Ask Jamie Cox what he does at Choice Group and he’ll tell you he’s “chief everything.” It’s a sentiment that the principals of most small, but vibrant businesses will recognise.
Choice, based in Shepparton, Victoria, offers accounting services, has a finance business, a real estate unit and a construction company. As chief everything Cox is a busy man.
Home base for Choice’s 18 employees is a building called the Play Lab – a largely open plan space dotted with sofas, billiard tables, share tables, meeting rooms, where people can choose where they work. They might find themselves next to an employee of one of Choice’s 700 business clients who’s dropped in to use the space casually, or who pays for a regular co-working space in the Play Lab.
The Play Lab is a signal that Choice does things differently – and that extends to the way people work.
To ensure that employees can work flexibly – but securely – and have the sort of intelligent tools needed to promote client satisfaction, the company has adopted Microsoft 365. It’s the secure cloud-based productivity solution that along with state-of-the-art Microsoft Surface Pro laptops and tablets is shifting the dial for staff.
Yes, they can work in the Play Lab – but they can also work from home, a client’s office, or where it makes most sense for them.
Choice staff are trusted by Cox and his business partner Darren Green, to do the right thing –as long as work is up to date, clients are happy, and targets are being met the cloud solution lets them work where and when they want.
Cloud based Microsoft 365 is at the heart of solution delivered by Microsoft partner Advance Computing. Its in-built security and privacy capabilities mean data is encrypted and properly protected which is critical to maintain the trust of Choice’s 700 business and 4,000 individual clients.
The benefits of the more flexible working approach can’t be measured through a profit-and-loss statement or balance sheet – but it does pay dividends says Cox.
Over time that does feed into the finances because revenues grow, profits improve, and staff stay keen and committed.
Having access to the latest productivity tools through Microsoft 365, which has Office 365 at its core, also means that staff are empowered wherever they are working. Microsoft Teams for example is the backbone of communications with other team members and clients, and Choice is already exploring how to integrate its phone system with Teams.
Employees also use Teams to drive communication and collaboration, as well as OneDrive and SharePoint – in particular the Files on Demand feature on OneDrive. The security features of Microsoft 365 are used for device and system management as well as Advanced Threat Protection to help keep out the cyber nasties.
With intelligent cloud foundations, Choice has also been able to offer clients improved service options; instead of having to drive for hours for a one-hour meeting with an advisor, and then turning around to drive home again – Choice offers Teams meetings as an alternative.
With the benefit of hindsight Cox says he would have made the switch to the cloud sooner, rather than wait for a server in the office to die and prompt the shift. “The mindset was that it was going to be difficult and hard and it was going to take time to do. But it was the complete opposite.
“We talk about enabling freedom. The Microsoft products have enabled us to do that. Although the work gets done, it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s a chore anymore.”