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Three Effective Microsoft Licensing Strategies for Firstline Workers

Firstline workers play an essential role in an organization, particularly manufacturing. They typically spend their days working on factory floors or interacting with customers and are the initial point of contact between a client and the business. It feels that it should go without saying that firstline workers are a valuable asset for any organization.

Firstline workers, also known as frontline workers, are the ones who get to see the work being done firsthand and the opportunities, efficiencies, and flaws that come with it. They have a lot to offer, not only to organizations and how they operate, but also to each other. Yet, firstline workers are often left out of internal communications.

In most cases, firstline workers are left to operate in separate, siloed environments where they have no way of directly engaging with company content or each other. These employees need access to company content, and the best way to keep frontline workers in the loop is by deploying lower-level licensing with restricted use rights, such as Microsoft 365 F1/F3, E3, and E5 licenses.

In this article, we’ll explore various Microsoft licensing strategies for firstline workers that companies can use to provide access for firstline workers while reducing the attack surface, meeting compliance requirements, and keeping licensing costs down. Read on.

How Microsoft Licensing Can Keep First Line Workers Engaged

Microsoft 365 F1/F3, E3, and E5 are a group of productivity tools designed to empower those in the front lines and protect sensitive data. These solutions provide the information that firstline workers need to be more productive and stay connected to the organization while also minimizing the risk of providing access to mission-critical data in vulnerable situations.

These plans provide the most advanced security, compliance, device, and user management possible. They are always up-to-date with the latest security and features. While they can all be used to empower frontline employees, the Microsoft 365 F1 and F3 plans are designed specifically for firstline workers as opposed to the office workforce.

Security and Compliance Challenges

Microsoft F1/F3, E3, and E5 provide more flexibility when tailoring licensing options. Organizations can use lower-level licensing to keep firstline workers more connected to the company and engaged in its culture. For many organizations, though, providing access without compromising security and compliance is still a massive challenge.

In most cases, organizations in industries such as manufacturing, especially Defense Industrial Base (DIB) companies, are subject to various compliance requirements when it comes to Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). There’s also the looming threat of a data breach — giving firstline workers access to company content expands the attack surface significantly.

There are ways for organizations to overcome security and compliance challenges and keep firstline workers engaged with the company. The first step is determining who is and isn’t authorized to access certain information. The organization should evaluate the employee’s role and the data they can — and need to —access to come up with a proper strategy.

Other factors to consider when evaluating access for firstline workers include:

  • Workloads that employees need access to
  • What devices do they use to access the data
  • How the organization will protect the flow of sensitive data within the Microsoft 365 system
  • How to authenticate or authorize these devices to maintain auditability
  • Whether the employees need to communicate outside the organization
  • How to detect and respond to potential breaches or data leaks

Microsoft Licensing Strategies for First Line Workers

The key to finding the right balance between employee workflows, costs, and most importantly, security and compliance is restricting access appropriately. In this section, we’ll take a look at three effective Microsoft licensing strategies that firstline workers companies can use to restrict access.

1.    Internal E-mail Only

Establishing an e-mail account for firstline workers and then prohibiting external communications is a common strategy. Limiting firstline worker e-mail to internal communications helps the organization keep frontline workers connected and engaged while also reducing the risk of external spillage.

When it comes to licensing requirements, an e-mail only license should suffice in this scenario. The downside to this approach is that workers don’t have access to apps such as OneDrive, Teams, or SharePoint, which means they can’t participate in collaborative tasks.

2.    First Line Worker Access

Informed, engaged workers with immediate access to critical data deliver better results. An organization may choose to allow employees access to the full suite of collaboration services (e-mail, OneDrive, Teams, SharePoint) as well as sensitive data (such as CUI for DIB manufacturers).

A company may also decide that, depending on the nature of their job, some employees don’t need access to some information within Microsoft 365. In this case, the company will deploy technologies such as Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and Security Groups to keep these workers from being exposed to sensitive data.

If you choose to take this approach, you may need additional licenses — such as the F5 Security + Compliance license — which means higher licensing costs for the organization.

3.    No Access

It’s not unheard of for a company to decide that firstline workers don’t need access to company content. The reasoning is that due to the nature of their jobs, considering they don’t even have dedicated computers, frontline workers don’t have an e-mail account or access to Teams and other Microsoft 365 products.

This strategy will definitely reduce IT costs (no licenses needed) and administrative burdens. But at the same time, maintaining communication with firstline workers will be extremely difficult, resulting in a siloed, inefficient frontline.

Wrapping Up

Firstline employees are often the most noticeable workers in your organization, so it is imperative to address their information needs. Organizations stand to unlock tremendous value by empowering firstline workers to do their best work through Microsoft licensing. Overlooking an opportunity to tap into the value of frontline workers would be unwise.

Are you having a hard time coming up with a Microsoft licensing strategy for your firstline workers? We can help!

Acom Networks is one of the leading Microsoft consulting partners in Middle Georgia and Alabama. Our Microsoft 365 experts will design a licensing strategy that connects your frontline workers to information they need to feel engaged and be at their most productive. Contact us for more information.