It is now a simple truth that the Microsoft 365 platform is mature, secure, stable, and here to stay.
While it is clearly desirable to move away from the costs and constraints of on-premises infrastructure, the journey to Microsoft 365 is one that can be tricky to navigate by yourself. Whether your organisation is making the move by choice, or through necessity, it pays to be informed about the best route to take.
Over the course of multiple engagements with public and private sector customers, my team at CompanyNet has learned some important lessons. So if you want to make informed decisions about moving to Microsoft 365, read on…
Playing the long game
Many organisations kick things off with a short-term implementation and migration plan, but it’s essential to plan for the longer-term impact of the move, too. Those who take the leap into Microsoft 365 quickly discover that managing a cloud service is quite different from managing an on-premises IT estate/service. Moving to Microsoft 365 is much more than just a technology change; it requires a shift in mindset, and a cultural shift across your organisation – one that many organisations struggle with.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Technical partners like CompanyNet are proficient in providing cloud services that enable you to make the transition, and to go on sustaining that transition. We always recommend thinking strategically about how you will resource the unique challenges that present themselves when migrating to the cloud.
Change and adoption
Even the most well-managed technical cloud project requires thought and planning beyond the stated project end date. Change is constant, and new demands from the business to do more with your Microsoft 365 platform will inevitably arise. Equally, gaining real benefits from your M365 investment means you must maximise the number of staff using, enjoy and exploit the productivity tools deployed.
You should expect to experience change and adoption drivers coming from your organisation during, and most certainly after migration to Microsoft 365. Sustaining the momentum of change is critical, and this can only be achieved if you have foresight of what’s on the horizon.
Keeping things ‘Evergreen’
On top of change and adoption drivers coming from within your organisation, the fact that you are moving to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform means there is also constant change coming from the platform itself. Microsoft 365 sees new workloads introduced every month, and existing tools are constantly being changed, improved, and sometimes even removed.
It’s now no longer a matter of deciding whether or not you want updates – rather, it’s being aware of what’s coming next, and being well-prepared to manage the change. Unlike on-premises IT systems, you can’t pick and choose whether you get the updates. There is occasionally a little flexibility to select exactly when the change will be applied to your tenant, but often this is out of your control.
Since your ability to control the change is limited, you have to carefully assess the impact on the end-user experience. Will you need to plan and carry out critical remedial activity? How will you communicate and managing the implications of the changes? These questions require a close examination of the roadmap for every Microsoft 365 workload, and an up-to-date understanding of the precise situation of the estate deployed within the organisation.
To that end, CompanyNet provides an ‘Evergreen’ service for organisations using Microsoft 365. Our team constantly monitors the Microsoft 365 roadmap, and – bearing in mind your business needs – identifies updates that will be relevant to you. Our staff will advise you on any vital updates or risks associated with ongoing Microsoft 365 change, and help you understand and mitigate any challenges. We currently deliver this service – very successfully – to several major public bodies in Scotland who have a maturing M365 estate. As a professional advisory service, it’s highly valued, and gives them advance notice of cloud platform change, so they can effectively keep on top of it.
As well as business change aspects, there are many different and new responsibilities to technically managing a Microsoft 365 tenant in the cloud, for which organisations like yours need to plan and resource.
To ensure good governance, your tenant’s Information Management controls and settings do need regular monitoring and revision by a competent and informed operator. These help to make sure your organisation is compliant with industry standards and best practices.
Microsoft 365’s cloud security is world-class, but security monitoring and remediation activities will also require constant attention. You need to be sure you are ahead of any potential external threats, as well as internal sensitive information demands in support of Freedom of Information requests or Data Subject Access Requests. If you have technical administrators, the CompanyNet team can train them to take on this burden, or we can also deliver this directly to you as a service.
In every Microsoft 365-based programme of change with which we have been involved, we’ve seen more advanced demands for services and features than the mainstream migration project scope is designed to handle. Often, these advanced use cases come with high-impact business case, and may push the capabilities of the M365 platform to the edges of its efficiency and effectiveness. This sometimes extends to the use of complementary tools and solutions.
We recommend that you don’t dismiss these enhanced service demands as a distraction to the main migration programme. Rather, they give you a chance to extend the platform and configure it to truly meet your business needs. It is perfectly possible to satisfy such requirements with a support service from a suitably skilled technical partner, who can provide continuous improvements and enhancements to Microsoft 365.
Your Microsoft 365 migration programme, like many others, will carry many hard and soft benefits for your organisation. The following are some of the benefits that we’ve observed our customers accruing from their own M365 programmes:
Productivity / Efficiency
The suite of tools that constitutes Microsoft 365 lets staff become significantly more productive. Time spent wrestling with disparate IT systems and duplicated information is greatly reduced, and can therefore be redirected to more purposeful work. Information silos are also reduced, so finding and searching for information becomes far more intuitive. Again, this leads to time saved for more useful work. Self-service capabilities built into M365 help streamline and speed up your organisation’s main business processes, which drives faster outputs. And, once M365 is up and running, you can begin to decommission any legacy on-premises environments, resulting in significant cost savings.
The costs of non-compliance with data governance can be very high. These costs – not just in potential monetary losses, but in terms of reputational damage – can be effectively mitigated through the application of Microsoft 365’s world-class information and data management controls and standards.
Explicit and tacit knowledge is the information that drives every organisation. Microsoft 365 will enable your organisation to better capture, share and exploit all forms of knowledge held by staff and stakeholders, which will only serve to speed up organisational processes and decision-making.
Risks such as data breaches and data loss are minimised thanks to the tools built into Microsoft 365.
Through the deployment of Microsoft 365, you will be able to easily create a modern workplace culture for true 21st-century information working. Staff will be empowered to work securely from anywhere, and at any time, with their outputs synchronised across devices and made readily available to themselves and their colleagues. Naturally, this dramatic and exciting culture change has to be planned for and managed, but as it starts to roll out, the empowerment is tangible, delivering multiple, lasting benefits to your employees and to the organisation.
Supply Chain Extensibility
Communicating and collaborating across organisational boundaries is typical for most organisations, but not always made easy or possible with legacy IT systems, where insecure and untraceable email tends to be the default mode of communication. With a well-honed Microsoft 365 programme, you can unleash opportunities for staff at every level of the organisation to easily engage with each other and with external partners, and to securely share information with any number of stakeholders, partner organisations and trusted third parties.
Being an informed customer
All in all, then, the move to Microsoft 365 is a vital one if you want to create a truly modern, truly secure workplace. Circumstances have meant that working remotely has now not only been shown to be possible, but is fast becoming an expectation of the 2020s workforce. Microsoft 365 enables this, but it’s absolutely vital to get it right.
I hope this article has helped explain some of the benefits of working with a trusted Microsoft 365 partner to achieve the best possible outcome from your M365 deployment. If you are interested in a direct conversation about what we can do for your organisation, me and my team at CompanyNet would be delighted to hear from you.