Updates to Office 365 are coming thick and fast, and there are fantastic new tools being released almost every month. Office 365 Groups, Microsoft Teams, Flow, PowerApps, Planner, Delve, Flow, Yammer… so many tools to look at and figure out how to use in your company. With so much to choose from, it’s good to take a step back and look at why Microsoft are releasing these products, where they see the vision for business software, and how this fits into a real enterprise.
Three Pillars for Office 365 – Security, Intelligence and CloudAt Microsoft’s Ignite conference this year, there was much talk about the three pillars – Security, Intelligence and Cloud. In fact, Security and Cloud are very much the means to deliver on the middle pillar – Intelligence. By running IT on cloud servers, the opportunity arises to create hugely sophisticated, joined up services, where every person and every application is communicating and sharing data.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella discussing the future of Microsoft Cloud at Ignite – http://bit.ly/2fXj963By adding clever ‘learning’ technologies, your computer can actively help you to do your work better, rather than being just a machine waiting for your instructions. A powerful example of this is Delve, the search tool that is powered by the Office Graph. While you are going about your normal day-to-day business using Office 365 – sending emails, Skyping with colleagues, sharing documents – the Office Graph is building up a picture of what you do and who you communicate with. This is then used by Delve to give you highly focused search results when you’re trying to find information – far better than any free-text search could possibly give. This then drives ‘Tap’ in Word and Outlook: if you are working on a document, you can quickly find related content in other documents, even tables and graphs that might be useful to what you’re working on.
More and more Apps are being added to Office 365With Flow and PowerApps, you have the ability to join together the various tools that you use – creating workflows to pass data between your CRM tool, Outlook, Excel, SharePoint – even sending notifications and text messages to your phone.
So how does this fit in?So why this proliferation of Apps, and how do these fit into your organisation? There are two distinct routes for people to go down when planning their IT environment using Office 365. These can broadly be divided into ‘Structured’ versus ‘Unstructured’. The Structured route is represented by SharePoint Online. SharePoint gives your organisation a platform to store documents that can be planned, organised and carefully managed. Think of a traditional library – every book on the correct shelf, properly indexed, checked in and out, calm, quiet, organised… Workflows can be added to remind people that a policy needs to be updated, or to ask for approval of a holiday request. We work with a lot of organisation that have built up very impressive SharePoint Environments, with everything really well planned and managed, and where everybody knows where to find particular pieces of information. The ‘Unstructured’ route is represented by Office 365 Groups. Here, as with Microsoft Teams, the emphasis is on quick and easy self-service collaboration. The tools are much simpler and less customisable, there is little high level structure, administrators have little influence on what users are creating, or how things are organised.
Planner – example of a great new ‘Software as a Service’ App from Microsoft