Odds are: your organization is doing Office 365 wrong


Consider the very old parable of a group of blind men examining an elephant, as described by Wikipedia:

“The story of the blind men and an elephant originated in the Indian subcontinent from where it has widely diffused. It is a story of a group of blind men (or men in the dark) who touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement.”

The point, of course, is that without a complete picture of the elephant, each man formed strong opinions based entirely upon their limited, in this case tactile, experience.

Which brings me to Office 365 as a SaaS platform.

Although nearly all of the cloud industry excitement (and declarations of disruption) is generated by, for example, containers, serverless computing and blockchain, the truth is that for most enterprises at the moment, these are still distant – though very bright – stars. SaaS offerings such as Office 365 are penetrating the enterprise at a more rapid rate and offer transformative opportunities which, I’ve observed, are often lost for lack of vision.

For many companies, Exchange Online is the gateway drug to the cloud (along with Salesforce). And unfortunately, because of that ‘messaging’ fixation, this is where the platform stays in the minds of both technologists and decision makers. For others, it’s OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online that act as motivators.

In each case, whatever service acts as the ‘gateway’, imaginations, and plans, tend to stay stuck in a single gear seeing that service as the whole instead of merely a part.

What’s being missed is the potential for enterprise workflow transformation, built on Office 365, that fulfills the cloud’s promise of (among other principles) speed, agility and scalability.

If you’re unfamiliar with Microsoft Graph, you don’t understand the service’s true depth, machine learning elements and full potential for developers.

If you don’t know about eDiscovery in Office 365, you’re missing an opportunity to gain greater command and control over your data.

If you aren’t encouraging end-users to embrace mobile apps such as SharePoint‘s, you’re missing a chance to increase their speed of access to data.

If you aren’t leveraging Delve, (or worse, if you think it’s something your organization doesn’t need) you’re missing a truly powerful tool that can re-architect your org’s relationship to information.

Office 365 adoption has been growing at a brisk pace. This is good news for Microsoft and everyone who works with their cloud technology stack. That growth however, does not mean the platform reaches its full potential within the organizations that adopt it. Words like “migration” and “Exchange” show up prominently in recruiter descriptions while the actual keyword, ‘collaboration‘, almost never does.

This is more a problem of breaking old habits of thought developed over years of siloed experience with on-premises, enterprise IT (with all of the bureaucratic baggage) than it is a technology challenge.