Microsoft has set out to build the best suite of online tools it can, investing billions of dollars into developing the Office 365 suite of products and creating cloud versions of each of their extensive range of products.
It was reported at a recent Microsoft event that they invested $9.5 Billion into R&D last year and 70% of that was on cloud solutions. This year they plan to invest 90% of their spend on cloud solutions, so they are pretty sure cloud is the future.
So with all that investment why do we keep hearing rumours of Office 365 not delivering on its promise?
To date, most of the complaints I have been exposed to relate to the complexity of setting the product up and the lack of training and experience of the technical or non-technical people setting it up.
That is not to say there are not limitations or technical issues with Office 365. It is not by any means a finished product or totally equivalent to its predecessor installed products such as Exchange; it still has features to be added and improved. However, the product should be functional when it is properly set up and I am not here to bag Office 365.
When we buy a new car we do not take our brand new car to a shabby mechanics shop full of cars from last century and ask him to tune it up and align the wheels or to do its first service. We take it to a dealership with factory trained mechanics for the first few years.
It’s not that the local bloke isn’t a good bloke; we just want to make sure our new car is looked after properly by people who have the right tools and the right training. If we really want to save money we might go to one of those franchise groups that advertise that they can do the service without damaging the warranty. But we keep to reputable providers to make sure all goes well.
Yet with new IT stuff we expect any geeky IT bloke will be able to give it a good crack and get it set up and running like a dream. It is time that business decision-makers woke up to the fact that IT is complex and new technology can be confusing for the smartest of IT technicians if they have not been properly trained and had some practise as well.
The most dangerous of IT people are the ones who are sure they can do anything with a quick look on the web for instructions. As our systems need to integrate more and communicate across platforms more and interact with other systems it becomes more important to get them set up right in the first place.
We are seeing some large jobs in untangling the messes created by amateurs setting up systems they do not understand. Sometimes these problems do not get reported to us but hundreds of hours of rework go into fixing up mistakes. This has a real cost either to your business or the IT guys business.
Until set-up processes are well scripted it takes a knowledgeable technician to configure it, making educated decisions along the way and correcting the things that go wrong to get it working at its optimum. Finding a supplier with scripted processes for new technology can save you a lot of time, money and distraction in your business.
We have had a pretty good run with Office 365 delivering to expectations for all but the most demanding of technical clients. It has had good uptime, delivery of service, security and speed. It has allowed people to work from anywhere and delivered new capabilities such as Lync for video communication and collaboration via desktop sharing.
For some clients it has freed them from having server infrastructure and for others it has allowed global expansion. We have seen clients use Office 365 to keep trading when the head office was flooded and we have seen clients liberated from desks in an office to work from anywhere.
I am also not one-eyed about the technology. There are still plenty of reasons why you would keep server technology or run a hybrid environment to ensure you do not lose functionality you currently use. Today there are adoption rates of between 2-8% depending on whose statistics and research you hear. Yet we have seen much larger adoption amongst our client set which tells me there is still significant opportunity for businesses to benefit from the shift to Office 365.
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If your Office 365 is not connecting properly or has not been configured properly, or your staff have not been trained to use it effectively, you may want to contact a competent Microsoft Certified Partner in your local area who really does know what they are doing with the technology. Only about 8% of the Microsoft Partner Community have adopted the cloud solutions to date so you do need to be selective about who you call on to get that help.
So, in short, Office 365 is probably not the problem when people are complaining about how poorly it is working, look to the configuration of the tool and seek expert assistance.
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that is known for solving business problems with IT. How can we help?