Productivity and Collaboration Tools in 2019: Microsoft Office 365 Will Continue to Dominate

As a principal consultant at Doculabs, I spend most of my time helping our clients find better ways to work even though they are buried under a mountain of digital information.

In 2018 we saw continued rapid evolution of the ECM market.

The enterprise collaboration market isn’t new; it’s been around since the early 2000s, but it has evolved at a snail’s pace until the last few years, when Microsoft raised the stakes with its Office 365 suite. There are many choices for collaboration platforms, but I’ll be direct: Microsoft dominates the industry.

Google’s G Suite Enterprise is gaining momentum in small and medium size organizations, but still significantly lagging in large enterprise.

Box, which may initially seem as a misfit in a discussion about enterprise collaboration suites, has some compelling capabilities that differentiate itself from the two giants and for many organizations may be the perfect enterprise collaboration option.

Much of 2018 was spent on migration to Office 365.

Most of my time In 2018 with clients (typically large financial services, insurance, and energy industries) was spent helping them prepare for a proper migration to Office 365, often from roadmaps created in 2016 and 2017. 

We worked with clients to narrow down the data to be migrated by:

  • Defining plans and workstreams for content discovery and analysis, and
  • Flagging the dupes, outdated, and junk files so that they were not migrated.

We also focused on how to make data more discoverable and usable after migration by:

  • Classifying content, and
  • Adding useful metadata, so that they could be easily organized (and found through search).

New functionality, interfaces and integrations will continue to appear in Office 365.

The pace at which Microsoft moves is swift. New functionality, interfaces, and wholly new applications appear seemingly out of nowhere— especially for those who don’t keep an eye on Microsoft’s release roadmap. Microsoft is not the only player in the market, though. Google and Box.com are expanding their offerings to better appeal to enterprise customers.

But unlike Google or Box, whose products work together by original design, the Office 365 solution consists of dozens of applications and services that were never conceived to work together—at least in name. (Some even predate the turn of the century.)

In 2018 however, Microsoft improved the integration of its products, using SharePoint as the foundational repository for OneDrive, Teams, XYZ, and of course SharePoint itself. I expect that Microsoft momentum to improve product integration will continue in 2019.

Information governance capabilities are improving in Office 365.

A major barrier to the full adoption of Office 365 by highly regulated companies has been the ability to manage the information lifecycle of content, a task reserved for legacy collaboration monolithic systems, such as FileNet and Documentum.

Microsoft’s recent visible efforts to improve capabilities for Data Loss Prevention and Electronic Discovery, and addition of consolidated administrative interfaces (they used to be separate) instills confidence that Microsoft is on the path to total enterprise domination.

In 2019, expect more of the same from Microsoft, and some of the unexpected.

Including better information management, here are the areas where we think Microsoft will improve functionality in 2019:

  • Improved capabilities for data loss prevention and electronic discovery (see above).
  • Telecom and conferencing capabilities within Teams.
  • Voice interaction services for many of collaborative applications.
  • Artificial intelligence and Graph capabilities that will help the user find the answer (or find an expert with the answer) faster and more accurately.
  • Process automation and chat bot functionality, which taken together will reduce the need for keyboard-and-mouse input for a given task.
  • The addition of mega menus, drop-down interfaces triggered by the user hovering over a link, in SharePoint (and hopefully elsewhere) to improve overall usability.

In 2019, also expect the introduction of other, non-traditional applications.

In the past two years Microsoft worked on StaffHub and Bookings applications for employee management and customer scheduling. It’s not inconceivable that time management, travel expense submission, or other related operational solutions will become a native part of the Office 365 suite.

Coming up in my next post: A deeper look at the Google and Box challenges to Microsoft in 2019.

Best Practices for Setting Up Office 365 SharePoint Online

Rich Medina
Jeff Phillips
I’m a Principal Consultant, specializing in strategies for using ECM tools such as Microsoft Office 365 for information management.