During my nearly 10 years at Microsoft, I have been fortunate to work with many customers and partners to help them develop and execute on their vision to improve productivity; engage their employees; and better serve their customers, partners, and suppliers. For many, this has included moving critical IT functions and business processes into the cloud.
In my next few blog posts, I am going to explore some of the key trends and themes that I work closely with large commercial enterprises on in my role as a Modern Workplace Technical Architect at the Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) in Boston, MA.
This post will cover the high level themes and phases that we often explore. Future posts will go into more detail on each topic with links to specific resources and recommendations for where to learn more.
In general, I have observed 3 primary phases that customers go through during their journey:
- Building the vision and business case
- Implementing the plumbing and supporting infrastructure
- Realizing digital transformation by reinventing business processes
Let's review each of these phases a bit further.
Phase 1 - Building the Vision and Business Case
Most customers that I work with have decided that the cloud makes sense for them - at least for some workloads and scenarios. In my primary focus on Microsoft 365 (Office 365, Enterprise Mobility and Security, Windows 10) some of the key steps and considerations in this phase include:
- Developing the vision and strategy - creating the blue print for the future and breaking it down into actionable phases with multiple iterations. I'm a big fan of thinking about how we can help organizations crawl, walk, and run. What are they key business goals and outcomes we are trying to achieve?
- Understanding the total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) targets we are seeking. How do we justify the move to the cloud? How do we measure success in financial terms? Is there an opportunity to rationalize some of our IT spend by consolidating tools/vendors? Can we avoid cost by reallocating money and resources targeted for other efforts and technology spend?
- How do we optimize our IT resources? This isn't necessarily about reducing headcount but thinking about how we can reallocate resources to focus more on higher value business functions and less on plumbing and infrastructure that do not differentiate most organizations and impact the bottom line for the business. How do we move from IT being a cost center to a true enabler and partner of the business?
- What is the organizational impact of the change that we are driving - both for IT (e.g. how our teams are organized and their day to day functions) and the business users that ultimately use our solutions?
- How will we drive sustained long term adoption? I often think about this in terms of the formula: A = V > C ... for something to be adopted in general the Adoption occurs when the user sees a Value that is greater than the Change we are asking them to make. Always thinking about "What's In It for Me" (WIIFM) from an end user perspective.
Phase 2 - Implementing the Plumbing and Supporting Infrastructure
Once customers decide that the cloud is right for them, and they've developed their vision, strategy, and roadmap, we progress into the phase to lay down the core plumbing and infrastructure needed to execute. While the details vary based on the customer and their strategy, in general here are the key things we focus on:
- Establishing their Office 365 tenant and thinking about the services we want to enable for the minimal viable product (MVP).
- Getting identities ready including any cleanup/remediation needed, directory synchronization, federation, and preparing for single sign on.
- Assessing the potential impact to the network in terms of bandwidth requirements, ports, protocols, firewall/proxy changes, etc.
- Making sure that our clients are ready. Ensuring supported versions of operating systems, browsers, and Office clients are considered. Thinking about which platforms we want to support - Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and browser based experiences.
- Setting up the appropriate hybrid infrastructure and services. For example, if we already have Exchange, SharePoint, and/or Skype for Business on premises consider our plans and needs in the short and long term based on how quickly we want to move to the cloud and what customizations exist on premises currently.
- Considering security and compliance requirements. Thinking about how we at a minimum replicate our current security posture and controls while looking for opportunities to improve the user experience. Looking for the changes and opportunities offered by a move to the cloud across various dimensions including: identity; location; device; application/service; content; and auditing/visibility. Understand administrative role based access controls available and ensure for just in time and just enough access. While initially this may start with protecting Office 365, think about how we can extend these capabilities to other 3rd party platforms and services as well.
- Migrating our initial users and services to the cloud. For many customers this starts with a "lift and shift" concept where they are migrating mail, files, archives, and other collaboration services and functions from on premises, or other cloud services that may be used by "shadow IT", to the Microsoft cloud. This is an area where we spend a lot of time to make sure we're mapping back to our long term vision and laying the right foundation. Microsoft 365 offers various options and newer experiences that did not exist on premises. We need to consider if we need to refactor and change things during the migration. I often use the home moving analogy ... when moving from 1 location to another we often discard things no longer needed while optimizing the layout and usage of our new location. Same deal with the cloud and how we think about tool selection, information architecture, and governance.
- Look for opportunities to find high value, low effort, "quick win" experiences that solve business and IT challenges. For example, many customers have been rapidly embracing OneDrive for Business, Stream, Yammer, and Forms to meet needs around replacing personal drives; sharing video content; cross organization knowledge sharing; and building quick surveys, quizzes, and polls.
- Planning for ongoing change management in an evergreen cloud service including minor and major changes as well as new service offerings.
Phase 3 - Realizing Digital Transformation by Reinventing Business Processes
- Once customers move into/past the first 2 phases, we can really help them accelerate their transformation. I've had the pleasure to work closely with some of our largest enterprise customers that are based in the New England area. Customers such as Thermo Fisher, Liberty Mutual, and Shire who are moving forward beyond just putting files and emails in the cloud.
- This is also a great opportunity to continue to look at how we can optimize and change the way people work and collaborate. For example, how do we leverage Office 365 Groups, Teams, and Modern SharePoint Team and Collaboration sites to change how we work together and share information and news? If we started with only internal collaboration, should we consider enabling external guest sharing to meet the needs for securely collaborating with our customers, partners, and suppliers outside of our organization?
- How do we optimize and improve business processes? For many organizations, that means enabling and supporting business developed solutions that can integrate and connect with not just Office 365 but also other cloud services and on premises systems. Enabling technologies such as PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI are helping customers meet needs for building a variety of solutions without custom development.
- How do we really change the game? At the MTC we spend a large percentage of our time helping organizations leverage and integrate emerging technologies such as bots, artificial intelligence, the Microsoft Graph, LinkedIn, IoT, and cognitive services into the Office 365 services that their users spend significant time working in.
While the above is not an all inclusive list, and the ordering and sequencing of these phases varies by organization and is not as linear as listed, hopefully this helps as an initial framework and guide. Future posts in this series will drill deeper into each of these and related topics to help you understand how to best leverage the solution building blocks and offerings that Microsoft and our partners offer to help you build and achieve your vision.