When It Comes to Office 365, Look Before You Leap

It’s an exciting time in the enterprise information management business. As the decline of Big ECM continues and organizations focus upon their digital transformation initiatives, Doculabs is regularly being hired to help develop cloud-first strategies for our clients. But when it comes to Office 365, look before you leap!

At the center of it all is Microsoft Office 365. Until a few years ago, many of us dismissed it as nothing more than a web portal for accessing online versions of Microsoft Office applications, through the convenience of a web browser.

Office 365 is a vast collection of applications, a "hub" of enterprise content.

What a difference a few years make. For IT managers, the promise of today’s Office 365 has little to do with providing end users convenient access to business applications. Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and others are still there, but they’re just a small part of a vast collection of applications that have the potential to be the ultimate solution for the elusive “hub” of enterprise content.

But right now, tread carefully. Office 365 is a hot mess.

I’m astounded by how many of our clients have already committed to moving their organizations to Office 365 (this year!) after having conducted only cursory research.

Perhaps this is due to a residual perception of the product’s simplicity; however, the opposite is actually true. The motley assortment of Office 365 applications is mostly disparate, technically complex, and, most perilously, it is completely in flux.

See the “waffle” below, which is the primary menu by which users gain access. Look familiar? Probably not. That’s because the applications you see in that menu (with a few exceptions; I have administrator rights) are a part of every user’s Office 365 experience.

Updates to Office 365 can confuse users, especially with regard to information governance.

New applications appear regularly, and even the icons and colors change unexpectedly, as Microsoft makes updates. Users become confused. What are these new programs? Delve, Newsfeed, Yammer, Planner and Flow? When should I use what, and when? SharePoint, OneDrive, Groups? Where do I store the information I create, and how?

On the upside, the applications in that menu represent bold new solutions for information management, collaboration, automation, publishing and sharing. A hasty approach to deploying Office 365, though, could unleash a change management Armageddon and a fast path to your own decruitment.

Issues to consider when migrating to Office 365.

Over the coming weeks I will be sharing the lessons I’ve learned from early adopters who have tried to implement Office 365 and struggled or failed. I’ll address these topics:

  • Complexity. What capabilities will you gain, and which should you use? How can you avoid content sprawl, when so many of the applications overlap? What is the changing role of SharePoint? What tools are ready for prime time, and which ones should you definitely avoid?
  • Cost. Besides the a la carte licensing, what categories of costs should you plan for? What are the most common “surprise costs” that could derail your implementation? What skill sets are required?
  • Migration. What are the best practices for content assessment, remediation, and migration? What are some shortcuts to identifying junk, low-value, and risky content, to ensure it’s not migrated?
  • Compliance. What benefits or risks are associated with moving your content to Office 365? What concerns should you have about privacy and security? What policies will you need to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements?
  • System Rationalization. How can I use Office 365 as a way to reduce my on-premises footprint of legacy ECM, such as Documentum, FileNet, or OpenText? What types of information are best suited for the Office 365 suite of applications?

Office 365 has great promise for our organizations. As my colleagues will tell you, I’m very optimistic, but purposefully cautious. Hope you’ll tune in next time. Until then, look before you leap.

For a recent analysis of the progress made by Microsoft when it comes to Office 365, read my colleague's post: Office 365 Is Becoming a Complete ECM Solution.

See my related post: Office 365 Functional Overlap and the Speed of Migration and Office 365: Controlling the Uncontrollable.

To see how Doculabs can help you determine your O365 and ECM mix, read Making the Case for ECM, or contact us here.

Want to read more posts about information management and governance, sign up for our quarterly newsletter.

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