NetMotion by Absolute has once again partnered with the UK’s managed IT services and cloud technology company, Quiss and the professional events firm Alternative Events to gather a panel of professionals from leading accountancy practices and an IT consultancy to discuss the adoption of technology to enable mobile working. As attracting and retaining talent have become major issues for many industries, the panel also examined the impact that using more stringent IT strategies may have on drawing the next generation of employees into the accountancy vertical.
At the end of the session, three takeaways became clear. With mobility and the “work-from-anywhere” model of business becoming increasingly relevant, it’s no surprise that connectivity and the importance of the user experience are critical to success.
Here are three of the key learnings.
1. Maximizing Microsoft 365 can improve productivity and efficiency
Microsoft 365 is one of, if not the most, common application suites used by organizations to collaborate and stay connected and secure, whether working remotely or onsite. Since the beginning of the pandemic, usage of Teams has accelerated enormously, even hitting 250 million monthly active users. Likewise, accountancy firms that take advantage of Microsoft 365 regularly see increased productivity, improved efficiency and better collaboration.
At this event, 88% of attendees reported that their firms were implementing Microsoft 365 cloud products. But just making the products available to employees isn’t enough. One of the main calls to action was simple: Training is critical.
“Microsoft makes their training materials available free online, so people can self-service or structure a training program to learn the capabilities of M365”Helen Daly, Senior Associate, Jeremy Hyman Associates
Helen Daly, Senior Associate at Jeremy Hyman Associates, also recommended assigning a Microsoft 365 ‘champion’ to the team so that employees can be made aware of M365’s rich feature set and to ensure strategic use of the platform to solve business problems. By doing this, it is possible to avoid scattered resources and what was termed “file anarchy.”
John Stanford, Regional Director for Europe at Moore Global mentioned the important role of technology as a means to connect with clients, adding, “The pandemic has heightened the need to deliver seamlessly through technology.” If an organization is making a monthly investment, it’s vital to get the most out of it. Having persistent and optimized mobile connectivity to Microsoft 365 apps removes the often cumbersome and frustrating nature of remote access, especially when using slow or unreliable networks. As a result, business will be able to operate as usual, anytime, anywhere.
2. Make virtual desktops mobile and cloud-based
Accountancy firms rely on virtual desktops for security and reliability. Transitioning them to the mobile “work-from-anywhere” model can be a challenge, especially when the user experience needs to go hand-in-hand with security.
“Phishing attacks increased by 667% in the month following lockdown.” It doesn’t take an expert to know that these won’t be slowing down anytime soon.”John Stanford, Regional Director for Europe, Moore Global
Therefore, developing a zero-trust security posture is crucial to tackling those data security concerns. John commented that he has embraced zero-trust “so people trust that what they’re getting is secure.”
Like many other verticals, accountancy firms are no stranger to the journey to the cloud. At this event, 65% of attendees said that their firms are at least halfway to their goals, and that on-prem virtual desktops are slowly becoming obsolete. Douglas Rintoul, Head of IT at Johnston Carmichael, highlighted that virtual desktops offer a good alternative for an “interim period” as apps are increasingly moving to the cloud. Helen agreed, and advised that firms move to local desktops. “The laptop becomes the center of the user’s world and provides a consistent user experience regardless of location,” she said.
This transition can come with its own hurdles, because remote workers and their endpoint devices have traditionally been a blind spot for IT teams outside the ‘owned’ network. Digital experience monitoring (DEM) is a great solution to tackle this as it provides visibility into the employee experience. The real-time data and insights gathered about the application and network usage and performance can give IT administrators the ability to implement policies directly to the device, keeping workers happy and productive. The frustrations of logging into virtual desktops or being “kicked out” of a session can be a thing of the past.
3. An IT strategy to attract and retain the next generation of workers
The freedom to work from anywhere has not only opened opportunities for more flexible working, but it has also opened a wider talent pool to find new employees. This means that recruitment and retention efforts are becoming increasingly linked to each organization’s IT strategy. It is revealing that 60% of this event’s attendees stated that it’s very important for them to know and understand the technology an organization uses when deciding whether to become part of the team.
“They just want it to work and be intuitive without slowing them down,” summarized Helen. App crashes and disconnections not only impact employees’ day-to-day routine, it can also negatively influence reputation and brand value because “if the talent is being let down by technology, then that directly impacts attitudes towards working at the firm.”
The need for an IT strategy is also highly relevant to the influx of the next working generation. Millennials and Generation Z’s upbringing was surrounded by technology, and they are well versed in running multiple applications and having networks at their fingertips. Because of this, organizations must use tools that attract young people and make them valuable, long-term employees. Accountancy is an industry with a long history, so utilizing traditional or “old school” suppliers and processes can be a roadblock to achieving this objective. Douglas even joked about how he’s “embarrassed when young students come in and…our 1980s application doesn’t work on Windows 10.”
In a way, taking advantage of commonly available tools and platforms like M365 makes it much easier for employees to acclimate. Consistent and reliable connectivity are also a must, especially since the newcomers will expect seamless mobility and running apps on their smartphones. This not only elevates productivity, but their insights and working habits can also bring innovative and modern ways of doing business and serving clients more efficiently.
Wrapping things up
We can all agree that the “work-from-anywhere” model is here to stay. To be prepared, accountancy firms must continue to adopt and evolve their processes and procedures. By moving towards cloud-centric technologies and solutions that empower employees with mobility and bring productivity and efficiency advantages, accounting firms can focus their attention on providing the best service for customers rather than scrambling to keep employees connected.
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