5 Ways Microsoft 365 Transforms Community Banks

by

September 11, 2023

Microsoft 365 (M365) continues to transform community banks.

According to Deloitte Insights, businesses worldwide are migrating to the cloud for several reasons:

  • Security and data protection
  • Data modernization
  • Cost and performance of IT operations

When you replace traditional premise-based infrastructure solutions with cloud alternatives like Microsoft 365, your team can put more resources into innovation and growth initiatives like increasing the frequency of new financial product rollouts and personalizing end-user experiences with web and mobile apps.

A Few Caveats

We have some advice for smaller financial institutions. Microsoft focuses most of its efforts on enterprise accounts. So, they take a different approach with everyone else.

Microsoft relies on partner VARS and MSPs to serve the small and midsize market with consulting, implementation, support, and other value-added services. This detail puts the onus on you to partner with a Microsoft Certified Partner MSP. Otherwise, you’ll confront the same administrative overhead and headaches of premise-based infrastructure in the cloud. Optimizing M365 is challenging. In-house IT teams at community banks struggle.

A Microsoft Certified Partner MSP has a direct relationship with Microsoft and can help you choose the correct licenses, lock down the best integration settings, and shorten ticket time resolution for any significant issues that arise. They can also cut through Microsoft marketing jargon, so you only try products ready for prime time.

Is your IT operation ready to enjoy more of the following benefits?  

 

#1 – Microsoft 365 simplifies operations.

Your premise-based file server is one of the weakest links in your digital estate. And this legacy “box” complicates operations as it ages. M365 is a good reason to ditch this equipment.

Why? Migrating your file shares to SharePoint, included with M365, reduces the following complexities and inefficiencies:

  • Replacing file servers every four to five years
  • Updating and renewing complicated operating system licenses
  • Administering ongoing and costly software service and maintenance agreements
  • Providing persistent technical support for VPN access issues
  • Wasting time integrating your server with applications designed for web browsers
  • Overreliance on real estate space, power, internet access, climate control, and physical security
  • Risking fire, flood, and health-related restrictions

No wonder SharePoint Adoption continues to grow. According to Microsoft, more than 250,000 organizations use SharePoint, including over 85% of Fortune 500 organizations that use SharePoint Online as part of Microsoft 365.

Will SharePoint work for you?

SharePoint is a fantastic choice if most of your applications are in the cloud and you don’t need heavy local document storage.

Integris is a perfect example. Almost everyone uses ConnectWise Professional Services Automation. Phones, Teams, and email are secondary. Everything is in the cloud.

We don’t have CAD systems or custom applications created ten years ago that require kid gloves. However, your situation may be different. SharePoint is not a viable file server replacement when you:

  • Have millions of files
  • Need quick access to local documents
  • Get frustrated with inconsistent file archiving

OneDrive (the storage backend) will not sync a high volume of files locally, so users must navigate SharePoint Online. This web portal can be slow, and the delays may test the patience of your team.

Stay tuned. Things are changing fast with Microsoft. And I’m confident they will perfect OneDrive or find a better replacement.

Learn More: IT Evolution from On-Premise to the Cloud

 

#2 – Microsoft 365 accelerates productivity.

M365 accelerates productivity with an expandable ecosystem that will dominate the future business landscape.

It’s also easy to learn and adopt. The work-from-home pivot triggered by COVID forced millions of people to embrace Teams.

In March 2020, the world adopted a host of workflow improvements that are now commonplace.

For example, pre-COVID, there was more of a focus on voice calls to qualify prospects. Nowadays, first encounter prospect meetings almost always occur via Teams using video, desktop sharing, and recording capabilities.

Face-to-face exposure gives both parties a richer context to evaluate the potential fit, including deeper real-time collaboration and the option to review meeting videos, making these encounters more efficient.

Stop wasting time.

Would you prefer to have a voice call and drive across town for a meeting that goes nowhere? Most people would rather conduct a video call to fully understand the potential before negotiating traffic.

Creating and collaborating on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents has never been easier – in the office or on the go. I especially love the mobile capabilities.

Imagine you’re standing in a movie line at 7:45 PM. And you finally figure out the solution to a work problem. Instead of recording the idea on your iPhone, emailing, or texting yourself, you can open Word, dictate your thoughts, name the file, and save it to OneDrive. That’s what we call a mobility superpower!

When you’re ready, drag and drop to share it on Teams, a convenient navigational front end for SharePoint. Now, multiple users can simultaneously make changes to the document.

And you don’t have to worry about cybersecurity. Microsoft Intune mobile device management protects your iPhone or Android.

See everything in one place.

Everything’s in one place, so the team avoids a treasure hunt across multiple platforms and devices.

You’ll love how the Teams portal ties everything together, empowering you to:

  • Make a clean break from Internet File Explorer to find everything faster
  • Track activities and conversations with different functional teams
  • Share documents internally without creating a giant email footprint
  • Send proposals externally and maintain tighter control over who has access and how long the links (and your offers) stay active
  • Initiate private chats or group messages
  • Schedule meetings on the fly
  • Make a voice or video call with colleagues based on their availability
  • Click on Help to get instant Teams training with short videos and articles

In early 2020, Microsoft added Business Voice to Teams. Yes, Microsoft has a phone system replacement option.

 

#3 – Microsoft 365 strengthens regulation and compliance readiness.

Identity management is the cornerstone of cybersecurity and data protection. Technology analysts frequently call identity “the new firewall.” You also hear security influencers advising everyone to be “human firewalls.” Both terms underscore the need for security awareness to diminish the prevalence of user errors.

This trend doesn’t mean hardware firewalls are vanishing. However, it does suggest the importance of lowering human risk factors like:

  • Using the same passwords for multiple accounts
  • Storing passwords in Excel spreadsheets, unsecured web browsers, Outlook contacts, and yellow sticky notes
  • Keeping the same passwords active in perpetuity

With applications onsite, in the cloud, at home, and on mobile devices, the timing has never been better to consolidate everything.

Included in your Microsoft 365 subscription, Microsoft Entra ID (previously called Azure AD) integrates and synchronizes all devices, user accounts, and passwords, including on-premise Active Directory Domain Services.

Leverage Native Cybersecurity Tools

  • Activate Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for everyone in your organization. Why? MFA is one of the best ways to combat hackers.
  • Enable Single Sign-On (SSO) for all your applications and give your team safe and secure access to everything.
  • Leverage Entra ID and integrate nearly 3,000 third-party applications and 50 to 100 Regulation & Compliance offerings, including eDiscovery.

All businesses are increasingly concerned with data protection, privacy, and avoiding liability. While this is a higher priority for Fortune 500 companies, small and midsize organizations are not exempt.

Everyone is under a microscope these days. Can you assure customers and prospects you’re protected?

Microsoft 365 can improve your competitive advantage right away.

 

#4 – Microsoft 365 hardens the protection of data and intellectual property.

Microsoft 365 has built-in safeguards to govern everyday user experience by protecting against unintentional and intentional behaviors.

Safeguards include permissions to limit access with machine learning threat protection to track files and mass downloads.

Tracking downloads provides two benefits: insights into at-risk employees (who may leave with proprietary information) and the presence of Shadow IT.

Shadow IT is when your employees use unapproved applications. Using unapproved apps isn’t 100% negative. Why? Employers can incorporate new technologies into their official IT stacks by understanding why employees go outside for solutions.

File encryption is another jewel in the crown. For example, file encryption protects you if a critical business plan or financial statement lands outside your organization.

Your employees will love working on documents that get automatically saved. And don’t worry about fat finger mistakes. Users can recover deleted files from their recycle bins. They can also recover files that other people delete.

IT can set long-term retention policies. How’s that for a backup plan?

Every critical file stays in the preservation hold library with specific time parameters. So it’s more permanent than an employee with elevated administrative privileges who deletes it from a second-stage recycle bin.

Version control is another must-have. For instance, users can quickly go back two weeks in time (or more) to fetch a document that was good to go until they unwittingly jacked it up.

Self-service is convenient and frees up time for internal IT and your MSP.

 

#5 – Microsoft 365 improves financial controls.

Microsoft 365 is billed monthly or as an annual subscription. It’s continuously updated and can be scaled up or down depending on your headcount.

You can also trade up and down between higher and lower functionality Microsoft 365 Plans based on your changing requirements.

Since it’s an operating expense rather than a capital expenditure, you get the flexibility you’d never attain with a premise-based alternative.

What are the other cost-control benefits?

  • There are fewer licenses to buy; each user license covers five devices
  • You can add backup, cancel your image-based solution, and save hundreds per month
  • No more file migration fees to weigh you down
  • Everything is standardized, making it easier to switch MSPs
  • You decrease the potential loss of valuable IP assets
  • Get actionable insights combining business intelligence, data analytics, and machine learning in one place
  • Reduce real estate expenses by expanding your remote workforce footprint
  • Lower employee onboarding and offboarding costs
  • Maximize business continuity with 24/7/365 availability
  • Reduce cyber liability exposure
  • Consolidate duplicate services
  • Activate/deactivate new services based on workloads
  • Attract the fastest-growing segment of the workforce – 35 and under – by offering flexible technology

 

Is your MSP evolving with you?

While M365 is a better mousetrap, it’s still a mousetrap that requires maintenance and oversight.

Microsoft’s flagship offering is a complex system with many notifications and settings. Are you engaged with the right partner?

  • Can you store all of your documents in the cloud?
  • Will the user experience be different?
  • Do you understand the importance of training and change management?
  • Which third-party applications are add-ons?

“Even in small organizations, having a skilled Microsoft 365 administrator who can manage users and configure security options properly is crucial. Unless you have in-house staff with proper training, it’s worth outsourcing this management task to a managed service provider.”

– Ed Bott for The Ed Bott Report

In a perfect world, you should get advice from an MSP who can be a wise coach and a referee.

Please schedule a free consultation to explore ways Integris FID can improve your experience with M365.

 

Jed is a Solution Advisor at Integris who has specialized in MSP solution development, sales, and marketing communications since 2003.

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