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It's been a great year for Office 365

Dec 20, 2016 by Emma Robinson

It’s been a busy 12 months in the Office 365 world. Enterprise adoption is growing rapidly, there’s a host of new productivity features and collaboration tools, and Azure uptake continues to increase. Here we’ll take a look at a few of this year’s highlights and take a peek at what is just around the corner in 2017.
In October, Microsoft announced that there are over 85 million monthly active commercial users of Office 365, stating that year-on-year growth now stands at about 40%. Commercial adoption of Office 365 has been stratospheric, with 70 million commercial subscribers being announced only the previous month (in March the equivalent figure had been 60 million).
A more secure and functional platform
Office 365’s functionality has come on in leaps and bounds during 2016, here a couple of key releases we saw this year.
If you attended Microsoft Ignite 2016 in September, you will know exactly how many exciting new features and updates were announced. Satya Nadella’s keynote was all about the new AI-powered features that were being developed and brought to the platform, and one of other Office 365 announcements we heard was the ‘evolution of personal analytics’. Building on the technology formerly known as Delve Analytics, the newly named Microsoft MyAnalytics can be used to help you understand how you work, and give you insights that can help you improve your focus and productivity.
On the security front, two new features specifically address email protection. ‘Dynamic delivery’ enables users to receive a placeholder attachment while the actual attachment is scanned, while ‘URL detonation’ can identify malicious URLs in real time.
Microsoft Flow has been in preview throughout 2016, and was released for general availability in November. The workflow creation service is all about integration as a means to automate repetitive tasks, create intuitive workflows, and ultimately improve productivity. A large part of this is enabled through Flow’s ability to connect third party services with the Office 365 apps and ecosystem. It’s currently free to use (depending on your workflow requirements), so make sure you try it out!
There has also been a few handy additions and updates to some old favourites. Quickstarter for PowerPoint and Sway is a new feature that will suggest curated outlines for presentations, while a new type of Excel chart called Maps will let users create visualisations from geographic data.
Sharing and collaboration
In 2016 Microsoft has pulled out all the stops to improve collaboration, and there are now plenty of options – especially if you’re planning to migrate away from older shared systems like Exchange public folders, or group mailboxes. There’s established services like OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint Online, two seasoned Office 365 applications designed to enable file sharing, teamwork, and host collaborative areas in Office 365.
But what’s new?
Office 365 Groups is a collaborative work space that works across all Office 365 applications, providing you with a group inbox, calendar, SharePoint site, OneNote notebook and plan in Planner. You get everything you need to unite a team, manage a project and drive it forward towards success. Microsoft have spent a lot of time developing and expanding the capabilities of Office 365 Groups this year, and expect to see more in the coming months too.
And what’s newest?
And then you’ve also got Microsoft Teams in preview, a chat-based workspace in Office 365, positioned itself as a serious contender to similar tools like Slack or HipChat. Like Office 365 Groups, (largely because they are very similar in design and configuration), Teams also leverages the established channels created through Office 365, like IM, calendars, meetings, notes, and planning tools, to provide a completely integrated space for team collaboration.
Make the most of your licences
It has been claimed that one in every five corporate employees is now using Office 365, which is a phenomenal achievement for the platform. Office 365 licence sales are buoyant – in April this year, a Gartner poll indicated that 78 per cent of respondents already used Office 365 or planned to use it within six months.
These ever-increasing figures are always fantastic to see, but to understand the impact that the service is really having, it is important to understand whether these organisations are getting the most out of the platform they’ve moved into – or that they’ve even started the implementation process for the licences that have been bought.
In October this year, the Register claimed that the US Inland Revenue Service (IRS) paid $12m for Office 365 licences that were never used. The figure relates to the period from June 2015 to June 2016. The IRS had begun a plan to move its email system from on-premises to cloud – including subscriptions to Office 365 and Exchange Online – and an official report claims that these licences were purchased under the guise of an upgrade to existing on-premises systems:
“The purchase was made without first determining project infrastructure needs, integration requirements, business requirements, security and portal bandwidth, and whether the subscriptions were technologically feasible on the IRS enterprise.”
Every now and then we see situations, just like this one, that demonstrate how there’s so much more to Office 365 adoption than just buying licences. The planning and implementation process can offer up a wide range of challenges – and when that’s all completed successfully, you still have to make sure that your end-users have embraced the service in order to guarantee the success of your Office 365 deployment.
What to expect from Office 365 in 2017
So what’s coming next?
Microsoft has already announced that better accessibility features are in the pipeline, along with assistive technologies to ensure Office content is even more polished. There are numerous features in Preview that will be entering the General Availability during this year, including Microsoft Teams, Stream, or the Office 365 content pack for PowerBI.
There are clearly good reasons for Microsoft to be optimistic about the ongoing success of their platform, but here at Cogmotive, we’re also excited to see what 2017 will bring. Office 365 feature releases show no sign of stopping, and neither will ours – you can expect to see their developments reflected in our new reports, tools, and solutions – so make sure you stay updated on what we’re up to.
Cogmotive is the leading global provider of enterprise level reporting and analytics applications for Office 365. Find out more now.