walk signal lit to "Wait"
PHOTO: Xu Haiwei

For those of you who read my posts here and elsewhere, you know that I’ve been fairly positive about what Microsoft has done with the Office 365 platform, so the title of this post might surprise you.

But what I mean isn’t wait and see whether to adopt Office 365 — for the majority of Fortune 1000 companies, moving to Office 365 is a foregone conclusion. Rather, I mean wait and see whether Office 365 will eventually provide capabilities you require before you purchase products from another vendor to provide those capabilities. That wait could be 24 to 36 months.

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Waiting on Office 365: A Calculated Risk

The logic goes something like this: Let’s say you’re trying to decide how to best implement a system to manage electronic records. Rather than spending six or seven figures on software, plus another six or seven figures implementing it, and then taking the time to get it fully functioning, why not wait and see how the capabilities of Office 365 develop in that same time frame? Deploying a new system and getting it up and running will take 18 to 24 months from start to finish. Chances are, in those 18 to 24 months, Office 365’s capabilities will evolve to a “good enough” (if not higher) level vis à vis whatever solution you might have bought. In this case, the wait-and-see approach could save you a lot of money and effort, and it would keep your application portfolio smaller and more sustainable.

You might be thinking, “What if Office 365 doesn’t evolve to provide the capabilities I need in 18 to 24 months?”

That’s a definite risk, but it’s one that has a couple of upsides. Look at it this way: If Office 365 still does not offer what you need within the next year or two, you still will have saved the time and money you would have spent deploying a third-party electronic records management system. On top of that, the available systems for managing electronic records will have matured so much in that time frame that you’ll likely get more for the same money and effort — and likely both faster and with less risk overall.

Beyond just a single use scenario (such as managing electronic records), I’m seeing Fortune 1000 companies adopt a “Let’s wait and see about Office 365” approach for a very wide range of domains, from collaboration and document management to end-point security, identity and access controls, data loss prevention, e-discovery and file analytics.

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Don't Sit Still on Tech Decisions While You Wait and See

But the way those companies are carrying out that wait-and-see game plan is not passive by any means. To the contrary, they are actively and aggressively analyzing their existing technology portfolios to find the following:

  1. Areas where Office 365 already provides good enough capabilities to allow them to sunset other systems (and recoup those costs).
  2. Areas where Office 365 may not yet provide good enough capabilities, but there’s reason to think that it might in the next 18 to 24 months.
  3. Areas where Office 365 won’t provide good enough capabilities in 18 to 24 months, either because it’s not a strategic direction for Microsoft or because Microsoft won’t be able to get these capabilities to a good enough level in that time frame.

In the first scenario, companies are moving to Office 365 immediately. In the second, they’re adopting the wait-and-see approach I’ve been describing here. And in the third, they’re actively evaluating their options outside of Office 365.

No answers here, mainly because the key driver of a wait-and-see approach is that there are no answers right now, and this is a big topic. But hopefully the main contours of how organizations are approaching their enterprise Office 365 strategies as part of larger portfolio management strategies have become clearer. And just as hopefully, perhaps you can take these ideas back to your desk today and help your organization chart a clearer, more deliberate course through the unknowns of Office 365.