Posted on September 30, 2015 by Luke Black
Picture this: It’s your tenth birthday, and you’ve just unwrapped the gift you had begged for all year. A brand new Lego set of your favorite NASA space shuttle. You tear open the box, spread the blocks around the carpet, ready to build, and then you notice it… The instructions are missing.
The example above might seem like a trivial childhood drama – but IT leaders embarking on an Office 365 project are facing a similar sort of surprise. We’ve opened the box, so to speak, expecting huge productivity, simplicity and licensing gains, only to discover we’ve got no user-manual to this complicated, unknown new technology.
Anyone who has ever considered Office 365 for their organization has thought of it as a productivity game-changer. The reality, however, can prove different. While the cloud platform provides you the potential to improve the way your teams work, there are a few learning curves your users need to be prepared for.
For instance, we find it’s often the case that users come in expecting the same old Excel, or Outlook they’ve come to master on their desktop, only this time it’s the online version. That’s not quite the case, however. Office online is similar, but has several notable differences to its native counterpart. Users must be prepped and familiarized with a new UI if they are expected to adopt the solution with ease.
Another factor that gets in the way of productivity objectives with Office 365 is a limited view of what the solution actually offers. Office 365 unlocks multiple modern, web-based applications that can revolutionize the way your teams work together. Social enterprise solutions like Yammer, for example, can greatly improve the speed and engagement of collaboration and real-time communication.
To address this gap, you need to spend the proper time planning, educating and training your users for the changes that are to come. Don’t forget, too, to spend the time exploring, and building the business case, around the multiple other applications that come pre-packaged with O365, aside from the classics.
When we think of cloud, CIOs hope it will take the load off their team, and open up resources for more strategic, innovative causes. And while Office 365 can certainly help to offload infrastructure demands and admin duties, IT teams are in for a shock if they under-estimate the planning and ongoing work that will still be needed to properly manage the cloud install.
To paint that picture, consider this: up to 60% of tenant issues with Office 365 are caused by mis-configuration, or human error. Worse, several of the third party apps organizations use to manage Active Directory are no longer functional with the Office in the cloud. Your Office IT Admins are, as a result, being placed in unfamiliar and demanding territory, which can add time and mishaps to your transition.
But, if things do go according to plan, and you are able to relieve your resources of some of the more menial duties, a new burden arises. How can you ensure you are leveraging their potential? In reality, this kind of thing does not happen without the proper planning and foresight. It bears repeating, too, that with all the learning curves and configuration gaps, their “spare time” might be a lot more sparse than anticipated.
Despite Microsoft’s 99.9% uptime guarantee, CIO’s need to seriously consider what it means if an outage occurs to your cloud service. It’s no longer your IT team, but Microsoft’s, that will be troubleshooting the issue. Are you ready to wait a few hours, the average SLA from Microsoft, for the issue just to be acknowledged?
This is a scenario that needs to be thought out and discussed across the business long before you’ve made the switch.
Similarly, the way your organization will now experience security updates and major version upgrades is out of your hands. While it is possible to delay for several months, eventually you will be put onto the latest versions. For this point, organizations absolutely must re-assess all their applications and dependencies to the Microsoft environment.
The point is with the benefits of the cloud, you also relinquish some control. Dropping that control, in a way, actually has enormous benefits – freeing up the team for loftier endeavors – but it does come with some potentially uncomfortable realities.
SaaS and cloud services such as Office 365 present another major promise to eager adopters: more predictable and intuitive pricing for users.
In reality, licensing and determining the right plans for your organization is still a relatively complex process. One that can be costly if done inefficiently. Expecting the licensing task to disappear overnight is where many organizations fall short. You must invest time and resources behind this, just as you always have, to ensure you are getting the most from your investment.
Office 365 comes with an even greater financial promise: the switch from capital to operational expense. And while this certainly can be a boon to your budgeting and predictability of expenses, it ends up being a massive paradigm shift that needs to be properly understood before taking any steps forward.
Here’s one gap that is turning out to actually be easier, and better, than the expectation.
With Microsoft’s new data center additions, the company now offers a robust and exhaustive list of compliance and standards with regards to storing your data off-site. This is welcomed news especially by Canadian businesses as it helps them alleviate their concerns with data residency as it relates to privacy and security.
The gap comes into play as organizations, especially those in highly-regulated verticals that are traditionally weary of the cloud as a non-starter for its sensitive data. The good news is that more businesses than ever are finding it safe, and totally compliant, when leveraging Microsoft data centers. As with the points above, this gap must considered carefully before you leap into Office 365.
The bottom line: don’t go in blindly
There’s a clear theme tying together the points above.
Office 365 is an eagerly anticipated solution to the modern business, helping to free up infrastructure, boost teamwork and simplify costs. But it doesn’t come without its fair share of surprises if you are not properly prepared for the realities that follow.
· While your team can become more productive, adoption hitches on UI learning curves and pushing your team “beyond email,” ensuring they start to use the rich selection of modern collaboration apps like Yammer
· You will certainly off-load tasks to Microsoft’s cloud team – but just how much time this will save you, and how much extra resources it will free up, all depends on how well you plan for and configure your tenant, and align your team
· Help is no longer down the hall. Organizations need to consider the changes to the control they have over ticket resolving, in particular with severe (though rare) occurrences like outages. A 4 hour SLA might not be realistic to all. Similar issues arise with planning for major upgrades.
· Compliance is an easy one, as Microsoft has done a stellar job of staying up to date with its data privacy and security protocols. But that doesn’t mean your organization can rush in without first determining that you can do so legally, and with confidence.
What can IT leaders do to make sure these issues don’t bog down their Office 365 journey?
One approach we are recommending to clients who face these challenges is to pursue a managed service provider to simplify and improve an Office 365 initiative.
Softchoice offers on option, with Keystone Managed Services for Microsoft Cloud.