My background in IT is in infrastructure – Windows Server, Exchange, firewalls, networking, etc. I used Microsoft Office to type documents occasionally and to look at spreadsheets, so when Office 365 (O365) first came out a few years ago, I largely ignored it. It seemed to me to just be a new licensing model for Office to allow for subscriptions and some very basic online editing of documents. Others see O365 as simply cloud-based Exchange and email, when in fact most of the benefits of O365 are available even if you do not use it for email at all.
Office 365 has been generally available for a while and it is becoming clear that it is not just a licensing scheme, but actually an entire infrastructure for business processes and productivity. Although not an exhaustive list, following is a picture of many of the applications or “environments” available to me through O365.
While attending Microsoft Ignite 2016 (what used to be TechEd) I heard the statement that over 12 months they would be releasing over thirty new applications in the O365 environment. Some of these are high-level applications that have been released (such as Teams) and show up as an icon; others are still in beta or have been released as new or enhanced functionality in existing apps. Even if you knew what O365 was 12 months ago, that knowledge may not be complete now.
Also, many these applications, such as Planner and Teams and Stream, are not add-on licenses. It is very likely you already have access to many of these and they simply have not been enabled in the Admin interface.
In addition, Microsoft is serious about cross-platform usage. Here is a screenshot of many of the current O365 apps on the iPhone (in addition to some other useful utilities I have):
Sure, there are Word and Excel, but this is really just a small part of the usefulness of the O365 environment. Some of these have been talked about in past blog posts (such as Planner). What I hope to do over a series of blog posts is to address O365 from the aspect of someone who has worked in IT for a while but doesn’t quite understand the power or usefulness of the toolset that Microsoft is building. These posts will not be about trying to hype O365 – there will be no pictures of happy people using O365. This is about how it works, how it can be supported and how it can add value within an organization.
To that end, in the next few posts we will be discussing things that are under the covers to a large extent but are necessary to understanding how everything works together.
I also hope to shed some light on things that don’t work properly or can cause problems with integration into an organization. One topic that comes to mind is the uncertainty of backing up certain aspects of O365 and how this affects things like service level agreements and disaster recovery plans.
Next time we will discuss building block 1 for understanding the new O365 – Office365 Groups.