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Office 365: The Cloud Constellation

The old adage “the only thing you can rely on is change” is certainly true when it comes to Microsoft’s collaboration strategy. Here at SPR we absolutely embrace uncertainty and the unknown. The challenge provides a visceral excitement from the implied call to action. That being said, even we like to know what’s on the road map. Even if we know it’s more of a suggestion in the light of a dynamic, ever-changing marketplace.

Today, let’s discuss what we do know and why we are excited about it. Microsoft’s Cloud strategy keeps expanding and diversifying. Office 365 has been and continues to be at the vanguard of this cloud strategy and stands on its own as the collaboration platform of today and the future. At the heart of Office 365 has long been Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business (formerly Lync). The new kids on the block are Yammer, Delve and now Office Groups.

Exchange

Easily the most venerable name among the products listed here. Exchange has a history of being a collaboration engine unto itself. Within Office 365 it represents a bridge that spans not only a generation of platforms but, indeed, a way of thinking about collaboration. Email is still the dominant means of business digital communications on the planet. Exchange is not only email, though, it is calendaring and resource management. It is the time management engine for most organizations. It’s integration into Office 365 as a standalone product only deepens. You can respond inline to an email attachment by editing the document in question directly in its corresponding Office Web Application (Word, Excel or PowerPoint) and send it back to its originator. You can save directly to your local drive or within OneDrive for Business just as easily. The e-discovery center in the Exchange Admin portal allows IT administrators to work with legal and compliance teams to perform the necessary due diligence to protect the company from exposure.

SharePoint

Long the flagship product of Microsoft and arguably the main draw to Office 365, SharePoint remains the dominant communication and collaboration platform in the marketplace. With its evolution into the Cloud and resulting divergent evolution from the on-premises version of the platform, SharePoint Online provides an affordable and quick way for an organization of any size to begin collaborating in the Cloud in a robust and modern fashion. With its emerging hybrid capabilities to become the primary search location for both itself and the on-premises version, SharePoint Online proves to be a continuous innovator. With developments such as Power BI, we are now witnessing the democratization of business intelligence.

Yammer

When Microsoft performed the very public acquisition of Yammer many people were wondering what that deal held in store for Microsoft’s cloud collaboration strategy. For the most part, Yammer has become the preferred means of collaborating and interacting with colleagues external to your organization: clients, partners, vendors, etc. Yammer also remains Microsoft primary social network solution for SharePoint. With its familiar inline layout used in Facebook and Salesforce’s Chatter alike, Yammer provides a simplified user experience that allows the Enterprise to collaborate in a simplified, modern manner compared to blast emails and discussion boards. That is not to say email and discussion boards lack utility but a social experience such as Yammer provides a channel more appropriate for many use cases. Polling your organization for the latest proposal, following certain topics or people, staying up to date with the latest conversations occurring in your organization.

Office Groups

The new kid on the block. Office Groups, now available in Office 2016, provides a bridge between the venerable email client experience (Outlook) and more contemporary cloud-based and app-form of collaboration people have been becoming more accustomed to in their work life. Obviously displaying its roots in Groove (the product Microsoft acquired along with Ray Ozzie), Office Groups is a more decentralized form of communications and collaboration. Office Groups allows an end user to create a group in Outlook 2016, associate an email, with that group and provides the ability for a team to have conversations, share files and use a shared calendar. Office Groups is a great complementary tool to Yammer as it represents a more internally focused approach to team collaboration.

Pulling it altogether…Delve

Based on the underlying technology of Office Graph, Delve represents Microsoft’s continued preference for its cloud-based tools over their on-premises platforms. Delve provides a standard (read not customizable…so far) interface comprised of “cards”. These cards represent content from Office 365 in a security-trimmed matter that is algorithmically relevant to you. The intent being to present to you the content that matters to you right now. With the reported exponential growth of content within organizations such an approach can obviously help to surface people’s work in a meaningful way that reduces the noise and increases signal clarity.

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Sean Lawrence

Sean Lawrence

Sean Lawrence is an Evangelist - Portals and Collaboration for SPR Consulting.