Netscape was the dominant browser company at the beginning of the internet age – having achieved a reported 90% market share and market cap of $10b, but within 6 years went from 90-to-nothin’ – now all that really exists is some of the sourcecode powering Firefox. In what’s referred to as ‘the first browser wars’ Microsoft’s Internet Explorer achieved dominance and remains the de facto standard on many PC’s today, coming bundled with the Microsoft Office productivity software that’s been nearly universal in the business community for 20 years.
Turns out you already own that…
Now, we’re seeing clients use the Office 365 technology that they already own, SharePoint along with Azure cloud storage to transfer years and terrabytes of documents into a searchable, retrievable environment that works regardless of where it’s accessed, regardless of whether the user is on a laptop, PC, iPad, smartphone or whatever device. And the only additional cost is the amount of cloud storage that’s needed depending on the size of the information. They already own everything they need in Office 365.
Fast forward to today, Microsoft’s SQL Server has vastly improved Reporting Services including some really powerful tools such as PowerView, improvements on PowerPivot, and when combined with SharePoint, businesses are now developing dashboards, data analysis, pivot tables, and delivering them through Excel spreadsheets – meaning we’ve gone from a few analysts bottlenecking the data to anyone with Excel and SharePoint access being able to see information that’s relevant and timely. And who’s licensed for Excel, not just a few users – we’re talking about the entire company in most cases – but you can also secure who sees what data as needed.
So now, we’re seeing the elimination of proprietary BI systems, ongoing license and maintenance costs eliminated, and more users getting more actionable data. And it’s not limited to databases running on SQL Server, with the right integration, you can gather info from any database, plus with virtualization and cloud processing, we can apply whatever processing speed is needed to get the job done – and best of all, we already own the tools needed to expand our BI capabilities.
Collaboration and Conferencing
Once we’re up and running – we’re told about Lync -how we can now hold conference calls, demos and collaboration with Lync meetings. This was great. It seemed we lived on Go-To-Meeting, Citrix’s conferencing software – everyone in the company had a log-in and we were constantly doing customer demos, conferencing presentations, webinars and more.
But now we had Lync.
Day three of the last launch of Office 365 and we’re stable and running. Everyone’s getting email and seeing their calendars. Some of the folks even have their iPhones synced with Exchange. Life is good.
We schedule our first Lync meeting with several of the top managers in attendance. Well, it went about as well as everything else we’d tried the first time – which is horrid. We determined immediately that Lync just didn’t work. Fortunately, we could move the meeting instantly to Go-To-Meeting and away we go on our merry way – a memo came out later that afternoon stating we’d be staying with Go-To-Meeting for the immediate future.
Fast forward to 2013 – now I’m with a systems integrator with one of the top Microsoft consulting groups in the country (ok, actually we’re global – not to brag). Lync is amazing. We’re pulling together meeting instantly from all over the world – conferencing in our offshore development sites in Tunisia with clients in the states, collaborating from wherever and whenever. And we already own Lync – as part of Office 365 – we’re not paying for any outside conferencing service.
And here’s the kicker. My former firm, the guys who were too cheap to bring in qualified systems integrators to get the Office suite up and running – they are paying more every month to license Go-to-Meeting than it would have cost to do it right in the first place. Think about that one for a minute. They own Lync. They don’t use Lync. They spend money every single month paying for another system to do what Lync does, when they could spend that same amount one time and eliminate the monthly cost from here on out.
Simply, it comes down to, “After a few months of creating these myriad of virtual servers for a myriad of applications, exactly what servers have we created and where did we put them all?” Throw in a few multiple location companies, and a few multiple divisions that a single IT group is supporting and it can get very complex very quickly.
Virtualization has been an emerging technology for several years, again, a leader, VMWare has the majority of the market share. It’s really a lost cause trying to convince IT Managers to convert when they have so much invested in VMWare – but if you can convince them to TRY Microsoft’s Hyper V – we’re seeing about 3/4ths of those who’ve actually worked with it develop a preference for Hyper V – and again – they already own it.
Microsoft’s Server Center’s recent release has a couple of our customers deploying it for managing various cloud/hybrid/virtual environments, I promised only to talk about real world results – and we have early favorable reports – I can’t yet call it ‘results’.
The Catch, the Caveat, the Disclaimer
And with Office 365 there’s been a tremendous amount of progress. It’s great with BYOD and remote workforces – both trends that drive today’s workplace and create logistical nightmares for IT managers. Once you’re licensed for O365 as a user, you can install on up to 5 devices – so you have Office at work, on your smartphone, on your table, at your home office regardless if it’s Mac or PC (which marks the beginning of the end of that PCvMac discussion that’s been boring us to tears for the last decade – of course it’s been going on for more than a decade, it’s just everything that could be said was already said 10 years ago, we’ve just been repeating ourselves since).
But here is the caveat – Office 365 is an incredibly powerful platform with a lot of moving parts – you can do all these amazing things with it, but you can’t do it yourself. You need a qualified systems integration partner to make the bells ring and the whistles sing.
It’s nothing magic, it’s just that if you want to replace a Document Management system with SharePoint and Azure, you’re going to need someone who’s coverted terrabytes of data into a searchable, productive dataset with the security and backup you’ll need. And just like anything else, the first time you take on the project, you learn a lot, make a few mistakes and you learn more each time. Those teams that try this on their own are going to find those first-timer mistakes will affect user adoption, project rollout and the ultimate success or failure of the project.
What’s at stake is literally millions of dollars for the large enterprise – but the costs are there for the smaller companies as well. Just make sure you’re found the right partner to make your Office 365 project a success and you too, can eliminate tens of thousands of ongoing maintenance fees from the company slated to be the next Netscape.
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