Office 365: It Takes a Plumber

Lane Shelton

Office 365 is new territory for Microsoft. It’s a transformational move at the center of their productivity stack. Tried and true products like Office, Project, and Visio are being transformed into online solutions. Right now that’s a mix of in-the-cloud and on-premises, what some call “software plus services.” But the reach is extending beyond the center: now there’s CRM online, Visual Studio Online, SQL Power BI, Microsoft Azure, Azure Active Directory – and the list keeps growing. We all know how that’s affecting the licensing – shifting from “I own it” to “I’m pretty much renting it, forever and ever.” That by itself is a tough choice for many customers to make, and requires careful and thorough due diligence. And while I won’t detail this today (really), I want to remind you to talk to us about our Microsoft License Optimization (MLO) process if you’re struggling with it – we can help.

As promised, licensing, and financial aspects of O365 aren’t what I’m writing about today. Today I’m playing “Super Mario” and I will actually talk about plumbing. Seriously, that’s the best way I know how to describe the other half of the O365 decision. Office 365 not only transforms the way you buy, it also transforms the way you consume. With O365, the traditional methods of deploying and using these solutions also get a makeover. Here’s why: every user needs a cloud identity to use O365. Hmm…

Will you do that manually, synchronize, or federate with your Active Directory to provide single sign-on? Will you require multi-factor authentication for extra security? How will you deploy and manage Office – will you use “Click-to-Run” which basically lets Microsoft’s cloud handle everything? Will that work if you have line-of-business applications that are dependent on Office? Do you want to maintain control of updates? Because there are no more upgrades with O365, just frequent builds that are pushed out automagically. I personally use click-to-run (don’t tell IT because they would freak), and this new button magically showed up in Excel one day that wasn’t there before, and it was a very useful feature. Usually new builds make things better, but just recently Microsoft did something with SharePoint Online that seriously disagreed with my corporate proxy settings. What’s worse, I can’t change it, and my vital custom-lists simply disappeared in IE 11. But voila, they still show up and work fine in Google Chrome. Cloud has an exciting element of mystery and from time to time surprise, so you need to be prepared to deal with it. With Office 365 there are new pipes to lay, connections to make, new data flows, it goes on. And there you have it, ta da, plumbing!

So where do you begin? Please try to resist the pictorial stereotypes of plumbers, as they provide a much-appreciated service, and you won’t need a wrench or the knowledge to sweat pipes. We’re here so you don’t sweat your O365 experience. When we started our serious conversations with customers around O365, we noticed a pattern. There was so much focus on the licensing and finance jungle that the plumbing never seemed to get the right amount of attention. The outcome? O365 would spring leaks when it came time to actually start using the pipes. So we invented the Office 365 Online Readiness Assessment to help customers plan for the plumbing. It’s a complimentary no strings attached tool you can access at your leisure. And we built it ourselves, based on our time in the trenches.

Here’s how it helps. There are a few key areas you need to start thinking about, and our Assessment addresses those areas and gives our experts the data necessary to help you build that leak proof plan. That’s how the assessment works – once you complete the “Essentials” bits – we can actually begin with just that information. But we’ve also included sections around cloud identity, selecting the right set of features for Exchange, SharePoint and Lync, and planning for the new Office 365 Pro Plus.

Fill out as much as you want, hit submit, and three things will happen:

1) One of our O365 plumbing specialists will contact you live and work with you to transform that Assessment data into actionable intel to help you make the right O365 decision.

2) You’ll get a copy of our new e-book “Use IT: Office 365,” which is jam-packed with screenshots of the O365 portal and step-by-step instructions on how to set things up. We wrote this guide to showcase the same steps we used to set up our own O365 instance, and updates will be available as we add to it.

3) You’ll get a copy of the Assessment via email. When we’re done, you will have a firm grasp of the issues, and a plan in place for how you’re going to deal with them.

So with a little plumbing help, you can be on your way to a stress-free O365 adventure. Okay, there may be a few surprises, but that’s what we’re here for.

If you’re thinking about Office 365, we recommend taking our Office 365 Online Readiness Assessment. This template was designed by our experts to answer your question: “Is my organization ready for Office 365″? Start Now!