On September 22, 2015, Microsoft announced the launch of it’s new office, Office 2016. This is a significant announcement post the launch of Windows 10 which has been touted to be the company’s last official Operating System. Over and beyond the ongoing tracking of productivity suites, the Greyhound Research team has also spent time over the past month running pilots across different devices and operating systems. Below is a quick summary of our observations.
- A new-age approach of competition – Coopetition.
#GreyhoundStandpoint – While Microsoft continues to compete with Apple and Google, they are also adding significant muscle in making their software interoperable. This is probably for the first time that Microsoft Office suite has been made truly operational across all Operating Systems and devices.
- More intuitive compared to its predecessor but still far from being tightly integrated.
#GreyhoundStandpoint – Office 2016 is significantly refined (and intuitive) compared to its previous version. Microsoft has done well to include better support for Cortana and add features like TellMe that can help improve user acceptance by helping them find functions using normal language commands.
Having said that, integration between various products is still slightly broken and can take users some time and experienced hands to get around making different Microsoft products work together in a near-seamless fashion.
- Office 2016 will get pushed to users via Automatic Updates.
#GreyhoundStandpoint – Albeit Microsoft has announced that this version will be sent via Automatic Updates, users should expect a longish wait (for nearly a quarter). Having said that, Office 365 subscribers can get the upgrades earlier (click here).
- Improved integration between Skype for Business and Office 2016.
#GreyhoundStandpoint – Organisations will find tighter integration between Skype for Business and Office 2016 a good plus to enable a zen-style collaboration (read co-authoring) internally within the company. However, IT Decision Makers and Users please note, this integration works smooth primarily on the offline mode and has certain restriction on online version.
- More power for power-users – solid integration of Power BI to the suite.
#GreyhoundStandpoint– This will definitely give a lot of visualisation tools a run for their money – however, change management and user acceptance to a new tool is another battle in its own and IT teams will need to work towards user training.
- For those heavily into story telling, both Office Mix and Sway are useful tools.
#GreyhoundStandpoint – Our team spent time getting hands dirty on both product and has noticed a peculiar restriction. Sway (currently) can only be embed using iframe code which leaves out a lot of organisations that use cloud-based Content Management Systems like WordPress.com that don’t allow this embed.
- Office 365 Planner for better team work.
#GreyhoundStandpoint – One area where Microsoft Office has suffered previously was its inability to visualise tasks and help better manage common tasks within teams. With Office 365 Planner, the company is hoping to solve this exact problem. Greyhound Research believes while this is a significant addition to the suite and offers better visualisation of tasks, it will require significant user training for users to accept it for what its worth.
- Integration with third-party Cloud Storage providers using Cloud Storage Partner Program.
#GreyhoundStandpoint – Microsoft’s efforts to allow integration for third-party Cloud Storage providers like iCloud and Google Drive need to be applauded. Having said that, it’s critical to note that all users are given OneDrive for Business as the default and making these third-party integrations as the default option will either require a partner or in-house expertise to get around that.
- Better security standards with Multi-Factor Authentication, Data Loss Prevention and Enterprise Data Protection.
#GreyhoundStandpoint – Having said that, currently Microsoft is primarily suggesting using Azure instances for MFA with little clarity on how organisations already running an MFA instance on other public cloud can better manage this scenario. Again, an area where the IT teams need to do some leg work before using the same policies for Office 2016.
IT Decision Makers please take note that while the suite does come with more refined capabilities like Data Loss Prevention, File-Level rights management for Cloud Storage and Multi-factor authentication, you will need to plan migration in a phased manner. Greyhound Research urges IT departments to first embark on a user-definition journey to better define the roles of each business user that will ultimately define access, control and capabilities that should be exposed to them.
Greyhound Research also advises IT Decision Makers to be careful about managing Office 2016 environment on mobile devices – while the company has its own suite, InTune, it does limited justice to non-Windows devices. To better manage both data-in-rest and data-in-motion on other mobile OS (Android and iOS), organisations will require additional Mobile Device Management tools to ensure complete security cover.
- A variety of skews to allow organisations and IT teams the flexibility
#GreyhoundStandpoint – SMBs need to be careful about choosing the right skew that fits their organisational needs today and in near-future – else, they can well be over paying for the products. To share an example, Skype for Business is not a default integration with Office 365 Business and needs to be purchased separately.
To quote another example, while benchmarking Office 365 plans for one of our clients, the Greyhound Research team discovered two different skews under O365 Business – bf2b9 and 88b99. Critical to note that despite the same license type (no difference in included products and user restriction) there is a significant cost difference in both these plans – latter is 25% more expensive than the former. Greyhound Research recommends IT Decision Makers and procurement teams to opt for skew bf2b9 from their Admin panel. Or else, it’ll be best to involve a partner to help you make your way through the Office365 maze!
We recommend new users who require a personalised tenant and additional tools for migration and deployment to have partners join them using the FastTrack program – this allows easier deployment. But, as always, there is a caveat – this program is only available for organisations with more than 150 seats.
- Investment in its partner base to help improve adoption of Office 2016
#GreyhoundStandpoint – Greyhound Research also advises IT Decision Makers and procurement teams to talk to Microsoft partners on helping them optimise Office 2016 resource usage. There are features and functionality like MFA, DLP among others that can significantly add benefits for organisations but requires experienced hands to ensure the same.
- Mac users were given a privileged status and got access in July 2015
#GreyhoundStandpoint – This has been a much needed upgrade for Mac users who previously resorted to using software like Parallels to install a Windows licence on their Mac machines and then install the latest Office suite. Office 2016 is significantly improved for Mac Users – in fact, even boasts of a better welcome screen!
Having said that, Greyhound Research warns users of issues that can significantly consume RAM in excess of 50-60%. During our tests we faced issues (no memory warnings) with excel sheets that were migrated from .numbers (iWork) to .xlsx (Office 2016) and had to carry out damage control to make the suite functional. To share with you, we repaired disks, deleted excel .plist and duplicated fonts to ensure better machine performance.
About The Author: Sanchit Vir Gogia is the Chief Analyst & CEO of Greyhound Research, an independent IT & Telecom Research & Advisory firm. He also serves as Chief Futurist, Founder & CEO of Greyhound Knowledge Group that operates under four brands – Greyhound Research, Greyhound Sculpt, Greyhound Technocrat and Greyhound Vivo. To read more about him, click here.
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