Office 365 enterprise deployments usually begin with migration projects for content and collaborative apps, resources that were previously managed on legacy content/collaboration platforms and first-generation Internet file storage/sharing services.
Several dynamics can lead to content and apps in Office 365 becoming suboptimal over time, however, often with severe consequences for productivity, flexibility, and/or governance. As Microsoft continues to introduce new Office 365 tools and services (such as Planner and Delve Analytics), for example, there can be significant benefits to leveraging the new capabilities for content and apps that were previously addressed by custom apps or Office 365 Sites.
Other common patterns that lead to form-follows-function-fit drift include changes in business processes and record-keeping needs, information worker and developer preferences, enterprise policies, and organizational structures. Partially successful migration projects (done with simplistic migration tools, for example) can also result in a need to further optimize content and apps over time.
The rest of this post provides more details about the need for periodic Office 365 health checks and how CASAHL DART can streamline the process of keeping your Office 365 deployment fully optimized. (Note: the focus of this post is Office 365, but the same CASAHL DART ongoing optimization benefits also apply to traditional content/collaboration platforms such as on-premises SharePoint.)
Office 365 provides opportunities to significantly simplify content and collaborative application development and administration. Its broad and still-expanding tool set, building on a foundation of Azure infrastructure services, makes it possible for enterprises to increase focus on business needs and radically reduce the resources required for ongoing platform management and maintenance.
Taking advantage of the new opportunities with Office 365 is not a one-time transition, however. Enterprises can benefit from periodically assessing the overall health of their Office 365 deployments to ensure the resources managed in Office 365 remain optimized and deliver expected benefits over time. The rest of this section includes overviews of some common enterprise patterns that make it critically important to monitor and embrace ongoing changes.
New Tools and Services
Office 365 includes an impressive portfolio of content and collaboration tools. It continues to evolve, with refinements to well-established tool categories (e.g., for managing conversations and hypertext content) as well as new capabilities in domains such as activity management and organizational analytics (see an earlier post, New Opportunities in Activity Management and Organizational Analytics, for more details).
Many custom SharePoint sites and apps created for collaborative project management, for example, can now be more simply and productively addressed with the new Office 365 Planner tool. Planner is an extension of Office 365 Groups, which means users don’t need to switch among a collection of disparate tools when managing business tasks. Both end users and collaborative app developers can be more productive by adopting this type of higher-level tool.
PowerApps (see an earlier post, Liberating Legacy Content/Collaboration Resources for PowerApps, for more details) is another important example of new opportunities available with Microsoft’s evolving tool set. PowerApps is a “mobile-first, cloud-first” tool that makes it possible for non-programmers to create nontrivial and data-rich workflow applications, and it’s a powerful alternative to earlier SharePoint-centric workflow tools. As with Planner, PowerApps represents a higher-level approach that can increase productivity for both end users and app developers.
Enterprises that are unable to take advantage of the new Office 365 tools and services as they’re introduced face productivity and flexibility penalties.
Content and Apps Evolve
Business needs and processes change over time, resulting in a need for content and apps that can evolve as well. Some common scenarios:
What starts out as an informally-structured conversation, such as a SharePoint discussion collection of posts and replies pertaining to customer opportunities, can expand into a mission-critical workflow application with structured forms (document templates), a variety of notification triggers, and detailed record-keeping and activity-tracking requirements.
Basic lists captured in SharePoint sites can expand in volume and query/reporting usage scenarios to a point at which additional database management capabilities are warranted, going beyond what’s practical to address directly in SharePoint.
Document libraries originally created to manage relatively small-scale group or project file sharing can evolve to become strategic systems of record used in multiple enterprise domains, requiring broader content sharing capabilities and more stringent content governance.
In other words, there can be form-follows-function-fit drift between an initial content/app technology choice and what’s required as the business domain changes over time. If enterprises can’t adapt to the changing needs in a timely manner, there can be severe productivity and compliance consequences.
Preferences and Policies Evolve
Mainstream content and collaboration preferences are often influenced by user experiences outside the workplace with popular consumer-oriented Internet tools and services such as Facebook and Pinterest. Employees familiar with such tools/services are likely to prefer similar Office 365 user experiences such as Office 365 Groups-based conversations and information discovery, organization, and sharing in Delve boards (which are Pinterest-like in some respects).
Similarly, OneDrive is likely to be preferred to SharePoint document libraries by employees who routinely use services such as Dropbox and Google Drive to share files for personal activities.
This type of by-popular-demand pattern can create a need to migrate content and app resources from traditional Microsoft tools/services (such as Office 365 Sites, based on traditional SharePoint sites) to more recent and modern alternatives such as Groups and Delve.
Another personal preference pattern that should be tracked over time involves the popularity of content and app resources. Infrequently-used content repositories and apps, for example, should be reviewed and perhaps retired.
Business policies also routinely evolve in order to address changing business needs and regulatory requirements. A document-centric process that started in OneDrive, for example, may evolve to require the more fine-grained document governance and auditing capabilities available in Office 365 Site-based document libraries, creating a need to migrate large collections of OneDrive folder and files.
Enterprises that are unable to respond to changing employee preferences and policies in a timely manner are likely to have frustrated information workers and unhappy auditors.
Large enterprises are often realigned in order to scale and to address new business opportunities. Mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures also result in organizational realignments. These changes often create opportunities to consolidate content repositories and app portfolios, and, in some cases, create the need to disaggregate and recompose applications as related business processes and responsibilities are redistributed among organizational units.
Enterprises with content and app collections that can’t evolve along with organizational changes end up with productivity and governance challenges due to content and apps that are increasingly out-of-step with enterprise needs.
Sometimes, in Migration, “Mistakes Were Made”
Many enterprises end up with needs to rapidly revise content and apps in Office 365 after incomplete or otherwise inadequate migrations from traditional content/collaboration platforms. Some migration vendors use an overly simplistic “like-for-like” migration approach, for example, in which legacy apps are essentially copied to Office 365 without consideration for opportunities to improve the apps by taking advantage of new Office 365 tools and services.
Consulting engagements for custom migration projects can also produce poor results, especially when content and app resources from multiple legacy platforms are consolidated in Office 365 without full consideration for related business process and content governance concerns (e.g., when files are simply copied without accounting for related access control and audit requirements). Some migration consultants also default to creating complex custom applications rather than leveraging higher-level capabilities in Office 365 (such as PowerApps), leaving enterprises with unnecessarily complex and inflexible apps that can’t evolve as business needs change, or that require ongoing and expensive engagements with the consultants in order to address initially overlooked migration requirements.
The inability to effectively respond to limitations resulting from incomplete or otherwise inadequate migration projects can jeopardize the overall success of Office 365 deployments. If information workers can’t find the resources they need and developers are saddled with difficult-to-maintain custom code for apps that should have been addressed with higher-level tools, they may conclude Office 365 is counterproductive and revert to less capable and costlier legacy tools.
Ongoing Optimization with CASAHL DART
CASAHL DART can be uniquely effective in addressing the need for ongoing content and app optimization in Office 365. The same DART tools and services used for multi-source content and app migration can be flexibly leveraged to keep content and app resources optimized once they’re deployed on Office 365.
CASAHL’s Assessment service can be used to discover and analyze content and apps in Office 365, and provides detailed insights about the extent to which the resources are being effectively used. The Assessment service can also automatically produce recommendations when different tool choices may result in a better form-follows-function fit for a specific site or app.
CASAHL’s unique DART Dashboard tool provides a collaborative forum for enterprise stakeholders to collectively review Assessment results and develop ongoing optimization priorities and plans (the Rationalization step in the DART lifecycle). The DART Dashboard is an Office 365 app that makes it easy to collectively review and discuss potential optimization options. Here’s a snapshot of the Dashboard help view, which describes the tool’s capabilities:
The DART Dashboard Help/Overview Screen
DART Dashboard works with high-level rules to assess deployments and review recommendations. Rules can include time periods, usage, and complexity ratings, as shown in the example below.
DART Dashboard Rule Manager View
Working with DART Dashboard, enterprise stakeholders can easily identity opportunities to optimize content and apps managed in Office 365.
Once optimization plans are created, CASAHL’s Fixed-Fee Migration Service can be used to implement the plan. When optimization involves modernizing complex applications, CASAHL’s Application Recomposition Service can be used to address even the most complex collaborative workflow apps. The CASAHL ecKnowledge platform can also be licensed and used by enterprise planners who opt to handle post-Assessment steps in-house.
DART can also be used to support complex apps that evolve to include high-end database services. If a SharePoint list exceeds SharePoint’s data management capabilities and should be migrated to SQL Server or Azure SQL Database, for example, DART’s enterprise integration capabilities can be used to migrate the data. DART can also support scenarios requiring ongoing replication, making it possible to create a master copy of data in a full database management system and automatically replicate (all or a subset of) the data to SharePoint lists or other more content-oriented technologies.
CASAHL DART for Ongoing Office 365 Optimization
To recap, CASAHL DART is a unique and flexible solution for keeping Office 365 content and app resources optimized as enterprises needs evolve. The same assessment and migration capabilities that have been used by thousands of enterprises for multi-source migration can address the full spectrum of ongoing optimization requirements that enterprises need to manage in order to keep their Office 365 deployments in peak health.
To learn more about Office 365 Optimization with DART, please contact CASAHL today.