rapid implementation may have been a little rough round the edges, but removed large amounts of unnecessary work and instead just focussed on the minimum viable product. It is already bringing benefits to the organisation as colleagues feel more connected through Teams calls and chat. Remote sharing and joint working on documents and whiteboards has enabled teams to work very effectively and I feel it will permanently change the way meetings are conducted for the better. In fact the whole nature of work should be challenged following this pandemic. Why not use this situation as a catalyst to drive through digital transformation and new ways of working?
This crisis has brought out the best in people, cut through the bureaucracy and shown what is possible. Organisations that can harness that momentum and desire for change have the opportunity for a fundamental shift in direction, culture and results.
I am very proud to be working with such a committed, hardworking and enthusiastic group of people at an organisation that is delivering such valuable services at this critical time.