The use of office products in business goes back almost three decades. Earlier versions of Microsoft Office allowed users to purchase products like Word and PowerPoint as part of a bundle. Things changed in 2001 when Microsoft introduced what was then Office 365 as one of its new cloud solutions. The service differed in that users could purchase the products on a subscription basis instead of buying the applications outright. Today, Microsoft 365 is one of the most popular suites of cloud business apps. The Office 365 adoption rate in the U.S. alone is staggering, with almost 900,000 companies using the platform. Does that mean it’s the right product for your company? Let’s look at some of the essential elements of Microsoft 365 and how they can impact the way your organization handles business processes and enable digital transformation.
What Services Come With Microsoft 365?
The services you receive with a Microsoft 365 subscription vary depending on the plan chosen for your business. Below is a rundown of all available services through a business or enterprise subscription.
Exchange Online is Microsoft’s hosted messaging solution that supports the delivery of emails, calendar functions, contact setup, and tasks from a PC, mobile device, or the internet. Businesses control what features they make available to users through an administrative portal. The servers support multiple end-users and are housed by Microsoft in datacenters accessible from a wide range of devices. Users can connect from a corporate network or through an internet connection.
Every Microsoft Office 365 subscriber receives a mailbox with a maximum capacity of up to 100GB, depending on your company’s plan. Other advantages provided by Exchange Online are built-in spam and malware filtering along with shared mailboxes.
SharePoint Online is a web-based version of the popular on-premises version. It allows company users to share, store, and manage organizational content for different business scenarios. There’s no need to install additional servers to support the application. The multifunctional application can be used to set up internal SharePoint sites, provide announcements about upcoming business initiatives, and manage and share documents.
Another nice feature of SharePoint Online is the ability to set up customized interfaces and templates for different business units. End-users can access SharePoint Online from any device with an internet connection, making it easier to collaborate with others.
SharePoint Online also includes advanced security features to authenticate users and keep unwanted visitors from accessing sensitive information. The web application receives regular updates, eliminating the need for the IT team to perform updates or apply security patches.
OneDrive for Business
OneDrive for Business is Microsoft’s cloud storage service that lets users connect to files from any device. Organizations can set up accounts for all business users to facilitate their daily workflows. Employees can store their files in an individual OneDrive location that keeps information private unless they decide to share it with team members.
The storage provided through OneDrive for Business is distinct from OneDrive. The business version comes with more enterprise-level controls that allow better security, integration, and automation. Organizations can integrate OneDrive for Business with other Microsoft 365 services like Exchange Online and SharePoint Online to collaborate on documents with other team members.
Microsoft Teams is a collaboration platform that replaces Skype for Business. It streamlines communications and allows for HD video conferencing. Users can send instant messages to others to get quick answers to business problems or confirm the place and time for an upcoming meeting. The messaging platform is suitable for enabling direct employee engagement with management.
Users automatically receive a SharePoint Online site with a default document folder. Any document shared within a Microsoft Teams conversation gets saved to that location. Administrators can customize permissions around the handling of sensitive data.
If your company wants to receive updates on new features, it can join the Microsoft Teams Technology Adoption Program. That gives end-users at your company the chance to try new capabilities before they’re rolled out for general use.
How Can Companies Manage Microsoft 365?
Administrators can control every functionality made available through the platform using the Microsoft 365 admin center. Authorized end-users can adjust the view to help them manage everyday workloads. Admins can reset passwords and add users from a centralized location. Essential components of Microsoft 365 administration include:
Microsoft 365 Portal — Provides users with access to web-based services and allows for management of Office application installations.
Azure Active Directory — Every business instance of Microsoft 365 includes an Azure Active Directory account to manage users and devices. The portal also allows admins to establish relationships with external organizations and local servers.
IT professionals can also set up multi-factor authentication (MFA) by using the Microsoft Authenticator app to generate one-time odes or push notifications to users attempting to use Microsoft 365 services.
What Are the Benefits of Microsoft 365?
Users receive access to essential Office 365 apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access. Below are some other reasons your organization might want to consider Microsoft 365 to support business services and provide employees with a modern workplace.
Supports Business Growth
Microsoft 365’s subscription model gives organizations flexibility in accommodating business growth. It’s easy to expand access as your company adds more employees. Microsoft 365 allows organizations to set up custom arrangements of business solutions that fit their needs. When a user leaves a company, businesses can remove the license versus continue paying for its use.
When a company needs to hire new workers, they can add an account without the need for IT to make changes to the entire system. Because there’s no obligation for companies to commit to a permanent license, they’re free to expand and contract services as needed.
Allows for Streamlined Collaboration
With so many employees expressing a preference for remote work options, accommodating those requests can help companies attract and retain top talent. Workers can use Microsoft Teams to collaborate from anywhere. Users can share and edit documents together via audio and video conferencing calls, making teamwork as seamless as if everyone were together in one room.
Even without face-to-face collaboration, Microsoft 365 services make it easy for employees to achieve a lot together. SharePoint Online allows teams to access the same documents when working on a project and upload information needed by others to complete business tasks.
Reduces Software Expenses
On-premises software requires IT professionals capable of maintaining servers to support the applications. Microsoft 365 removes that need by making all applications and services in the cloud. The subscription-based model means that companies only pay for software in use. Your business controls who gains access to applications based on their company role.
While your executives might require access to Office 365 Enterprise, you can make the basic version of Office 365 available to regular business users. Your business saves by not providing the same expensive tools to everyone in the organization.
Enablement of Business Intelligence
Office 365 apps work seamlessly with Microsoft Power BI. Users can import data from Excel and use it to glean the kind of insights that drive business decisions. It’s also possible to create reports containing visuals like charts and pivot tables. Presenting information in this form makes it easier for stakeholders to comprehend the insights.
Business users can also use Microsoft Power BI to create dashboards containing analytics piped in from various Microsoft 365 data resources. Office 365 has intelligence capabilities that offer suggestions on designs and layouts of digital presentations.
Ongoing Business Continuity
Microsoft regularly backs up the infrastructure supporting Microsoft 365 to help ensure that companies keep operating even in the face of a natural disaster. Information remains safe even if something happens to a worker’s device. The recovery features in Exchange Online make it possible for users to have their inboxes restored. Businesses can quickly get up and running once the initial disaster plays out.
How Do You Plan a Microsoft 365 Implementation?
Organizations should have a Microsoft 365 adoption guide in place before implementing Microsoft 365 for business purposes. Below are a few tasks companies need to have in their adoption plan to help with seamless end-user adoption.
1. Understand Why Your Business Chose Office 365
Write down why you decided to go with Microsoft 365 for Business over other platforms. Company leaders should have a clear vision of why they made the decision so they can communicate that reason to other stakeholders. Once everyone understands the reasoning behind the choice, your organization’s implementation team can start working through the installation details.
2. Create a project plan
Your project plan needs to cover topics like handling cloud MFA and integrating Microsoft 365 with other business applications. Pull together the numbers around what it will cost to make the services available to business users based on each subscription plan.
Think about what you’ll need to change or modify around servers, available bandwidth, necessary certificates, and new network components. Who in IT will handle initiatives for technical details of the installation.
3. Evaluate end-users
Come up with a list of all users who will need access to Microsoft 365 throughout the entire organization. Think about what version of Office 365 they might require for their business role. You also have to figure out how end-users will receive notifications about their new user account, password, and email account.
Other considerations include encouraging user adoption of Microsoft 365. Getting used to new technology is always a challenge. Strategies like encouraging early adopters to try out the software before the rest of the company help answer the “what's in it for me“ questions. The more users feel comfortable with Microsoft 365, the easier it will be to encourage expanded user adoption of the new platform.
4. Clean up your current environments
Make sure you have tools to clean up information in your current environment to help you synchronize data moving to the cloud. If you’re trying to perform a hybrid migration, make sure you have the technology to support moving business-related content and handle synchronization between different data environments.
5. Prepare alternative paths
One mistake that organizations often make is only preparing a “happy path” for migrations. Try to anticipate any issues that might arise and develop use cases to get around those obstacles. For example, how would your implementation team handle issues deploying Exchange Online because of access issues? Planning your response reduces the chances of extended delays around your Microsoft 365 deployment.
Explore the Benefits of Microsoft 365
If you think that Microsoft 365 could be a good fit for your organization, start thinking of a path forward using our Microsoft 365 Roadmap. We can also help your company employees get started with Microsoft 365 end-user training and guide your business through setting up an Office 365 adoption strategy.
Think Microsoft 365 is right for you? Take the next step with our Microsoft 365 Roadmap.