At the very end of 2020, a group of around 40 IT, networking and mobility leaders at large enterprises gathered to drink wine and share stories from a momentous year. The conversation turned to priorities for 2021, with discussion of SASE, zero trust and user experience a big part of the project list for the next 12 months. One thing that unexpectedly stood out consistently among those present, however, was Microsoft365.
To explore this topic further, In the first three months of 2021 over 130 professionals working at enterprises (2500+ employees or more), financial services organizations and law firms met several times to talk about Microsoft in more detail. Polling these individuals confirmed the insights from the end of 2020 – almost every single organization in the groups was standardizing on Microsoft365 (the successor to Office365) in one way or another.
An overwhelming majority (94%) are either in the process of implementing M365 or have already done so. Just 3% are still using legacy Microsoft products and a further 3% are about to adopt the cloud products. Perhaps surprisingly, every single one of the respondents was using Microsoft productivity solutions in one way or another.
The slow march to the cloud
Microsoft’s dominance across the enterprise is remarkable and has almost certainly been amplified by the rapid digital transformation brought on by the impact of COVID. Transitioning to the cloud has been accelerated as workforces have become more distributed than ever, with IT leaders looking to M365 to deliver cloud-first experiences for employees.
Many organizations have been migrating to the cloud anyway – yet the shift is still very much in progress. Very few (10%) have transitioned entirely to a cloud model, with many leaders sharing that they had no plans to ever reach a 100% cloud approach to business applications.
Considering that Microsoft 365 is among the most important projects inside most IT departments in 2021, charting the status of cloud adoption in general is key to understanding the effectiveness of deployment. The same group was asked to share the success of their journey to the cloud. Results suggest that the vast majority of companies are somewhere in the middle – with over three quarters of participants somewhere between 25-75% of the way to full cloud adoption.
Everyone’s buying it, (almost) no one is using it all
The various packages of M365 licenses include a long list of products, solutions and tools. That typically includes the regular Office365 applications, but also collaboration software like Teams and Yammer, file-sharing products like SharePoint and OneDrive, analytics tools like PowerBI and Dynamics and even device management suites like Intune or Endpoint Manager. Purchasing M365 licenses is one thing; implementing everything it includes is something else altogether.
“We’re trying to figure out the best way to migrate from our existing tools like MobileIron and Skype to ensure we’re making the most of our M365 licenses”Senior IT director, top 3 US logistics firm
Navigating the journey to full license utilization was cited as a common challenge for many of those working in IT. Selecting which parts to deploy first split the group, with SharePoint, Teams and Intune among the most popular projects to tackle in the remainder of 2021.
Each presents its own unique issues, which extend beyond simply rolling out new software. Best practices revealed by the experts in the group included:
Moving to cloud filesharing like SharePoint
Look to ZTNA, SDP, CASB, SASE and other modern approaches to cloud security. With more data accessible in the cloud and users dispersed across thousands of networks, upgrading your secure access philosophy away from the perimeter is an important component when adopting cloud storage solutions from Microsoft.
Embracing Microsoft Teams
Teams is undoubtedly a new and better way to collaborate with colleagues, especially in a distributed working environment. The challenge in ensuring a successful implementation is that video and audio quality can be unreliable. IT can no longer deliver network quality, given that many employees are in their homes or elsewhere. IT leaders should consider connectivity technology that stabilizes and improves the performance of networks to overcome some of these concerns.
Switching to Intune/Endpoint Manager
There is a compelling financial reason to migrate away from dedicated UEM like VMware or MobileIron to Microsoft’s offering included in M365. For some organizations, however, the functionality of Intune is less complete than with the products already in use – the limited VPN and remote access capabilities are regularly highlighted. Microsoft recommends using integrated dedicated solutions in tandem with Intune to meet those requirements. You can read more about this here.
Work from anywhere … mostly
The final topic of conversation is about life after the lockdown. As governments begin to ease restrictions, many organizations are considering what the return to work means for them. Will distributed working continue, or will employees be expected to return to the office once it is safe to do so?
Just under half (45%) are expecting to adopt a hybrid model for remote working, balancing office work with home setups. Over a third (35%) are preparing for a work environment that is primarily based in company-owned locations, approximating a ‘return to normal.’ Just 3% are moving to an entirely distributed model, with 16% suggesting they will be mostly (but not completely) operating remotely.
Combined, these data suggest that about two thirds of organizations will be working with at least half of their workforce based remotely. This ‘new normal’ will require a new range of technology, from M365 to SASE – platforms that deliver more visibility, security and productivity in a work environment turned upside down by the pandemic.