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Meet me in the trees – Microsoft Life

Wi-Fi? Check. Power for your tablet or PC? Yep.

Bird calls? All around.

To get to Microsoft’s most unexpected new meeting space, embark on a leisurely outdoor stroll up a planked, accessible switchback ramp. At the top, a secure wooden gate swings open to reveal a deck suspended by timber beams and cables. A minty pine perfume infuses the air. Two angled cedar awnings jut out from tree trunks, protecting employees from the elements.

But the elements are why people come here—up into a majestic Pacific Northwest Douglas fir, where a collaboration room is built inside a treehouse.

Aloft, the usual corporate sounds of clicking doors, conference calls, and heels on concrete melt away. A fall wind sweeps through emerald branches. Every 10 or 20 seconds, a pinecone drops to the deck with a soft thud. A sudden ruckus breaks the gentle morning hush: a squirrel scrambling for breakfast charges across the arms of nearby hemlock and western red cedar.

Welcome to a new kind of workspace that’s helping employees benefit from what science shows is the powerful impact of nature on creativity, focus, and happiness.

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An audio description version of the above video is also available. 

The treehouse is one of three new branch-based meeting spaces created by renowned builder Pete Nelson of the TV show “Treehouse Masters.” Nelson kicked off the project by spending his first day on the site “connecting with the trees” for hours, said Bret Boulter, who works in Real Estate & Facilities on Microsoft’s Redmond campus and who headed up the project.

The treehouses are part of a larger new system of technology-enabled outdoor districts connected to buildings around campus and empowering employees to work in new ways. On a recent sunny day, an employee perched, legs crossed, on a soft grassy knoll below a treehouse. For several minutes, she sat with her hands on her knees, eyes closed, head tilted toward the sky, breathing deeply. Then she grabbed her laptop and typed furiously. After a spate of work, she set her computer aside, rested her palms on her knees, gazed up, and then closed her eyes again.

While under construction this summer, the outdoor meeting spaces, which include two enclosed treehouses and one elevated roost called the Crow’s Nest, created a wave of curiosity.

“It beat out all rumors,” said Shanon Bernstine, a business manager who helped plan the spaces. “People didn’t believe it was really happening: there was a lot of excitement.”

Twelve feet off the ground, treehouse number one features charred-wood walls and a soaring ceiling with a round skylight that lets in just a bubble of blue. It’s more Hobbit than HQ, with cinnamon-colored shingles and a gingerbread-house feel.

A hand-carved arched double door glides open at the swipe of a badge. The almost mustardy fragrance of rough-hewn cedar is instantaneous. Inside the small room nests a simple farmhouse table with rust-red seats. Box benches line the reclaimed-wood walls, dark as campfire smoke.

There’s no AV system or calibrated climate control. But what happens when people enter is a kind of magic.

“The first thing when you walk into the space is that everyone is really quiet. You stop talking and are just present,” said Boulter. “It’s fascinating. People absorb the environment, and it changes the perception of their work and how they can do it.”

Winding wooden staircase against a backdrop of trees and sunlight

“We don’t have to bring nature to urbanity—we are in nature. It’s at our back door.”

Scientists have found plenty of connection between exposure to outdoor spaces and people’s well-being. Nature “stimulates reward neurons in your brain. It turns off the stress response, which means you have lower cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and improved immune response,” wrote Harvard physician Eva M. Selhub, coauthor of Your Brain on Nature. Exposure to nature has been found to increase positive feelings, creativity, and focus and to restore the mind from the mental fatigue of work. Forests have a particular impact on people. “Trees and plants secrete aromatic chemicals that impact our cognition, mental state, and even our immunity,” Selhub wrote.

The treehouses are part of a larger redesign that makes working in nature easier than it’s ever been. When it set out to renovate the spaces outside Buildings 30–32—the first in a series of similar campus projects planned—the design team surveyed employees to see what they cared about most.

“People said, given the opportunity, they would work more outside,” Boulter said.

While some companies have moved toward the trend of creating green indoor spaces that function as proxies for the outdoors, Microsoft has something unique that most companies located within large metropolitan areas don’t have: a 500-acre campus nestled in the woods, with greenspace and wildlife galore.

“We don’t have to bring nature to urbanity—we are in nature. It’s at our back door,” said Boulter. Many employees who come to the region from elsewhere are drawn to the eco ethic and recreational opportunities; longtime Pacific Northwest residents feel a kinship with and comfort in nature that can be summed up by this fact: we barely see the need for umbrellas in the rain.

That relationship to nature is rooted in the company’s history. Four years after it was founded in New Mexico, Microsoft made the jump to the Pacific Northwest, filling a series of buildings in the region while realizing it needed a long-term strategic plan for growth. A guiding document laid out five criteria for a headquarters, including this: provide an attractive “park-like” location for employees.

The evolution of outdoor meeting space emphasizes this long-ago envisioned connection to the environment while increasing opportunities for workers to collaborate—all while maintaining the reliable connectivity of a traditional office. A broad outdoor Wi-Fi network allows employees to range; every bench is weatherproof and contains a hatch that reveals electricity sources. The indoor cafeteria is extended outside, with a barbecue restaurant built into a shipping container. Tactile surfaces help people who are blind or have low vision navigate. The space has rust-proof rocking chairs; an outdoor gas fireplace that brings the warmth of a ski lodge and attracts an after-work crowd; and a weatherproof awning that, when the sun shines, stencils the Microsoft logo onto the manicured lawn. Many materials are local or reclaimed, and with its abundant wood canopies and steel accents the space pays homage to the site’s history as a former sawmill.

It’s all to help employees work seamlessly and better interact with one another, including via spontaneous encounters. “We want to bring more human touch back into the workplace,” Boulter said. “For people to be the most productive and create the best products, we want them to have that opportunity for collaboration. Any employee can take their device outside, have a meeting—even in a treehouse—and be just as productive.”

“We made sure we were intentional about how we made the space,” said Genise Dawson, an executive business administrator who helped plan the outdoor district for Buildings 30–32. “And people love it. Even though it rains, they still sit out there.”

Two of the three treehouses, which are accessible to all employees, are open. The cedar meeting room takes reservations, as with many of Microsoft’s more traditional meeting spaces; the Crow’s Nest is first-come, first-served. The third, a sheltered lounge space, will be ready later this year. The building is already taking shape in the boughs of a tree Pete Nelson selected—”Nothing formal,” said Dawson. “A place you can chill inside or out of, sit, work.”

Group of employees sitting around a table inside a wooden treehouse

“We were intentional about how we made the space. And people love it.”

Curious employees are coming from around campus to see the treehouses for themselves. “One employee who booked it for a two-hour meeting told me, ‘We got a lot done in a very different way,’” Bernstine said.

With their workspace turned inside out and meetings taking place up in the foliage employees are figuring out how to rethink what working looks like.

“A lot of people are like, ‘where’s the AV?’ And I’m like, it’s a treehouse,” said Boulter. “We wanted people to intentionally unplug, because they are sitting in front of screens all day long.”

The buildings are made to flex and expand as the trees grow, and while they will hopefully last at least 20 years, said Boulter, they will have a finite lifespan, “like any living thing.”

As workers see what nature has to offer, Bernstine said, horizons are already being expanded.

“Being more creative and flexible with our workspace allows us to be more creative and productive in our work and the products we create. It’s like a little getaway.”

Widening the spectrum – Microsoft Life

For technology to truly help people achieve their potential, it has to be able to help everyone. And the people creating that technology must reflect the people who will use it. Technology needs to work across what Jenny Lay-Flurrie calls “the spectrum of being human.”

“By having people with disabilities in the fabric of our company, [we’re] building in a diverse workforce that then represents the one billion people with disabilities out there,” said Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft’s chief accessibility officer. “We’re going to be building better products, better services, websites . . . anything we do will work across the spectrum of being human.”

That spectrum includes many types of people who have talent and passion and who can help change the world. People like Joey Chemis, who came to work at Microsoft through the company’s program to recruit and hire people with autism, a program that started two years ago.

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Researchers estimate the unemployment and underemployment rates for people on the autism spectrum are 70–90 percent. That was the frustrating reality for Chemis: he had advanced skills in math and was excited to put them to use, but he couldn’t get interviews. While he was working minimum-wage jobs, he knew he was “destined for something more.”

To connect with candidates like Chemis, recruiters first focus on the “front door,” explains Jen Guadagno, senior inclusive hiring program manager. Standard recruiting practices are not always accommodating for people on the autism spectrum. Recruiters receive training and guidance on how to best engage and interact with people based on their communication styles. For example, a candidate might have a tendency to answer questions exactly and succinctly, so learning to drive the conversation deeper and ask more questions is important for the employees and hiring managers who conduct the interviews.

Through Microsoft’s efforts to hire employees on the autism spectrum, recruiters and hiring managers also put an emphasis on looking at a candidate’s background holistically. For instance, someone might have advanced degrees but be working at a big-box store. “Because of that, there might be this perception of why someone doesn’t have a job in their field,” Guadagno said. To better assess experience, recruiters also look at technical projects and relevant volunteer work. “Just because you’re not working in your desired career, it doesn’t eliminate you.”

Joey Chemis

“I could feel that I was destined for something more.”

Once the candidate is invited to a hiring event, a process that includes team-building exercises and mock interviews with feedback helps them feel supported. A technical skills assessment “helps to drive more insight into someone’s skills and experience and puts more focus on their ability to do the job,” Guadagno said.

The program is part of Microsoft’s broader inclusive hiring for people with disabilities.

Being inclusive means support like interview accommodations based on people’s needs and educating interviewing teams on disabilities and etiquette. “We want to set a candidate up for the best possible experience to showcase their skills,” Guadagno said.

Inclusive hiring helps bring talented employees such as Chemis, Amos Miller, Jessica Rafuse, and Swetha Machanavajhala to Microsoft. Being inclusive not only reflects our culture and our mission of empowerment, but it also makes good business sense, says Lay-Flurrie.

“A diverse and talented workforce brings new perspectives that help advance our ability to delight all of our customers,” she said.

Elevators with Inclusion signage

Messages of inclusion appear around Microsoft’s Redmond campus.

From the beginning of his interview process, soon after the program was launched, Chemis felt that people at Microsoft were really interested in getting to know his strengths and passions. “You played with a bunch of tools. You had an assignment where you had to demonstrate your coding skills . . . you had some informal interviews called chats to figure out if you’d be a fit for the company.” The process allows people with autism to “shine and show their true colors and abilities,” he said.

Chemis still feels the same commitment today that he felt during his interviews, from the work he now does talking to new recruits going through the program to the way the Redmond campus regularly reminds him of how Microsoft supports employees. “I love the fact that it’s an inclusive culture and that inclusion is written all over the elevators and all over the walls,” he said. “You’re going to come here, you’re going to try things, you’re going to experiment. Some of the experiments won’t work out, but it’s OK because the end goal is for you to learn and develop and make great stuff.”

If Chemis could somehow go back and advise his younger self about the future, he says that he would say this: “You’re going to do really cool things. You’re going to end up getting a really cool job at Microsoft.”

A new vision for intelligent communications in Office 365 – Office Blogs

Today’s post was written by Lori Wright, general manager for Microsoft Teams and Skype product marketing.

Today at Microsoft Ignite in Orlando, Florida, we introduced a new vision for intelligent communications, transforming calling and meeting experiences for people and organizations around the world. Intelligent communications go beyond traditional unified communications, enabling you to complete tasks more efficiently with minimal context switching, participate in more productive meetings that cover the entire meeting lifecycle, and better manage your everyday communications overload.

Microsoft Teams is core to our vision for intelligent communications—bringing together conversations, meetings, files, Office apps, and third-party integrations—to provide a single hub for teamwork in Office 365. Teams is now being used by over 125,000 organizations across the world in just six months since its launch. Its strong momentum has proven that teamwork is essential to the way work gets done today.

To achieve our vision for intelligent communications, we are bringing comprehensive calling and meetings capabilities into Teams, along with data and insights from the Microsoft Graph, and a strong roadmap of innovation to empower teams to achieve more.

All of this is being built on a new, modern Skype infrastructure for enterprise-grade voice and video communications. Our next generation, cloud-born architecture is already powering communication experiences in Teams, and is evolving rapidly. We are excited about this new infrastructure because it will provide both speed of innovation as well as higher quality communication experiences.​

As we build out these capabilities, Teams will evolve as the primary client for intelligent communications in Office 365, replacing the current Skype for Business client over time.

The future of business meetings

Combining communications, collaboration, and intelligence in this way will make new things possible across the lifecycle of a call or meeting:

  • Before a meeting, Teams will surface relevant documents and rich information about the participants to help you prepare.
  • During the meeting, the conversation can be captured, transcribed, and time-coded, with closed captioning and voice recognition for attributing remarks to specific individuals.
  • After the meeting, the cloud recording and transcript can be automatically added to the relevant channel, so conversations, documents, notes, and action items can be reviewed, indexed, and searched by the entire team.

Image of a Teams meeting with four participants.

Introducing calling features and meeting enhancements in Teams

Over the past six months, we’ve continued to enhance the communications capabilities in Teams, with new features like scheduled meetings, Outlook calendar integration, and meetings on mobile. Also, earlier this month, we began rolling out guest access—so you can use Teams to collaborate with people outside your company. In the coming months, we will begin adding calling features in Teams—including inbound and outbound calls to PSTN numbers, hold, call transfer, and voicemail.

We are also introducing new enhancements to Teams meetings, including audio conferencing (available in preview today)—enabling participants to join a Teams meeting by dialing a telephone number—and interoperability between Teams and Skype for Business, including universal presence, and messaging and calling interoperability.

This is just the beginning of a big wave of feature releases that will bring the core set of meetings and phone system capabilities into Teams.

We remain committed to bringing the familiar Skype experience into any and every meeting room. We have seen strong customer momentum with Skype Rooms Systems. Today, Lenovo announced they will bring to market a new Skype Room Systems device, Smart Hub 500, expanding on the current portfolio of Skype Room Systems with Logitech, Crestron, and Polycom. In addition, Polycom, Pexip, and Blue Jeans Networks will deliver cloud video interop capabilities within Teams. This adds to the existing video interop capabilities for Skype for Business delivered by Polycom’s RealConnect for Office 365 and Pexip’s Infinity Fusion product.

What’s next

Office 365 customers can take advantage of the capabilities in Microsoft Teams starting today. We are committed to providing visibility into the Teams product roadmap, so our customers can assess when Teams is right for them. We intend to make an updated roadmap for Teams available in October.

We plan to continue to offer and support Skype for Business in Office 365 and Skype for Business Server on-premises. For customers who are not yet ready to move their PBX and advanced calling capabilities to the cloud, we will release a new version of Skype for Business Server targeted for the second half of calendar year 2018.

Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business clients can be run side by side to evaluate and explore what’s best for your organization.

We encourage every Office 365 customer to begin using Teams today. Office 365 customers currently using Skype for Business can find guidance and resources on the intelligent communications page in the FastTrack portal.

—Lori Wright

Advancing intelligence, management, and security to empower the modern workplace

Today’s post was written by Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team.

Building on our vision for the modern workplace, today at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, we’re announcing the expansion of Microsoft 365 as well as a number of new product capabilities that empower everyone to be creative and work together, securely.

Expanding Microsoft 365 to new audiences

In July, we announced Microsoft 365, which brings together Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security, delivering a complete, intelligent, and secure solution to empower employees. It represents a fundamental shift in how we design, build, and bring our products to market to address customer needs for a modern workplace. Starting October 1, 2017, we are bringing Microsoft 365 to several new audiences.

Microsoft 365 Education—A new offer that combines capabilities across Office 365 for Education, Windows 10, Enterprise Mobility + Security, and Minecraft: Education Edition, to provide students, faculty, and staff everything they need to create and work together securely in the classroom. Microsoft 365 Education is offered in two plans—Microsoft 365 A3 and Microsoft 365 A5. In addition, we’re excited to announce a new Microsoft 365 plan for non-profit organizations.

Microsoft 365 F1—A new Microsoft 365 Enterprise plan designed to maximize the impact of the Firstline Worker. Numbering two billion worldwide, these are the individuals behind the counter, on the phone, in the clinics, on the shop floor, and in the field who form the backbone of many of the world’s largest industries. This new plan helps foster culture and community, train and upskill employees, digitize business processes, and deliver real-time expertise while minimizing risk and cost. We’re also adding new product capabilities to StaffHub and Windows 10 to keep everyone connected, automate device deployment, and manage single purpose devices.

We also recognize the importance of providing Firstline Workers with streamlined and secure devices that reduce total cost of ownership. Today, we’re announcing new commercial devices with Windows 10 S from our OEM partners HP, Lenovo, and Acer, with availability starting later this year. Starting as low as $275 (ERP), these devices benefit from cloud-based identity and management and are ideal for firstline environments.

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New capabilities to unlock employee creativity

Work today has quickly shifted from simple execution of routine tasks to creative problem solving. Microsoft 365 provides the tools people need to express their ideas effectively, build on the work and expertise of others, and create compelling content.

New intelligent capabilities in Excel—We’re harnessing the power of AI to make Excel more powerful. Coming in early 2018, Excel will understand new data types, beyond text and numbers, and augment that data based on public and enterprise information. For example, Excel will know that “India” is a country and “MSFT” is a stock. Insights—a new service coming to Office Insiders this year—also uses AI to find and recommend patterns, helping you derive additional insights from complex data.

Intelligent, personalized search—New search capabilities enable you to discover people and information from across your organization and beyond. We’ve made improvements to help you quickly find the content and expertise you need across SharePoint and Office.com, and you can even search for people and content directly from your Windows taskbar. Bing for business, now in private preview, brings internal sites and content into Bing search results to help you find the right information and resources. Wherever you start your search—you get consistent, personalized results powered by the Microsoft Graph.

LinkedIn profile integration—Today, we’re announcing the ability to view LinkedIn profiles in Microsoft apps and services. This new experience, rolling out now to first release customers, provides rich insights about the people you’re working with—inside and outside your organization—right from within Office 365.

LinkedIn profile information shown from Outlook, on both a phone and tablet.

See LinkedIn profile information from Microsoft apps and services.

The universal toolkit for teamwork

One of the hallmarks of the modern workplace is the shift from individual productivity to dynamic teamwork. Microsoft 365 addresses the complete set of needs you have across your organization by providing a universal toolkit for teamwork with a broad set of purpose-built apps, all on a secure platform.

Intelligent communications with Microsoft Teams—Today, we’re announcing a new vision for intelligent communications to transform calling and meeting experiences by bringing comprehensive voice and video capabilities into Teams, along with cognitive and data services, and insights from the Microsoft Graph. As a result, Teams will evolve as the primary client for intelligent communications in Office 365, replacing the current Skype for Business client over time.

Enhanced content sharing with OneDrive and SharePoint—The new unified sharing experience, now in Windows, Mac, web, and mobile, will come to the Office apps in the coming weeks. The new experience provides a simple, consistent, and secure way to share and control access to files across Office 365. And you can now securely share files with people outside your organization who don’t have a Microsoft account. In addition, you can customize the look and layout of SharePoint pages, add dynamic content from over 100 new web parts and connectors, as well as share those pages on SharePoint sites or as a tab in Teams.

Cross-org connections with Yammer—We continue to invest in Yammer as the best way to connect with people across your organization. Today, we’re announcing deeper integration with SharePoint, new group insights for community managers, and enterprise-grade compliance with local data residency.

A tablet displays Yammer group insights.

Yammer group insights show trends for group members and non-members.

Simplifying IT management

In the modern workplace, the role of IT has never been more important. Microsoft 365 is designed to meet business needs and minimize total cost of ownership across the IT lifecycle, from deployment to management and ongoing servicing. Only Microsoft delivers a complete solution for your entire productivity infrastructure.

Simplifying management—Beginning in early 2018, Lenovo, HP, Panasonic, Fujitsu, and Toshiba will join Surface in supporting Windows Autopilot on new Windows 10 devices, automating new device deployment and configuration. This fall, we’ll also introduce new capabilities in Microsoft Intune to manage Windows 10 devices with Office 365 ProPlus, configure Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, and deploy Win32 apps.

New migration capabilities—To help customers on their transition to the cloud, this fall, we’ll introduce co-management, a new set of capabilities to help customers migrate to cloud-based management of Windows 10 devices with Microsoft Intune. We’re also announcing FastTrack for Microsoft 365, which provides planning, guidance, and assistance to help IT professionals drive adoption and usage across Microsoft 365.

New proactive insights—Office 365 Usage Analytics, generally available in early 2018, will enable IT professionals to analyze and visualize service-wide usage data in Power BI. On the desktop, we’re updating Windows Analytics this fall with new update compliance and device health capabilities to help proactively identify and address new issues that may impact user experience and productivity.

A tablet displays the user analytics dashboard in Power BI.

The new usage analytics dashboard uses Power BI to unlock rich insights about service adoption.

Intelligent security and compliance updates

As employees embrace a new culture of work across devices and cloud apps, their interactions can become more difficult to secure. Updates to Microsoft 365 provide broad security capabilities, powered by Microsoft’s Intelligent Security Graph, to help protect people and sensitive data from new, sophisticated threats, and to help you meet compliance obligations.

Expanding conditional access—To help you better secure the “front door” of your organization, we’re expanding conditional access capabilities. To secure sessions inside SaaS apps and protect sensitive documents, we are integrating across Azure Active Directory, Microsoft Cloud App Security, and Azure Information Protection as well as extending multi-factor authentication to include third-party support.

A tablet displays the Cloud App Security dashboard.

The Microsoft Cloud App Security dashboard.

Information protection—Microsoft 365 helps you detect, classify, protect, and monitor your data, regardless of where it is stored or shared. Today, we’re announcing the integration of Azure Information Protection with Office 365 Message Encryption, which makes it easier to send protected emails and documents to recipients using consumer email services such as Outlook.com and Gmail.

Phishing protection and automatic remediation—Today, we’re unveiling new threat protection capabilities built on the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph. New Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection features help mitigate content phishing, domain spoofing, and impersonation. We’re also announcing a limited preview of Azure Advanced Threat Protection to help detect attacks on user identity sooner, and the integration of our recent Hexadite acquisition into Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection to automatically help investigate, assess, and remediate threats.

Compliance Manager—We’re also announcing the upcoming preview of Compliance Manager, a tool to help organizations meet compliance obligations like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It performs a real-time risk assessment with a score that reflects your compliance position against data protection regulations when using Microsoft Cloud services, along with recommended actions and step-by-step guidance.

A tablet displays the Compliance Manager dashboard.

Compliance Manager helps organizations meet compliance obligations.

With over 700 sessions at Ignite this week, there’s plenty more news to come. If you didn’t register before the event sold out, you can still be part of Microsoft Ignite online.

—Kirk Koenigsbauer

Devon uses Microsoft 365 to maximize productivity in a commodity business

Devon logo.

Today’s post was written by Matt Harper, director of information security and infrastructure at Devon Energy.

Profile picture of Matt Harper, director of information security and infrastructure at Devon Energy.The oil business is a tight market because we get paid the same amount for a barrel of oil as our competitors, and oil prices are depressed right now. This means that we have to operate very efficiently to make money. We’re adopting a cloud-first mindset and using Microsoft 365 Enterprise and Azure to help us do that.

Devon Energy is one of the largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in North America. We produce about 250,000 barrels of oil and 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. We’re based in Oklahoma City, but the vast majority of our 3,500 employees work in the field, at drilling and production sites. We want to make our employees as productive as possible, wherever they are.

Over the years, we’ve deployed many technologies that support Devon’s business. What makes Microsoft 365 Enterprise unique is that it includes Office 365, Windows 10, and Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS), and has the potential to empower all our users.

We’re making Windows 10 our standard operating system for nearly 8,000 desktop and laptop computers. This will give our employees a better cloud experience and allow us to use the security capabilities built into EMS. We’re also looking forward to using Windows 10 roaming profiles to support more remote workforce capabilities. We’re very interested in the advanced authentication capabilities like bio-metrics, anomalous user behavior detection, and data protection capabilities that EMS provides.

Devon is a data-driven company, and we use sophisticated digital tools to find oil and gas in rock formations and reservoirs. The challenge is to get the right data to the right people at the right time. Office 365 will give our field workers new capabilities to access that data immediately—from any device—to make a drilling decision, repair a well, approve a purchase order, or expedite delivery of needed materials to a work site. Our field employees are making decisions in real-time about where to position a drill bit a mile underground to produce the best results, and often they need to consult with engineers and petrotechnical professionals back in Oklahoma City or Calgary, Alberta. By using Skype for Business Online on their mobile devices, they can connect to colleagues 1,000 miles away and get the input they need. Our time-to-productivity has improved because of this easier access to data; in some cases, we’ve reduced hours to minutes.

Another example of empowering our workforce is the grassroots do-it-yourself training videos that have sprung up. This started as a simple communications tool for the IT department. Now, other parts of our business have adopted it, as employees have figured out how to make videos on their smartphones or laptops and share them with colleagues over Skype for Business or SharePoint Online. Soon, a field operator might record a repair or installation procedure and share it with others online. Or someone in accounting might add narration to a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation to make their content more impactful and clear. Our people are our differentiators, and Office 365 helps them collaborate in ways that directly benefit the business.

Power BI is another example. Because it’s built into Microsoft 365 E5, we’ve been able to commoditize dashboard creation so anyone can do it—and that has dramatically increased usage. Dashboards are important to the way our management makes decisions. It simplifies access to and understanding of complex data whether production or financial.

Beyond Microsoft 365 E5, we’re moving line-of-business applications and our disaster recovery operations to Microsoft Azure. This offers rapid application deployment, speed to market, and scalability, with potential for significant cost savings.

Our ability to right-size our technology is key to managing costs in the cloud. We continually buy and sell field assets, so our workforce continually expands and contracts. Previously, we would build for peak capacity and end up with underutilized datacenter resources. With Azure and Microsoft 365 Enterprise, we can right-size our technologies and scale as needed.

As an IT professional, I love it when IT is viewed as a business enabler rather than a cost center. The Microsoft Cloud empowers all our employees in very tangible ways.

—Matt Harper

Expand your collaboration with guest access in Microsoft Teams

Today’s post was written by Lori Wright, general manager for Microsoft Teams.

Since Microsoft Teams became generally available six months ago, more than 125,000 organizations have discovered how teamwork comes to life in Teams. Today, Teams is getting even better with the rollout of guest access to all Office 365 commercial and education customers. Now Office 365 users can add people from outside their company to a team, so guests can participate in chats, join meetings, collaborate on documents, and more. We also announced new developer tools for Teams, which you can read more about over on the Office Dev blog.

Guest access has been one of the top requested features for Teams among our customers, and we’ve been working hard to get it right. We designed guest access in Teams with three principles at the forefront:

Teamwork—Teams come in all shapes and sizes, and you need to be able to easily communicate and share with others you want to work with, including people outside your organization. Beginning today, anyone with an Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) account can be added as a guest in Teams. That means anyone with one of the more than 870 million user accounts—across Microsoft commercial cloud services and third-party Azure AD integrated apps—can be added as a guest in Teams. Later, we’ll add the ability for anyone with a Microsoft Account (MSA) to be added as a guest in Teams. If the guest doesn’t have an existing MSA, they will be directed to create a free account using their current corporate or consumer email address, such as Outlook.com or Gmail.com.

Security and compliance—Customers have told us they expect guest access in Teams to provide enterprise-grade security and compliance assurances. In Teams, guest accounts are added and securely managed within Azure AD through Azure AD B2B Collaboration. This enables enterprise-grade security, like conditional access policies for guest user access. Azure AD also uses adaptive machine learning algorithms and heuristics to detect anomalies and suspicious incidents, enabling mitigation or remediation actions, such as multi-factor authentication, to be triggered as appropriate. In addition, with Azure AD, IT departments have unparalleled insight into the activities of external users in their organization through detailed sign-in and access reports. Guest user content and activities are under the same compliance and auditing protection as the rest of Office 365.

IT manageability—Guest access in Teams comes with the ability for IT to centrally manage how guests participate within their Office 365 environment, providing consistency across application experiences in Office 365. IT admins can quickly and easily view, add, or revoke a guest’s access to the host tenant.

For more information on how to enable guest access in Microsoft Teams, read our help and support article, and then sign in to Teams to give guest access a try today!

—Lori Wright

Health IT innovator Cerner enhances workplace productivity and collaboration with Office 365 – Office Blogs

The Cerner Corporation logo.

Today’s post was written by Bill Graff, CIO at Cerner Corporation.

Profile picture of Bill Graff, CIO at the Cerner Corporation.Cerner is an innovation-driven supplier of health information technology solutions, services, devices, and hardware. You can see this forward-thinking spirit reflected in the culture of our global enterprise. I enjoy working for a company that fosters innovation and actively shapes what tomorrow looks like. When we put together our 2020 vision to respond to the changes we were seeing in the industry and our workplace, we chose Microsoft Office 365 to help drive the “Borderless Mobility” component of that vision.

In the last decade, Cerner has grown to a nearly $5 billion global enterprise. The mobile workforce in tech industries today expect access to corporate data anywhere, anytime, from any device. We have made mobility and virtual collaboration key elements of our 2020 vision, and the suite of cloud services that constitute Office 365 allows associates to work the way they want to.

You know a solution resonates with a workforce when it is adopted without any prompting from IT. This is the case with Microsoft Teams. In just a few months, our associates have formed more than two thousand teams across the organization—and it all happened organically. Development teams at Cerner are responding to the persistent chat capability provided by Teams to facilitate collaboration. Teams has provided a functionally competitive solution in our environment and was “just included” in our subscription. With steady update cycles for Office 365 solutions, we always look forward to the next iteration of services in our device and application environments.

As the organization grows, collaboration technology becomes vital. OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online, and the ability to co-author content make it incredibly simple to share documents or collaborate globally. To further enhance this collaborative experience, we are actively migrating our intranet to SharePoint Online. Today, geographically dispersed associates can confidently work with the latest versions of their documents, and they can access them anywhere, on any device, which is critical to our operations teams who support our clients around the world.

Digital security is paramount for Cerner as we are responsible for ensuring the protection of our clients’ data. Microsoft indicated its willingness to accommodate our business needs, including our uncompromising security posture, by signing a Business Associate Agreement. Today, we have 28,000 seats of Advanced Threat Protection to help protect our associates from malware, and we are deploying Windows 10 across the enterprise, with its built-in security features that are continuously updated. This saves Cerner time and resources that we once spent on patching and maintenance.

Keeping everyone productive on the same platform is a key part of our ongoing vision for the future of workplace productivity. As we listen to what our associates want for their workplace, we’re confident that Office 365 helps preserve that vision for Cerner.

—Bill Graff

Linde drives digital transformation with Microsoft 365 Enterprise to inspire creative workplace culture

Today’s post was written by Sebastian Mahler, head of enterprise infrastructure at Linde.

Profile image of Sebastian Mahler, head of Enterprise Infrastructure at Linde.When I joined Linde, I was interested in the challenges inherent in managing a global company. We are one of the world’s largest industrial gases companies—and over the 12 years I’ve worked here, these challenges have only grown more complex. We serve many local markets with numerous regional offices; however, due to an increasingly volatile and connected global economy, we needed to build a more cohesive collaborative organization. We replaced our on-premises Lotus Notes solution with Office 365 cloud-based business productivity services so everyone could work better together, and to drive agility and responsiveness in a digital marketplace.

Our core values—empowering people, innovating for customers, thriving through diversity, and a passion to excel—are all reflected in our decision to move to Microsoft 365 Enterprise. For Linde, empowering people is all about enabling collaboration among colleagues and with partners and customers. Productive teamwork, enabled by easy access to resources, further drives innovation. And empowered employees are inspired and passionate about what they do. In this way, Office 365 strengthens the principles of the “Linde Spirit,” which underlies our corporate culture.

Improving collaboration is crucial for enabling better communication among our global service functions. We’ll be using Skype for Business Online to run management meetings, where we connect people from all over the globe in virtual conferences, thereby accelerating business decisions. And collaboration extends beyond internal teamwork. We need to maintain close relationships with our partners and customers, especially as we are seeing an increase in our business to consumer engagements. One reason we did not choose Google was that that the Office productivity apps we rely on every day, such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, form a common language in the business world. Moving to Office 365 makes collaboration with outside parties seamless.

OneDrive for Business is another user-friendly collaborative service that helps us create a seamless workflow within a team, and even between departments. Setting up file shares was a cumbersome part of the collaboration process that Office 365 has essentially eliminated. And when we share spreadsheets or work together on presentations, version control in OneDrive ensures that everyone is using the latest material.

We also enjoy a more secure, mobile way of working, thanks to the security and integration capabilities within Enterprise Mobility + Security, which we deployed alongside Office 365 and Windows 10. Today, it’s simple for me to work from home—I use two-factor authentication to access everything I need. I no longer feel tied to my laptop because I can be productive on multiple devices without worrying about compromising security.

Our migration to cloud-based business tools is only just beginning, as we look forward to adopting services such as Microsoft Planner and Yammer. We’re working with Microsoft Consulting Services and Microsoft FastTrack to help us make the most out of the newest functionality. With their help, we can take advantage of the innovative evergreen approach that Microsoft is delivering across the cloud platform. Their expert guidance has helped us to establish change management communities and build a support network, so as we rollout new functionality, the change management process will be in place to empower our employees to make the best use out of the services. Everyone from plant floor workers to management staff will benefit from Linde’s renewed commitment to our global standard of excellence.

—Sebastian Mahler

Read the case study for more details on the Linde digital transformation.

TD redefines banking in the digital age with the Microsoft Cloud to empower employees and transform the customer experience

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TD Bank Group logo.

Today’s post was written by Jeff Henderson, executive vice president and CIO of TD Bank Group.

Profile image of Jeff Henderson, executive vice president and CIO of TD Bank Group.Growing from Canada’s smallest bank to one of North America’s largest in just over 20 years, TD Bank Group (TD) is in the habit of planning for the future. As we continue to expand, we are taking bold steps to make sure that the technology we use grows with us. Transforming technology at TD starts with listening to our employees and creating a “Workplace of the Future” that supports enhanced mobility and collaboration across the organization. We are deploying Microsoft Office 365 to empower employees to be more mobile and productive, so they can continue to provide the legendary customer service that has always set us apart.

Through a digital transformation in the workplace, we are positioning the bank for the future. Gone are the days where banks can expect customers to come to them. Enhancing mobility for our 90,000 employees supports how we accommodate customer expectations for great in-person service and across new digital channels. So, with more mobile employees, such as our mobile mortgage lenders, we are serving customers where it’s most convenient for them. OneDrive for Business Online cloud-based storage provides the biggest impact in terms of improved mobility for our employees because we can access and share files regardless of location or device—plus we save money on storage costs. And employees will be able to edit and share files on the fly because they’ll have access to all the Office 365 services from their mobile devices.

By making Microsoft applications available on mobile phones, and managing and securing them with Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security, we can free employees from their desks, so they can be productive anywhere. We’re designing flex-based workspaces with unassigned desks to accommodate this new level of mobile productivity. And just as we’re redesigning our physical spaces, we’re also moving from a traditional methodology to an agile methodology, where we’ll be using Office 365 collaboration services to support a new era of teamwork across functional areas of the organization.

However, from a technology enablement perspective, we can’t deliver anything to our employees that would jeopardize the security and trust that we have built up with our customers over the bank’s assets and information. We are impressed with the integrated, layered approach to cloud security that we see with Microsoft, including products like Customer Lockbox, that provides us with the requisite level of control over access to our content in the TD tenant by Microsoft service personnel.

The interoperability of Microsoft cloud-based services simplifies our job in IT, so we don’t have to spend time integrating point solutions. And the evergreen nature of its cloud services ensures that we remain current on the latest technologies, ultimately reducing risk. Inclusivity is an important aspect of our Workplace of the Future, and we see Microsoft as a leader in the assistive technologies space. Microsoft understands the regulatory compliance environment within the banking industry and has been far and away the most accommodating in working with us to meet our needs as they pertain to our financial regulatory obligations.

In our push to modernize, Office 365 has already revealed impactful cost savings. With 90,000 employees and 110,000 Exchange Online mailboxes, we’ve saved 50 percent in email costs, and expect additional savings to come from consolidating our devices reducing storage costs and limiting the number of third-party applications in our IT portfolio.

As we achieve our vision for a new workplace and corporate culture focused on mobility and agility, we’re positioning ourselves for success in the digital world, ensuring that our products and services continue to resonate with customers well into the future.

—Jeff Henderson

Dow Chemical balances the equation between virtual teamwork and workplace security with Microsoft 365

Today’s post was written by Ron Markezich, corporate vice president for Microsoft.

Profile picture of Ron Markezich.


Dow logo.

These are exciting times for one of the world’s largest chemical companies. This month, Dow Chemical expects to finalize its merger with DuPont, creating DowDuPont and spinning off into three global businesses that focus on material sciences, specialty products, and agriculture. Global changes at this level require a complete, intelligent, and secure workplace transformation supported by agile cloud services. We’re excited that Dow chose Microsoft 365 Enterprise to empower more than 60,000 employees to work together creatively in highly secure virtual environments.

Mario Ferket, IT engineering director at Dow Chemical, explains why Microsoft 365 Enterprise is part of Dow’s bright future:

“At Dow, our growth strategy sees us investing in leading-edge businesses that create value for our customers and shareholders. We’re using Microsoft 365 to support a workplace culture that fosters the creativity and teamwork that we need to make our strategies a success—while protecting our environment with intelligent security solutions. By replacing our heterogeneous systems with Microsoft 365, we’re simplifying how IT delivers a modern experience for employees to achieve their highest potential and contribute to our bright future.”

Delivering creativity, innovation, and collaboration as core elements of the workplace through simplified, cloud-based management is a powerful agent for transformation at Dow. I’m looking forward to seeing how the new DowDuPont grows revenue, engages better with customers, and transforms their products thanks to a modern workplace culture that offers the latest in digital business solutions.

—Ron Markezich