Rob O' Neal, Director of Information Technology Services, Abila
Overview of trends shaping Microsoft Office 365 market
From my perspective as an IT executive, Office 365 is really heating up and will continue to grow in the Enterprise. We did quite a bit of research to determine the best tools for us to implement, and this is where we landed to help meet our needs.
"However, for larger enterprise deployments, Office 365 is really the platform of choice"
In the very recent past, Google Apps and the like were constantly the topic of discussion as viable business tools to help with collaboration and cost savings. What I’m hearing (and discovering) now is that Google Apps are still very important for a startups looking to scale quickly at lower costs with simplistic licensing models and “good enough” tools and capabilities.
However, for larger enterprise deployments, Office 365 is really the platform of choice.
The real reason for this is that Microsoft is becoming more cost competitive with a very robust set of tools. During our research process, we discovered that the cost delta between Office 365 and Google Apps was really immaterial.
With any new installation or move away from a legacy or installed system, there will always be multiple challenges. However, from my perspective, the biggest challenge we will likely see will be migration activities around email and document repositories. Here are some key things we’ve had to consider that would likely be valuable to others going through the process:
•Determine whether email and documents are in on-premises solutions or other cloud platforms.
•There will be design decisions around implementing a hybrid Exchange/Office 365 installation, or whether to go all-in with Office 365. Either choice will have an impact on the user community, and this needs to be communicated.
•Dealing with public folders, archived emails and the importing of data to Office 365 will need to be planned out.
•Education and training will be paramount. There is a component of change management involved anytime new systems are switched or installed as end users tend to go through the five stages of mourning connected to the old system denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Recent Technological Developments
Absolutely agree. Needs, technology and innovation all go hand-in-hand, in my opinion, and innovation is critical for driving business growth. There is a definite balancing act between adopting technologies (disruptive or not) and enabling employees all while supporting customers, controlling costs, and deriving business value through innovations. While it sounds like beating a dead horse, the cloud is the future. From my perspective, it causes a significant shift in IT’s role from simply being an installer of technology to a facilitator, broker of services, for the business. There is also a shift in knowledge as technical acumen is not the only requisite anymore. Business acumen is now essential as well.
Advise to Other Executives
Do your homework! It’s worth repeating. Do your homework! Talk to your colleagues and survey your user base about what tools they use and why. What do they feel will help them be more productive and efficient? You may be surprised at the information you receive as to what matters most to them.
Also, keep the business goals in mind. For instance, while we have quite a few employees completely comfortable with, and that enjoy working with, Google Apps, we have a much larger portion of our employee population that has many years of experience working with the Office Suite of products. The business was concerned about the disruption of changing productivity and collaboration platforms. As we looked at the options, it was clear that Office 365 would cause less disruption to our users because everyone was already familiar with the applications and the learning curve would be shorter.
In the past, the business would come to IT with a problem and IT would find a technical solution to implement. In today’s world, especially in the app-driven, cloud-based economy in which the business world operates more and more, businesses are coming to IT with a suggested solution already in place so the conversation and decision-making process is very different. My biggest recommendation to IT colleagues is to embrace the shift.