Over the last 12 to 18 months, the concerns that business and IT managers voice when they think about the cloud have changed. It used to be that people thought the cloud was a security risk and you should never trust it with any sensitive information or business-critical applications. We don’t hear that as much anymore. Some slow adopters, companies that don’t often use new product categories or disruptive business models, may still feel that way, but the understanding of cloud security has changed for most everyone else.
Security and cost savings no longer prime concerns
When businesses are considering Microsoft Office 365 today, most of them recognize that Microsoft has created a global infrastructure with hyper-converged data centers and layers of physical and digital security that most companies could not research, design, create, and manage on their own. On the Microsoft cloud, this is part of your subscription.
The idea that in the cloud your data is mingled with records belonging to other businesses has also fallen by the wayside—it’s a wrong assumption. With Office 365, your data and applications are private and discrete as well as secure. You still must use it securely and implement systems and policies to secure access to your applications (and Microsoft offers add-ons for additional security enhancements), but the rest of the security is handled by Microsoft.
Most decision-makers we hear from have also abandoned the notion that taking computing to the cloud is purely a cost-cutting move. Businesses know that monthly, reasonably priced subscriptions that reflect their actual use of resources are more manageable. It helps that these subscriptions are generally more economical than hefty upfront investments in software licenses as well. They welcome this aspect of the cloud, but it’s not its primary benefit.
Addressing productivity goals with cloud software
What matters most to companies is how Office 365 in the cloud helps them resolve their business problems. In Office 365, they are considering a new technology that involves a different way of working, and they need to understand its value for the organization. Maybe they want to give people better access to information, make it easier to collaborate, or give some external organizations access to some of their data. They often have goals for empowering their users and managing change. Office 365 can be instrumental in realizing such ambitions.
For one thing, Office 365 in the cloud makes available all applications and communication tools that we use at work. It also relieves anxieties about where to store and how to manage data and files. We can focus on more essential concerns, like the strategies and outcomes that drive our collaborations and communications. When companies want to talk to Sikich about Office 365, they are mostly concerned about getting from the current state of the business to a more productive, connected organization. They want to make process and organizational changes smooth and non-disruptive.
Creating new, better ways to work and connect
Those interests usually make for rewarding assignments for our consultants. In Office 365, enterprise-level capabilities come to smaller organizations that want to keep technology affordable. They enjoy the positive differences they experience. For example, they can access and share files from anywhere, not just at the office. Mobile users, people working from home, and their colleagues at the office can be equally productive, setting up meetings and shared workspaces as they wish. Instead of mailing attachments and then laboriously reconciling everybody’s input, they save files to a folder or document library on SharePoint Online, where everybody can make tracked changes in the same file, clearly seeing others’ contributions.
Many of us have worked in a desktop-centric manner for years; cloud collaboration may not sound like a great idea until we try it out and see that it’s more efficient and productive—and fun. There are many good reasons why, of the roughly one billion Office users working today, about 100 million have adopted Office 365. Their number is increasing quickly.
In addition to productivity and collaboration goals where Office 365 can make a big difference, there are certain thresholds where taking to the productivity cloud becomes the best next step. For some companies, that happens when their current servers age and they need to weigh the costs of replacing them—largely maintaining the status quo—against the much lower costs, combined with productivity enhancements, in Office 365. We see a wave of Office 365 transitions right at that juncture.
If you want to discuss cloud and Office 365, please contact us or register for our upcoming strategic IT webinar mini-series in September where I will take 30 minute short minutes to interview strategic IT advisors on some important cloud topics.