Office 365, SharePoint and ECM [Podcast]

Author by Pete Hurth

Peter Hurth, Concurrency's SharePoint ECM Team Lead, discusses Office 365 and how it relates to SharePoint and ECM. He exlains questions like:
  • [caption id="attachment_10435" align="alignright" width="174"]Peter Hurth Photo Peter Hurth - SharePoint ECM Team Lead[/caption] What is Office 365?
  • What are some of the reasons a company would look at Office 365 as opposed to standard on-premises servers?
  • Microsoft's Office 365 announcement last Wednesday details.
  • What do these changes mean for how Concurrency's ECM team can help clients?
  • What is new with user interface and mobility?
[display_podcast] Transcript of this podcast:

Marek: We welcome back today Peter Hurth who is SharePoint ECM Team Lead at Concurrency. Hi, Peter.

Peter: Hi, Marek.

Marek: Peter, we'd like to talk today about Office 365. Would you please explain what is Office 365.

Peter: Office 365 is Microsoft's software as a service offering. It essentially gives you the ability to have email in the Cloud. Microsoft SharePoint services in the Cloud, Lync for unified communications, instant messaging, video chatting, all the way up to telephone, voice over IP telephone in the Cloud. So it's that whole suite of services including also now the ability to purchase as a subscription the Office Productivity Suite. It used to be that Office 365 was pretty much just used for hosting email, but some exciting things are happening to broaden the audience I think for Office 365.

Marek: So Peter, what are some reasons why a company would look at Office 365 as opposed to standard on premise servers to fulfill their IT services?

Peter: The big reason I think Marek, is cost and management overhead. The big value proposition for Office 365 is that you don't have to have servers that you have to maintain. You don't have to worry about anti-virus. You don't have to worry about backup. You don't have any of those concerns, right? We don't have to worry about the hardware failing, any of those things. All you really have to do is just use the software. You don't have updates that you have to install. It's what they call an evergreen service so you sign up for Office 365, you use SharePoint or you use Email Exchange for email or Lync for instant messaging, unified communications and as new features are released you'll just get them. You don't have to go through any kind of an upgrade they just sort of happen over time. The goal I think for Microsoft is to actually roll out some of those changes and those updates before there available to people who have those on premises servers.

Marek: So it definitely helps you centralize the services without worrying about hardware and unnecessary software installs and upgrades to your local IT staff.

Peter: Exactly.

Marek: Now Microsoft made an announcement last Wednesday, can you give us some more details about that?

Peter: So last Wednesday Microsoft announced that the new version of Office 365 has become available to business customers. Up until last Wednesday they did a limited release of Office 365 for home users, for consumers so that's mostly about delivering the traditional Microsoft Office Suite so, Word, Excel, PowerPoint. One note, those applications as a subscription service rather than going out and buying shrink-wrapped software. Now you subscribe and pay a monthly or annual fee and get the software, but also get all the benefits of Office 365, which means you, get SkyDrive for your document storage.

You get new updates, new features as Microsoft develops them rather than having to wait for that two year software release cycle that we typically see, but last Wednesday they announced that Office 365 is now available for business. There's a number of different plans available depending on what specific feature sets you need, but in addition to the Word, Excel, PowerPoint type of Office product we also have now SharePoint, Exchange, and Lync all on the latest platform. So on premise it would be known as SharePoint 2013, Exchange 2013 and Lync 2013. All of those applications are now available in the Cloud as part of different Office 365 plans. They also announced a bunch of new plans so really you can take a look and just go to the Office 365 website and take a look at the different plans that are available and there's almost certainly something that fits just about any business needs.

Marek: What do these changes mean for how Concurrency's ECM Team can help clients?

?Peter: That's a great question. A lot of the changes that were released last week are all about bringing some of the features that were missing from the previous version of Office 365. Made it maybe a little bit less compelling place to go for business, for document management, records management, those sorts of things.? There a number of gaps in the previous product and those gaps have almost all been filled with this new version. We're very excited about Office 365 for ECM or Enterprise Content Management with this new version for example we have the ability to create record centers and to automatically organize and move content around different sites in SharePoint based on rules. So this is something we couldn't do previously. Microsoft's worked very hard to attain a number of different security certifications as well. One of the big barriers to adoption of the Cloud in general in Office 365 in particular has been really more of a psychological barrier, right?

People don't want to take important business documents and have them up in the Cloud rather than on a server that's within their walls, but I think in just sort of in the IT world that's been changing in the business world it has. Companies have put payroll information and I've outsourced benefits information for quiet awhile now so I think that, that reluctance to have corporate information live outside the four walls of the company is kind of breaking down, but along with that Microsoft has done a very good job of getting some key industry or security certifications for things like HIPPA here in the U.S. They've also achieved a thing called FISMA which is the Federal Information Security Management Act authority to operate. So essentially Office 365 is certified to be a platform that federal agencies can use to store confidential information. It's a lot of exciting stuff you know, there a ton of new features that have been released in this new platform. Everything from site mailboxes that integrate Exchange Email into SharePoint to allow teams to have specific mailboxes with specific email addresses for that team. Things like news feed, social features in SharePoint, things like or Microsoft project sever is now available as part of the Office 365 offerings.

This is entirely a new offering for Enterprise Content Management, but it's still exciting because it's an expansion of the platform. Probably the last thing I would mention, this is a big new addition for Enterprise Content Records Management is the ability to do E-discovery in Office 365 across all of a companies SharePoint content as well as Exchange based information. So emails, tasks, contacts and all those things that are traditionally stored in Exchange can be queried from SharePoint. They can be held for legal purposes. They can even be exported out for legal purposes if you need to. So a lot of really compelling new features in this new release specifically for ECM and then also kind of generally great enhancements to the platform.

Marek: So Peter it sounds like a lot of interesting changes. Now would you explain to us if there is anything different with user interface.

Peter: That is a huge change. In earlier versions of Office 365 you had these kind of stand alone products. They were in the Cloud and you had a single administrative interface. That was nice for administrators not so great for end users. So the end user who was using SharePoint, it was using email so, Outlook either web access or on the desktop for email or Lync really had this kind of disjointed user experience. They had one place to go for SharePoint, they had another place to go for their email, the contact information, tasks, those sorts of things. That's changed pretty dramatically now.

This new version that was released last Wednesday has this new UI a new user interface that has a bar along the top so you'll have to visualize this with me. It has a bar along the top that has quick links, quick sections to get to email, to get to contacts, to get to tasks, to get to SharePoint sites, to get to your my site in SharePoint. So the user interface is pretty different. It allows users to very easily navigate from one section of Office 365 to another. The other thing that I would say with tasks and kind of bringing information together for users is there's a new service that kind of operates in the background and from the end users perspective they don't really care what's going on in the background, but the bottom line is it brings in their Exchange to do's and tasks. It brings in all of your SharePoint task information and it even brings in Microsoft project server tasks so things that you may have assigned to you as part of a formal project that you're working on. It brings those all into an unified view for you in your, it's called a my site in SharePoint so, in your sort of personal space in SharePoint. So you can get one view with a nice little timeline of all of the to do's and tasks that you have assigned to you. It's a much more unified user experience than previous versions.

Marek: Peter, how about what's new in terms of the mobile devices like telephones, smartphones, and tablets and so forth?

Peter: Sure, there's quiet a lot new with mobility. That was one of the major design criteria for this new version of SharePoint in particular is better compatibility with different mobile devices. So of course Microsoft has their tablet to surface, their smartphone platform Windows Phone 8, but lots of people out there also have android tablets and smartphones, have IOS, iPad, iPhone tablets and phones so one of the problems with the previous version of SharePoint was it relied pretty heavily on a technology called Silverlight that was not available on those other platforms. In fact it's not available on the new platforms from Microsoft either.

One of the big changes in SharePoint 2013 and also in Office 365 this new version is a essentially a replacement of the functionality that was provided by Silverlight with HTML5. This more modern framework for being able to add kind of rich functionality to web delivered content is now pervasive in SharePoint. What that means for end users is that if they're using a modern device and they hit a SharePoint site on Office 365 it will render for them in a readable format. It'll give them some neat little navigation to be able to move back and forth between sites and it's going to work the same on every device.

If you need to take that to the next level though this new version of SharePoint allows a designer, somebody who can design web pages to actually target those specific devices with device, there called device channels in SharePoint to target content based on the particular device that happens to be browsing the site. In addition to all those changes there are a number of device specific apps that will be released over time as well. There a couple of areas where there will be actual native apps for devices, one is to aggregate the SharePoint news feed so I mentioned it briefly just a few minutes ago, but one of the new features in SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 is this concept of a news feed. It's just a place that all of the documents that you might be following or people you might be following in SharePoint sites.

There's any number of things you can follow. Those were all aggregated into one place and that news feed is obviously viewable within SharePoint, but Microsoft will be releasing native apps for IOS, for Android, for Windows phone, for Windows tablet, Artsy which will allow users to sort of get a peek into their news feed without having to go to SharePoint. Just a native app so that's kind of nice. Another area where there will be a specific native application will be for SkyDrive Pro. SkyDrive Pro is the corporate non consumer version of SkyDrive the ability to take documents offline synchronize them between devices. There stored ultimately in SharePoint, but SkyDrive Pro will be available as a native application for the different device platforms sometime this year as well. So all kinds of exciting changes on the mobility front.

Marek: Hey Peter, thank you so much for all this information about Office 365. Now if listeners would like to get more information or just learn more about Office 365 or other Microsoft technologies what's the best way for them to contact you?

Peter: The best way Marek is to go our website Concurrency.com. Our consultants all blog there very active also you can get to all of our social media information there Twitter, Linkedin. So there is a ton of information there, there's a lot specifically on Office 365 because of the new release. Quiet a few of us have been blogging on Office 365 recently so lots of good information there.

Marek: Excellent. Thank you Peter and we'll have to talk to you soon.

Peter: Alright, thank you.

Author

Pete Hurth

Social Collaboration Solution Lead