Office 365 as a sector-specific solution
As the adoption of Microsoft Office 365 powers ahead in the housing sector and most social housing providers have completed their migrations of email to the cloud, many are now embarking on true digital transformation via the ground-breaking Office 365 Power Platform.
The Office 365 journey has been an exciting one. We’ve seen the suite evolve from the basic office applications of Word, Excel, PowerPoint et al. to the introduction of enterprise-level automation and app-building tools Power Apps and Power Automate (formerly Flow). Now we’re seeing the platform offer true artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionise the way social housing providers work.
From timesheets to neighbourhood and block inspections, the Power Platform provides a powerful form and workflow solution to which legacy or manual processes can be migrated. In conjunction with a SharePoint modern intranet, electronic document and record management (EDRM) platform and Teams as a collaboration suite, the Power Platform is driving high returns on Office 365 investments.
The move away from a total reliance on housing management systems (HMS) to provide full functionality right across the organisation is one that’s been discussed in the sector for many years. Many housing providers require a similar solution to meet their needs and want to explore using SharePoint for EDRM, but they need the ability to integrate this into their core platforms.
That’s why housing providers need to use Office 365 in a way which fits around their core business applications and integrates where necessary. This means your integral processes, such as voids management, allocations, human resources, health and safety and much more, can be migrated to Office 365.
New features in Office 365
We’ve seen some really exciting new features in Office 365 in recent months. We already know about the powerful robotic process automation (RPA) which allows you to automate a number of your key processes such as gas certifications, site audits and even tenant onboarding, complete with auto-generated documentation.
Another very exciting release is Power Virtual Agents. In a similar vein to Power Apps, Power Automate and Power BI, Microsoft is offering an enterprise-level tool to the masses at an affordable price. You can use Power Virtual Agents as chatbots on your website, streamlining the way you deal with customer queries and triaging common requests that come into your contact centres. Like automated processes, this can vastly increase your employees’ productivity and save your organisation hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Project Cortex is an innovative feature defined as a ‘knowledge network’, intelligently applying AI to automatically organise your content and delivering pioneering experiences such as topic cards, topic pages and knowledge centres within your Office 365 environment. This is a supercharged version of the long-standing and successful SharePoint knowledge management solution TSG has deployed for organisations such as Home Group, which resulted in a £220,000 saving in the first year of implementation and a reduction of its repair call-out error rate to just three per cent. Imagine that, but with machine learning and artificial intelligence in-built.
Starting your Office 365 journey
When exploring what’s possible in Office 365, one question that continues to come up is how to build a business plan for an Office 365 roll-out in the organisation. Once the base email, Word and Excel elements have been migrated, how do you position a full roll-out of its innovative features internally?
Many housing providers have a specific requirement which drives their first foray into Office 365; this could be a specific form or workflow they need to digitise with Power Apps and Power Automate to save time or improve a process. Sometimes, it’s the replacement of a legacy EDRM system prior to support ending. Others often begin by looking at the modern workplace and rolling out OneDrive and Teams to support collaboration and mobile working, and with a full telephony solution now available as part of Teams, we anticipate this adoption will continue at an exponential rate.
With Microsoft’s continued investment in Office 365 as a modern platform that’s set to change the way we work forever, we know it will never become a legacy solution.
Tony Hughes is a Microsoft solution strategist and Kirsty Marsden is a Microsoft business development manager at Technology Services Group (TSG).