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With regular updates over the course of last year, Microsoft’s Office 365 has evolved significantly since the start of 2016. And it will likely be very different in 12 months’ time, too—considering the 26 updates launched in January alone (and 88 more rolling out or in development). If you’re intrigued by the possibility of accessing the latest and greatest enterprise technology features and functionality, then 2017 might well be the year you adopt Microsoft’s enterprise productivity suite into your company’s strategy.

Naturally, your decision will ultimately depend on the needs and requirements of your company. In today’s post, we’ll explore Microsoft’s ‘do-it-all’ platform to help you determine whether Office 365 is right for you.

Things to consider about moving to Office 365

The flexibility of Office 365 leaves you with multiple deployment options. You can choose to fully commit to the platform, using it for your document storage, email and instant messaging, data analytics, etc. You can choose an Office 365 subscription with fewer tools and use other providers as well (document storage through Dropbox, for example). Alternatively, you can position yourself somewhere in the middle with a hybrid environment.

Should I go hybrid?

A hybrid SharePoint environment leverages both SharePoint Server and SharePoint Online through Office 365. Think of it like the ‘first steps’ towards the cloud; allowing you to extend your on-premises investment by integrating services and moving workloads to an environment that fits your company. Find out more in this ZDNet article.

Below are some of the major factors that will affect you, whichever version of Office 365 you opt for:

  • Just keep rolling

Recently launched, upcoming and future developments to the Office 365 platform can all be found on Microsoft’s Office 365 Roadmap. With rolling updates, working with the Office 365 platforms ensures you are always going to have the most up-to-date and advanced capabilities available to you.

  • ‘All-in-one’ package

Perhaps the biggest selling point for investing in Office 365 is the fact that it offers a single, unified platform in which you can perform the majority (if not all) of your day-to-day working activities. Without the need to invest in different platforms, services and providers, Office 365 practically guarantees substantial ROI over time.

This all-inclusive nature can have its setbacks. Companies fear the so-called ‘vendor lock-in’—the inability to easily transition to an alternative platform.  Vendor lock-in is a pretty reasonable concern for businesses moving to Office 365 (or any similar exclusive cloud environment). Usually the result of proprietary technologies that are incompatible with those of competitors, vendor lock-in can be a considerable obstacle to cloud service adoption. Often the complexities of migration mean that customers will stay with a provider that does not meet their needs just to avoid the cumbersome and risky process of moving. While Office 365 is pretty much guaranteed to be safe and secure, it is sensible to not want to ‘place all your eggs in one basket’.

Despite using an on-premises environment, vendor lock-in can be a potential hazard. The difference is, if you decide to change your mind, it is far easier to extract your data from a server than it is to move it out of the cloud.

  • Infrastructure configuration

Office 365 effectively offers a ‘one size fits all’ approach to enterprise IT, meaning there is fairly limited flexibility with customization. This is because Office 365 is built in the cloud, and so Microsoft administers centrally. So allowing too much customization by customers could cause major damage. If you have a hybrid installation, you may need to have third party involvement or add-ons when it comes to email or other collaboration tools. In this case, on-premises installments of SharePoint offer far more customization options for your company.

  • Overpaying and underusing

This isn’t really a con of Office 365 itself, but it’s worth noting. A majority of users don’t use Office 365 to its full potential. Most people only log in to Office 365 for email, file storage and access to Office programs, even though it has much more to offer. There certainly isn’t anything wrong with this, but it may mean you are paying for more than you need. Of course, the same can be said for any on-premises platform also, however the fact that you (technically) only make a one-off payment for on-premises, and don’t have the same degree of vendor lock-in, can make on-premises more appealing.

Decide with a human focus

If this discussion has left you feeling unsure whether Office 365 will offer you more than an on-premises environment, it may be worth changing the focus of the discussion. Rather than thinking about whether Office 365 has the right features, make your decision-based thinking about how your users work. Perhaps if you don’t ever need mobile working or cloud functionality, then an on-premises environment would best suit your needs. But most important of all is that you know it will fit around the people that actually do the work. 

Disconnected apps hurt productivity

While Office 365’s level of flexibility gives you appreciable freedom, it also means your users must switch between multiple different apps when working. Whether it’s switching between different providers (Dropbox, Slack, Skype for Business, SharePoint etc.), or between the apps within Office 365 (Outlook, Calendar, Dynamics etc.), this ‘app toggling’ is confusing and disorientating for users and can prevent them from working at optimum productivity. With content disconnected across different app windows—even within the same platform—information governance and keeping content secure becomes more difficult.

At harmon.ie, we believe that the ability to complete all your work within a single window can have a big effect on productivity. Office 365 allows you to work in a single browser, but you have to still toggle between apps. Switching between different apps means switching between differing user experiences, which can deter users.

harmon.ie ‘humanizes’ the Office 365 experience, by allowing people to work with Office 365 directly from the email window. This single window approach means users stay in their comfort zone. With a sense of familiarity, you can begin to take advantage of all the different features within Office 365, share links, download files and have contextual access to tools like Yammer, Skype for Business and SharePoint. With harmon.ie, the user is put at the center of their work.

For more information on how you can make the most of your Office 365 investment, talk to us today.

Ram Tagher
Product Manager