Building the Microsoft 365 Cloud Vision and Business Case


This is the 2nd post in my "Cloud Adoption Journey – Blog Series"

In this post, we will go deeper on Phase 1 - Building the Vision and Business Case.

Key areas of consideration include:

  1. Creating the vision
  2. Assessing the financial costs and benefits
  3. The changing role of IT
  4. Driving the business forward

Creating the Vision

The start of any successful project is having executive sponsorship and a clear vision and roadmap that includes determining how we will measure success. Some common approaches and resources include:

  1. In my role at the Microsoft Technology Center, we often deliver Strategy Briefings and Architecture Design Sessions to help customers envision the "art of the possible" through a series of targeted presentations, demonstrations, whiteboard sessions, and discussions that map back to the customer's industry, challenges, and unique needs. We then work with customers to prioritize their rollout schedule and develop an actionable plan for moving forward.
  2. The Microsoft FastTrack Center has produced a set of resources to help customers further refine, document, and communicate their vision.
  3. Customers often like to hear from other customers and see examples of how others have succeeded and lessons they have learned along the way. We often facilitate customer conversations through a variety of forums and channels to help customers connect. Many of these stories have been documented and published.

Assessing the Financial Costs and Benefits

A key consideration is often determining what the costs and benefits will be of moving to the cloud.

  1. Microsoft worked with Forrester to assess the potential Total Economic Impact of moving to Office 365.
  2. The Value Discovery Workshop and Customer Immersion Experience resources help provide a more customized view for a customer and considerations related to their industry and key personas.
  3. Key questions at this phase include thinking about:
    • Possible vendor rationalization and tool/platform consolidation by moving to the cloud. Can we eliminate/replace some of these other point solutions to lower our overall total cost of ownership, simplify management, and improve the overall user experience?
    • Avoidance of purchasing additional software/services that may be planned but not yet implemented. Are these new capabilities already included in the targeted platform?
    • Ongoing maintenance and support costs and deferral including hardware, software, patching, updates, upgrades, etc.
    • Resource needs for migration, training, and ongoing support.

The Changing Role of IT

Moving from managing on premises servers and infrastructure represents both a challenge and an opportunity for many IT organizations. As we move some of the "plumbing" to the cloud (e.g. servers, storage, patching, ensuring high availability, backups, etc.) this offers an opportunity to reskill and reallocate our often scarce IT resources to other potentially higher value/impact areas that can drive the business forward and add differentiated value to our business.

For example, services such as email and file storage have become a commodity. While the services themselves are important, they do not differentiate companies. My next blog post in this series will focus on how we can help customers migrate these critical functions to the cloud as this is often a common "lift and shift" type scenario that many customers start with for their initial move into the cloud.

IT organizations need to understand their role in supporting and managing a cloud service. As capabilities such as Office 365 Groups unite multiple backend services, we need to think about how we govern them and who is responsible for them within the organization.

Some key resources to help IT with their planning and education include:

  1. The Microsoft Ignite conference had many sessions led by Microsoft customers, partners, and employees that touched on may of these topics to help with planning before, during, and after the migration. These sessions were recorded and are available on demand for all to access.
  2. Microsoft Virtual Academy includes a variety of online training sessions targeted at various roles in IT.
  3. LinkedIn Learning offers additional training for Office 365 administrators and IT professionals.
  4. Microsoft Hands-on labs provides the ability to gain hands on experience in a self-paced lab environment.
  5. In addition to the targeted per customer engagements at the MTC noted above, we also run a number of hands on workshops for customers and partners to attend. Many of those are regularly updated and listed here across the MTC locations in the United States.
  6. Change management in an "evergreen" cloud environment is very different than managing updates to on-premises servers. While there are a number of resources to help in this area, the Office 365 public roadmap is a key site to leverage.
  7. Connect with your peers online via the Microsoft Tech Community and in person at Office 365 user groups and community events like SharePoint Saturday.

Driving the Business Forward

This is one of the main reasons why many organizations are embracing the cloud - how can IT and the cloud be an enabler for the business? How can we do more than just move things "as is" from on premises to the cloud? Don't get me wrong, moving email and files to the cloud is important and solves many challenges for the business and IT (e.g. storage limits/quotas, improving sharing internally and externally) but the move to the cloud offers us many opportunities to question how we have been doing things for years and look for ways to improve and enhance things.

I look at the move to the cloud as a once in a decade type event. It's like moving from your first apartment/condo/house to your next living space as your personal and family needs change. Does your business still operate the same way now as it did 5 or 10 years ago? Probably not. Use this as an opportunity to find new ways to engage the business and eliminate their need to often work around IT - also commonly referred to as "shadow IT". As you move into your new house, don't just bring along all of your legacy baggage (e.g. the stuff in your garage, attic, or closet that you haven't touched in years). You're moving to a new location with the ability to put a fresh coat of paint on the walls and new opportunities to do things differently - building upon what you have already learned along the way.

The reality is that most business users do not wake up in the morning thinking about how to use a specific IT product or feature better. They think about performing their business function better whether that is in sales, marketing, operations, finance, etc.

While the Office 365 learning center has traditional product centric training and learning resources, I encourage you to not just start there. Yes, people may want to know how to use the new version of an Office product or some of the new capabilities in SharePoint Online. However, let's use this as an opportunity to think about changing how we work and see if there is a better way of doing things. It could be simple things like using a "modern attachment" to send a link to a document stored in OneDrive for Business versus a sending a copy of the document to support co-authoring and versioning. That's a great starting point. Let's think bigger.

The Microsoft 365 Productivity Library is one of my favorite resources to leverage with customers to help look at use case, persona, and scenario based resources with the ability to filter by a particular role/function or industry. For example, if I'm a person in finance, how do I better leverage these capabilities to help me work with my team to prepare for our earnings release? If I'm in sales, how do I work with others on my account team to respond to a customer request for proposal?

The Office 365 adoption content pack enables you to get deep insight into which services are being leveraged and view usage by department and user. This is very helpful for identifying who your early adopters and champions are in the business as well as knowing which areas to focus more on driving more awareness, training, and adoption. Use this information to identify your early successes. Share your internal case studies and wins to build and maintain momentum with the business as you introduce new capabilities.

Moving Forward

Next month's post in this series will go deeper into how to get started with phase 2: enabling the core plumbing and supporting infrastructure to leverage Office 365. Future posts will go beyond that into opportunities to leverage new services and capabilities to transform how your employees work together internally as well as with your customers, suppliers, and other external parties.

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