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How to Evaluate if There is an Office 365 App That’s Right For You

We recently posted a blog about the most underutilized Microsoft Office 365 apps. There are a lot of companies that are using Office 365, but are still using third-party applications like Dropbox, Slack, Zoom, etc. when there is a free Office 365 app available. Why does this happen?  In this blog share our experience around adoption of Office 365 apps and how to encourage adoption.

First, let’s examine the root of the problem. Sometimes organizations are not aware they already have a free product available to them. Other times they may be aware of the product but havedon’t like the the features that they provide.  In other words, there are numerous reasons why organizations go outside free Office suite apps and purchase other third-party products.

The question someone in the organization should be asking is, "Are the incremental features (as compared to the O365 product) of the third-party product so compelling that they outweigh the cost?".   If the answer is yes, then there is a compelling business case.  The point is that someone should make a conscious evaluation. We recommend considering the following when you are deciding on an application that’s right for your company, whether it’s Office 365 or not.

1. Do Your Homework

Company strategies and needs change over time and so might the services and tools needed for effective implementation. Office 365 is more than just an email and office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.). A host of other apps and services are now part of Microsoft’s cloud-first and mobile-first strategy which provides similar services when compared with third-party tools. Before buying any third-party software, thoroughly analyze and assess if Office 365 already provides an alternative. As we mentioned before, sometimes, people just aren’t aware “there was an Office 365 app for that”. Once you have identified the 0ffice 365 products and competing products, make a list of features AND prioritize them to aid the comparison.

2. Consider All Factors

The analysis should be broad and cover the important factors that need to be considered.  Features, cost, convenience, integration and performance are a few of the main considerations to include in the analysis. Let’s look at each a little deeper.

BUSINESS NEEDS

First and foremost, don't just consider the need of the hour. Organizations tend to jump to technology solutions to answer their problems before considering the business needs. Make sure that you have clearly defined and prioritized business needs upfront. This will guide the other consideration factors as well.  

Cost and Convenience

Most third-party tools offer a single service in their product. It is always discussed and debated that single product vendors provide a better app, customer service, faster response time and ease of use when compared to Office 365 products. This might be a big driver to buy a third-party tool.

Let’s consider this example:

A Dropbox premium license costs around $10 per user per month. All the user needs to do is to download the software to use it the right way for collaboration. It seems easy, right? A similar argument can be made for OneDrive (an alternative to Dropbox). This is already part of the Office 365 suite and a Business premium license costs around $12.50 (per user per month). The Business premium license includes office, email and premium services like Skype, SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, Exchange and Yammer. You are already paying for the Office license so why pay an additional $10 per user per month when you could just pay one fee of $12.50 and have everything included? This can add up to major savings.  However, convenience should be taken into consideration too. SharePoint and Teams may require custom set-up so that could outweigh the cost savings in some cases.

Another key advantage of Office 365 is the convenience it creates for the end-users. It’s a one-stop-shop for all the services. Users prefer coming to one place for accessing the content. With the right approach and design, Office 365 can significantly reduce costs and create convenience.

FEATURES 

This may seem obvious, but it's important to make sure that the features of the solution imeet your business needs. The biggest challenge typically occurs when organizations are not clear about the features or functionality they need. This could lead to inefficient spend on solutions that are missing core functionality.  As we said, solutions that fit a specific need can be powerful, but the enterprise value and seamless integration across all of the Office 365 apps is compelling.  Additionally, Microsoft continues to enhance the Office 365 platform, so even if a feature is not there today, it is probably on their roadmap.

Integration

The data in a particular application can be extremely powerful if it can be seamlessly used in other apps.  For example,  SharePoint and OneDrive are so integrated that it allows for a file share system like OneDrive to benefit from the workflow and other benefits of SharePoint in a straightforward way.  Microsoft Teams is also helps to bring these applications together in a way that it is hard for an ecosystem of specialized apps from different vendors to compete.

Performance

Companies offering a single product tend to have better features, availability and support. One of the key aspects of buying software is performance. Before shifting to a different product on this key aspect, consider the costs and benefits of looking at how your implementation is architected.   This could lead to small changes that have a big benefit. For example, performance and efficiency for better video conferencing through teams that are spread across continents can be done through allocating infrastructure and bandwidth in their respective regions. This should be included in your analysis  and considered before deciding to buy any other software.

3. Build A Robust Plan for User Adoption

With ever-changing new features and services, Office 365 can be overwhelming in the beginning. One of the reasons people go to third-parties is because they were never able to successfully get users to adopt Office 365 products. However, the adoption plan may have not been adequate for the undetaking. A well-structured plan including design, usage and and the use of super-users can help clear this hurdle.  Also, as part of the adoption strategy there should be a commitment to continuous improvement.

The above considerations can help you better plan and make better IT decisions. Whether it’s evaluating an Office 365 product or alternative product, the same considerations apply.

At Veritas Total Solutions, we help organizations get the most value out of their digital tools including collaboration tools like Microsoft Office 365. We can help evaluate, design, implement and/or manage services related to Office 365 products and a variety of other technology solutions. If you are interested in learning more about our specific capabilities, contact us or subscribe to our blog to stay connected.

Written by Sandeep Chinta

Sandeep Chinta, Manager, has a decade of management consulting experience primarily focused on Information Technology earning a successful track record of implementation, maintenance and support of web-based solutions. He is effective in leading teams through challenging technical environments, proficient in understanding complex technical systems and capable of delivering quality solutions on-time and under-budget. He is also great at sharing his deep knowledge of IT best practices, systems and tools!