‘The biggest misconception about switching to Microsoft 365? That it’s just an IT project…’
Microsoft 365 (formerly known as Office 365) is one of the best-known software packages out there, and also one the most underestimated. We all know programs such as Word and Excel. Business users will also know Sharepoint, Onedrive and Teams. But not many people have delved deeper into the Microsoft 365 package: Intune, Sway, Delve, Power Platform are terra incognita for the average business user. Rob Dekker shows us around the world of Microsoft 365.
For attentive readers, the new name may take some getting used to: Office 365 was recently rebranded as Microsoft 365. But in terms of content, nothing has changed. Everything that was in the Office 365 package (or O365) is now part of Microsoft 365 (or M365). There was a good reason for the rebrand, because it shifts the focus away from all those well-known Office applications like Word and Excel. That’s a smart move, because M365 offers so much more than that.
The specialist’s perspective: Microsoft 365
Last week we interviewed Marcel Besteman about getting Microsoft Teams up and running ‘a.s.a.p’, and how to tackle that implementation process in the best way. This week, Rob Dekker talks to us about the Microsoft 365 package as a whole, and the best way to use it within your organization.
Introduction: Rob Dekker, experienced transition and project manager. Rob will be a familiar face for many, as one of the partners at Transition Experts. He has previously worked for big names such as Atos, Ernst & Young, Capgemini and KPMG. Rob was one of the founders of Transition Experts and with 25+ years of knowledge and experience, his clients have come to depend on him.
So Rob, with all your experience of implementing Microsoft 365, tell us about the classic errors and misconceptions.
“The biggest misconception that people have when switching to Microsoft 365 is assuming it is purely an IT project. It’s not. Microsoft has taken care of the technology side – the ‘IT aspects’. And of course, you will need to implement that technology within your organization and integrate the package into your overall IT landscape. But actually, the biggest change that Microsoft 365 brings is in the way that end users work. You’ll need to take decisions about information and security, and make sure that people can use the software correctly. People often like to think that those aspects will just take care of themselves. But actually, they are some of the biggest challenges.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that people aren’t aware of just how comprehensive this package is. For many people, Microsoft 365 is simply another way to use the Office suite – Word, Excel and PowerPoint and so on – but then in the form of a subscription service. Some users also want to use the collaboration tools and cloud services, too. And of course, M365 offers all those things, but you’ll be short-changing your organization if that’s all you do with it.
Actually, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the enormous range of possibilities that this package offers which means that M365 projects are never just ‘IT projects’. If you approach implementation in the right way, you’ll also be looking at your business as a whole, and the technical work will be just a small part of what you do. The technology aspects are essential, of course, but M365 has the potential to revolutionize your whole organization.”
What are the main advantages, compared with the traditional model of one-off licenses?
“That depends which aspects you’re looking at. Purely in terms of the costs, there is a financial change. Under the old model, you pay a fixed one-off fee, but with M365 you pay monthly or annually. Accountants describe this a shift from CAPEX to OPEX – from investment expenditure to operational costs. For some companies this works out better, while for others it doesn’t.
But one advantage that M365 always has is that it’s scalable. The price is based on the number of users you have, which is useful when you want to add extra users, or if your workforce shrinks. And of course, you’ll always have access to the latest version of the software. The software is continually being improved and upgraded, and M365 means that you’ll benefit from that innovation immediately. And there’s no need to upgrade every machine manually to the latest version – no more system administrators running around with CDs! The administrative costs are often lower too.
Microsoft 365 also focuses on online collaboration and content sharing. The package makes that much easier, including synchronizing and updating other devices or locations. And it has very extensive security features. Depending on which license you choose, you’ll have every opportunity to meet the requirements of your organization as well as the statutory regulations. That entails certain responsibilities, of course.”
In our the previous interview with Marcel about implementing and adopting Microsoft Teams, we heard that security and governance can play a major role. Does the same apply to Microsoft 365?
“Yes, the responsibilities are exactly the same. Everything that applies to Teams also applies to the rest of Microsoft 365. There are a lot of decisions to be made on the strategic, tactical and operational levels.
You need to have a clear picture of the roles and responsibilities – who can access what, what you want to share with whom. Which data do you store and how do you work together? It’s essential to have a good plan for all of that. Making sure that the end users know where they stand and what they should be doing can be one of the biggest challenges.”
What’s the best way to approach that? Where do you start? With witch applications?
“‘Gartner has a useful flow chart for that, when it comes to categorizing and prioritizing. If you roll everything out at the same time, things are bound to go wrong – it’s too much for people to cope with all at once. So we start by migrating the Microsoft workloads. That generally means applications like Exchange and Office – the processes that are already running on Microsoft software. That’s the logical place to start. At every step, the main thing is to provide a stable, up-to-date and affordable alternative to the existing situation.
Once that stage has been completed and everything is running smoothly, you can start replacing non-Microsoft workloads. That includes things like introducing OneDrive and Teams, Intune or Power BI. And maybe you are using other applications that you can replace with M365 applications. At this point, it’s important to look carefully at what the business really needs. It’s nice to run all your tools within one platform, but that’s not a goal in its own right. Cost is an important consideration. Take business intelligence software, for example. That’s often quite expensive but it can usually be replaced easily with an application from M365.
The third step is to launch new workloads. Using the Power Platform, for example, you can streamline and automate all kinds of work processes. There are a huge number of possibilities, actually. Depending on your license, all this is ‘standard’ in M365. And you can optimize further based on what the company needs and wants.”
You said it again – there are so many possibilities. To what extent can Microsoft 365 be customized?
“I always recommend using the package as it was designed to be used, wherever possible. Go for the standard approach. Experience has taught us that Microsoft won’t provide much support if you run into issues with ‘alternative’ implementations. So we take this into account during the design and implementation process. We keep the number of ‘tweaks’ to a minimum, and we stick to Best Practices wherever possible. That minimizes the chance of problems in the future.
It’s important to realize that you need to follow the route recommended by Microsoft. If you want to get creative, then you can – that’s your decision. But if Microsoft decides to take a different route, and as a result your creative solutions are no longer workable… there’s not much that you can do about it. It’s crucial to be aware of that if you want a robust and cost-efficient system.”
So that’s one thing that needs to be taken into account. Are there any other drawbacks or important considerations?
“Hmm… Well, it might seem obvious, but with M365 you are largely dependent on an internet connection. That’s not usually a problem here in the Netherlands, but it can be an issue in international projects. We sometimes work on global implementations that include locations in India, for instance, where internet connectivity is less stable. That can lead to issues.
In addition, as I said, it can be difficult for end users to keep up with the changes. Especially if too many new applications are introduced at the same time. If you want to save and share a document, should you be using Sharepoint, Teams or OneDrive? Things can go wrong without clear guidelines, which is typically something that we look at right at the outset.
And that’s exactly why you can’t see switching to M365 purely as an ‘IT project’. Microsoft doesn’t take care of design and integration – the implementation process. Users need to arrange that for themselves and that requires knowledge and insight into how the product fits into the organization and its processes. That’s the added value of a transition manager.”
In this series of interviews on Modular Digital Transformation we are highlighting a new theme every week. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be focusing on CIO as a Service and User Experience Monitoring (UXM), among other things, and we’ll also be taking a closer look at the different integrations and applications for Microsoft Teams.
Modular Digital Transformation
This is the second part of a series of interviews on Modular Digital Transformation (MDT). MDT is our way of making digital transformation more tangible: we split it up into smaller themes, such as blockchain, big data and RPA. These stand-alone modules allow you to focus very specifically on one aspect of digital transformation.
Previous articles in this series:
- Just a small slice of digital transformation for me…
- Getting Microsoft Teams up and running ‘a.s.a.p.’: every IT manager’s dream – or is it a nightmare…?
Would you like to know more about digital transformation in general, or one of our specific modules? Then why not get in touch with Gert Veldhuis at firstname.lastname@example.org or on (+31) 085 – 487 29 01.
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