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Red Wing Shoes stays one step ahead in retail industry with Microsoft 365 workplace

The Red Wing Shoes logo.

Today’s post was written by Marc Kermish, chief information officer at Red Wing Shoe Company.

Image of Marc Kermish, chief information officer at Red Wing Shoe Company.In business for 115 years, Red Wing Shoe Company embodies its staying power in each pair of Red Wings produced. That brand tenacity and the family-oriented culture of caring for customers—whose work boots are as important a tool as a hammer—attracted me to the company. I also like that this traditional, midmarket U.S. manufacturer is expanding globally in a retail space that’s stagnating at best. Fifteen years ago, everyone who worked here lived in Red Wing, Minnesota. Today, we have 700 retail locations, two footwear manufacturing facilities, one tannery, and three U.S. warehouses, with an additional 45 global retailers and sales offices in Norway, Scotland, Dubai, and Japan.

When I came on board, our IT team wanted to support expansion into new markets, while retaining our corporate culture and delivering a workplace tool set that would empower 2,300 employees to excel in a digital world. Red Wing chose Microsoft 365 and Azure to advance these business strategies.

Shifting to this cloud-based tool set has had an immediate and tangible impact on the way we do business. We use Office 365 apps to reduce silos and connect people everywhere. For example, marketing folks in Houston, Scotland, Norway, and Dubai collaborate on RFPs faster than ever using Office 365 video capabilities, Microsoft Teams, Office mobile apps, and OneDrive file storage. Now that we replaced shared files with cloud storage, accessing corporate information takes one click, and everyone knows where to get the latest updates and financial, inventory, and month-end reports.

Today, our 200 sales reps stay hugely productive on the road because they use the Outlook mobile app and other Office mobile apps to work on price lists and product catalogues. And, to safeguard corporate data, we are starting to use Microsoft Intune to manage sales reps’ mobile devices.

As the hub for teamwork and project management, it’s a fantastic platform for collaboration internally and with our partners, retailers, and supply chain. For instance, our reps, accountants, controllers, and business process specialists created Teams channels to take advantage of persistent chat and track conversations—streamlining a complicated project that included a partner in Kansas City. We also saved 10 to 15 percent of total project time when we launched a new billing process for customers who provide vouchers to their employees to buy Red Wing work boots—that’s about 60 days of labor. In what could have been a chaotic environment, we shared and collaborated on files to build a set of deliverables, assign and track tasks, and meet our report deadlines—all from one highly secure Teams workplace.

Mobility has also affected how we structure our work weeks at Red Wing. Thanks to the easy virtual collaboration with Office apps, more people work from home—a preferred way of life for many of our employees. Our marketing team, almost all of whom have long commutes, particularly appreciate the flexibility and ability to work from home. Our teams are starting to loop in outside agency partners by inviting them to Teams channels for close collaboration.

Maybe the most exciting story for me is how we’re using Microsoft cloud-based tools to support innovation at Red Wing. We started using Azure for our Cobble IT Hacking for Value initiative, where we create apps to bring to life ideas from the business. As we iterate back and forth on new ideas, we use Office 365 apps to collaborate better between IT and the business.

One of our most promising innovations takes advantage of Azure Machine Learning and infrared camera technology to augment our workers’ capability to analyze the quality of the leather we use for our boots. The more hides we can turn into finished inventory, the better it is for our bottom line. We visualize and share company data through Microsoft Power BI, which we’ve made available to employees as our analytics engine. I can also see Teams as a strategic tool; for example, we can use it to drive collaboration between our manufacturing, quality, and product teams to get answers quickly on any given issue.

Individual productivity is also up at Red Wing. For example, after using MyAnalytics to review how we work, IT staff have reduced by approximately 10 percent the number of conversational emails cluttering our inboxes by switching to Teams. We get a boost from the artificial intelligence throughout Office 365 as well. Thanks to PowerPoint Designer, my decks rival those in marketing! And we are investigating how to use voice commands for our store associates to ask Cortana about our inventory for a shoe style, so they can respond faster to customers.

All this collaboration happens in a highly secure work environment, thanks to the multi-layered security approach Microsoft takes. As I move data to the cloud, I’m automatically improving my security posture versus what I could’ve done with my limited IT budget. I’ve got identity and access management plus data loss protection capabilities and protection from phishing attacks—all inherent in Microsoft 365. And to further protect our executive staff, we use Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection.

At Red Wing, we equip working people with footwear that lasts. And with Microsoft 365, we’re not only able to empower our employees to work more effectively, we’re innovating and expanding. This will further support our staying power and push us to succeed in this digital world.

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Brooks runs ahead with a modern, intelligent Microsoft 365 workplace

The Brooks logo.

Today’s post was written by Mark McKelvey, vice president of information technology at Brooks Running Company, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway.

Image of Mark McKelvey, vice president of information technology at Brooks Running Company.I’m a runner and I work in IT, so I couldn’t have found a better fit than Brooks Running Company, where we get deep into the biomechanics and technology of creating great running shoes. In 2001, our CEO, Jim Weber, pivoted the brand to focus solely on running. This corporate running culture encourages a single-minded focus on doing one thing really, really well: providing runners with the best running footwear, apparel, and accessories to promote a healthy lifestyle. My role in IT is to work with the business to provide the technology to support that strategy.

That’s why we are very heavily focused on cloud computing at Brooks. Cloud technology reduces barriers to productivity so we can continue to hone our specialty products. For IT, that means not wasting time with on-premises servers, so we can work with IT solutions directly related to our business. And for the workplace, that means each employee enjoys easy access to the tools and the information they need for their role, from anywhere. Microsoft cloud computing forms a big part of this strategy. We’ve been on the cloud journey for a while, and with Microsoft 365 E3 we’ve taken another step toward winning the race to productivity.

I am really excited about the possibilities inherent in a unified Microsoft cloud platform, from Microsoft Azure to Dynamics CRM to Microsoft 365. This platform is a cost-effective way to boost agility and deliver IT services to the business. The public cloud has also helped a whole new set of small, agile players to deliver innovative solutions based on the same Azure cloud platform that we use. For example, it was a seamless process for Brooks to take advantage of a great new B2B solution from Neocles, a small company in the Netherlands. We deployed the platform worldwide and introduced a mobile app—all to rave reviews from our retailers. When we make it easier for retailers to do business with Brooks, it’s good for their business and ours.

We’re also disrupting the industry and leveraging our biomechanical expertise using the Azure platform to build an app that helps customers find the best running shoe for their personal gait. “Run Signature” is a gait analysis tool that’s breaking new ground in delivering customized support for customers. All the information that we capture from this app flows to Azure, where it’s stored for our biomechanics team to further advance the science of running—and our competitive advantage.

That’s why it’s so important that we protect our intellectual property. We use the multilevel security capabilities in Microsoft 365—multifactor authentication, data loss prevention, and legal hold—to add layers of security to our modern workplace. And we have completed our Windows 10 deployment, which supports highly secure, mobile access to data on any device. We are a global company, and we expect Windows 10 to be a boon for protecting the information on employee devices as they travel from our Seattle headquarters to our factories in Asia or our sales offices in Canada and Europe.

Enhancing collaboration among employees around the world is another benefit we’re exploring with our intranet, called “Inside Track,” which is based in SharePoint Online. With different time zones and work environments, we use Microsoft 365 real-time collaboration apps and highly secure mobile access to data as the foundation for a more flexible way of working at Brooks—from changing the physical layout of our headquarters to supporting work from home, hotel rooms, or airports. These tools, just like our gear, deliver what it takes to run your best race.

—Mark McKelvey

For more on the Brooks move to a modern workplace, read the full case study.

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MyAnalytics, the fitness tracker for work, now more broadly available

MyAnalytics—the fitness tracker for work—is now available to everyone using Office 365 and Microsoft 365 Enterprise and Business suites that include Exchange Online. Previously, MyAnalytics was only available with an Enterprise E5 plan or as an add-on to E1 and E3 plans.

Via a personal dashboard, an Outlook add-in, and weekly emails, MyAnalytics summarizes how you spend your time at work, then suggests ways to work smarter—from cutting unproductive meeting time to reducing time spent working after hours. It even uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help you stay on top of your to-dos by flagging commitments you’ve made in email.

The MyAnalytics dashboard.

New insights give a more complete picture of how you spend time at work

As we continue to evolve the product, today we’re also making MyAnalytics insights more well-rounded. MyAnalytics currently provides insights based on time spent in Outlook emails and meetings, and Skype for Business calls and chats. This month, we’re adding new insights based on your Microsoft Teams calls and chats, as well as signals from documents you’re working on that are saved in OneDrive and SharePoint. With 329,000 organizations and 87 of the Fortune 100 using Teams, this takes us one step closer to providing you with a more complete picture of how you’re spending time at work.

MyAnalytics Outlook add-in and weekly email.

A recent Gallup study found that two-thirds of full-time employees say they experience burnout at work. Multiple factors are contributing to burnout—such as the increased pace of work, a rise in collaborative work like chats, emails, and meetings, and the continuing trend of technology blurring the lines between work and life. Our customers tell us they’re looking for ways to address these challenges by helping employees find time to focus, improve work-life balance, build better meeting habits, and create deeper connections with their colleagues. By making MyAnalytics features more broadly available to our millions of customers, it is our goal to make work days around the world a little more balanced and fulfilling.

Availability: MyAnalytics insights from Microsoft Teams and documents saved in OneDrive or SharePoint will begin rolling out to existing customers with MyAnalytics in January 2019. MyAnalytics features will start rolling out to the new suites in the next couple months. With today’s updates, MyAnalytics features are now available for Office 365 and Microsoft 365 suites: Business Essentials, Business Premium E1, E3, and E5 plans.

Note: Today, we’re also announcing new security and compliance packages for our enterprise customers. Please read Introducing new advanced security and compliance offerings for Microsoft 365 to learn more.

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Introducing new advanced security and compliance offerings for Microsoft 365

When we first introduced Microsoft 365 bringing together Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS), our vision was two-fold: 1) deliver a great experience for customers to empower employee creativity and teamwork, and 2) provide the most secure and easy to manage platform for a modern workplace. We’ve been thrilled with the response, as customers like BP, Gap, Walmart, and Lilly have contributed to triple-digit seat growth since its launch.

A big driver of customer adoption of Microsoft 365 is the need for security and compliance solutions in an age of increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threats, as well as complex information protection needs due to regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). To help address these needs, we are introducing two new Microsoft 365 security and compliance offerings that will be available for purchase on February 1, 2019.

  • Identity & Threat Protection—This new package brings together security value across Office 365, Windows 10, and EMS in a single offering. It includes best of breed for advanced threat protection services including Microsoft Threat Protection (Azure Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), Windows Defender ATP, and Office 365 ATP including Threat Intelligence), as well as Microsoft Cloud App Security and Azure Active Directory. This offer will be available for $12 per user per month.*
  • Information Protection & Compliance—This new package combines Office 365 Advance Compliance and Azure Information Protection. It’s designed to help chief compliance officers perform ongoing risk assessments with a compliance score across Microsoft Cloud services, automatically classify and protect sensitive data, and efficiently respond to regulatory requests leveraging artificial intelligence (AI). This offer will be available for $10 per user per month.*

All the value in these new offers remains available as part of the full Microsoft 365 E5 suite, which also includes business analytics and our enterprise grade phone system and audio conferencing. The full Microsoft 365 E5 suite includes not only security and compliance capabilities, but also offerings in business analytics featuring Power BI, and communications with audio conferencing and advanced phone system value. Additionally, customers can continue to purchase security and compliance components on a standalone basis.

There are no price increases or service impacts associated with any of these changes. The new Identity & Threat Protection and Information Protection & Compliance offerings are designed to provide customers with simpler purchase, deployment, and adoption of these security and compliance workloads.

As we speak to customers about the future of work, we know security and compliance are some of the highest organizational priorities and we hope these new offerings will help them achieve their security and compliance goals.

*Pricing for Microsoft 365 E3 customers before volume discounts.

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Belgian police move into the digital age nationwide, solve crimes faster with Microsoft 365

Today’s post was written by Wim Liekens, director of Police Information and ICT (CIO) at Belgian Federal Police.

As the son of a field police officer, I grew up with firsthand knowledge of how teamwork and tools go together to facilitate great police work. In my 25 years as a police officer and 17 years at the Belgian Federal Police, I’ve worked with our IT team to help create a safer society for the 11.4 million people who live in Belgium and a more secure workplace for our 55,000 employees. Since 2015, we have been building a modern, efficient work environment for police officers through digital tools that support collaboration. Today, more than ever, our police officers depend on secure, mobile access to good information and the ability to share that information to solve crimes.

We chose Microsoft 365 E3 to support our workplace modernization journey. A unified Microsoft cloud platform delivers strategic value for a police organization because it creates a sustainable, agile, and highly secure workplace culture. As we take a leadership role in our journey to the cloud, we’re using Microsoft 365 tools to improve collaboration—and help solve crimes in the process.

When we launched Yammer, police officers who hadn’t seen each other since graduating from the academy began to reconnect. Colleagues now use Yammer to share project-based data while investigators use it to pose questions about their ongoing cases. Police coworkers contribute their knowledge and expertise to answer those questions, which can help resolve investigations faster. It’s been a huge step forward to see how suddenly the whole police organization can help each other in real time.

We recently used the online meetings capabilities in Office 365 as an improvised “war room” to brainstorm how to solve a sudden emergency. The meeting occurred in the evening, but no one had to come into the office to participate. The operational chief managed the call, and people used the video and chat functions to make important decisions as quickly as possible.

We also collaborate more effectively because we use Microsoft Teams to better support units within the force. For example, our Belgian Dog Support Group has 35 dog teams that are dispatched to join local units when needed. This means that the teams lose their connection to the central canine support office. Today, we use Office 365 and Teams to create a digital central dog unit. The dog teams connect to this space from their mobile devices to share their experiences in the field. This builds important team comradery and provides a platform to increase our collective knowledge.

We plan to use Teams and other Microsoft 365 tools to bridge projects across the organization. We are digitizing our IT department and introducing a goal-oriented project management approach to our workplace culture. The collaborative Teams environment with unified communications will help us manage our daily business more efficiently.

To support this modern, cloud-based workplace, we need to protect our environment in a new way. The move to a solid, highly secure IT environment was a big factor in our decision to adopt Microsoft 365. We feel that Microsoft meets the complex security and compliance needs of a national police service. With Enterprise Mobility + Security, we have the tools to improve our security posture and keep us aligned with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements. Today, police officers carry smartphones and mobile devices loaded with proprietary police applications, and we use Microsoft Intune to manage 5,000 devices. We’ve deployed Azure Active Directory Premium Plan 1 for conditional multifactor authentication and access and identity management. In addition to our other cybersecurity protection measures, we also use Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics to mitigate the risk of cyberattacks. We retain control of security and access to information through this combination of authentication, device management, and authorization services. Additionally, we’re speeding up our national deployment on Windows 10, so 55,000 employees will soon benefit from having Windows Defender Antivirus on their devices.

As the Belgian police rise to the challenge of digital transformation, we are confident that we have the tools to promote teamwork in a highly secure modern environment. And we’re in a better position to fulfill our responsibilities to citizens who expect us to solve crimes faster and our services to adapt to the digital world. The future of our force lies in the interconnection between police officers and the citizens they serve—we are ready.

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New to Microsoft 365 in December: AI-powered tools to help you create your best work

This month, we released new features in Microsoft 365 that enable you to reach broader audiences, increase your efficiency, and focus on your most important tasks.

Here’s a look at what’s new in December.

Reach more people and create your best work

New AI-powered features across Microsoft 365 empower you to deliver presentations that are accessible to broader, more diverse audiences and to be more efficient in your flow of work.

Present more inclusively with live captions & subtitles in Microsoft PowerPoint—A new feature, powered by Microsoft AI, enables presenters to reach and engage all audiences with live presentation captions and subtitles that automatically appear in real-time. With live captions & subtitles in PowerPoint, you can ensure your presentations are understood by everyone, across languages and hearing access needs. This feature will support presenters across 12 spoken languages and display on-screen captions or subtitles in one of 60+ languages. Starting in January 2019, this feature will be available for Office 365 subscribers worldwide for PowerPoint on Windows 10, PowerPoint for Mac, and PowerPoint Online.

Get tricky acronym definitions automatically in Microsoft Word—Using the Microsoft Graph, Microsoft AI makes suggestions for acronym definitions specific to you and your organization while you read documents. This makes it easier for you to read documents with clarity in the flow of your work. To get started, click the Acronyms button on the Review tab to launch the Acronyms pane and see suggested definitions for acronyms. This feature is now available for all Office 365 subscribers.

Reuse existing slides in new PowerPoint presentations—Instead of recreating slides from scratch, quickly find and reuse slides from your files or from others in your organization with the help of Microsoft AI in PowerPoint. Simply click the Reuse Slides button on the Home tab to surface existing PowerPoint decks in the sidebar to browse through recommended PowerPoint decks that you have access to, view the slides in each presentation, and insert them into the deck you are creating. This feature is now available for all Office 365 subscribers.

App updates to help you achieve more

We’re introducing enhancements to some of your favorite Office apps that make it easier to focus on your work.

Faster, more focused experiences with the new design of Outlook for iOS—We’re starting to roll out updates to Outlook for iOS tailored to help you get things done faster. With more context available at a glance, you can connect, organize, and get more done. The new design includes recognizable avatars for instant recognition, optimized swipe with haptic feedback, and dynamic scrolling to easily see more inbox messages.

Increase your focus with support for macOS Mojave Dark Mode—Office for Mac support for macOS Mojave Dark Mode makes it easier on your eyes when you want to focus on your work or you’re working in low-light environments. And the updated user interface (UI) for Office for Mac makes it easier to find the features you’re looking for with crisper and sharper icons. macOS Dark Mode and UI refresh for Office for Mac will roll out to all users over the next few weeks.

Other updates

  • The password-less protection for access management white paper is now available to help guide you in reducing your risk exposure with alternatives to passwords such as biometrics and public key cryptography in Windows 10 PCs and many of the latest mobile devices.
  • New features in Microsoft Bookings help you better manage your appointments with enterprise-grade security controls, an improved mobile app, and integrations with Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, and third-party payments.
  • New Graph APIs in Teams provide automation capabilities to help streamline the process of creating and customizing teams.
  • Files uploaded to Office 365-connected Yammer groups will now be stored in SharePoint, providing enhanced security and compliance capabilities, including DLP, eDiscovery, conditional access, and retention policies.
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Introducing Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit — a solution to launch and scale your freelance workforce

With increasing participation in the gig economy—the contingent labor market made up of independent workers who contract for short-term engagements—enterprises are beginning to test and include freelance talent to support projects. According to the Future Workforce Report, 47 percent of hiring managers at enterprise organizations utilized freelancers (up from 44 percent the prior year), while roughly 9 in 10 hiring managers say they are open to engaging freelancers rather than temporary workers through a staffing firm. To help enterprises digitally transform or complement their conventional contingent staff solutions, we’re launching Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit, a curated set of tools, templates, and best practices to help our customers launch, execute, and manage freelance programs at scale. 

The gig economy, which includes freelancers, consultants, contractors, and solopreneurs, is on the rise. According to Staffing Industry Analysts, the total spent on gig work in 2015 was $792 billion. Experts believe that within 10 years a larger proportion of the U.S. workforce will participate in the gig economy. In addition, according to Field Nation, 86 percent of independent workers intentionally choose freelancing.

The implications for enterprise companies are profound. To thrive in a highly competitive environment with rapidly changing technology and customer needs, enterprises must be agile and adapt to new business models to get work done with external talent. While adding on-demand freelance talent to the mix offers measurable results in speed and efficiency, the path to transforming existing policies and processes is largely undefined.

Our launch partner for this toolkit is Upwork, one of the largest online global marketplaces with over 375,000 freelancers in over 180 countries. We specifically are partnering with Upwork Enterprise, their end-to-end compliance and freelance talent sourcing solution.

The Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit offers solutions for the main friction points enterprises encounter when deploying a freelance program, including: internal communications and awareness, team-wide collaboration, data analytics, and workflow automation.

Internal communications and awareness

One of the major challenges of launching an enterprise freelance program is driving awareness and education among internal stakeholders and adopters. Employees need a place where they can get started to learn how the program works, access required training, and review best practices for engaging with freelancers.

Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit solves for this with the SharePoint communication site template—a “one-stop shop” for program details to help accelerate freelance adoption and onboarding, including:

  • Repository for relevant documentation and presentations about the program.
  • Use cases to show employees the kinds of projects they can get done with freelancers.
  • FAQs seeded with the top questions from enterprise employees.
  • An engagement template to help you connect with freelancers in the SharePoint expert talent pool.

See our SharePoint communication site infographic to learn more.

Team-wide collaboration

The nature of enterprise freelance projects requires team members to collaborate on multiple files, manage varied tasks, and communicate across time zones. To keep cross-functional, multi-geographical teams moving in the same direction, the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit provides guidance around using Microsoft Teams as a powerful hub for teamwork that brings chats, meetings, calls, files, and apps into one shared workspace.

With Teams, enterprises can manage their freelance communication and collaboration needs, specifically through:

  • Communication—Public and private teams for members to engage in discussion.
  • Task management—One place to track progress and align each team member’s workflow via integration with project management tools like Microsoft Planner.
  • File storage—One place to store shared files and retrieve them through intelligent search.
  • External guest access—The ability for external users worldwide to collaborate in all aspects of freelance projects through the free version of Teams.
  • Security—External guest access to project-specific teams keeps your information safe without giving wholesale access.

See our Teams infographic to learn more.

Data analytics

A major challenge in scaling an enterprise freelance program is capturing, tracking, and communicating performance KPIs. The Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit leverages Microsoft Power BI, a business analytics service that deliver insights by collecting real-time data from multiple sources, simplifying data prep, and producing customized, easy-to-understand reports and dashboards.

Power BI helps enterprise program managers to:

  • Make data-driven decisions.
  • Compare freelance program results to conventional staffing solutions.
  • Identify the teams within your organization currently leveraging freelance talent by discipline type to help identify future opportunities within your company.

To enhance the core functionality of Power BI for a freelance environment, the freelance toolkit offers:

  • A Power BI template with sample visualizations.
  • A Power BI connector to pull data from disparate sources into dashboards.
  • An engagement template to help you connect with freelancers in the Power BI talent pool.

See our Power BI infographic to learn more.

Workflow automation

An enterprise freelance program requires provisioning, compliance, and monitoring, all while providing a frictionless process for your employees. To reduce the need for manual completion of repetitive tasks, Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit uses Microsoft Flow to create automated workflows between apps and services that send notifications, synchronize files, and collect data.

For example, Microsoft Flow can help business decision makers automate the following scenarios:

  • Employee training and compliance. By visiting the freelance program SharePoint communication site, employees can sign up for the pilot by completing a compliance training video supported by Microsoft Stream.
  • Internal community signup. After an employee completes the compliance training video, the employee is automatically added to an internal Teams channel where employees can collaborate with others who are part of the program and share experiences.
  • Upwork account creation. After the employee is added to the Teams channel, their account information, which includes their name and email address, is sent to Upwork for account creation on their platform, so they can start posting jobs on the platform.

In addition to core Microsoft Flow functionality, the freelance toolkit offers:

  • Case studies to show how you can use Microsoft Flow within an enterprise freelance program.
  • An engagement template to help you connect with freelancers in the Microsoft Flow talent pool.

See our Microsoft Flow infographic to learn more.

Our journey and what we learned

Like many of our customers, Microsoft is also in the process of navigating how to responsibly weave freelance engagements into our enterprise environment. Over the past year, we completed over 2,000 freelance projects across writing, research, video editing, translation, design, and data science—spanning 25 internal teams and hundreds of employees.

But getting to this point was not easy—we had to internally transform ourselves, and we needed to build an infrastructure that could support the complexities of an enterprise freelance program. This led us to develop the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit, which combines our leading enterprise productivity apps with curated tools, templates, and best practices to address the specific needs of enterprise freelance programs. The work has paid off. To date, we’ve seen measurable cost and time savings.

Get started

Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit is available for no additional cost as part of an Office 365 Enterprise or Microsoft 365 Enterprise subscription. Learn more about Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit and a Microsoft 365 Enterprise subscription.

Please note: Each enterprise will need to evaluate and determine its own needs—including such things as data handling and compliance requirements—and should use their existing Microsoft 365 investments they determine appropriate.

Learn more about the freelance toolkit journey with Upwork.

New to Microsoft 365 in November: Tools to keep you in your workflow and fine-tune content

This month, we released new features in Microsoft 365 that help users stay focused in their workflow while delivering richer, more engaging content.

Here’s a look at what’s new in November.

Stay in your flow of work

We’re launching new capabilities in Microsoft 365 to help simplify common tasks in your workflow and save you time.

Keep track of to-dos and collaborate with others with new AI features in Word—Now you can more easily focus on your writing when working in Word. When you type a to-do item, like TODO: finish this section or <<insert closing here>>, Word recognizes and tracks them as to-dos. When you come back to the document, you’ll see a list of your remaining to-dos, and you can click each one to navigate back to the right spot. Additionally, when you @mention someone within a to-do, Word emails them a notification with a “deep link” to the relevant place in the document. This new capability is available today in preview for Word on the Mac for Office Insiders, with availability for all Office 365 subscribers coming soon.

Animated screenshot of a Word document open using the AI-powered To-Do feature.

Perform more tasks on the go with new features for Microsoft Teams on iOS and Android—The updated Teams mobile app now empowers you to be more productive on the go with features like the ability to schedule meetings and search for colleagues within your organization’s directory. With Quiet Hours, you can focus on other activities with greater control over push notifications. These features are available now via the Teams mobile app.

Image of a phone screen displaying Microsoft Teams, with quiet hours set from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Manage tasks without breaking your email flow in Outlook on the web—The updated Tasks feature in the new Outlook on the web now lets you create a task by dragging and dropping an email into your Tasks pane or easily schedule a task by dragging it from the Tasks pane to your calendar. Your tasks then travel with you on the To-Do app. The new Tasks pane capability will start rolling out to customers who opt in to the new Outlook on the web in December 2018.

Animated screenshot of tasks being added in Outlook on the web.

More ways to sign in to Outlook on the web—We listened to your feedback about wanting an easier way to sign in to Outlook on the web. Starting in December, users with an Office 365 account who use Outlook on the web can now sign in to their work or school accounts through www.outlook.com. When a user signs in through www.outlook.com, Outlook redirects them to their organization’s sign-in page, which is pre-populated with the email address they entered. From there, they just follow their organization’s sign-in process.

An animated image showing a user signing in to Outlook.com.

Create richer, more engaging content

We’re introducing new intelligence capabilities in Microsoft 365 to help users create richer content within PowerPoint.

Improve your writing with Editor in PowerPoint—Editor leverages machine learning and natural language processing to provide an intelligent proofing and editing service that delivers recommendations in context. For example, Editor highlights and provides suggestions to fix awkward word choices and incorrect grammar and offers guidance on clarity and conciseness. Editor in PowerPoint will be available to all users with an Office 365 subscription beginning December 2018.

An animated image showing the new Editor feature in PowerPoint.

Engage your audience with interactive forms and quizzes in PowerPoint—Microsoft Forms is now integrated with PowerPoint for Office 365, providing a seamless way for speakers, trainers, and educators to connect and interact with participants. Now, presenters can get real-time audience feedback via forms and quizzes without asking them to leave PowerPoint. To get started, in PowerPoint under Insert, click the Forms icon to create a new form/quiz or insert one you’ve already created.

Other updates

  • Today, we unveiled redesigned Office app icons to honor the heritage of Office and welcome in the future. These app icons provide flexible visuals that reflect product changes and the new ways in which people are working.
  • AI features like facial detection to identify speakers in videos, speech-to-text and closed captions, and transcript search and timecodes are now available to all Office 365 Enterprise, Firstline Worker, and Education plans through Microsoft Stream.
  • You can now use Windows Hello or a FIDO2 device to sign in to your Microsoft account on the Edge browser instead of using a username and password.
  • The Office Customization Tool is now available, enabling IT pros to easily customize deployment of Office 365 ProPlus and other Click-to-Run managed Office products using a simple, intuitive, and web-based interface.
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EMCOR Group transitions to the cloud, constructs intelligent workplace with Microsoft 365

The EMCOR logo.

Today’s post was written by Peter Baker, senior director of information technology at EMCOR Group.

Profile picture of Peter Baker, senior director of information technology at EMCOR Group.A good way to describe the culture at EMCOR is to reference the many awards we’ve received for excellent customer service and safety. We provide mechanical and electrical construction, industrial and energy infrastructure, and facilities services to commercial, industrial, utility, and institutional customers around the world. For 10 consecutive years, EMCOR has been named among the top five “World’s Most Admired Companies” in the Engineering and Construction Industry by Fortune, and in 2018, EMCOR was ranked #1. Our IT team concentrates on helping employees build on that culture of customer-focused service and safety, so we can continue to differentiate ourselves from the competition and serve customers with excellence.

We stand out by taking advantage of the latest opportunities for IT advancements—when it makes sense for our business. That’s why we turned to cloud computing now. Cloud-based solutions are typically more cost-competitive than on-premises solutions. In addition, we want to reduce the administrative burden of on-premises solutions so that IT staff can focus on business-critical areas. For example, we will be able to collaborate more effectively across multiple divisions and business units using Microsoft 365 cloud-based workplace services. It’s easier for our employees to share information with each other, customers, and suppliers. Also, a modern, intelligent workplace helps EMCOR compete for talent among today’s younger workforce.

We chose Microsoft because we felt it has the most comprehensive set of cloud-based components for a large enterprise. EMCOR needs enterprise-class messaging, applications, infrastructure, mobile security, collaboration tools, document management solutions, and governance capabilities. Microsoft offered the widest array of integrated solutions for each of those areas.

In making the transition from an on-premises IT organization to a cloud-friendly IT organization, one of our biggest anticipated benefits is that we’ll have a more standardized IT infrastructure that’s easier to support and secure. Microsoft fully supports our commitment to security and data privacy as defined by internal and customer-driven requirements. With solutions such as Microsoft Azure Key Vault, EMCOR can encrypt its data and control the encryption keys. This was a major differentiator for us. Also, we plan to use Azure Information Protection P2, a component of Enterprise Mobility + Security, along with Customer Lockbox for Office 365—a deal maker for moving to the cloud—shortly after our pilot project. Enabling Customer Lockbox is a must for EMCOR because it helps us meet our customers requirement that we control access to their data. We’re in the early stages of configuring our tenant, and so far things are going well.

As a result of moving to a Microsoft cloud platform, EMCOR has a much closer business relationship with Microsoft. We’re counting on Microsoft to remain the leader in enterprise-class, cloud-based messaging and workplace tools. Meanwhile, the total set of capabilities we gain with Microsoft 365 E3 provides value. EMCOR obtains multiple software and service elements wrapped in a single unified price, and all services and software will remain current and fully patched with little effort on our part. This frees our IT staff to focus on issues more critical to supporting revenue generation and business operations.

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ERM contributes to a more sustainable future with Microsoft 365

Today’s post was written by Richard Zotov, Group CIO at ERM.

The sustainability industry addresses the complex balancing act between supporting socioeconomic development and ensuring the healthy future of our environment and our communities. ERM employees are passionate about helping to shape a sustainable future with the world’s leading organizations. We work with the majority of Fortune 500 companies, whose activities—from drilling oil to discovering the next miracle drug—have an enormous impact on us all. Because sustainability means something different for every customer, like exploring clean energy sources or guaranteeing an ethical supply chain, ERM employees must be skilled, flexible, and agile in how they approach each engagement.

It is my goal as CIO to make sure this amazing group of more than 5,000 individuals have the best tools at their disposal as they collaborate in creative teams across 40 countries to help our customers achieve their unique business and sustainability goals. So we made the strategic decision to harness technology and data to digitalize and transform how we work. That’s when we deployed Microsoft 365 across our entire organization, from administrators in our 160 offices to mobile consultants gathering data in the field. Today, ERM employees have new tools to work faster, better, and safer, accelerating the positive, global impact of the work we do.

Now that everyone uses the same Microsoft 365 toolkit to collaborate, harness data, and streamline operations, we have a unified foundational layer for our new workplace culture. We’re connecting our entire business to be more efficient. And when it comes to security, we can meet our customers’ high standards and enhance the credibility of our security position with the Microsoft cloud platform.

This workplace transformation is really a two-pronged approach to remaining at the forefront of the sustainability industry. First, we harness technology and data to accelerate our sustainability and environmental health and safety services. The second involves looking at how we develop new revenue streams as an offshoot of our newly digitalized way of doing business.

With Microsoft 365, we are making headway with the first goal. It’s part of an enterprise-wide push to focus on exceptional customer value. For example, we have technologically transformed how we collect, store, and manage data during site investigation, one of our biggest service lines. Onsite data collection used to be a laborious manual process. Today, we use Microsoft 365 to help digitalize data collection—consultants take tablets into the field for data input and upload it for storage in the Microsoft cloud where it’s available in real-time for colleagues to analyze back at the office. Now our customers receive our reports in easily consumable Power BI dashboards, as opposed to lengthy write-ups, and we’re delivering insightful data into the hands of our customers faster.

As we gain experience in transforming our service lines using Microsoft cloud services, among others, we’ll be in a better position to explore new digital opportunities that help add value to the work we do for customers. This strategy will keep us at the leading edge of technology innovation and help maintain our competitive advantage.

As we work with the intelligent tools within the Microsoft 365 cloud platform, we empower our employees to deliver value to our customers—helping them achieve that balance between doing business and being a conscious steward of the environment. It’s great to know that ERM is adding to the global dialogue on sustainability, contributing to a healthier future for the planet.

—Richard Zotov

Read the ERM case study for more on their move to a modern workplace with Microsoft 365.