The Office 365 Story: Is Microsoft leading the way for Cloud Office Applications?

Phil Aldrich, Director–End-user Computing, Dimension Data America talks
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Phil Aldrich, Director–End-user Computing, Dimension Data America talks

Shortly after the start of the millennium, Microsoft stated a goal to be the go-to enterprise platform for the data center. Many in the industry scoffed at the idea that Microsoft could dominate in a market traditionally led by Unix. Today, there are few enterprises that don’t have a significant investment in Microsoft servers and infrastructure. Five years ago Microsoft launched Office 365 and, right now, we’re seeing a parallel in their move to lead the cloud office application sector. Office and the enterprise applications that support Office 365—Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business - have become ubiquitous in the market. In July this year, it was reported that Office 365 is used daily by over 70 million enterprise users. However, Microsoft hasn’t achieved this success without challenges. In 2013, many industry pundits saw Google Apps for Enterprise as the heir apparent for cloud and productivity, but things have changed significantly in the last three years.

Under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft has rebranded to support its ‘mobile-first, cloud- first’ go-to-market. The move to support Office on the Apple and Google platforms has strengthened its position in the market. Following this success, their next ambition is to enable customers and partners to move to Office 365. Earlier this year, Microsoft launched a number of initiatives to help clients consume Office 365 licenses more effectively. One such program is geared towards securing the license base by motivating renewals and preventing-churn versus a completely new sale.

Once a client activates and consumes the licenses on Office 365, they receive ongoing upgrades, renewals, and new features as part of an evergreen service. Employees experience the latest across all their devices. This compares favorably to the historical process of waiting every three to four years for the on-premises Enterprise Agreement to be signed and subsequent refresh of a laptop with a new office application suite. Our mutual task is to engage and motivate our client’s employees to test these new cloud office applications, and understand the value they bring. By doing so, we reach a wider community of users who, in turn, collaborate and realize the productivity gains that we strive for. The upside for Microsoft is the ability to accelerate the consumption of licenses and extend their brand. This compares favorably to the more traditional on-premises licensing model where the question was regularly asked; ‘why buy a new enterprise agreement if I have not been able to utilize the products from the existing agreement.”

  Microsoft is fast becoming a leader for cloud office, and for many, it is the foundation for their journey to the digital workplace  

However, the notion that moving an enterprise to Office 365 and activating all its workloads is going to be a simple task is not necessarily true. We see many of the same caveats as those of a traditional migration. The complexity when integrating with on-premises solutions such as a client’s user directory service (Active Directory), or specific compliance or integrations that may require a hybrid architecture, and we shouldn’t forget the ongoing management of the steady state environment.

The key advantage remains: once customers have moved their key workloads to Office 365, the migration should be the last major office application migration that they’ll need to plan. With the ability to use Office on any platform and anywhere, Microsoft has made the software familiar, easier to access, and therefore easier to consume for both the consumer and business user.

We’re now seeing vendors flock to the Microsoft ecosystem. For example, In Skype for Business, vendors have a joint go-to-market with Microsoft in almost every case. Based on our client requests, the demand for Office 365 consulting continues to grow. They’re asking how they can take advantage of Office 365 whereas in the past, they were asking if they should. This indicates that clients have already made the decision to make it work.

This is key for Microsoft moving forward. After five years of building maturity, Microsoft has a robust platform. It has changed its internal paradigm. In addition, its current vision, market position, and leadership have placed Office 365 in a stronger position today. And the biggest transformation for Microsoft is its drive to provide more support for its client and partners.

Enabling an ecosystem of support for Office 365, as well as industry specific offerings, makes it easier for clients to consume Office 365. Microsoft is fast becoming a leader for cloud office, and for many, it is the foundation for their journey to the digital workplace.

The Future

Many organizations are looking to bolster their requirements for an increasingly digital future, especially for collaboration and productivity. Our clients are looking to develop communities of distributed users that will have technology embedded within their working practices–whether it’s to get products to market quicker, get closer to consumers, or deliver a better end-user experience regardless of device. When moving to a digital delivery model, it’s important to allow increased mobility and flexibility. Tools and space should complement the activity. Moreover, managers and other key staff want real-time access to business intelligence to be able to make quicker–and smarter–decisions. Organizational analytics is vital. To this end, Office 365 has introduced Office Graph, Delve and Power BI Pro, which deliver insight and advanced data analytics to drill down into business processes. ChatBots for customer experience are being integrated into Skype for Business, and Virtual Assistants like Cortana are looking to set up meetings and review and prioritize email on a user’s behalf. And the integration of a virtual reality with HoloLens isn’t too far off either.

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