Microsoft 365 (M365) is the per-user bundle of Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365 E3/5 and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS). This was originally ( via a few name changes from ECS to SPE then M365 ) a direct replacement for the old Enterprise Desktop bundle of Office/Windows per device and Enterprise CAL suite per user. During some recent training, I realised I have been looking at the new M365 from the wrong perspective, minimising the transformation features that M365 brings to the end user. I see two key benefits that make M365 a much stronger addition to your software lineup.
First, the new identity management feature of M365 is one of the suite’s key drivers and helps you secure your organisation’s information. It’s clear: identity is the new firewall. The real value of Office 365 is the identity control components of EMS. These allow IT to shift focus from controlling devices and desktop apps, to ensuring users have secure access to only those applications they need. When companies confirm it is their employee requesting access, they do not need to lock down users to specific devices.
The second feature relates to the inherent value in Rights Management Services (RMS). In the old model, RMS sounded good on paper but was difficult to install and manage, and therefore very rarely used. In contrast, the new version removes the need for on-premises infrastructure and makes document classification easy. You can automate classification, but please note, automation requires the more expensive E5 suite.
What’s the net effect? M365 is easier to install and supports information protection.
The non-Office application parts of Office 365 also offer compelling benefits to the end user. With email access available everywhere with minimal storage limits, you may access and store documents anywhere in SharePoint or via other trusted cloud management systems. This allows people and teams to interact quickly without needing to manage any on-premises servers, patching or backup.
Skype is another easy move and one that adds efficiency and immediate connections. I could not imagine working in a remote office without the presence and instant message capabilities of Skype. Having said that, I’m not convinced that having Teams as a separate product is worthwhile, and Yammer seems to be dying from lack of support. All three products have overlapping functionality, making them ideal candidates to merge into Teams.
Microsoft has plenty of resources to move you from Exchange on-premises to Exchange online, making this move an easy decision. A word of caution - moving from SharePoint on-premises to online seems almost as difficult and time consuming as the original setup.
It’s Office and Windows where we need a shift in mindset. Let’s move from the old concepts of standard operating images and set rollout and patching schedules and let Microsoft help manage these.
We hear from IT managers who often hesitate to relinquish control of the update process and are nervous about how updates to Windows and Office might affect other software. The real problem here is other non-Microsoft legacy applications. Virtual desktops offer ‘work arounds’ for these legacy applications. This is like managing on-premises Exchange Servers, which is no longer a good use of internal IT staff resources.
Will Office 365 keep Microsoft dominant as users move from full desktop applications such as Office to cloud services? Microsoft is doing a lot of work to maintain their position. Yet, with new competitors emerging like Slack and Facebook Workplace, and the rise of Chromebooks in schools, are future generations going to be more accustomed to working with cloud and web applications and less likely to use full applications like Office.
In my experience, I always default to downloading Excel and Word documents and working with them on my Surface. That might be because it’s what I’m used to and the online versions seem limited. As the online versions of Word and Excel become easier to use, and with Google focusing more on application revenue and less on advertising sales, Microsoft has more competition now than they have had in years. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out!
Check back here next month to see my next blog, where I'll review the licensing and pricing changes coming in October. Make sure and connect with me on LinkedIn, too, if you haven’t already done so.