Last year, around March, Microsoft began to put together the components for a new service with a particularly lengthy code name. The details were fuzzy at first, but as we participated in the beta program, the goal seemed clear: to create a single suite, consisting of all the key cloud-powered collaboration, management and security systems for an organization to leverage for their entire business. That product was officially launched as “Microsoft 365” at Inspire. Microsoft has a rich history of taking disparate individual programs, combining them into a “suite” and then letting everyone take advantage of the cohesive whole. This time was no different – the functionality folks required for their business meant Microsoft would often sell Windows 10, the Office 365 suite, and their Enterprise Mobility and Security products separately, creating plenty of pain when customers discovered they lacked a key component to ensure security, or proper collaboration. More importantly, Microsoft didn’t simply sell the products together: they’d already done so in the past under a variety of licensing agreements; in this case, they actually merged the organizations together producing the software which helped ensure that there would be actual synergy between groups that formerly held each other at arms length. Windows 10 and Intune? Working together, once again. Teams and SharePoint? Best of friends. Office Pro Plus changed their release schedule to align with the Windows cycle – ensuring updates would come every six months, and importantly would arrive together. What has this meant for customers? For starters, it has created the need for truly disruptive digital transformation conversations. If Windows, and Office Pro Plus, release a new version every six months, but your team takes eight months to validate functionality and push out new versions, that challenge, of change management, creates an opportunity to say, “Why does it take so long to get new versions out?” In addition to forcing slower organizations to speed up their processes, it has also required a new level of maturity for everyone else: it is no longer good enough to simply deploy a new feature to your staff; instead, one must train staff on how to take advantage of it, and in parallel, ensure security is addressed by automatically protecting end-users from themselves. Instead of handing new employees a huge book of “things not to do to stay safe in the world of technology” that they will likely look at and ignore – most of the security controls empowered by Microsoft 365 can be implemented without informing staff. Want to perform an action that is prohibited by policy? You are blocked, with a pop-up explanation. This puts the onus of protection back on the IT team that knows it best, instead of relying upon the weakest link – the memory of a harried staff member who is just trying to do their job. Organizations that have adopted Microsoft 365 have driven their costs down, by applying a simple mantra: that all devices and staff, at all times, are up to date from a security and feature perspective. Inevitably, any service that has a rapid release may introduce a bug, and one of the often overlooked benefits of Microsoft 365 is that real-time telemetry is included, at no additional cost, for organizations that deploy and manage devices in a modern way. Instead of telling staff who agree to receive updates early that they must manually report back any challenges, organizations using these analytics can see the data on crashes, logins and even application performance in a single pane of glass. If errors crop up due to a new release, they can press a single button to “pause” the update from being deployed more broadly. Best of all – these tools are available to organizations who don’t wish to make huge investments in on-premises software components – every one of these is a cloud service that takes mere minutes to light up. Microsoft 365 doesn’t cover every product Microsoft makes, but in combination with the business-focused Dynamics 365 and the application/development focused Azure platform, can reduce the complexity of running a Microsoft shop down to three simple purchases. This alone is a huge customer service win: instead of debating for weeks and months about “what do I own and use?” or “how can I procure what I need for the business?” organizations can move quickly to go from a business pain point to a deployed solution that addresses it. What’s next for Microsoft 365? After nine months of investment and growth, 2018 is shaping up to be an even bigger year for the core services contained within the suite. From the maturation of the Microsoft Teams platform, to the next release in March of both Windows 10 and Office Pro Plus, to the monthly improvements to the backend Office 365 services, there are a whole host of features coming in the next six months. What’s the best way to ensure you can stay on top of all this change? Reach out to New Signature today.