Microsoft is on a roll, the mantra of “Agile” is in place and Satya’s troops are delivering changes, new products and a whole bunch more at an unprecedented pace. Some days it can be a bit overwhelming as the announcements just seem to steamroll along. But that is OK as you don’t have to wrap your head around everything and certainly not all at once. The point is to realize that Office 365 has become a platform for targeted services delivery and that all sorts of tools and apps are being plumbed into it. Azure lets you “roll your own” while Office 365 boxes up the best of the user facing bits.
Not so long ago people questioned Microsoft’s plans and directions for Office 365 (or BPOS as it was originally known) as it didn’t feel all that polished. Yes, email was up in the Cloud along with some other apps but it was not really anything special. Fast forward to May 2015 and the transformation has been astounding. Back in the BPOS days or even the point at which the transition to the Office 365 name was made I was a doubting Thomas and was not convinced there was value in Microsoft’s proposition. Today I question why people would not want to go to Office 365! Why would anyone want to try and match all of what it provides on-prem?
And while there are lots of user-facing changes that have appeared in the Office 365 ecosystem, there are many large changes and improvements that have happened in the backend. Some of the most appreciated changes that have been made as far as techies like myself are concerned are the massive improvements that have been made in tools like AADconnect (DirSync) that make it so much easier to link Office 365 (and Azure) with an on-prem AD. Concurrent with that are the changes made that allow the third-party tool providers to integrate their tools ever more closely so that things like migration tools work much more smoothly (important when you have a lot of mailboxes to migrate or SharePoint data to sling about). Oh, and let’s not forget about all the effort that has been poured into the “app” infrastructure so that apps on iOS, Android and Windows Phone seamlessly access Office 365 data. These apps really underline the point that Office 365 is a delivery platform for almost any connected device regardless of the underlying OS.
And maybe that is the singular brilliance of Office 365; other Cloud platforms tend to aim themselves at the techies and the backend infrastructure and you could argue that Azure is part of this category. Office 365, on the other hand, focuses directly on the end user; everything that it provides save for the admin interfaces is really all about an immersive user experience. And while a cynic might argue that it’s all about binding a user or an organization to a recurring revenue generating model of software licensing, I would argue that it has become so much more than that. Office 365 is becoming the de facto way to provide an always connected, extremely collaborative and very fluid platform for organizations of one to organizations of hundreds of thousands of users.
So don’t feel bad if you don’t know all of the things that Office 365 can do as chances are it’s going to do something “new” today or tomorrow that it didn’t do yesterday.