When Fitzemeyer & Tocci first assessed the software included in Microsoft’s Office 365 Business suite, we hoped that a small portion of its features could assist us in updating our communication capabilities throughout the organization. During a time where COVID-19 has changed business practices in what feels to be an overnight shift, we have found that our adoption of the Office 365 suite has allowed us to adapt to this changing world in ways that we did not expect.
Office 365 Assessed for Improvements
Initially we were seeking to improve two means of communication. One improvement being our ability for disciplines and departments to communicate updates to internal staff. The other being a peer to peer communication solution that would decrease internal email chatter and provide improved response times. With Microsoft Teams being available as part of the O365 suite, we decided to invest in adopting it as our primary means of internal communication. SharePoint, also being available through O365 provided us with an opportunity to build a robust intranet infrastructure utilizing Teams for department communication.
Unexpected Challenges – Work From Home Capacity Shifts Overnight
After more than a year of having both Teams and SharePoint incorporated as standard tools across our organization, we have found that this same adoption has proven to be a crucial necessity in establishing an efficient work from home environment. Having already established an infrastructure for access via VPN, we had the ability to produce large and robust Revit models remotely. Now, however we were required to produce large Revit models while 100% of our staff was simultaneously accessing the network remotely. We had already succeeded in answering the question of how to work in a remote environment. However, we quickly had to address how to access our files and produce efficiently while 100% of the company was connected remotely.
For the first two days of the COVID-19 quarantine we monitored our bandwidth utilization and VPN traffic. The results of this data helped to identify anomalies that were the result of multiple users opening or syncing Revit models simultaneously. This influx of concurrent data caused bottlenecks that would in turn spike the usage of our bandwidth past our available threshold. We needed to tame these spikes by providing clarity for when designers or engineers were efficiently permitted to open or synchronize large models back to the network.
Our Solution – Using Teams During COVID-19 Quarantine
To accomplish this clarity, we created a public communication feed where people would be able to post updates within Microsoft Teams. This allowed anyone working in a Revit model to inform other employees through a Team post that they were performing a “Reload Latest”, opening of a central model or synchronization to or from our network. In identifying the inopportune times, we were able to provide clarity on when it was a safe and opportune point in time to perform such actions.
The Results – Organizing the Data Transfers
This method of using Microsoft Teams to effectively inform one another has allowed us to work as a single unit, which helped to eliminate inefficient bottleneck spikes completely. On days prior to implementing this workflow where we reached 100% employee utilization of our work from home technology, we were frequently exceeding 100 Mbits of our available bandwidth (Seen on March 16 of the “Before” chart below). After the Microsoft Team communication feed was implemented, we have not seen a single spike exceed 80 Mbits and rarely see anything approach 60 Mbits. We now maintain a healthy and regular bandwidth heartbeat averaging between 20-25 Mbits consistently. With this single unexpected use of Teams we were able to reduce our bandwidth utilization by an average of 49% compared to when 100% of staff were working remotely prior to utilizing Microsoft Teams.