Office 365 is Getting Really Good
Pencil me in as one of the original skeptics of SharePoint Online. It wasn’t very good. As a person and company dedicated to Microsoft Collaboration software services and support, I really wanted to like it. Maybe that jaded my thoughts to the onslaught of cloud services to follow, but all that means is that if Microsoft could convert me, they have done some pretty amazing things. They have.
At Timlin we eat our own dogfood. A term in the software world referring to people, organizations, and teams that use the software or products they build, support, service, and consult on to run their own businesses. We use Office 365 across the board to run our own services business. This includes an Intranet, team sites, communities, socialization, document management, search, and even some deeper usage as well: Project Server Online with Project Lite for resource planning, timesheets, and connected systems to our Project Management site collection containing our home-grown SharePoint project management capabilities. We use this system entirely for our SharePoint and Office 365 Managed Services for ticketing, external customer access, reporting, and business process automation with workflows. The cherry on top is Power BI connected to this information to visualize resource management, project costing, and overall company health via additional data source connections to QuickBooks Online. WOW!
The key for us is that if we were required to have on-premises installations, we would be shut out of these technologies due to the steep investment of resources required to get us there.
Here’s my real secret though, the value is in the integration. Microsoft is doing a substantial job of adapting traditional tools and platforms into pieces of a puzzle that form together in different ways to create a very specialized solution for us (and you). A recent example of this is the upcoming Skype for Business enhancements. As a Microsoft partner and avid user of Office 365 we worked our way into this program, soon to be released as part of the E5 license. We had been using Skype for IM, video calls, screen-sharing and intra-team calling, and still relying on external tools and phones for traditional conference and voice calls. This piece of the puzzle allowed us to outfit the entire team with real phone numbers and replace our existing conference calling reliance on external phone systems (which can be costly) in an afternoon. It’s an added capability to an already familiar application. It required no training and minimal configuration. Now we use it every day.
To continue the compelling argument, the integration creates new capabilities that would be very difficult to obtain with discreet applications. Office Graph / Delve and the machine-learning search used to surface information most important to you needs to have access to a full index of content. Power BI needs data sources to connect and create visually appealing business intelligence. The new Outlook web application with the search connectivity to groups, people, and tasks are all there because the data that drives it lives in a single ecosystem. The inter-connectivity creates the possibilities, and those possibilities have become reality.
The total has now exceeded the sum of the parts, and that’s when innovation and transformation happen. As a company, we at Timlin have been able to use this technology to achieve business goals that were unattainable with these tools until now. The present is bright and the future is blinding. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
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