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How developing for Office 365 can change your business

Developers need to understand the value of programming and developing for Office 365.

As Microsoft tries to further entrench adoption of Office 365, developing for the Office 365 platform has become...

critical. Office 365 is Microsoft's business productivity platform and series of apps, and building on top of that suite enables companies to make their own apps easier to use and integrate with Office 365.

This is the new vision, as Microsoft seeks to expand Office 365 adoption; according to research firm Gartner Inc., 78% of respondents use or plan to use Office 365. Expanding adoption requires Office 365 services like SharePoint to have greater business extensibility into business processes. But developers still have a distance to go in understanding how to go about developing for Office 365.

As a result, Microsoft has been trying to change the way developers perceive Office application development. It is positioning its Azure platform as a service as a developer-friendly environment in which developers use APIs and capabilities to build user-friendly and revenue-generating apps.

In the past, Office development typically encompassed macros and custom add-ons. But today, the company is likely to benefit more if developers build more value-added components that are connected to its 365 workloads and create value for their tenants. To engage more developers, Microsoft has invested significantly in several areas of its platform to get developer buy-in. Let's consider some of the areas in which developing for Office 365 is creating more development opportunities.

Increasing popularity of the Office 365 platform. With more companies adopting the numerous services within Office 365, new opportunities to automate or streamline businesses processes arise. This gives developers the opportunity to look into how they can resolve the challenges through code and becomes a factor in justifying their consideration to build technologies on the platform.

Revenue-generating applications built for Office 365. If building applications to solve a business challenge wasn't enough, having the opportunity to sell the solution in Microsoft's marketplace where all Office 365 users have access to purchase it might be the ultimate motivation. Software developers understand that developing for Office 365 can monetize their app creation.

Open source community contributor. Open source is attractive to developers for a few reasons. One is that where a product is open sourced, more developers in the software community can contribute code to further enhance and add features. In recent years, Microsoft has continued to participate in the open source community, bringing its .NET core to Linux, open-sourcing its mobile app development platform and its PowerShell command line. According to GitHub Inc., a software and open source repository, Microsoft tops the market as an open source contributor, ahead of Facebook, Google and Apache.

Robust APIs and data accessibility. Whether a developer is looking to build an application that needs to connect to files, add calendar items in Office 365 using its REST APIs, build native Office add-ins that are available in Office apps, or create SharePoint web apps that live within SharePoint, developers have seen an increase in their options. All these paths are viable for creating solutions that can address one or more business pain points.

An abundant amount of sample code from Microsoft and others. For developers, it is important to note that what helps support them while building solutions is access to documentation and sample code that showcases functionality. Microsoft has continued to invest in its portal and library of sample code to give developers access to resources to build technologies based on its products and services, particularly Office Dev Center and GitHub.

Cloud services for advanced functionality. Microsoft's Azure cloud services for developers provide opportunities, from machine learning to SQL as a service. Azure provides development environments, code source control and hosting services, which are all amongst the list of services always needed by coders.

While Microsoft continues to offer more features in its platform that attract software developers, one has to wonder why Microsoft is also, in parallel, making the effort to make developing solutions and apps so easy that, in some cases, zero code is necessary. An example is the current push for Power Apps, which is the new platform in which an individual with zero software development skills is able to build a full mobile-friendly app in hours and make it available to a smartphone or tablet. Ultimately, Microsoft will make its platform user-friendly and feature-rich to engage companies and users to build and customize products to their liking, as well as encourage software developers to create additional technologies and add-ons for Office 365 and Azure.

Next Steps

Machine learning in Office 365

Migrating to Office 365 requires testing

Walking a careful line: Office 365 services

This was last published in October 2016

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