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What is Microsoft's Office 365 strategy, anyway?

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Microsoft has an opportunity, with the Ignite conference, to lay out an Office 365 strategy for users.

Since the emergence of Office 365, there has been some question about what Microsoft's plan for these services is all about.

The Office 365 strategy has been characterized at times as muddled, unclear and overlapping, with several Office 365 services sharing functionality. SharePoint features a content repository, as does OneDrive for Business. SharePoint also includes enterprise social networking for internal teams with Yammer, but Skype for Business also features social networking functionality.

"Microsoft has done a lot of repackaging, and, sometimes, that is just to cover the fact that they haven't finished a product," said Scott Robinson, a SharePoint and BI expert, in this podcast. "Microsoft has run us in circles a number of times. So, you have to ask: 'This redundancy -- what is it all about?'"

Robinson noted that much of this redundancy came about because SharePoint had presented such an all-or-nothing approach to content management, with so many services jammed into a single application. The Office 365 strategy appears to be to disperse this functionality into a variety of applications so users aren't locked into one for, say, social media or content storage. It also enabled companies to use more "lightweight" content management that is easier to use and administer, Robinson noted.

"SharePoint has been intended to be this monolithic, this one-stop shop, for content and collaboration," said Robinson, but not every organization needs all the functionality of SharePoint in order to make use of what it really cares about.

"There's strategy going on here," Robinson noted. He said, "Microsoft's Office 365 strategy is about traveling a careful line between, 'We don't want to scare off old customers and bring in new customers and make things simpler for everybody.'" To make that happen, they needed to improve their core technology. The way they are storing data is far more complex than just SQL Server platform and all these products are working smoothly together and that is what will be communicated at Ignite.

Robinson discussed how the upcoming Ignite conference might resolve some of these issues and help walk that line in this podcast.

While Microsoft is doing its best to modernize, according to Robinson, there are serious questions about whether this pace of change is too much for users to handle.

Robinson said that recent enhancements give users more control and, possibly, more ability to trust the cloud. "They have given new controls within Configuration Management suite which allow you to see what's going on, anticipate downtime and do root-cause analysis. With mission-critical applications, you have got to be able to troubleshoot. The new services give you that visibility. They don't give you full control -- that's goes a long way to making customers feel more comfortable in the cloud.

"They are throwing an awful lot at the user community at once," Robinson continued. "It's an awful lot of change in a short amount of time. We need more transition time. Let the user community choose the pace at which they phase out the old and bring in the new."

For more, check out the podcast above.

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