MD’s Business Blog: What to do with Office 365?


Another day, another Microsoft conference. The flavour of today is AI. A superb technology with so many amazing applications.

The thing is, most companies are so far off having time to think about AI, impressive though it is.

There’s a journey that companies are on with IT. IT is changing rapidly (will it ever not?) It’s gone full circle from having simple desktop machines with all of the major processing happening on big arrays of servers, to powerful PCs on every desk doing lots of processing, back to  arrays of servers doing most of the work.

Except this time round, the servers that are doing the processing are massive.

Why do we love Office 365?

Imagine a global IT company turning over 100 billion pounds a year running your servers, providing you with insights into your business, analysing your performance, protecting your sensitive documents.

That’s what you get with Office 365. And that’s why we love it at AMT Evolve.

The thing with Office 365 is that it looks after the smallest company with the simplest of requirements, up to mega-companies with hundreds of thousands of global users. In fact, Microsoft doesn’t just look after the smaller guys, it gives them exactly the same tools that it gives the big guns.

I was talking to SAP today. I was asking them about their pricing model. “We’re not the cheapest” he said. Hmm, I sort of knew that. They do have ‘small-medium business’ system now, because they remember where they come from. But it really is a lite version,  without piles of functionality available to big corporations.

Office 365 is different. You can buy an Enterprise plan for £17 a month, add on Power BI and CRM, and you have access to world class tools to help you run your business, with as much storage as you’ll ever need, and enough processing power to do anything you can imagine.

This is why we love it. We can work with our clients at whatever stage they’re at, using lessons we’ve learned at hundreds of other organisations.

A lot of our clients have just made the move to Office 365 and are beginning to work out what it can do. We spend time with them showing them what’s possible, making the first steps, educating and exciting them (ok – not everyone gets excited about IT….) about new ways of working.

For some clients, moving key documents to the cloud in a controlled way, using version control and being able to co-author Word and Excel is a revelation, and improves their lives no end.

For others, we’re working with them to build complex business systems that pull together people from across many sites, tracking processes and making sure that people have information they need, when they need it.

When I first went into business 20 years ago, my vision was to use internet technologies to help companies do business better. I was spending a lot of time writing web apps and SQL Server databases that would allow people to share information with each other across the world. Servers, hosting centres, replication, redundancy, backup devices, firewalls, late nights in server rooms in Docklands – this was all part of what it took to deliver web-based services back in the day.

Life is so much simpler now.

Microsoft (other vendors are available) do the hard work for you. Need to create a secure login to your app? No problem. Office 365 does it. Need to make sure your database will keep running when you hit peak season. No worries. Azure has that covered.

All of this means that us techies can concentrate on making life better for end users. Adding value, rather than fighting fires. Being creative, not creating blockages. Working right at the heart of the business, not being separate.

I’m so glad I’ve stuck with Microsoft over the years. Yes, they can be frustrating. No, they might not have the best technology everywhere. But blimey, once they have a vision, nothing will stop them from achieving it.

Their vision has always been ‘Microsoft on every desktop’. Today, that means that every desktop is joined together, supported by the whole weight of Microsoft’s infrastructure.

AI is awesome. Companies that invest in it will reap huge rewards. But if you’re not quite there yet, you can get big benefits by starting the journey wherever you’re at and starting to engage with all the cloud has to offer.

Colin Thorpe is Managing Director of AMT Evolve

He has been working with internet technologies for 25 years, and really hates admitting he still finds it fascinating.