The humble Microsoft productivity suite Office 365 may not seem like the logical starting point for IT transformation – but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.
In the second of our series of blogs from the Tech Summit, Acora Enterprise Architect Dave Murphy feeds back on “the most interesting session on day 2” – Powering IT Transformation with O365.
The speaker from Microsoft was keen to present the monthly usage statistics for O365:
- Azure AD – 300 billion authentications
- Exchange Online – 200 billion emails for spam
- Office 365 – 70+ million users
- Skype – 110 million meetings
- Azure Storage – 265 Petabytes in use
What we can take away from this is that uptake of Azure and Office 365 is extensive. After presenting this, they took a few show-of-hands measures in the audience, asking who was using some of the other features – suffice to say, the evidence was that while people are using Exchange Online and Skype, hardly anyone is leveraging the other features that you get as value-adds in Office365. As a result, those businesses are missing out on a number of opportunities to drive their digital transformation agenda.
Enabling businesses to access, leverage and really start to recognise the value of these ‘free extras’ was the focus for the rest of the session.
Microsoft has identified four key areas where Office 365 can deliver more value for your organisation: Collaboration, Mobility, Intelligence, Trust.
In business’ today, employees work on nearly 2x as many teams compared to 5 years ago. This is indicative of greater collaboration between departments, between roles that didn’t interact until very recently, and also between generations of employees who probably have different methods of working.
As the boundaries between business units blur, your employees need tools that allow them to work more closely. The impressive uptake of Skype – 110 million meetings are held using the platform every month[i] – shows how Office 365 is already helping to bring people closer.
Staying on top of all the moving parts means equipping workers with the tools they need to manage their workload.
Office 365 provides Groups as a way to build a workspace across Microsoft technologies. Importantly, Office 365 adds context into the mix, allowing workers to more easily surface and work on documents and resources relevant to the task in hand.
[i] Figure quoted at Microsoft Tech Summit, March 2017
Office 365 also contains many of the tools and functions you need to help combat the rise of shadow IT. If your business is not supplying the tools and apps employees need to collaborate effectively, they will find their own – and you will lose control of permissions and data in the process.
Takeaway: Using centralised workspaces and groups, Office 365 gives your employees context-aware tools to work together more efficiently and effectively.
The speakers noted that they had a wide variety of devices on the stand at the front of the session including Microsoft, Apple Mac, Android, iPod… if they had done that 3 years ago they’d have been fired. Now, in the Microsoft new world, they want YOU to have the choice of device – they embrace what they call the “mobility of the human experience” (quote – Satya Nadeem)
The need for any time, any place access to corporate data has been further accelerating the rise of shadow IT – a report by CipherCloud claims that 86% of applications in use by corporations are unsanctioned[i]. Microsoft are working to resolve these issues, extending support for their applications beyond Windows devices to encompass Apple and Android too.
Rather than trying to replicate the Windows experience on every platform, Microsoft has been adopting the conventions of the host. The all new Outlook for iOS app takes its navigation cues from Apple devices for instance, making it more intuitive for users – and reducing the barriers to adoption.
[i] Over 1,100 Cloud Applications in Use by Companies, 86 Percent of Cloud Applications are “Shadow IT” – CipherCloud – https://www.ciphercloud.com/company/ciphercloud-report-identifies-1100-cloud-applications-use-companies-86-percent-cloud-applications-shadow/
Takeaway: Office 365 apps help you regain control of your mobile IT estate and boost uptake without compromising productivity.
The most powerful feature of the Office 365 platform is easily missed, mainly because it cannot be seen. The Azure platform that underpins Office 365 runs an incredibly powerful machine learning system in the background. This means you can apply the intelligence and analytics to almost any dataset.
For the user, this machine learning helps to surface information and resources quickly and autonomously. Outlook offers a focused inbox feature for instance, identifying the messages users need, and relegating other, less-important emails for action at a later time.
Similar functionality is available across the entire Office 365 suite through the Delve tool. Again, the tool automatically surfaces data, files and people that are relevant on an individual basis – whilst fully respecting security permissions.
The Office 365 platform also helps users work more intelligently. Context-aware tooltips provide bite-sized training ideas for instance. PowerPoint has also become more smart, offering the ability to automate slides and animation to reduce the time and effort required to build a presentation. Power users will also benefit from the advanced Business Intelligence (BI) tools that help them to unlock greater value from your data.
The brilliance of these machine learning functions is that they know what your users need to find, even when they don’t. And because Delve surfaces information users may not have been aware of, they are less likely to waste time and effort duplicating existing work.
Takeaway: New machine learning features help prioritise data and activities automatically to save time, effort and resources.
Trust and security
The CTO already knows the importance of security – and the complexities of managing the myriad systems your business needs to operate. According to Microsoft, Office 365 offers “privacy by design” – helping to greatly increase the security of applications and data stored in the Cloud.
To help ensure that you have complete control of your hosted assets, Office 365 and Azure provide complete transparency. End user activities are logged so you can report on how the system is being used, and to spot misuse early. This auditing is invaluable for proving compliance to data protection regulations and compliance frameworks.
Microsoft is also keen to emphasise that their machine learning systems exist purely for the benefit of their users. Unlike other Cloud providers, data stored in Office 365 and Azure is never mined for “analytics” or marketing – what’s yours is yours, and your privacy is respected at all times.
Takeaway: With privacy and security at the core of the Office 365 proposition, users and IT administrators alike will find it easier to protect corporate data without compromising productivity.
Office 365 gives your employees the tools they need to perform well, whenever and wherever required, helping to slow the spread of shadow IT – and the security headaches these unsanctioned systems create.
It has so many features and services that enable you to access, secure, analyse and deliver data to your users – many of which you are already paying for as part of your basic subscription. The key barrier to recognising these benefits is changing your users’ behaviour to enable the Machine Learning elements of the platform to analyse the data and surrounding user activities and processes.
The big advantage of O365 is that it doesn’t require you to transform everything through a large-scale project. It actually provides an open approach to external data connections, lending itself to an extended, non-disruptive migration of activities in bite-size, achievable chunks of effort, with each new element providing more features and opening the individual targeted dataset to new working methods and new lenses.
The catch here is changing user behaviour. And the Microsoft advice is to change the culture by changing the people you can – the power users, the people who you know will embrace the new methods, recognising their value and maybe even evangelising them internally – and let them help you lead the charge in the modernisation of your business’ IT platform.
To find out how we can help you leverage Office 365 tools to power IT transformation in your business, please get in touch.