Archive for category Office

Office 365 takes control

When Microsoft first launched BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) I had been working for Microsoft New Zealand as a Technology Advisor for just on a year. My experience with cloud solutions pre-dates my time at Microsoft and that gave me some insight as to what this meant for Microsoft as a business. Not only did they make the step into the hosting business, competing against some of their most loyal partners, but they fundamentally changed the way in which they saw their own software. The Office 365 preview was launched this week, and along side it the next version of Microsoft Office, 2013. This falls in line with something I predicted when BPOS was first launched, Cloud will become the way in which you consume Microsoft Software from now on.

The evolution is totally natural and in line with what the industry as a whole is witnessing. Programs have become Apps and more importantly Servers have become a Service. Microsofts licensing model has been playing a game of catchup with this massive change, we have seen a credit card only experience mature into a more traditional distribution model, allowing customers to buy Microsoft cloud services via their regular channels/relationships. http://rcpmag.com/articles/2012/07/09/wpc-2012-office-365-partners-to-get-direct-billing.aspx

Office 365 has become the way in which you buy Microsoft’s Office Suite and all of the associated back office services, Exchange, Sharepoint and Lync. Furthermore it opens up a rich marketplace for partners to show their wares. Office 365 has only been in market for just over a year having had a long gestation period that was fraught with delay after delay (some 9 months or more), its refreshing to see that Microsoft has learnt from its mistakes and with little warning released the beta of the next release of its Office 365 platform known as Wave 15.

Over the next few weeks I hope to share with you some of my observations, covering off some of the improvements to the services and the integration points into your on-premise software. There are many such improvements to talk about, Loryan Strant from Paradyne in Australia has listed a few here: http://thecloudmouth.com/2012/07/17/office-365-wave-15-whats-new/

Hot on my list is the new Sharepoint Experience coupled with Office 2013, this will put out any Google fires within your organisation, along with Lync “click to call” … watch this space New Zealand there are providers working furiously on this capability.

Lync Wave 15 Office 365 Voice Integration

To setup a 9 month trial of the Office 365 beta go here: http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/en/try-office-preview , I suggest that you choose the Enterprise edition and remember that once you create a tenant account you should be able to add the other products bu clicking the appropriate link and using that ID to authenticate again.

Sharepoint 2013 Home

It has been an action packed month for Microsoft, starting with the announcement that they will sell their own tablet device to take on Apples iPad, to the launch of its next generation productivity suite in Office 365 / Office 2013. And if that wasnt enough, Microsoft announced today that Windows 8 will be available on the 26th of October http://windowsteamblog.com/windows/b/bloggingwindows/archive/2012/07/18/windows-8-will-be-available-on.aspx .

A big year ahead for Microsoft and I am betting those working for Google have something to worry about!

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Microsoft previews Office 15 tiles

A screenshot started doing the rounds today of the launchpad for Office 15. It also included the new Office 15 logo which has had a Metro makeover. As mentioned a couple of weeks ago Microsoft now intends to release Office 15 with its soon to be launched Surface tablet, along with support for the RT or ARM based version of Windows 8.

Microsoft Office 15 on Surface

Office 15 running on Surface

Observing the screenshot above (which is not a lot to go on I know) you could come to the conclusion that Office 15 exists within a “sub menu” of metro. A nested app experience that in my opinion lends itself to iOS deployment. It makes sense, if Microsoft have re-designed Office from the ground up for Windows RT it makes sense that there is a version available for iOS as well. I have no doubt that the Windows 8 experience of Office 15 will be the best experience of any platform, but Microsoft must acknowledge that there are other hounds snapping at its heels thanks to Google’s recent purchase of Quick Office for iOS and some 400 Million Customers.

Tight integration with Microsoft’s expanding cloud services, Skydrive for consumers and Office 365 for business and education, is the name of the game. It’s in Microsoft’s best interest to break down the barriers to adopting its cloud services and it shouldn’t matter what device is used. Note the lack of Office 365 or Sharepoint tiles in the screenshot above, but I have no doubt this will be included in future “leaks”.

Microsoft needs to simplify the current 2010 experience, Metro is an excuse to do so, allowing for a completely different design language to be used when addressing one of their biggest revenue sources.

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Sharepoint adoption

Taxonomy is a word that is used quite frequently when describing the classification and management of information within Sharepoint. Sharepoint is the information management component of Office 365, and as great as it is there can be some hurdles to getting users to adopt it. In a perfect world Sharepoint would replace the file share and any other document based processes within your business. Chris Riley blogged recently on Taxonomy and how important it is to any Sharepoint deployment, cloud or on premise.

Taxonomy Planning in SharePoint 2010 – End User – NothingButSharePoint.com.

The biggest limitation with Sharepoint is that there are NO limitations… Time and time again Sharepoint deployments fail due to lack of planning. You can plan your Sharepoint deployment so that your users aren’t put off. Keeping it simple and easy to understand while at the same time enforcing a level of governance to ensure the data stored is searchable and relevant.

Going from a file share to Sharepoint takes some getting used to and with a good amount a planning it should make logical sense to the user from the get-go. One of the tools we have found to be useful that allow users to work from a familiar environment is Harmon.ie . This tool is a plug in for Outlook and is accessible from the main Outlook pane or any new calendar or mail item. It allows a user to interact with their Sharepoint sites and document libraries right from within Outlook, no need to change to a different app or grapple with the browser experience. Navigation is handled similar to traditional folder structures and its that familiar navigation that adds to its ease of use.

Harmon.ie is free up to 250 seats however there is an “Enterprise” version available for USD$129/user/year. There is also an iPad and iPhone client available for free, this client allows navigation of your Sharepoint sites and at a glance view the documents and their meta data. With the current lack of Office for iOS the premium version of the iOS client will take a user to the Web App interface for quick editing of documents. My iPad uses a version of Quick Office (a 3rd party Office style editor) and Harmon.ie recognizes this and allows you to edit documents in this app seamlessly.

The important thing from an administrative point of view is to architect the structure of the information within Sharepoint ahead of time. The moment users are able to access the site they will revert to old habits if strict governance isn’t present. Office 365 has to be the cheapest content management solution on the market and with some good planning it can be the best experience for an end-user as well.

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The next step in productivity

When talking to customers about the advantages of “cloud” computing the story usually focuses around the cost of running their own email server vs a hosted exchange cost. The experience of not running your own IT infrastructure has its upside as well with the reduction of risk to your business with the enterprise level support you get with todays cloud providers.

The Microsoft Office 365 suite provides a great story, offering real value in a per user per month cost of Office 2010 and the “back office” products; Exchange, Sharepoint and Lync. The one story I still struggle with is the use of the Sharepoint component. Recently it proved to become easier when I linked it with a CRM deployment story, using Sharepoint as the common document repository for all customer data. This in my view is still selling the story of Sharepoint short, it doesn’t quite create a compelling reason for a customer to adopt the Sharepoint way of life. Sharepoint requires effort from the customer to set it up and architect the data it stores, more importantly it needs adoption by the end user to be a success and this part will in my opinion become easier.

The imminent release of Windows 8 excites me, not for the simple reason it is the “next version” of Windows, but the fact that it will fundamentally change the way in which people work. I believe the most important part of the Windows 8 story will be Office “wave 15” or the next version of the ubiquitous productivity suite from Microsoft. With the current version of Office 2010 (wave 14) and the release of Sharepoint 2010 we saw the introduction of Office Web Apps. This delivered an experience of Office 2010 to the browser, and for the most part it delivered. It provided users with the ability to work ad-hoc in a browser environment, if only to collaborate with others or simply for convenience the browser version of the Office apps allowed users to approach collaboration in a different way. This was much much more than a compete play against Google apps. The next version of Office will deliver the office experience to any user on any device, and by any device I’m looking at you iOS.

It would seem that the adoption of the Apple iPhone and later on the iPad was much to Microsofts dismay. In my time at Microsoft (2008 – 2011) I owned an iPhone and an iPad and was constantly frustrated with the way in which my fellow employees considered the device. Rather than just a competitor I saw it as an opportunity, another platform which Microsoft could deliver its productivity suite to. With the release of iOS 2.0 Exchange ActiveSync was licensed by Apple allowing a rich email experience on the iOS devices. This meant many  “enterprise” customers were now able to consider the iPhone as a smartphone platform and indeed it became the CEO showoff device of choice.

I predict the next version of Office 15 will become available as a fully fledged “app” available on the iOS devices, both iPad and iPhone, this isn’t hard to guess as there are already apps for the Lync and One Note clients. It will be the browser version of Office Web Apps will take the connected touch experience to the next level. This isn’t necessarily something that will be driven by iOS but more by the touch driven interface of Windows 8. The Metro interface has been hugely successful on Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 consumer preview. I predict Microsoft will introduce the Metro interface to iOS users in the next version of Office, by way of apps or web apps. Metro offers a clean touch experience that most users today expect from their smartphones. Taking away the clutter from tool bars and re-focusing the productivity apps for touch will see end users using their devices more. Both Apple and Microsoft are making changes to offer a more simplified experience to users of their desktop operating systems, OSX and Windows respectively. Apple are approaching it gradually by introducing features from their iOS platform to their desktop operating system with changes appearing in Lion and soon to be released Mountain Lion. Microsoft on the other hand are making a much bolder statement with the Metro interface from their mobile platform being the “default” for Windows 8.

Interfaces aside the constant connection to information will be the main driver for customers to choose a cloud solution. The Sharepoint story will make more sense with the next version of Office, further enhancing the experience for the end user. Users will expect to have the same experience on any device and be able to access their data from wherever they are.

Microsoft Office "15" logo

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