Office 365

Office 365 Debut: Cloud First, Business First

Today marks what I think is a tipping point in your relationship with Microsoft, and with the core technology stack of your enterprise.

Earlier today, Microsoft announced the availability of Office 365 in its new, updated form, featuring the latest (2013) versions of Exchange, Lync, and SharePoint, as well as Office client applications, delivered as a service. We’ve all known that today was coming, so there's minimal hype and hoopla around the launch. But I (and others) have said for years “Microsoft really gets it right in v3” and, my friends, welcome to what is effectively v3 of Microsoft’s online service offerings for businesses.

As of today, you can sign up for all plans of Office 365 at Microsoft’s website. You can learn more about the plans on the Plan Comparison page.

Key Points about Office 365 That You Should Know

A lot has been written about Office 365. Today, to mark the launch, I’d like to boil things down to a few key points I think you must consider as you and your enterprise think about Office 365.

I think that you can distill everything there is to say about Office 365 into two statements:

OFFICE 365 reflects the total commitment of Microsoft to an entirely new way of approaching business: Cloud First

It’s nothing less than astounding that a company founded on making money by delivering software licenses for on-premise software has been re-tooled into a service-first company.

It’s clear that Microsoft stands to benefit hugely from moving us from traditional software acquisition models to a subscription-based approach. More consistent, predictable revenue streams are an obvious outcome.

More importantly, enterprises that have traditionally found numerous reasons to delay upgrades to their on-premise software will now be updated and upgraded automatically, bringing new features and capabilities faster to business users. This means that users won’t be stuck in the past (I still see far too many desktops running Windows XP and Office 2003), angry that their tools can’t do what they need them to do.

I’ve seen a lot of organizations decide “Microsoft’s stack can’t deliver x” when the reality was that it could, but not when they were stuck with years’ or decade’s old versions and corporate/IT inertia that prevented progress on that stack. Now, businesses will get given features, fast, which will increase satisfaction and loyalty (“stickiness”) and decrease losses to competing options.

Speaking of new features, Microsoft announced today that Yammer will be available today for Enterprise plans of Office 365, and that by June we’ll be getting Lync-Skype integration for presence, IM, and voice. A major update in four months is impressive! Not quite the 90-day cadence touted at the SharePoint Conference, but darned impressive and probably more palatable for customers.

To get us to their new world, Microsoft’s pricing is extremely aggressive. For larger enterprises with existing agreements with Microsoft, a few dollars per user per month. This will be more than recouped, as an investment, with decreased time spent by IT testing, validating, and upgrading versions, patching servers, etc.

And it becomes an operational, rather than capital expense, which will align better with business cycles and activities. This, too, will be good for Microsoft and its relationships with customers.

It’s now a cloud-first universe that we’ll inevitably be drawn into.

OFFICE 365 is a release that changes the role of IT: Business First

Office 365 delivers some extraordinary new capabilities and functionality for businesses and business users.

I’ve been working in the new version of Office 365 since its preview in July and I’ve been truly impressed—much more than I expected to be—with the experience. It’s darned peppy, performance-wise, and it immediately enables features that my business would not have had the human bandwidth to evaluate or deploy on our own.

Sure, most or all of that functionality can be delivered by on-premise deployments of Exchange, Lync, and Office, but at what cost from a money, time, and resource-drain perspective?

All of this is a big benefit to businesses if they let it be.

What Does Office 365 Mean for IT?

Some of the major blockers I’ve seen that have prevented IT from being able to deliver what their business really need have been removed by this version of Office 365. IT can, and should, now be empowered by Office 365 to focus on solving business problems with technology: finding the right combination of apps, services, platforms and connections that solve real problems, rather than being consumed with software deployment and patching and compatibility checking.

It’s now a business-first, rather than technology-first, universe for the core stack of software that most businesses rely on every day.

Next week, I will pivot the discussion about Office 365 and share the guidance I find resonating with customers, large and small, across industries and geographies.


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