Confused by Office 365

Is your Organisation confused by Office 365

Office 365 is causing some big waves in the consumerisation of IT and could probably be called one of the most disruptive things to come out from Redmond.
It is disruptive to customers with new plans and licensing agreements, on-prem/hybrid/ off premise decisions and road-maps to contend with. It is disruptive to long standing Microsoft Partners who for a long time have been fearful of their role in the brave new Office 365 world, and it is also disruptive to IT Departments everywhere, with CIOs and CTOs adopting ‘Cloud’ strategies which could be interpreted as threatening the very role and existence of maintaining the array of infrastructure and services associated with SharePoint, Exchange, Lync and the Office suite of applications.

What is Office 365
Despite a lot of information being out there for Office 365, people still struggle to describe it. Lets look at it from the business perspective, the product and service perspective, and from an end user perspective.
To Microsoft, Office 365 is core to their business in that it has become the fastest growing division in Microsoft, ever. It is running at over 2.5 billion dollars annually and is a core part of Microsofts transition
From a product and service perspective, it is a modular Software As A Service offering that means you can get significant functionality for a cost per user as an Operational Expense as opposed to investing in servers, specialist technical skills, hardware and licences. Office 365 provides a mix and match offering of Email (Exchange), Document Management (SharePoint), Website capabilities (SharePoint), Instant Messaging (Lync), the full Office suite of applications (Office suite), Enterprise social collaboration (Yammer) , public PSTN voice calling (either through a partner or via Skype minutes), Business Intelligence (Insights and Excel Services) and an integrated development platform (with the Office 365 development APIs).
That is quite an offering, and you can see the attraction for new businesses starting out, those going through acquisitions, or those in the position to make the cost savings.

So why do you need to know about it?
Quite frankly, we believe that on premise installations of commodity software will be in the minority in the future, and Microsoft is making new developments on Office 365 first, and on premise later. Having said that, it has its shortcomings.
Licensing is not as simple as it could be with organisations ‘needing’ to keep on premise installations.
For some organisations, they could end up with more on premise servers to implement ADFS single sign on (although this can also be done in the cloud if needed).
SharePoint has its limitations. Full trust solutions that run on the on-premise servers cannot go anywhere near Office 365, public website functionality is not as feature rich (contradictory to the cloud first strategy)
At present there is no supported Lync telephony solution (partners such as Fuse Collaboration can fill that gap however)
There are also many other hidden gotchas, but Microsoft is adding in new features at such a rate of knots, it is hard to believe these will be the same as in 12 months time.
Gartner is generally very bullish about Office 365, and compares it very favourably to the competition.

In conclusion, Organisations should look very hard at Office 365. Those that dismiss it now and typically have long lasting SharePoint projects, or are continuing to blindly customise SharePoint without thinking 3- 5 years ahead will be left with problem to unpick and redevelop in years to come. Many organisations are also very quick to dismiss the current limitations without looking at the massive benefits associated with Office 365.
There is no right or wrong solution, and hybrid works well for some organisations, just make sure any future on premise SharePoint, Lync, or Exchange projects look objectively at what can be done for less in the age of consumerisation of IT services.