One of the struggles organizations have with today’s changing technology landscape is mobilizing their workforce with the right tools to get the job done. As a frequent traveler, it is critical to me that I’m online as soon as I’m on the ground with a device that will surface up the critical business information I need, and I’m sure many of you are the same.
Office 365 has quickly become an enterprise-grade suite of applications that allows for rapid deployment in a variety of corporate environments to provide the connectivity, systems and tools required to be effective both inside and outside the office. With the new capability of managing your office “virtually” anywhere, organizations are now faced with the challenge of governing their mission-critical information as it expands to devices outside of the office. As governance is essentially made up of a series of policies and procedures that are known and followed by employees, this article includes some suggested policies and strategies for long-term Office 365 success.
For organizations to create a workable governance strategy, they should begin by defining the needs of their users. Using the app model with Office 365, access levels can be locked down in order to limit the potential exposure risk. For example, a risk-management strategy could limit the deployment of Lync, which could be harmful from a usage (data) perspective, as well as creating unforeseen connections or conversations with the wrong person.
The centralized data platform for Office 365 is SkyDrive, and that means it must be leveraged properly. The task at hand is managing the information that your users have amassed (and is likely sitting on dust-covered archive drives) effectively, which means migrating and transferring information into the cloud.
Assuming you have made the corporate decision to do so, ensuring that all documents are online and providing a single version of the truth is your only way to success. I can tell many stories about how having my files in SkyDrive has saved me, such as during device breakdowns and projector issues. From a governance perspective, it’s important to reassure users that going to the cloud (SkyDrive) is an enterprise decision that will result in little day-to-day change.
Next on the list of things to govern are Team Sites; similar to SharePoint, these collaborative tools are included with the Office 365 suite, allowing teams to work together, share documents and tasks, and organize their content on projects. Teams should have set expectations and limits in order to govern their usage of the site.
An understanding should be in place for how often team members are to communicate on specific projects. A project with a tight deadline, for example, would demand that team members check in more often. There should also be a document-management policy set to manage the use of documents and uploads. Some organizations have chosen to enforce a no-e-mail policy for documents where links must be sent in place of the document itself. This can be effective to save bandwidth, allowing users to only access and download what they need.
Office 365 empowers IT to deploy the solution they need for their world with a simple navigation screen to manage everything from users and groups to licenses. In some cases, this is almost too simple, so be sure to create a policy here for deployment and support. This can also impact companies that are used to providing a standard image to their user base, so be sure to implement a backup/recovery policy so there is a seamless way to get users back online if and when disaster strikes.
One of the overall dependencies of Office 365 is, obviously, that you have to be online in order to use the services, including the uploading and downloading of changes you’ve made to files. For those who have distributed teams in countries where Internet access is the exception, not the rule, you may want to pursue another solution than Office 365, as the downtime may be a limitation to overall productivity.
If that’s the case, I would recommend mobilizing your workforce with local versions of the software and have users connect to SharePoint in order to best collaborate with the home office. Remember that many Office 365 plans also include the desktop version, so be careful that you don’t start using your on-premise licenses where you don’t have to.
Regardless of the decisions you make when governing your Office 365 world, make sure to follow your journey and execute on your aligned strategy.
Eric Riz is the Executive Vice President of Concatenate, creators of the RealTime suite of products. A SharePoint MVP, you can reach Eric by e-mail at email@example.com or on Twitter at @rizinsights. Read his other SharePoint thoughts on his blog at www.ericriz.com, and catch his sessions at SPTechCon San Francisco, April 22-25, 2014.