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Office 365: Fast and Furious

Office 365 guidance as you prepare to deploy Microsoft&#39;s cloud-based Office system.

Continuing last week’s discussion about the launch of Office 365, it seems appropriate to share with you the considerations and guidance I find resonate with customers, large and small.

Greetings from Benelux! I’m currently in Antwerp, and will soon be in The Hague, speaking at Microsoft’s TechDays events. This region is fascinating to me, because it represents a diverse range of customers, from SMBs to some of the largest enterprises in the world (particularly in The Netherlands), and both some of the most conservative and some of the most forward-leaning enterprises I know.

Which makes it all the more interesting that, across those diverse spectrums, there is a lot of conversation about Office 365 from strategic (roadmap) and technical perspectives.

Here are some key points to consider about the pace and impact of your move to Office 365:

Office 365 will probably happen faster than you think at your business.

For many organizations, SharePoint ( either WSSv3, MOSS 2007, or SharePoint 2010 ) propagated much faster than they expected it would. Why?

Because business users saw immediate value and could apply the technology easily to solve business problems. Whether it happened in your business or not, you’ve certainly heard many stories of SharePoint farms being installed on servers under users’ desks… we used to call it “SharePoint Chaos.” Think it was easy for a user to set up a WSS farm? Have you seen how long it takes to sign up for Office 365 and get Office On Demand installed on a computer? Less than 10 minutes. And with zero technical knowledge required.

If you think “it won’t happen here” you’ll probably be in for a surprise.

Here’s one of the most compelling statements I’ve heard over and over for the last year or so: “We [the business] are the ones with the budget to do our work, and in the end we will go around IT if we must, to get it done.”

Many businesses and business customers are at a tipping point with their relationship with IT, and are well aware—and capable—of procuring a solution to many of their problems without the intervention of IT. Even where IT currently has a “lock” on technology adoption, the strain has reached a mass where business pain is being escalated up to the executive level, and shakeups are happening. It’s a tectonic shift.

IT’s role is critical, so be proactive and be prepared.

While I see these dynamics in organizations in every geography, every industry vertical, and every size, I don’t like these dynamics. I don’t think it’s healthy for businesses to march towards new technologies in this fashion, because while it solves short term business problems, it introduces medium- and long-term risk to manageability, security, compliance, and more.

I see IT’s role as a critical guide and voice. Folks in IT understand technology in ways business users often don’t. So while a business user can easily redirect their budgets around IT to procure external (cloud/service) solutions, they don’t necessarily have the knowledge to understand the bigger picture, or the risks of unmanaged solutions—particularly unmanaged solutions in a tightly integrated set of technologies that most businesses rely on.

We need IT. We need technical knowledge. We need experts to evaluate solutions and guide business to the right ones; and to build custom solutions where necessary.

Please don’t wait for your business to move forward without you. Get your IT at least one step ahead of your users, with governance and technical knowledge.

Office 365 is for almost everyone, but not for every scenario.

I surprise myself with how much I like Office 365, and how much value I’m seeing my customers get out of it. Really—I’m surprised! But it clearly doesn’t align with every business scenario. You must have your eyes open to its capabilities and its limitations. You must know the “fine print.”

Microsoft is definitely “over-selling” Office 365 to many of the customers I visit with. Office 365 is not the silver bullet. From the very highest level, very biggest picture, it’s as close to one as I’ve seen yet. But it’s still not that close. Nothing is.

Your world will be hybrid: SharePoint 2013, SharePoint 2010, on-prem, and cloud. Foundation and Server. Products outside of SharePoint.

So this is where IT expertise is critical: Help your business understand which workloads can benefit from Office 365. For 90+ percent of all extranets out there, Office 365’s features and cost are a no-brainer. For organizations wanting to deliver informal user discussions for the first time, Yammer is great and easy. For many team site scenarios, Office 365 and it’s bright future of apps will solve very real collaboration problems.

But for published-content scenarios like published intranet and internet, maybe not so much, today. For Business Connectivity Services (BCS), maybe not yet.

Office 365 is for more scenarios than most people think.

Be wary of generalizations and prejudices against the cloud. Most are based on perception, not reality.

Yes, there are organizations that are subject to insane regulation and compliance requirements looking at, or in, Office 365. Healthcare, financial services, you name it.

There are organizations that are realizing their own internal security (physical security, password policies, service accounts, permissions and rights management) are just not as strong as they’d like to believe, and are coming to realize that Microsoft’s security in Office 365 is as good, or better, than they could attain internally. Some of these customers are in industries where—if something goes wrong—people’s lives are at stake.

Office 365 Dedicated is not dead yet, and in fact…

I’ve been part of some very interesting discussions about Office 365 dedicated, both with folks at Microsoft and large customers dealing with Microsoft. The bottom line of these conversations is that Microsoft has a love-hate relationship with Office 365 Dedicated, because it’s very expensive for Microsoft to support. Suggestions are that it’s not getting the love it deserves, or that it might not have a long future.

But that may not be the case. I’m also hearing from several large customers that Microsoft is pushing enormous Office 365 offerings, using Dedicated to solve some industry specific concerns. For example, customers subject to FISMA and ITAR have an Office 365 solution to consider, based on Dedicated.

If you’ve not seen the service descriptions for Office 365 D, check these out!

Microsoft Office 365 Service Descriptions and Service Level Agreements for Dedicated Subscription Plans
Microsoft Office 365 ITAR-Support Service and Network Descriptions

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