Some Thoughts on 2020…. From a Tech Perspective
It would be stupid to say 2020 was a different year all together, it would be easy to say it didn’t go as planned, it would be foolish to think 2021 starts out any better, that the virus goes away at the stroke of midnight. One thing that can be said is 2020 has changed technology, and in some ways I hope these changes stick around post-pandemic. A lot of that will depend on the old guard of CEO’s and managers who still see work as “If I don’t see you, you aren’t working.” No matter the situation 2020 has shown those of us in tech just how flexible we really, truly are.
Teams to the Rescue!
Teams and Zoom have entered the vocabulary faster then “Kleenex” or “Xerox” thanks to the absolute necessity of video during these times. Thankfully at Microsoft Ignite 2019 (Remember when we could gather?) I met with some great people, watched demonstrations, and learned what was coming in 2020 (Just the Teams stuff… not the virus). Our company had been piloting Teams within our own department for most of 2019 looking to replace SMS and Walkie-Talkie style communication with one tool to rule them all. The plans were to start a Teams rollout more globally in 2020 but we flipped the switch in March as soon as it became obvious we needed this tool. It was almost like a quick triage, starting with the users who needed it most before our team eventually rolled it out to everyone. The GIF’s, stickers, meetings and virtual backgrounds started flowing! It was a team (no pun intended) effort to get everyone up to speed in a matter of weeks.
Teams evolves at such a fast pace (Do those guys ever sleep?) that our documentation is almost always out of date due to slight interfaces changes, tweaks, or in some cases workflow changes. Recently on Windows Weekly Paul, Mary Jo, and Microsoft CMO Chris Capossela discussed how Teams is an OS really. So many things can be done in Teams, without ever leaving the application. Developers are writing apps for it, you can edit documents inside it, check your calendar etc. I expect more of that to continue in 2021 and beyond. With Teams being able to transcribe your meetings for later, I can see more and more meetings using this, even when we are all back in person, just as a great way to keep indexable meeting notes.
Telecommuting Hybrid Workforce
Another huge shift for workplaces has been remote work, some have fully embraced it, others begrudgingly so. With my generation we started entering the workforce and school with a remote work mindset. I took summer school college classes online, never once setting foot in a classroom for some of the easy core requirements. Who needs to learn Geography in a huge lecture hall when I could learn it at home in my sweatpants and read the same book as the in-person students? When the campus PC lab enabled remote access to the Unix systems, it made it SOOO much easier to remote in at 1AM in the morning to run code on the server and make sure it worked (or as in one case someone brought down the server with poor code and we all had to wait until the TA rebooted the physical server at the lab). A large part of my college internship consisted of remote work after my classes and my on-campus job. The first company I worked for ingrained a 1-day a week work at home policy as a benefit where each person on a team got a WAH day, and that rotated through. This was in 2006!
Recently both Google and Microsoft have announced plans post-COVID to enable a hybrid workforce allowing teams to work more from home but still requiring time in the office. That is a really sound approach, because you do need to see your coworkers face-to-face, it helps build that camaraderie, and team building. Sometimes you physically need to install that server in a rack or swap out equipment or turn in that physical TPS Report. I am grateful to work in a very tight knit IT department where we all get along really well, with many of us spending time together outside of work. Hopefully, this grand remote experiment shows businesses what many of us have known all along, we are as or more productive from home as in the office. Its nice to have the slow-cooker on and be home to make sure it doesn’t cook the whole house.
Enabling Modern Management
The last huge shift has been moving further towards what Microsoft likes to call Modern Management. We are getting away from some of the legacy policies and settings that only apply or can only be updated when a device is on-network. Think of all those PC’s where the admins disabled Windows Updates for users, only to have those sent home and they haven’t been updated since March. That’s a scary thought! Or PC’s reporting their AV status to the internal corporate antivirus server, how’s that working right now? PC’s today need to be flexible with policies that can adapt, be updated remotely, and reported on no matter where that PC is physically located. This is a journey, its not an overnight change, but it is one that won’t go away when COVID finally does.
2020 has been a year. I hope everyone has a better 2021, and cheers to all of us around the world as we try and get COVID behind us!
I promise to blog more in 2021 – I’ve never been more busy at work than I was in 2020 that I just couldn’t find the time!