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The Benefits of Office 365 Services

19 May 2016 by Jessica Hall

Between the various plans and offerings, there are a wide variety of options for cloud-based productivity solutions. One of the most common offerings is Microsoft Office 365. Office 365 provides enterprise-class service and capabilities to help your business run smarter. When looking at Office 365, it’s important to consider how it can impact the services available to you.

There are familiar and unique services.

Offering the same services companies used with similar on-premise software, Office 365’s services are truly comprehensive. Bob German, principal architect at BlueMetal, an Insight company, says moving to the cloud delivers cost-saving advantages as well as expanded features. “One capability that is available uniquely in the cloud is Office Graph,” he says.

“It’s a machine learning layer that’s integrated with search,” German explains. “It gathers what they call ‘signals,’ such as meetings within Skype for Business, emails, instant messages and collaborative SharePoint activities. And all of those things go into the Office Graph.”

Leveraging Delve, which is part of the Office 365 suite, these “signals” are then used to serve up relevant, company-related content to users that they might otherwise have missed.

Excel’s memory consumption has changed.

It’s important to take into account that the memory footprint for Excel 2013 and Excel 2016 has been altered. While this shift won’t affect most workloads, it can have a major impact on businesses in the financial services sector. “Financial firms do a lot of modeling in Excel, and those financial models can break if you move to a version that handles memory or instances differently,” says Ben O’Dwyer, client director at BlueMetal.

To address this problem, BlueMetal developed a migration assessment tool for Office 365. “We run this assessment tool, produce the results, uncover the problematic spreadsheets that consume a lot of memory and then put a plan in place for the client to remediate those spreadsheets to allow them to work better in Office 365,” says Stefanos Daskalakis, project manager at BlueMetal.

He explained that one client migrated to Office 365 without fully understanding its ramifications on their workloads, leaving about 2,000 users unable to run Excel and affecting nearly 3,000 spreadsheets. But you don’t have to make the same crippling mistake. “We can help a big organization find where the potential pitfalls lie before they make a move to the modern application stack,” O’Dwyer says.

These productivity tools can be enhanced.

BlueMetal can also creates a powerful and robust experience for the users of Office 365. O’Dwyer says the company has enhanced the app bar that appears in Microsoft’s new productivity tools, delivering instantaneous visualizations within the tools. “If you’re a financial analyst and you have a stock ticker in one of the cells in Excel,” he says, “we can create a reading pane to show the stock’s real-time performance.”

O’Dwyer explains these enhancements also extend to SharePoint. Giving an example of a global enterprise that wants to allow its employees to securely access their benefits information or productivity tools in one place, he says modern portals allow users to “…search for people, companies or other entities, and see all related calendar appointments, documents, maps, directions and more within a single pane.”

Consider support services.

While Microsoft’s subscription includes basic support, the services provided can be insufficient for enterprise companies. IT leaders often enhance those basic services by leveraging additional premium vendor-supplied or third-party support offerings to meet their needs.

“Migration is not always difficult, but it can be a large project. People with experience usually perform these tasks better — but this experience is generally not available in house. For this reason, we find that many organizations engage an external service provider to help with the transition or take complete responsibility. IT leaders should investigate vendor or third-party supplied migration services. If you have a large amount of data and applications currently on-premises and you expect them to be available in the cloud, then migration services become even more important,” according to Gartner’s report, “What to Think of When Considering Office 365 or Google Apps for Work,” published July 2015.

Are you considering Office 365? Get help today. We're offering Gartner’s report complementary through July 2016 to help you understand the options and plan such a migration.