Wait on Office 365 Before Deciding Whether to Buy a Separate Records Management System

A version of this post originally appeared in CMSWire.

You should wait to see if Microsoft will provide additional information management capabilities in Office 365.

It’s no secret that so many organizations are adopting Microsoft Office 365. That’s all well and good, but I advise you to wait on Office 365 before deciding whether to buy a separate records management system. The logic goes something like this: Let’s say you’re trying to decide how best to implement a system to manage your electronic records. Rather than spending six or seven figures on software, then another six or seven figures implementing it, and then taking the time to get it fully functioning, why not wait and see just how the capabilities of Office 365 will develop? Deploying a new system and getting it up and running take 18 to 24 months from start to finish. Chances are, in those 18 to 24 months, Office 365’s capabilities will evolve to a “good enough” (if not higher) level compared with whatever solution you may have bought.

Try to keep your application portfolio smaller, more manageable and more sustainable.

In this case, the wait-and-see approach could save you a lot of money and effort, and it would keep your application portfolio smaller and more sustainable. This same thinking applies not only to electronics records management, but also to a wide range of domains, from collaboration and document management to end-point security, identity and access controls, data loss prevention, e-discovery and file analytics.

If you wait, you can postpone expense on additional software.

You might be thinking, “What if Office 365 doesn’t evolve to provide the capabilities I need in 18 to 24 months?” I admit that’s a risk, but it’s a risk that's worth taking. If Office 365 still does not offer what you need within the next year or two, you still will have saved the time and money you would have spent deploying a third-party electronic records management system. On top of that, the available systems for managing electronic records—and other related information management functions that you need—will have matured enough in that same time frame that you’ll likely get more for the same money and effort. Deployment may be faster and present you with less risk overall. That’s maybe why I’m seeing Fortune 1000 companies adopt a “Wait-and-See” approach to combining Office 365 with other information management systems, such as managing electronic records, collaboration, file analytics, etc. Read my related post, Office 365 Is Becoming a Complete ECM Solution.

Three approaches to analyzing existing technology portfolios vis-à-vis Office 365.

But the way many of these companies are carrying out their wait-and-see game plan is anything but passive. To the contrary, they actively and aggressively analyze their existing technology portfolios to find the following:
  1. Areas where Office 365 already provides good-enough capabilities to allow them to sunset other information management-related systems (and recoup those costs).
  2. Areas where Office 365 may not yet provide good-enough capabilities, but there’s reason to think that the Microsoft platform might do so in the next 18 to 24 months.
  3. Areas where Office 365 won’t provide good enough capabilities in 18 to 24 months, either because those capabilities are not a strategic direction for Microsoft or because Microsoft won’t be able to develop these capabilities to a good enough level in that time frame.

In the first scenario, companies are moving to Office 365 immediately. In the second, they’re adopting the wait-and-see approach I’ve been describing here. And in the third approach, they’re actively evaluating options outside of Office 365, which include third-party systems. There are no standard answers here. The key driver here is to analyze which capabilities are present right now in your portfolio. Hopefully the main contours of how organizations approach enterprise Office 365 forms a part of their larger portfolio management strategy. And, hopefully, you can take these ideas back and help your organization chart a clearer, more deliberate course through the future unknowns of Office 365.

Best Practices for Setting Up Office 365 SharePoint Online

Rich Medina
Joe Shepley
I’m VP and Practice Lead, focusing on developing Doculabs’ InfoSec practice and its applications in a wide range of industries.