EPISODE 5 05/20/2020 (44 Min) Rob Foster

S2 E5: Office 365 “as a Service” at Deloitte with Rob Foster

When we hear creativity, we think of the arts. But our guest, Rob Foster, believes creativity is also necessary in IT.

Today, let’s see how creativity and Office 365 can be fused together to create a modern workplace environment that would help people work better, and find out why Rob considers Office 365 to be the best tool available to make it happen.

In this episode:

Creativity in IT

I’ve been with Deloitte for about 16 years, basically through the whole journey of SharePoint and the evolution of collaboration and evolving that into the modern workplace since the beginning.

When I was a lead architect for the project of upgrading to SharePoint 2007, which really was the start of our SharePoint growth, the business folks would come to me and say, “We want to do this. Will the technology support it?” Over time, my role expanded into which I was the one saying, “Hey, here's what I think we should do. And here's what we should be really investing in”.

And helping evolve our technology and moving forward more on a creative basis is really what I enjoy doing. I think that’s where I really flourish. For me, that's something that you must have an open mind for and not lock into the way we've always done it. And I love being creative. And that really gets me outside of my comfort zone and go, “What can we do that's never been done before to help our people work better together?”

Delivering better service

If you look at the big umbrella of Deloitte, we have different entities called member firms which are typically based around countries. Each member firm applies laws and regulations based on their specific country. Now, because we have a lot of people that live in a lot of different locations, it has been a challenge for us to get accurate reports on how people use our technology.

Aside from that, one of our SharePoint environments for one application could have up to 300 servers, and if you think about how often we're in war rooms because this server farm went down or how long it takes to patch, it was crazy. What it did was it took time away from us to where we couldn't really focus on delivering an experience to our people.

It was looking into our hardest problems that we got to the point where we said, “You know what? We really need to take a look at this so that we can focus on our people better.”

The Shift to Cloud

And so being able to evolve the company with that mentality, it was like steering a big ship. We had to really look at it in a real way to not only stay up with the current technology, but also protect the firm, because that's a huge shift.

And that's when we really took a good look at the cloud. So, it was kind of a cross between being able to be dynamic, to provide the latest and greatest environment for our people, and the shift to protecting our data.

People loved it, and now it's evolving. Our usage reports in our online presence shot up to a 45-degree angle straight up in February. We just crossed 1.2 petabytes of data in OneDrive as we've got a lot of audit data being stored there. We're at about 200,000 users in Teams, with 60,000 people using it every day. And it's just growing. Everything's just up taking. And it's very organic.

Launching an intranet

When we talked with our people, we found that they spend a lot of time on Monday mornings, or whenever they get back to work, trying to find what they were asked to work on.

So, what we decided to do was launch a new intranet, not only to leverage the capabilities of the cloud and everything that was coming in Office 365, but also to build an experience unique to Deloitte. Through APIs, we wanted to integrate our travel portal, time sheet, expense reporting system, and so on.

With this new intranet, we could leverage the graph and give our people the content they need by providing a landing page that gives them access to content wherever it may be published—SharePoint, OneDrive or Teams. Now, they can easily get back to being productive.

By also providing our community with tools, such as OneDrive, then Teams, our technology evolves at the same time our intranet experience gets richer.

Improved mobile experience

Another thing we found was that our people want to be able to be productive no matter where they are. A lot of times it may be in front of a laptop, but a lot of times it didn’t.

So, we're currently taking advantage of it and pushing a lot of mobile experiences as well, because I think that's an immediate way that you can provide a lot of capabilities for your people right in their hands. I think it’s key to success to be able to provide multiple experiences for people so they have an environment that they can work comfortably in.

We don't say, “This is the way you do Teams. This is the way you do OneDrive”. It's, “Hey, we've got all these different experiences, you choose.”

Customizing capabilities

Typically, what we've had in the past is a dedicated development team that would go out there and do the customizations. Now, what we're seeing is that we've got different pockets of the organizations that are saying, “Hey, I want to create this experience for my people based on this stuff.

So, what we do is build up this library of capabilities by working with these teams to essentially expand our capabilities in development and delivery. We look closely at what they're trying to do and help them break apart pieces of the capabilities that are being developed so that they're reusable across other parts of the organization. That way, when the next person comes up, we can say, “Oh, we've got these three capabilities here that this team over here developed. Let's see if you can use any of them.

And I think that's a huge shift for the way we work because it's not just people in my group that are developing the code, it's people in other groups from all over the world. And that's a game changer for our people because it lets our people do what they need to do wherever they are.

Microsoft Teams

Teams completely changed the way our people work. People start collaborating on it, and they love the multi-edit capabilities—co-authoring. And they really do like the experience, not only around documents, but also the conversations in the way that you can do the meet-now and have meetings.

Lifecycle, however, is a really hard problem to solve because there's all kinds of different things happening across borders inside of Teams. We're very much in the infancy of being able to put a governance plan around this.

We used to have these data classification labels, but those are changing and very much evolving. Now we're going into these things called universal labels which, once you turn on, kill data classification labels. So, we're in a waiting game to see, because we don't want to do something right now that's going to break things downstream.

Making #ShiftHappen

I would say the biggest thing that you can do is listen to your people and figure out how they're collaborating. Figuring out how your people work is going to be key to how you roll your technology out to make the best collaboration tool for your people.

And based on that, you can set up a strategy for success. Do you mostly have baby boomers? Do you have millennials? Do you have Gen Z? How do your people work? And you have to set the stage for them to be successful in whatever situation they want to work in. I think Office 365 probably does the best job of any of the tools that are available today.

Today’s takeaway from Rob:

I think there's no real roadmap; no universal way to do this. You have to figure out what's right for you and roll it from there.