User-centric IT: future-proofing your business with Office 365

Blog by: Mark Wainwright, Enterprise Security Solutions, Adept4 - 22-Aug-2017

How many platforms and applications did you use for work today? Did you work on the move? Maybe you accessed your emails or called your colleague using your phone or laptop? For most of us, working patterns have changed dramatically over the past few years. The expectation is that we should be able to transition from one device to another with ease so that we can work where we want to, and work smarter.

New ways of working are now emerging that take this user-centric approach to the next level. The demand for more flexibility has seen collaborative working practices become more commonplace. Messaging and conferencing applications are being deployed that enable team chat, group email and online meetings so that colleagues can debate and resolve issues with multiple users simultaneously. And file sharing tools are providing greater visibility of co-authoring so that users can simultaneously access documents and data.

These changes have the potential to make the enterprise more responsive. But for many organisations this type of working seems unobtainable. Stuck with legacy infrastructure, hefty annual licenses and managing multiple versions of software, the IT team is often firefighting to keep the business operational. Sooner or later, software reaches end of life, is no longer supported by the provider, and the business is left with a barrage of kit that is costly to maintain and could even become insecure.

Costly strategy

The danger for many organisations is that they will continue to plough money into propping up this kind of IT infrastructure because of a dependency on existing working practices. This is a highly costly strategy in the long run with Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – calculated by assessing the costs associated with software, hardware, services, IT salaries, deployment and migration – continuing to spiral year on year. In addition, this reticent approach hamstrings the workforce and risks fragmentation with multiple solutions in use that make collaboration impossible.  Transitioning to a new platform has the power to cut costs and re-energise the business provided the enterprise looks at a futureproof solution.

Futureproofing your IT is all about removing the cost, resource and dependency associated with an inhouse IT team and on premise environment. This involves transitioning some or all of that infrastructure to the Cloud to automate many of the management processes associated with maintaining and servicing the IT infrastructure. Security patches and software updates can be issued automatically from within the Cloud even if the applications themselves reside on the endpoint, ensuring software remains up to date and new feature sets are enabled. Day-to-day management is no longer time consuming with access to administrative support and troubleshooting services. Plus the enterprise benefits from versatility of a cloud managed service, such as scalability.

Microsoft Office 365 is a great example in how organisations can transition away from a traditional on premise IT estate to a futureproof IT solution. Office 365 provides all of the heavy lifting off site, with software run and managed from Microsoft data centers, and is ideally suited to hybrid or phased migrations to the Cloud with minimal disruption. Research[1] indicates that 61 percent of midmarket and 93 percent of large enterprises using Office 365 use a hybrid or phased approach as opposed to a big bang approach because this avoids employee work shock and allows users to adopt ‘their preferred working style’. Because there’s a standardised suite of services on offer, adoption rates are better and utilisation tends to increase, improving collaboration and productivity due to user buy-in.

This user-centric approach is one of the core precepts of Office 365. For example, individual software licenses can be issued based on user need, enabling the administrator to ensure the user as access to the tools they require while allowing the business to keep costs under tighter control. Billing is on a per user license basis and service usage so its consumption-based rather than a flat fee. This type of flexibility also allows the business to work smarter, so as the business grows or there are peaks in demand, licenses can be added or deleted, helping the business be more responsive. Adding that kind of capacity isn’t an option with on premise due to costs whereas the same research[2] cited above suggests businesses using Office 365 achieve costs savings of 27 percent.

In addition, administrators responsible for sensitive data or who need to meet stringent compliance requirements can also use the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center. From here it is possible to carry out audits, monitor security and set parameters for industry compliance requirements. The administrator has visibility of actionable alerts, can manage mobile devices, set access permissions, carry out eDiscovery, set policies for data retention and archiving, and analyse reports. According to a recent Forrester Consulting survey, Office 365 saw a 6.8 percent reduction in compliance costs and a 10.7 percent reduction in time dedicated to eDiscovery using the Compliance Center.

Office365 also futureproofs the business by virtue of its inbuilt security offering which ensures the organisation is cyber resilient. In particular, Microsoft 365 (formerly Secure Productive Enterprise or SPE) which is applicable to Windows, Office 365, and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS), ensures the business is alerted to security issues with Windows Advanced Threat Protection, can control SaaS apps using Microsoft Cloud App Security,  can protect data using Azure Information Protection, and gain greater visibility and control over the environment using Office 365 Advanced Security Management. This comprehensive offering ensure the organisation has access to an enterprise grade security solution without the need for bolt-ons and Adept4 again complement this with the provision of Web filtering and Anti-Virus security services specifically designed to enhance the security proposition of Office 365. In addition, we also complement the limited support offered by Microsoft with access to our 24x7 support desk which is able to respond to your needs, is familiar with the nuances of your business and can rapidly flag and action requests to our inhouse experts.

Futureproof IT

Of course, the major issue with any IT investment is whether the software you’ve invested in will still be relevant in the future. Software is inevitably superseded by new versions or new solutions but because you are still tied into your old platform you can’t take advantage of it. However, a cloud-based solution enables the platform itself to evolve. Yammer is a case in point. Until September last year, Yammer was a standalone offering but recognising the value it represented to users as a collaborative social networking tool, Microsoft has since rolled it into it’s Office 365 solution as a default offering. Going forward, Office 365 will continue to make new applications available, protecting the enterprise and ensuring access to innovative tools to support business growth.

With virtual provisioning, patching and updating, the enterprise is no longer concerned with managing or retiring end of life or obsolete solutions. TCO is reduced and the business has access to software that allows its workforce to work more creatively. The issue then becomes one of instilling cultural change so that staff are encouraged to adopt these solutions and new ways of working. Understanding how these applications can be used to full effect is often the next step once the organisation has moved to Office 365. At Adept4 we can help train staff, explain new features and how your business can use them, and even customise applications. Your business can then begin to transform, extracting and sharing information across the business, improving the flow of data and communication, so that it not only responds to but anticipates change in the market.

[1] ‘Google Apps versus Office 365: Comparing the usage, adoption and effectiveness of Cloud IT’s power players’, 8 July, 2015, https://www.bettercloud.com/monitor/google-apps-vs-office-365/

[2] ‘Google Apps versus Office 365: Comparing the usage, adoption and effectiveness of Cloud IT’s power players’, 8 July, 2015, https://www.bettercloud.com/monitor/google-apps-vs-office-365/

Topics: Microsoft 365

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