Here at the Borough of West Chester we are set to continue our expanded journey into Microsoft’s cloud.
Phase 1 (2011-2014)
We began this journey back in 2011 when our on-premises Exchange (email) server was retired and our email moved to what Microsoft called at the time, “Microsoft Online Services”.
Then in 2013 Microsoft upgraded and enhanced their online email service, now re-branded Microsoft 365. In 2013 our organization went through this upgrade process. In addition in 2013 Microsoft upgraded their Office product from Office 2010 to Office 2013. Along the way there have been other enhancements such as improved filtering, archiving, compliance management and mobility services. Also we were introduced to other services such as SharePoint, OneDrive and Lync. The adoption to these other services have been slower but that is about to change.
Phase 2 (2015)
Starting very soon the Borough of West Chester’s Microsoft Cloud adoption will expand. All file services will be migrated into SharePoint and OneDrive while Lync (soon to be re-branded to Skype for Business) will become an important and organization wide communications tool.
Another change that will positively impact all staff is the move to E3 licencing for everyone. Up until this Phase only management and other specialized personnel enjoyed this full functionality of Microsoft’s services. However because of the organizational shift to SharePoint all staff will move to the E3 licensing model. It is with E3 that users can access all that Microsoft has to offer in the cloud and this will allow us to move our data into SharePoint (and OneDrive).
One of the most exciting things about all of this is that our journey with Microsoft’s Cloud Services will not stop here. Microsoft has recently announced that there are even more enhancements around the corner although the time frame on some of these are unknown.
Phase 3 (2016 and Beyond)
Here are some of the continued planned enhancements on our horizon once our deployment is completed this year.
From Search to Delve. While enterprise search is a useful capability, SharePoint will go beyond search with a capability called Delve. This is “a new way to discover relevant information and connections from data across Office 365, as well as provide predictive search capabilities,” and it builds off of the machine learning capabilities of a technology called Office Graph, which draws connections between people and the data they need.
NextGen portals. SharePoint’s portal functionality may have put this solution on the map but a new generation portal technology, aptly called NextGen Portals, will provide a library of new “ready-to-go” portals that save time, money and effort. “NextGen Portals, by design, are intelligent, collaborative, mobile and ready to go”.
OneDrive. SharePoint’s OneDrive for Business offering is still based on the Groove technology Microsoft acquired a decade ago, but it too is evolving alongside the consumer OneDrive offering document and file storage and management. Of course, the business offering will also provide the security, reliability and manageability required by IT, and the service will be available to users of popular mobile platforms and of course Windows and Mac.
Team Sites. SharePoint’s Sites capability is evolving “within Office 365,” White says, which means “beyond SharePoint. That is, in Office 365, Sites can include SharePoint content as before, but also “email, instant messaging, tasks, contacts, personal files, social feeds and more” from elsewhere—Exchange Online, Lync Online—in Office 365.
We are already building our Team SItes!
Business intelligence. Another feature that appears to be exclusive to Office 365, Power BI is a cloud-based business analytics service that “provides an integrated analytical platform in the cloud that connects to your important information from where it lives via the Excel interface users know.”
Social. Microsoft moved quite quickly to add social networking functionality to SharePoint years ago and then of course the firm bought Yammer in 2012, dramatically expanding those capabilities. Now, Microsoft is further expanding its social capabilities by making Yammer functionality available across Office 365 and with Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com as well.
Management capabilities. Microsoft is also promising a unified management experience for enterprises that opt for hybrid deployments. And it is further promising a “unified experience for compliance, management and IT controls that span across Office 365—in addition to SharePoint, across Exchange, Lync and all of the new experiences.”
Extensibility. SharePoint’s success can be tied directly to its extensibility capabilities, and while initial cloud-based SharePoint versions had lacked some important on-premises extensibility functionality, those days are gone. Today, Microsoft is evolving the app model it launched with SharePoint 2013 and is extending it in the cloud with a new set of Office 365 APIs that target existing and new (Office Graph, Office 365 Video and so on) features.
Continued Improvement Leads to Good Change
As you can see one of the most exciting benefits of our continued Microsoft Cloud adoption is the continued improvement which is planned. This is a perfect fit for us at the Borough of West Chester as it relates perfectly to our newly titled “Kaizen, Technology and Communications Committee”.
Kaizen is Japanese for “good change” which of course many of these cloud services offer. Some of these changes are more relevant to our particular organization than others but the important factor here is that we will be in a position to access and utilize what will best help us get the job done and serve our community.