If you have yet to move from the traditional, on-premise offering of Microsoft Office, you are probably considering making a move to Office 365 in the New Year (If you are still on the fence about making this move check out my other blog on What’s New in Microsoft Office 2018). Moving to Office 365 is a great business decision as it gives you access to tons of collaboration tools, cloud storage, online office applications, added security features, and eliminates that pesky Exchange Server that keeps you up at night. Microsoft continues to roll out new features and apps for Microsoft Office 365 almost monthly. Small Business and Fortune 500 companies a like have made the switch to cloud email. If you have decided that 2018 is your year to make the switch, now comes the big decision… do you take this project on in-house or do you engage with a local partner?
While Office 365 is an amazing tool that will save you time, energy, and money in the long run, it is not without its hiccups when making the transition. This is why you need to engage a partner that does this every day and can make the transition as smooth as possible. Let’s explore some of these potential hiccups.
Email is extremely important to a business. Often, employees use email as a communication file server. People need email history for years, so they can go back and look at communications, find documents, contact information, etc. It is pertinent that all email data comes over, for every user during a migration. Any email data loss could result in a catastrophe and some very angry employees.
Another potential issue during an email migration, would be the email going completely down. If a business cannot send or receive email for any amount of time, it can result in angry customers, angry employees, and lost revenue. This is especially tricky when migrating from other email services and platform such as Gmail and GoDaddy.
Microsoft is known for many things, but clear cut and dry licensing structures are not one of them. Microsoft actually has dedicated Licensing Specialists who solely explain and procure licenses for companies.
Unfortunately, Office 365 is the same and it can be difficult to understand which licenses will work for your organization. Microsoft has Business and Enterprise level license types for businesses. There are over 7 license types to choose from and, at a glance, they all seem very similar. However, there are certain nuances that aren’t outright explained on the Microsoft Office site. For instance, if users need to access Office applications on a terminal server they must have Office Pro Plus or one of the Enterprise licenses. Certain license types are applications only, email only, or both. Additionally, some security features and storage can be purchased a la carte. As you could imagine, this can be very confusing. A partner can help guide you through the process of evaluating your business requirements and user needs to make the best decision.
Did you know there are two Microsoft Cloud environments? There is the normal cloud and there is also the Government Community Cloud (GCC). The GCC is a separate environment for government entities that must adhere to certain regulations such as FEDRamp. This can be confusing because customers can by Office 365 at a Government discount, but this does not put you in the GCC. You must work with an Agreement for Online Services- Government (AOSG) partner or directly with the Microsoft government team to do this. If you are in the wrong cloud environment it is a long and costly process to switch over.
Another reason to use a partner to select licensing is price. Microsoft has standard pricing on their website. However, some partners are able to offer discounted licensing not only for Government, Non-Profits, and Education but for corporate customers as well. Microsoft is a “partner led” organization so they give their partners the ability to pass along better pricing to their customers.
The worst part of any IT project is always introducing it to the end users and getting them to adopt it. People can be resistant to change, especially if it is a drastic one like moving from Gmail to Outlook. It is important to have a well thought out training and adoption plan. A partner can help you guide you on this path and also provide you with training manuals, quick reference cards, a formal adoption plan for 12-18 months after implementation, etc.
Another caveat that comes with implementing Office 365 is the amount of functionality. While the wide range of apps is a great thing, it can also be confusing to end users. Knowing when to use OneDrive and when to use SharePoint or when it is appropriate to post in Yammer or Teams is important. Also, knowing how to correctly use the apps and make the most of them will increase user adoption. Once users start to know and love the apps they will use them more and start to become more efficient.
In the world of cloud, users can pretty much use anything they want. Someone could be using dropbox and google docs and IT would never know. It is important to educate users to use these company wide tools for continuity and saving money.
Long Term Support
Any IT solutions implementation always hinges on long term support. It is important for any business to have reliable support after an implementation is completed. Having a Support Partner is essential because an IT staff cannot do their day to day tasks, strategic IT, and also support all end users. It becomes too much for one person. Also, as a business owner, it is important to have a third party that can support you in the case of internal turnover, absence, or illness.
You may be thinking “Ok, I will do this project in house and then find a support partner.” Well, you could do that however, it will take eons to get the level of support that comes from a partner that intimately knows your environment from a deployment perspective. A partner who did your deployment will understand the nuances of your environment, quirks/issues certain users have, etc. Stellar support is the crux of any IT project.
Know Your Limits
I have spoken with IT Professional and Business Owners who feel that migrating to Office 365 is a project that can be handled internally. Something that is extremely important to understand, personally and professionally, is your true skills and where your limits are. No person can know everything. IT Professional are often looked at as a jack of all trades role. However, when you take on a business-critical project that you are not completely comfortable with, the results can be disastrous. This is exactly why there are so many partners out there who have a few specialties. Think about it like this, if your Mercedes had an engine issue would you use a mechanic who predominantly works on Hondas and Fords or would you want a Mercedes mechanic? Its always better to go with an expert then try your luck with a novice.
It is important to know your limits and pull in a third-party consultant when there is a project you are not comfortable with. Ultimately, business leaders see this as a great quality and know that they can trust you to make the best decision for the organization.