Productivity

Wash... Rinse... RETREAT

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It’s spring time, and that means many things – March Madness, bad allergies, baseball, spring break, and for the Fluid IT team, spring means; it’s time for our annual company retreat!  About ten years ago, the entire Fluid crew started traveling an hour and a half east of Dallas for the spring retreat weekend, and it has now become a welcomed tradition. It’s an opportunity for the team to spend time away from the daily grind at the office to recharge our batteries, bond, discuss our relevance as a company, and, most importantly, have fun!

What began as a one-day event, years ago, has become a 3-day celebration that everyone in the office excitedly anticipates. On Friday, as everyone, (including their dogs), spills out of their cars, the excitement and buzz increases as the team comes together once again.  You can simultaneously feel tensions release and happiness fill the air as we gather around the fire.  It’s amazing to watch people, who work together more than they are apart, change as drastically as the landscape between the Dallas concrete cityscape and the rolling piney woods of east Texas. The work mentality melts away and the fun begins. 

We often hear how important a company culture is to performance, retaining employees, learning, having fun, etc.  Without our annual retreat, we would be eliminating an important aspect of our culture, which allows us to hang up our “work hats” and connect on a more personal level. 

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During the day, some like to spend their time hiking, fishing or just enjoying the beautiful outdoors, while others like to play games, read, or watch movies.  But, the most anticipated and inspiring aspect of the retreat is the nightly gatherings around the firepit.  While smores and a favorite beverage are always a hit, it’s the ‘real’ discussions, that happen organically throughout the night, that allow us to connect on a deeper level.  With music playing in the background, topics ebb and flow effortlessly from work to favorite movies, politics, religion, home life, personal stories, future goals, family, etc. – peppered in with jokes and lots of laughter of course.  It’s a safe environment where everyone can just be and be present.

The food is almost an event within the event.  The second night of the retreat, we all cook and eat an enormous, southern feast. There’s something about cooking for, and with, the team that develops comradery and proves that teamwork is alive and well beyond the workplace…especially when it’s Texas bar-b-que. A belly full of ribs accompanied by a second night of good conversation and laughter around the firepit, is a great way to spend the last evening.

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The 2019 retreat brought a few surprises with major thunderstorms and a power outage on Saturday (not so rare for Spring in Texas). Fortunately, the sky cleared just in time for everyone to enjoy another chilly night around the firepit, topped off with some smores and impromptu poor dance moves. Sunday turned out to be a gorgeous, sunny day. While driving away, with azalea’s and wood duck’s in my rear view mirror, I was reminded just how special the “it” we have is.

 The tangible and intangible benefits of our retreat should not be underestimated. Teamwork and company culture are paramount for the success of any company – especially an IT company. Since we are tasked with solving complex technology problems for clients, the Fluid IT team must often collaborate and share ideas to come up with the best solutions. Without the respect, support and good chemistry that our team has for one another, we would not be able to effectively help our clients. Also, when employees feel valued and supported by management and co-workers, the overall company performance strengthens immensely. Work can be challenging and stressful at times, so the retreat allows me to show appreciation for the people that make this company so great, while also further enhancing our estimable culture!

Engage Workspace

Very exiting times for one of my colleagues, Chelsea Green. Chelsea, CEO of Engage, recently announced the formal launch of Engage Workspace, a new shared office center focused solely on attorneys.

There are many ‘shared workspace’ companies – some, like IWG plc (formerly Regus), have been around since the ‘80s. But, the “shared” office model has been rapidly increasing in popularity over the last decade. According to Forbes.com, shared workspaces will host more than 3.8 million people by 2020. WeWork now has 502 locations since opening their first shared office space in 2010.

But, what makes Engage so unique is that it is designed specifically to cater to the requirements of independent attorneys and small law firms.

From the Dallas Morning News article:

https://www.dallasnews.com/business/real-estate/2019/01/29/coworking-center-targets-legal-eagles-new-north-dallas-shared-office-location

“The new Engage Workspace in North Dallas is targeting attorneys with its co-working facility in the landmark Campbell Centre complex on North Central Expressway.

The just-opened workspace is designed to accommodate more than 60 attorneys with workstations, offices, meeting space, office equipment and other amenities.

So far, the co-working operation takes up a full floor in the building, but Engage says it hopes to expand to additional floors of the iconic gold Campbell Centre II tower.

"Independent attorneys and small law firms represent nearly half the legal industry," Engage CEO Chelsea Green said. "With continuing market changes and technology advances, that looks to accelerate over the next several years.

"With Engage, we have created an office environment that has the familiarity of a traditional law office but with the greater independence, flexibility and efficiency of an executive suite or co-working space."

Green and partners Jim Chester and Darin Klemchuk opened the co-working center Jan. 1. Chester and Klemchuk are both partners in the Dallas law firm Klemchuk LLP.

The owners are planning to upgrade this spring with a new coffee bar and more collaborative space.

"Attorneys are a perfect fit for the Engage office space model," said Chester. "Law practice is collaborative by nature, and attorneys benefit from networking with other lawyers to share referrals and resources."

Stephen Holley of Holley + Co. Real Estate negotiated the office lease for the co-working center with Barbara Houlihan of Peloton Commercial Real Estate.

Shared office providers now occupy more than 1.5 million square feet of building space in North Texas. Co-working firms are one of the fastest-growing sectors in the office industry.”

What is not mentioned in the article is that the Engage Workspace will also provide the level of technology, IT support and cybersecurity necessary for attorneys.  All companies require technology and cybersecurity, but attorneys have the additional challenge of needing to collaborate and exchange information externally while also keeping their practice and data isolated and secure. Engage understands this, often overlooked, requirement and will include it as a part of their service.

At Engage, attorneys will be able to be as productive and efficient as possible, while knowing their data is secure. Each tenant will also be provided with ongoing IT support from a team of technology experts.  The blend of amenities, technology support and cybersecurity, creates compelling value that independent attorneys and small practices typically would not be able to take advantage of.

For more information, visit www.engagelawspace.com.

 

Understanding Office 365

fluid-office-365I recently asked a very savvy business colleague the question “What is Office 365 to you?”  Their response was “Outlook”.  This is very surprising and telling because it comes from someone who has been using Office 365 for over a year! Ever since Microsoft launched Office 365 on June 28, 2011 (yes, it is already 5 years old!), there has been tremendous confusion in the marketplace about what really is Office 365.   Five years later and there is even more confusion and misunderstanding.  Whether you are a single consumer or a 500 employee company, I find a tremendous gap in what people think Office 365 is versus what it really is and can do.

There are over 85 Office 365 product SKU’s!

Although the person I questioned may be using Office 365 for just email and Outlook, it is something far greater; basically an entire ecosystem of solutions that can be catered for your specific needs.  Further complicating the matter, the Office 365 ecosystem continues to grow, with new offerings added all the time.  For example, Dynamics 365 was recently released this fall.

Office 365 has different product licensing and pricing for consumer, corporate, government and academic user types.  Certain Office 365 products are available if you have 300 employees or less, which are not available once you cross that threshold.

The core basic concept and offering of Office 365 is the bundling of mainstream Microsoft products with the bundles defined to meet specific user and/or company needs.

You can buy pre-bundled packages

For a small company, you can buy packages based on your specific needs.  For example –

  • Office 365 Business Essentials – for companies that need email and file sharing, but don’t need Microsoft Office, this package includes only Exchange Outlook email, OneDrive Business, Skype for Business, and Team Sites (SharePoint)
  • Office 365 Business – for companies that need the MS Office suite, but don’t need email, this package includes Outlook (no email, OneNote, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and OneDrive
  • Office 365 Business Premium – for companies that need both email and the MS Office suite, this package includes Exchange Outlook email, OneNote, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Skype for Business, Team Sites (SharePoint), and OneDrive

However, these packages are only available to companies with less than 300 employees.  If there are 300+ employees you must uses the ProPlus or Enterprise editions, which also have multiple bundled package offerings.

The Enterprise level also provides additional software solutions, such as –

  • Microsoft Access
  • Skype for Business voice capability
  • Power BI business analytics

 

You can add-on numerous individual products incrementally

Additional Microsoft solutions and products may be added incrementally to an Office 365 account based on specific business needs.  These may include services such as –

  • In-Place Hold to preserve deleted and edited emails for legal requirements
  • Hosted Voicemail
  • Data Loss Prevention to help identify, monitor and protect sensitive data, such as PII and PCI
  • Offsite backup of laptops/desktops using OneDrive
  • Microsoft Project Pro for Office 365
  • Microsoft Visio Pro for Office 365
  • Azure cloud services
  • Intune mobile device management
  • Sway (how many of you have even heard of this product?!)

Had enough yet?!

Did you know OneDrive is now robust enough that it could replace other mainstream solutions such as Box.com and Dropbox at a fraction of the cost?  Or that you can backup server data offsite using Azure with your Office 365 subscription?

This short article should make it clear that Office 365 is a very robust set of solutions, but equally as complicated to understand.  It’s no wonder, when asked, many think of Office 365 as black hole with no hope of understanding it all.  The good news is you don’t have to, but you do need to know to ask for help.  It’s amazing how many people and companies do not know where to go for help or know but don’t ask.

Fluid is one of a few Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Partners, which means we not only have expertise in Office 365, we provide end-user support directly.  We can also help educate you on the best fit for your needs, as well as provide end-user training on the Office 365 products you already have to ensure you are maximizing the value of the solutions.

If you need help with Office 365, call Fluid today!