Tech Review: Is Office 365 Right For My Business?
In the beginning, there was Microsoft Works.
I can imagine that the conversations leading up to the development and launch of Office 365 were quite interesting. There were probably two sides to the conversation, and it is a bit of the ‘chicken and the egg’ scenario about which came first.
Boring Microsoft Executive: “I wish there was a way that we could lock people into a more predictable buying pattern that meant that they gave us money for Office every month instead of every 3-5 years.”
Idealistic Intern: “Wouldn’t it be awesome if, for once, Microsoft had a product that just worked.”
I would like to think that it was the intern that was the driving force, but it probably wasn’t. Nevertheless, these are the two main arguments that you will hear about Office 365 – the always up-to-date, cloud-based productivity suite from Microsoft.
The good and the bad of Office 365
Office 365 was initially launched in 2011 to fit the increasing demand for flexible work teams requiring a cloud-based product with central administration. Based on the version chosen, it includes email hosting with the complete range of Microsoft Office productivity tools including Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and the ever-popular Excel.
As a standard business productivity suite, it is difficult to go past Office 365. Microsoft has hit the sweet spot of products features and pricing for an SME, which means that a business can now establish a consistent software base for their workforce with a cost-effective solution that can be measured on a cost per employee basis and removes a large amount of irritations in the workplace caused by incompatible products (Adobe I am looking at you!).
The downside of this means that the smaller teams, and larger teams, suffer. A startup organisation will struggle to include $20/month in their budget for software while larger businesses will find themselves paying roughly an additional 50% for the Enterprise version. It is good to see that Microsoft hasn’t lost their sense of humour there.
As mentioned earlier, Office 365 allows you to budget for a software cost per employee which conceptually is a bit of a change from how software costs used to be accounted for. For many businesses the good (and bad) part of buying software was that it was one-off cost (albeit a large one) and then you could try and make that software last for as long as possible before upgrading it. This caused endless problems for Microsoft, IT teams and for businesses that were prioritising cost-minimisation over productivity.
Office 365 is scalable – which means that licences are added and removed for staff as they come and go, with minimal fuss. In addition to this, each staff member can install Office 365 on five computers (including Apple devices) so they can have consistent access to work documents on SharePoint or easy access to emails wherever they are.
Will Office 365 work for your business?
Office 365 is an ongoing expense that businesses would not have included in the budget three years ago. And yes, the pricing strategy is unashamedly trying to lock you in to more regular payments.
It. Just. Works.
For most businesses.
What businesses does it not fit? Startups and micro-businesses due to the pricing, Apple-based organisations who may be more comfortable with Google Apps, and businesses that don’t use email and/or Microsoft Office products, if this type of business still exists.
What businesses will it be very useful for? Organisations with 5-200 employees that want to reduce their IT support costs over the long-term, businesses that have a flexible/mobile workforce or businesses that are sick of frustratingly-minor issues disrupting their organisation.