The Post Ballmer / Jobs Epoch

As someone who now runs a successful Microsoft Gold Partner company focusing on SharePoint & Office 365 in South Africa [ Complexus ] its been interesting to see just how quickly Microsoft has changed since 4 February 2014 when Satya Nadella took over from Steve Ballmer.  This change happened 2 years into the Complexus company journey and having personally come from the world of complex Systems Engineering, IBM and an avid Mac user to boot, and I was reaching the zenith of my frustrations with the Microsoft “Ecosystem” of products, partner support platforms and the myriad of sites you had to go to to learn about every nuance and gotcha that seemed to crop up on a weekly basis.

Office 365, the successor to Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (MSBPOS), wasn’t even one year old when Nadella took over, although he was part of its early genesis, so a good choice to take over and drive the company in a Cloud and Mobile First direction.  Wrapping my head around this new styled Online Suite of tools, that didn’t seem that friendly to the Mac user, whilst learning about the up coming new release of SharePoint 2013 and how all this could work for the SMB and Enterprise user, whilst growing our company, made for long days and short weekends.

From day 1, we pioneered with various aspects Office 365, one of which was GIS integration in SharePoint Online, and whilst it was clear we were on the bleeding edge of all that was great and possible, there were also sceptical concerns in Africa / South Africa about bandwidth, power cuts, network edge issues and external web access from traditional Enterprise on-prem clients.

     

Early work by Complexus and Office 365 / GIS data

So am I fan boy or just a happy BYOD user?

Firstly, I am no Techie, and whilst I have the forehead of a geek, one of my biggest observations as a newbie to the world of Microsoft from the vendor / partner side of the fence were the nagging jokes / comments you got about using a Mac.  Sharp intakes of breath would emanate from IT Pros who couldn’t work out why I wasn’t 100% Microsoft.  On occasion, the use of new collaboration features that seemed so wondrous and new to the Microsoft evangelist, were already standard features in the Mac OS……that made me even more unpopular.  Reading blogs and posts that openly described the Mac user as “the enemy” were interesting to say the least and perhaps a hangover from the Ballmer / Jobs era that was prevalent at the time (its OK – you are all forgiven now).

Its been 26 years since I first saw and started using a Mac and I guess you can say a lot has happened in the world of PCs, Laptops, Devices and Software since.  My entire PhD research data and thesis was written and stored on a Mac and painstakingly backed-up to a shoe box of “diskettes” that has long since vanished in various life transitions and house moves.  But if you grew up with the early Mac OS and the devices and apps that have followed, they have an appeal that remains as Apple (like Amazon) do a good job at starting with the end user in mind.  Core traits in their early UX / UI remain to this day.  I have an iMac, iPad, iPhone, MacBook Air and Apple Watch so maybe I am a fan boy, but to be honest, Apple products are built to last and the OS and upgrade paths are smooth – it simply works for a BYOD user and thats the BIG priority for me and dare I say a growing number of SMB and Enterprise end users out there, something that Microsoft and now IBM have embraced, as market share and shareholder expectations need to be met.

So what do I, The Enemy, have to say about Office 365

Well, 2 years on since Nadella took over, one thing is clear, he is (has) delivered on the new vision. Seeing Microsoft release Apps and traditional full function core offerings like Office for the Mac OS and related devices has been, and continues to be, refreshing.

My Observations and hands on experience of Office 365 (as our company uses Office 365 and develops solutions for Office 365) is a growing, positive one.   New Office 2016 for Mac and how it provides full productivity and features that work with Office 365 such as sync with SharePoint and One Drive is impressive in such a short space of time.  The Office 365 user interface that drops down from our Intranet Home Page built on SharePoint online seems to now have a familiar look that does not change, bar for the additions of new features that emerge on a rolling basis and work in a seamless fashion with the Apps and Plan we have invested in already.

Delve is a good example of a well through out variant of Search, that surfaces personalised, recent content to you from across Office 365 and brings you information based on what you’re working on, who you’re working with, and the permissions you have.  I can find documents that my co-workers last worked on and are the most popular in our company.  Its these small, yet subtle features that make the Office 365 user experience / interface surprisingly engaging, especially if you are trying it with low expectations from a previously underwhelming trial you may have embarked on 3 years ago at the suggestion of your ICT Dept or ICT Managed Support provider.

 

Adding new functionality via the SharePoint App Catalogue and App Store is easy and new extensibility is coming with the release of Connectors, integrations to external Apps like Twitter via Office 365, something that will be a useful feature and sure to grow in popularity.

The Office 365 Plans have also been simplified for both the Small Midsize Business (SMB) and Enterprise client but to the lay business person or someone new to the Office 365 experience it can still be somewhat bewildering as the choice of features is actually quite large.

Supporting information has also got a lot slicker.  Gone are the days when you had to wade through the mother of all tables to look at ticks and crosses on a Technet product explainer (although you can still do that if that’s your bag).  Overview and plan information is more socially geared with more frequent updates to video explainers such as those found on U Tube covering the rolling / incremental releases to Office 365, which are engaging for both tech pros and business users alike.

Conclusion … The Enemy likes Office 365!

Its amazing to see how much Microsoft has changed in the last 2 years and that is not confined simply to Office 365.  I sense a growing level of integration and cohesiveness for the BYOD user, SMB user and Enterprise user alike.  For the latter, hybrid scenarios are a good starting point but more and more clients are moving to Office 365 and the question of “can the exec access this on his or her iPad from home?” or “will this work with my BYOD Mac users?” or “can we edit this using Word on the Mac?” are now much easier to answer with 100% confidence.

Yes, its not perfect for EVERY single business scenario, no technology platform is, but adoption and usage of Office 365 (like any technology) has to be a business process, people, governance and change driven activity if the client is to achieve full business benefit.  Working with a Microsoft Partner that understands Office 365 and can advise on the right plan, deploy, train and support your business users is critically important as this allows you to focus on your core business.  Office 365 and Microsoft are embracing and working with “the competition” and the next 2-5 years will be exciting times as Office 365 platform matures.

About Complexus

Complexus is Microsoft Gold SharePoint and Office 365 consultancy based in Cape Town & Johannesburg. Complexus has grown to become a trusted SharePoint and Office 365 solutions & support provider with a reputation for innovation in Enterprise Collaboration, Productivity, Strategy Advisory, Managed Services & SharePoint Office 365 App development. The Complexus Product and Service portfolio is aimed at organisations seeking to collaborate more effectively and gain a greater return on their investment in the Microsoft SharePoint & Office 365 platforms. Complexus is also member of the prestigious Microsoft Business Critical SharePoint Partner Program, SAP EBM Program and a Microsoft Cloud Services Partner.

We support all 8 of the main Office 365 plans currently available for SMB & Enterprise clients plus those for Government and Not For Profit organisations for clients in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. We can also support all other Online Plans for related Microsoft components.  We can also advise on all aspects of your Office 365 adoption and Office 365 training needs plus we offer a fully configurable and cost effective Office 365 Managed Support Service called Concierge.

Contact us for a FREE Office 365 Plan consultation and let us take the strain and set up you FREE Office 365 trial as the Partner of Record.

Call the Complexus Office 365 Team Today: +27 8713 52942 enquiries@complexus.co.za

Learn more at http://www.complexus.co.za