Beyond the standard benefits of Office 365

When any new product or service appears on the market, most people focus on the cost benefits versus their existing product or a competing one.

For example, Office 365 benefits often focus on how much cheaper it is per user and the removal of the costs associated with the procurement, maintenance, upgrade and support of backend servers, uninterruptable power supplies, server network switches, cooling environments for the service estate, server racking, patching, continuity clustering, offline backup storage and many many others. This doesn't even include all the associated management, configuration and security associated with looking after and protecting the physical boxes, operating system and applications running on top.

Many of the top business executives never really look at the technology or costs inititially, instead they want to know from a business perspective, how the new product or service;

  • can improve their competitive advantage,
  • bring additional revenue,
  • empower employees to be more effective, and
  • essentially move their business, brand, and reputation into the next century.

Every other aspect no matter how wonderful the service or product, is secondary to the above. Sometimes there is no initial cost benefit, the product or service could simply be more convenient.

In the early 80s, many businesses did not see the point of having a network, after all if you wanted to transfer information from one computer, you could simply copy the information to a floppy disk and then use the "sneaker net" to walk the floppy disk over to another computer. Of course in those days, what the network brought was convenience.

Even today, I had two discussions with companies, who felt that Office 365 in their calculations could not bring them any major cost benefits, but these companies are simply looking at Office 2010 versus Office 365 and the fact that their servers have lasted for five to seven years without much repair and upgrade. This reasoning is understandable and if a company does not feel there is a business case, then they should stay where they are.

However, they will miss out on many eventual competitive advantages. If we return to our previous example of the network, the network never stood still. The network evolved and grew to support a whole host of business innovations that propelled many companies forward past their competitors who remained in the "old way". Networks, later brought with them email - which today is the de facto method of communication for invoicing, sending quotations, agreeing service level agreements and much more. The network also brought new methods for employees in international businesses to collaborate and exchange information via database systems. In retail outlets barcode systems can send information back via the network which provides the warehouses with information for automatic delivery of popular items. We could go on.

Cloud services and in particular services such as Microsoft Office 365 bring with them new benefits - the first may simply be convenience, but from history, we know that Microsoft is not going to stand still. Microsoft's first network evolved into Microsoft LAN Manager, which didn't really take off - but Microsoft learnt a lot about what was working and what wasn't and then came Windows NT (which today is Windows 2008). It got better and better, whileMicrosoft learnt the lessons it needed to turn its once scorned LAN Manager into a world class network.

Office 365, has undergone a similar transformation from the original BPOS offering.

Microsoft has had to deal with the security issues, the cost implications, the business continuity concerns, until today we know that this product will be delivering more than just cost savings, convenience and the ability to always have the latest version of a product rather than the skip one version approach many companies use, due to the sheer cost of having to buy the latest.

In this video, we discussed the simple benefits we were able to obtain beyond simple cost savings of hardware management, maintenance and upgrades.

The main benefits discussed in this video, relate to the ITProPortal Office 365 media project for Microsoft, and how the writing team who regularly move around the world were able to collaborate and instantly respond to changes and issues, using the Office 365 SharePoint collaboration tools, Lync, and Exchange.

At any one point, we could see who was working in what area on the articles spreadsheet, we could show one another cool things we'd found companies doing with Office 365 by using the Lync desktop share component.

We instantly knew when we could contact one another due to the Lync IM presence and rather than having to send long email quickly ping one another IMs about issues....and most of all, we didn't need to worry about turning on servers, sorting out security, patches and upgrades. How many business projects have been delayed because our support people were overloaded or unavailable? This issue goes beyond convenience, in that the project group could always be online and connected.

Was it totally technical problem free? No. There were issues with the speed of connectivity in some places, for example due to the Internet connectivity with one writer, the Lync voice conversation just dropped. We began with a raw Office 365 container, so for those that did not know how to use SharePoint creating folders and navigating the sites was initially quite challenging.

However, overall, the whole Office 365 experience for the group was a real revelation. Should you think about using Office 365, go beyond costs - think business benefits and a constantly evolving and growing product - you should see what Microsoft is about to launch in its next upgrade!

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