formal garden from above
PHOTO: Deva Darshan

Office 365 is a whole suite of offerings, ranging from simple upgrades to the tools we all know well (such as Word) through to brand new products (such as Teams). Not only do these tools get updated at difference paces by Microsoft, they are of vastly different complexity.

To help cut through the confusion, this article outlines a 2 by 2 model that can be used by IT and the business to plan the best approach to Office 365 management.

Manage Office 365 According to Complexity and Velocity

office 365 Management model - a 2x2 matrix

This model considers the products within Office 365 according to two considerations:

  • Complexity: How much is involved in managing, deploying and adopting the tool.
  • Velocity: The pace of change within the Office 365 platform (i.e., how often Microsoft adds new features).

With these two considerations, it becomes possible to group Office 365 solutions into four categories, as shown in the diagram above.

At any given point, the individual products can be moved into a more relevant category, and managed accordingly. The diagram above shows the categorization as it stands in February 2020 — this will of course change over time. Make your own assessment of where the products currently sit — or get expert advice — and then make decisions on your management practices.

Let’s explore each of the categories.

Related Article: Microsoft Is Sending Collaboration Loopy

Maintain / Migrate: Skype for Business

These products and solutions are low in complexity, which change slowly (or not at all). Interestingly, at the time this article was written, one element of Office 365 fits into this category: Skype for Business (which will shortly become a legacy offering).

Other legacy approaches such as network fileshares and traditional email fit into this category. In practice, you can take two approaches here:

  • Basic maintenance of the offerings ("keeping the lights on").
  • Migration into newer approaches (such as replacing fileshares with OneDrive and SharePoint, or migrating from Skype to Teams).

Related Article: Microsoft Axes Skype for Business Online and More News

Manage: Exchange Online, OneDrive

Solutions that are relatively simple but are changing more over time need ongoing management. More than just maintenance, active management is required to ensure the solutions are working well, that governance is effective, and that compliance policies are met.

Solutions that currently fit into this category include Exchange Online and OneDrive.

Note that it’s not sufficient to merely maintain these solutions, as daily decisions will need to be made on security permissions, features enabled, and overall information architecture.

Adopt: Yammer, Modern SharePoint

Much is made of adoption within Office 365, but this really only applies to more complex elements which remain relatively stable over time.

Solutions that fit under this umbrella include Yammer and Modern SharePoint.

In an adoption approach, proactive steps are taken to train business users in how to use the solutions, with supporting change management. Relatively straightforward approaches can be taken to adoption because the foundations of the products aren’t significantly changing over time, which would invalidate the training provided.

Related Article: Unraveling the Teams and Yammer Tangle: Make Both Work for You

Innovate: Teams, Project Cortex

Much of the exciting stuff in Office 365 falls into the innovate category. This includes Teams, and very recently announced offerings, such as Project Cortex.

These solutions are complex, and still undergoing rapid evolution, with updates being released weekly.

Typical approaches to adoption struggle for these solutions, as the pace of change can make standard training outdated, with best practices often yet to emerge. Instead, innovation-focused approaches such as "test and learn" are more appropriate here.

While solutions in this category offer the greatest benefits, the most effort must be applied, not just at the outset but for as long as they remain in this category. Technology teams, senior leaders and the wider business all need to acknowledge this investment.

Using This Model

This model is not intended to give complex or proscriptive approaches to Office 365. Instead, its power comes from being a simple model that can be understood by IT and the business. With a shared model in place, IT and the business can make joint decisions on what to enable, where to focus management efforts, and how to respond to ongoing product changes.