A recent article quoted Microsoft as having passed a significant milestone. “As this year closes”, wrote the Financial Times earlier this month, “it has become the biggest seller of cloud services to business customers, vaulting past start-ups such as Salesforce.com and outpacing IBM and Oracle” While cloud services account for less than 5 per cent of revenues”, the FT went on to say, “the milestone is a sign that the world’s biggest software company is finally making headway as it looks beyond the PC era”.
Earlier this month, we passed an equally memorable –and related – milestone, as we have just celebrated twelve months of using Microsoft’s Office 365. I think ‘celebrate’ is the right word here. Along with ‘liberate’. Because our experience of 365 has been a truly liberating one. Here’s an ‘end of year’ report which may offer pointers to any other marketing services firms which are considering making the change.
The positives first. We love the fact that anybody can access the system from anywhere and from any device. Our staff are all now working on their preferred gadgets, including desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones; across Windows, Apple and Linux operating systems.
The staff love the fact that Office 365 automatially updates their version of Microsoft Office. So those that have fallen behind and have older versions of the software on their personal PCs are in for a treat. Those who are using Macs are waiting early for the launch of Mac Office 2015.
As an agency that frequently redrafts documents, we’ve always struggled with version control. So teams working on jointly prepared documents have struggled with numerous emails containing numerous versions. No more. Office 365 lets you work on just one document that is centrally held in the cloud. That’s a load of emails saved from the inbox.
Office 365 also makes collaborative working a reality. We’ve had instances of several team members working on the same document simultaneously with one on a train, one at home and one in the office. That occasion proved to be a real life saver (don’t ask!). Online collaborative working is shifting how we work together as a team to another level.
Lots of documents need careful file management. And although we were pretty disciplined, we inevitably have had instances of documents being filed in the wrong folders. But no more late night tantrums at not being able to locate the correct document or the correct version. Office 365 has a super search facility that lets you retrieve any file from anywhere wherever it has been filed.
We have also fallen in love with Lync. It lets us instant message each other across the office. (So another bite taken out of the inbox mountain). We use it instead of the phone when calling each other. And that includes conference calling with multiple team members. We’ve recently started sharing screens across it, so we can do remote presentations.
We’re not big enough to truly appreciate the newsfeed facility that could be set up on each site. But for larger agencies with multiple teams geographically spread across several offices, this could be a real godsend and a great way of sharing more informal information.
We are big enough though that we’re now filling each client ‘site’ with information specific to that client. We’re throwing everything in there including taking RSS feeds from the client websites (although be warned, this particular facility isn’t supported very well yet). So these sites are now becoming true ‘knowledge repositories’. This is especially useful for new members of the team who want to get up to speed quickly.
Our office manager is sleeping easier at night too. There’s no office server to worry about getting damaged or stolen any more. And no limit to the amount of storage we need. Back-ups, naturally, are a thing of the past as are expensive IT support contracts.
If our office manager is happy, you should see our MD. Office 365 is remarkably cheap and works out at just £12 per month per user.
Now for the negatives. For some reason Microsoft have made it really difficult to upload or move large files around. Average uploads from even a lighting fast internet connection run at about 100kbs (at best). So if you are a large creative agency dealing with many video or image files, you may just struggle with Office 365. Frustrated calls made to their customer services department haven’t helped as they have just recommended third party software (which doesn’t work). So if you are thinking of making the change, be prepared to spend lots of time staring at blank screens.
If we were being nit picky, we’d probably criticise the look and feel of the system too. For those who’ve come to love Apple’s visual slickness, Office 365 is like stepping back in time. Whilst the system has plenty of add-ons, these tend to look clunky due to poor design. We hope this gets a refresh in 2015.
But that’s about it.
During his career, Simon has advised numerous blue chip clients and has worked on a number of large scale communications programmes. Simon has extensive international experience and was a previous Secretary General of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), a trade association representing over 1,000 PR agencies in 28 countries.
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