A High-Level Overview of Microsoft Office 365 Implementation

When one goes into the car dealership to buy a new car, buying the car is not as simple as knowing the model, year, and color. There are other decisions about options such as air conditioning (you may not need it in Alaska, for instance) automatic transmission, sunroof, audio, and more. You also have to make sure you have a license and get insured and registered. The same process is true when planning an Office 365 implementation. First you have to consider your computing environment and its’ ability to support Microsoft Office 365. Windows XP SP3 or later, Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 are all supported operating systems. The internet connection is used heavily and must be both fast and reliable. If any equipment or the connection does not measure up, you must have a plan to address those problems before starting the implementation process. The next step is to decide if you are going to have any employees acting as administrators. If you have existing IT staff it is a good idea to have at least one Global Administrator within your organization. Small professional offices such as medical practices might want their consultant to be the only Global Administrator in order to increase their compliance with the Sarbanes Oxley Act and other regulations. License features are also very important. We feel that The Enterprise E3 Plan at $20 per user per month is the best bargain for most organizations. This subscription includes the desktop edition of the Microsoft Office Suite and Lync. The desktop version of Office offers the complete range of features and is far superior to Office Web Apps. The addition of Lync offers Enterprise Instant Messaging, Presence Information Monitoring (If people stop typing for a minute their light turns from green to yellow, if they leave it becomes red), and simultaneous document editing by more than one person on more than one computer. Having a subscription to the desktop version means always having the latest version and good integration with Office 365.

Once your organization has verified that the computing environment will work, it is important to address:

  • How your users will use SharePoint.

  • Do you need Dynamics CRM?

  • What is the Exchange migration strategy?

  • How will you address customization?

  • How will you address change management?

  • How will you address education and training?

SharePoint has a number of options to store documents and provide private datasets for departments with the protection of Office 365. SharePoint can replace your network server or shared hard drive with a replacement that maintains versions and tracks changes and is searchable. Being able to use the built-in search engine to search through all of your documents takes care of any occasion when you know what is in a document but you do not remember the name.

Most organizations that deal with customer information and attempt any kind of marketing can benefit from Microsoft Dynamics CRM which is now a part of Office 365. Dynamics CRM can be customized to suit the unique needs of your business. Fax Cover Sheets, Invoices, and Reports are available at the touch of a button, so that employees waste no time in document creation, they merely learn to be meticulous record-keepers, and the document creation for all common documents are immediately complete and available. Information can be visible to all who need it including full customer case histories, agreements, billings, and communications. There is the $44 per user per month license fee that makes Dynamics CRM a real commitment for organizations.

A migration to Office 365 Exchange can be challenging. There are a lot of decisions your organization needs to make. Some of the decisions, like the choice of whether to use only Office 365 or to use a hybrid deployment are important. Use of the Global Address List features, calendaring, access delegation and sharing, and compliant archiving, are all important considerations that have to be defined before you proceed. We have written an article on Exchange Migration to Office 365 here.

Customization is driven by what an organization’s employees want with functionality suitable to their goals weighted against the policies and budget of the organization. Ideally, the most important work people do can be standardized so that the information can be easily found by other employees when needed. Consultants should be able to work with you to help you decide how much customization will streamline your business and if your organization can handle the change.

Change in technology and methods will always create groups of employees who are resistant. What a good consultant has to help the organization do is to embrace the resistance and try to address all of the objections. There may be issues that were forgotten during even the most careful planning stages that can be brought to light. Others can be rationally responded to. Users must be made to feel that their issues will be dealt with and they will have better power over their data and more efficient processes. Further reinforcement comes in the confidence that employees get with education and training.

In Microsoft Office 365, there are a lot of places to look for help where users can find out about almost all of the features. Time should be made for individual and group training for all employees so that they can be productive. Further education is available in user forums which employees should be taught to explore. Organizations who have successful implementations have addressed serious training to make sure no employees are left behind in a migration. There are some lessons that have to be taught to all employees about legacy systems and duplicate data silos outside of the enterprise software. The most important lesson is that everything must go in the enterprise software so that it can be useful. The second is that they can do everything within the Enterprise software losing no functionality. The rest of the training must be functional in nature. It is important that the legacy systems are no longer online for accepting new data. Education and adoption requires the old systems to be unavailable, or your users will keep working on the old system.

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