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Why We Offer an Office 365 Center of Excellence Instead of Managed Services

About three years ago, Timlin Enterprises began developing a Managed Services offering for SharePoint. We hired and trained new staff, developed processes and systems to ensure we could provide high-quality SharePoint support, and began offering the solution to our customers. Our first customers were typically running SharePoint 2010 or 2013 on-premise, and our services were designed to alleviate the need to install patches and monitor logs. The service grew over time, and we kept adding customers and staff to meet growing demand.

Not too long after we began providing Managed Services for SharePoint customers, we started offering them to our Office 365 customers as well. Right from the start, we noticed the type of support we were providing to our Office 365 customers was a bit different than what we were providing to SharePoint customers … it was more proactive in nature. While we certainly did (and still do) receive requests to help with a critical configuration issue or problem, the nature of our customer interactions was more about helping improve their Office 365 user adoption, providing training, and aiding with small projects to continuously improve end-user solutions.

Office 365 Innovation Picks Up

As you probably know, the growth of the Office 365 platform over the last three years has been tremendous. In October 2017, Microsoft reported that the number of commercial monthly active users was at 120 million. Further, they expect to have two-thirds of Office users in the cloud by fiscal 2019.

“About a year ago, our service began evolving in a few notable ways”

Timin Enterprises has been growing along with the Office 365 platform; and, approximately a year ago, our service began evolving in a few notable new ways:

  • Clients began asking us about the new features and tools in the Office 365 platform, questions like: How does Planner differ from Trello, What is Delve all about, and Should I use Teams?
  • Our customers were overwhelmed with the pace of innovation in the platform. They wanted to know what was new – from Teams to Project Online and Planner to SharePoint and OneDrive to Exchange and PowerBI to Flow, Yammer, and PowerApps – and how what was new pertained to them. They also wanted to know if anything major changed (hello modern document libraries), so they could provide users with ample lead time and deliver the required training.
  • Client also told us they wanted to improve user adoption and make sure the Office 365 platform was being used effectively without exposing the organization to security breaches.

Managed Services vs. What We Offer

As we reviewed our business, we realized that the name “Managed Services” was not an accurate representation of the solutions we were providing our clients.

Personally, I’ve worked for two excellent managed services providers in my career. Both companies provided not only IT infrastructure managed services, but also Application Managed Services. Their application services were centered around ERP or CRM solutions and were focused on keeping the applications running, performing required maintenance, and answering technical questions. These companies had a pre-built list of tasks and services that were included in the plan.

The big difference between these application services and what we provide for Office 365 comes down to the fact that Office 365 is not an application, but a platform. For some businesses, this means providing a document management solution, other companies may need help with a project portal for collaboration, and yet others may need assistance with a knowledge management platform built on SharePoint. Each customer tends to use Office 365 tools and functionality in a different manner. This fact alone makes it close to impossible to come up with a consistent, known set of tasks.

In addition, a user of a CRM or ERP system has a much more defined set of actions they need to perform on the application. For example, a salesperson needs to update their opportunities, make note of their prospect meetings, and update their forecast. An accounting clerk needs to make the necessary accounting entries. However, users who collaborate on a SharePoint project or Team site use the platform in different ways.

“We are not just keeping things running, we’re making things better”

A Center of Excellence is Born

About three months ago, we rebranded our service offering to a Center of Excellence (CoE) for Office 365. This provides a better description of not only the solutions we provide, but also more importantly, what organizations need in order to maximize their Office 365 capabilities. Office 365 is a robust and extendable platform, that if implemented and governed correctly, can make a tremendous difference in business productivity in an organization.

Our CoE approach is designed to increase user adoption, help set up and manage an Office 365 governance plan, provide support for ongoing questions and issues, and help our customers deploy platform features to modernize your business operations to support the new speed of business.

We are not just keeping things running, as Microsoft handles that for you with Office 365. Our whole focus is helping you get the most value from the platform and increase the value you receive from your investment. We start with Strategy, Governance, and Architecture, and then tactically provide Training, Administration, and Support.

Learn more about the Center of Excellence framework by downloading our free whitepaper here.