I get asked the question “What are you working on these days?” a lot. Well, one of my responses is, that I spend a lot of my time of late having conversations with our clients around Office 365.

When I’m sitting across from clients with my extra-large earl grey tea with two sugars, the conversation usually starts with What and Why.  What really is Office 365 and why should we as a business even consider it?

Let me go over some of the most common questions I get during those conversations:

Will Office 365 put me or people on my team out of a job ?

Over the last few years, I’ve rarely seen people let go because they invested in a cloud solution. The roles those people played actually in most cases get elevated. What I mean by elevated is that a lot of those roles were reactionary/’fix it now’/’keep the lights on’ functions. Using the 80/20 analogy, those people were spending 80% of their time keeping a system alive; that’s it. Their job was to be sure Exchange didn’t die prematurely. Which of course meant the other 20% was spent on doing the rest of their job. If you think way back to when you were planning that Exchange project, you had grand dreams of doing some cool things. You had dreams of application integration, buying some add-in modules, things that were going to make Exchange and your business better. It’s hard to make anything better with 20% effort.

So with Office 365, I can flip those numbers around for you. Now those people can spend 80% of their time on making these products more effective in your organization. There is functionality, integration and productivity gains that can now be focused on helping drive the business.  You know, all the stuff you were supposed to be doing when you were hired. It’s so easy to get bogged down day to day in ‘keep it living’ mode. We just accept that it takes X amount of people to keep it alive.

Well, you have a chance now to make your business better; you have a chance to make your career better. If I can take all that 80% of ‘keeping it living ‘off your hands, if I can free you from ‘keep it alive’ mode; how could you help your business be more productive? What could you do with 80%?

Regardless of the application, most organizations only use 20% of their ‘out of the box’ feature set. The other 80% sits waiting for someone to have the time to map the business to the functionality to then drive productivity.

I’ve been in the same job for 23 years now, and rarely do I ever see a person get a raise for being the best ‘keep it alive’ role.  Raises and promotions come from helping the business make or save money. Unfortunately, most environments see IT as an expense, an assumed service. Until you and your team start flipping 80/20, those attitudes will not change.

I’ve seen the power that Office 365 has brought to organizations. I am in awe of how many people  I see who used to be fixers, now become business enablers.

Over the last many years we have seen organizations doing what they can to slash costs. They look at the entire business and see what they can get rid of and what they can reduce. At some point the business can no longer cut any costs. What they have is what they need to run their business.

The next step  is when a business asks, “If I can’t cut any more, what costs can I fix?” Looking at how you fix your costs is just as important as the process of cutting them. No one likes an unexpected bill. You come home one day and your furnace is broken, you need a new one. You can’t put it off, you need it, but you didn’t keep money around waiting for your furnace to break. Your business is in the same boat, they don’t always keep money around waiting for something in your server room to break.

How do I as a business get a guaranteed service for a fixed price every month? What CFO isn’t happy to have that conversation? That’s the kind of conversation IT needs to bring to the CFO or business owner.

Office 365 can help you get back 80% of your day to use your power for good, and your business can have a predictable service for a fixed cost. Sounds to me like a 100/100.

Will I lose Control of my email?

One of the things I really like about Office 365 is that you can choose to have a combination of configurations; what we call a hybrid. You can have a combination of on-premise and cloud based services with Office 365.

On one hand, you the want the reliability; so Office 365 will run all of your core services for you. On the other hand, you want to keep your email close to you; so Office 365 allows you to have an on-premise mailbox server to keep a replicated copy of all your mail. It’s local, it’s available, it could be part of your Disaster Recovery strategy etc.  If one day you decide you want to take your mail back on premise, severing the Office 365 tie is straightforward.

Many of our enterprise clients have an Office 365 hybrid solution .You can even have a user mix where some users or group members are in the cloud and some are on-premise. We have seen this work well for retailers for example, where user segments such as franchisees, contractors, partners, warehouse staff, or seasonal folks are hosted in the cloud, while corporate office users are on premise.

Office 365 allows you to scale up or down each month as you see fit. You do not scramble to size or scale your infrastructure. Office 365 is elastic.

Again, with Office 365 it’s not an all or nothing solution. It’s the power of choice.

What has Navantis done with Office 365 ?

At Navantis, we have moved our 400+ users to Office 365. We have a hybrid configuration which allows us the ability to integrate our internal systems and applications to our Office 356 messaging infrastructure.

We have seen benefits across the organization. Our own internal IT teams now have flipped their own 80/20 so now they focus on enabling our users, not keeping a rack of servers living. Our users now enjoy the entire suite of Office 365, which gives them a solid messaging suite accessible locally or over the web. This includes using web versions of Office functionality so they can work with the same tools and interface regardless of device.

Our own CFO loves Office 365 because our costs are fixed; no more is IT coming to him to ask for more hardware or software updates to support our system.

I love it, because it works 365.

We are working with clients of all sizes across Canada to move them into the 80/20 paradigm.

Do I just flip a switch and my mail is in the Cloud?

As much as we would love to make it all that easy, any migration to an on-premise or cloud service takes proper planning. Regardless if you go with an upgrade, a cloud, or hybrid solution, you must approach it the same way as you would run an on-premise project.

There is a Microsoft best practice approach to getting to your desired end-state. Too many players have jumped into the Cloud game and are making promises of the “overnight switch”. Your mail strategy isn’t defined like a drive-through service. In most organizations, mail is their number one form of communication.

The same level of experience is required to deliver a cloud solution as it does an on-premise. An experienced partner matters.

Want to chat more about Office 365?

I’ve just typed a lot about Office 365, and it’s certainly not the whole story. What I hope I have done is made you aware that Office 365 might be worth having a conversation about.

So give me call; let’s get together. Let me know how you take your coffee, I’ll bring my tea and we can have an Office 365 80/20 conversation.

To read more about Office 365 before we get together, here is a link with information and videos to get started: http://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/office365/what-is-office365.aspx