As important as it is to have a communications framework in place, no communications strategy can be successfully implemented without deploying the correct tools. With multiple stakeholders to communicate to, the challenge of staying in touch with out-of-office employees and the transfer of data-heavy files to contend with, Architectural firms have a tougher job than most when it comes to managing business communications.
Thankfully however, new technologies have emerged over the last decade or so, which allow for seamless, location-independent communication. With centralised storage that can be accessed anywhere and the ability to integrate workflow and collaboration tools, keeping multiple, dispersed parties informed equipped and engaged has never been easier.
Nowadays, communication is about so much more than memos, emails and phonecalls. Data is king in today’s business world, and your team and project stakeholders need unimpeded access to the data that’s relevant to them. From the plans, drawings and technical specs needed by site managers to the raw performance insights demanded by key stakeholders, having the tools to put the right data in front of the right people in a controlled manner, is vital. There is no one-size-fits all solution, but let’s look at some of the most compelling technology that can be deployed to address the communication challenges you likely face.
Microsoft 365 first emerged way back in 2011 (originally “Office 365”) as the logical cloud-hosted progression of the Microsoft Office product line we’re all familiar with. 365 is the world’s pre-eminent workplace productivity suite. Featuring a broad array of native tools and third-party integrations, Microsoft 365 is an invaluable asset to businesses across almost every sector.
Microsoft Team’s is 365’s collaboration hub, offering everything from smart calendaring and instant messaging, to real-time document co-authoring and video conferencing – all contained in a single, intuitive interface. Teams can even function as a business phone system, unifying internal and external communications in ways previously inconceivable. Teams is an empowering collaboration tool first and foremost, but it’s also a great way to keep external parties informed and connected. “Guest access” can be used to give people outside your business access to the Teams “sites” relevant to their project. Bring clients, stakeholders, suppliers, site/project managers into the heart of the conversation by granting them access to your chats and video meetings.
OneDrive and Sharepoint
OneDrive and SharePoint underpin the storage offering in Microsoft 365. OneDrive is intended as a cloud-hosted personal storage vault, whereas Sharepoint functions more as a collaborative tool. It acts as a central resource hub for projects and departments: a place where news, insights, workflow tools, project-critical documents and relevant web parts can be gathered. Like Teams, SharePoint site access can be granted to external parties. This can make stakeholders feel more immersed in the project, by giving them access to key insights and progression data. By granting “visitor” access to your sites, you can extend data access without risking the integrity of your documents using “read-only” permissions.
Both OneDrive and SharePoint offer compatibility with leading design tools such as AutoCAD and Bluebeam, allowing you to import SharePoint and OneDrive-hosted files directly into the design platforms you use, via integrations. This means you can host drawings in the world’s leading workplace productivity suite and transfer them to their origin applications when you need to work on them.
As well as the office apps, email, Teams and file hosting platforms, 365 allows for the addition of a vast number of both native and third party tools, covering everything from workflow management and business insight tools to automation and advanced security services. Designed to empower both in-office and remote teams, Microsoft 365 has the configurability your Architectural practice needs to conquer its communication challenges.
Remote Data security
The costs associated with a data breach can be immense: from legal action resulting in severe financial penalties to reputational damage and lost revenue. The consequences involved means it’s essential to take every possible measure to safeguard sensitive data.
Architectural firms in particular face a unique set of challenges when it comes to safeguarding data. With the requirement to access data across multiple sites and often via a myriad of endpoint devices, keeping your sensitive documents safely ensconced within the confines of your environment requires the deployemnt of certain technical tools.
Identity and Endpoint Management
Identity management is about ensuring only authorised personnel have access to data stored in the apps and services you use. Whether that data is being accessed via desktop PCs in your office, or tablets, laptops and mobile phones on site, it’s vital to ensure that checks are in place to prevent unauthorised personnel coming into contact with sensitive information. But how is this achievable on a remote device?
Azure Active Directory is a great example of an identity management service that lets you govern organisational identities through a single command portal. Enforce additional access requirements like MFA (multi factor authentication) to safeguard your apps and services. Withdraw and extend permissions as required – give individuals access to the information they need, but only for as long as required to reduce risk.
“Endpoint management” defines capabilities that allow remote devices to be configured for maximum security. Solutions like “Microsoft Endpoint Manager” give administrators the ability to conduct patch management, limit the apps that can be hosted on a device, enforce secure password policies, prevent devices accessing unknown networks and a host of other actions designed to mitigate the threat of a data breach.
Encryption is the practice of encoding information to make it indecipherable to everyone except its intended recipient. It’s a particularly useful tool for the protection of communication data, with such data transiting outside the security of your network.
Virtual Private Networks are a great way to encrypt in-transit data, and can be used to established encrypted tunnels between remote devices and your office network. This protects data being transferred your office on on-site personnel, keeping it away from prying eyes.
When seeking the right communication tools for your business, it helps to have the support of a tech partner who’s uniquely attuned to the challenges you face. Office Automation Technologies has extensive experience helping clients in the architectural and engineering industries optimise their workflows and innovate using best-in-class tech solutions. We can shoulder the burden of running your technology so that you can focus on delivering exceptional designs to your clients. Get in touch to day to discover how we can help your business flourish with technology.