Question of the Week: Is the O365 ecosystem becoming the most dominant platform model for the digital workplace?

In our Slack community for the Enterprise Digital SUMMIT – that can be joined here for free – we have started to ask weekly questions on key issues of the digital workplace community. The idea of this is to collect the various views of experts and practioneers and to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experiences – as we are also intending with our Enterprise Digital SUMMIT.

A recent question was about Office 365 and the evaluation of its position within the digital workplace technology stack. In a recent tweet our dear friend Dion Hinchcliffe, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, stated:


He has been refering to a blog post by Christophe Fiessinger (Program Manager at Microsoft / @cfiessinger) in which Christophe wrote: “[…] we built Office to embrace the diverse needs of the modern workplace by giving teams their choice of tools. […] What’s unique about Office 365 is the ability to deliver tools that meet these diverse needs—all on a single, manageable platform.” This and other developments – like the broad offerings of new O365 social layer technologies like Beezy, Unily, or Wizdom – brought up the question about the positioning of O365 in the digital workplace technology stack.

As an input for further discussions I would like to share the various comments that we have received in our community:

David Terrar, Agile Elephant (Linkedin@dt):

It’s certainly taking a big chunk of the oxygen at the moment, with a combination of the Teams announcement and success of the many “out of the box” intranet products that sit over a Sharepoint environment. The one big issue is how they handle external people who aren’t on the company domain – those people need an O365 licence so external collaboration becomes expensive. Very interested to hear what Lecko are finding in their research. (edited)

Michel Ezran, Lecko (LinkedIn / @MichelEzran):

Our perception is that O365 is definitely becoming dominant in some way. Lots of organizations are migrating, some others, to a lower extent are moving to GSuite. So there is a general trend of moving to collaboration suites, in the hope that it will simplify the eco-system and make it interoperable, and thus reduce shadow IT. The issue is that so far, the oxygen, as David says, is absorbed by the lower levels of the stack (migrating mail boxes and documents to the cloud) and the toolsets are not that interoperable (O365 tools are not very well integrated, Google+ is limited and isolated, …) . But benefits are or will come over time. MS Teams accelerated the development of real value added usages because of its simplicity and actual interoperability. It’s replacing slack in some organizations and is really accelerating new collaboration practices.

Siegfried Lautenbacher, Beck et al (LinkedIn / @beaservices1):

Good morning and thanks for having me in this group. My impression is that yes: Microsoft is making a lot of noise and hype in this space and – yes – a lot of companies are using the O365 infrastructure in some kind of project. But what we often hear is: “OK, we have an enterprise agreement with MS, therefore we have to use it – it’s for free.”  But can we call this kind of approach a use for “collaboration” ? After the recent IOM SUMMIT in Cologne I’m even more confused about what is meant exactly behind a Digital Workplace approach. The whole discussion about O365 dominating the technology stack is still the old “workplace” model – with the idea of of one-size-fits model. I doubt it will win in the future.

Ragnar Heil, Microsoft (LinkedIn / @ragnarh):

Difficult question, because I observe both approaches: not using the new collaboration products because they are free and were delivered as add-on which were not requested. Especially with new collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams we see a significant change: end users are exploring new possibilities and are more open because chat tools are well known in private life and persistent chat was missing. In anyways there is a major need for our O365 partners to drive the cultural change and explore business relevant use cases with business departments and not only activate tools.

John Glover, Kahootz (LinkedIn / @JDGlover):

Many of our Kahootz clients also have Sharepoint … they find it constraining and difficult to deploy externally, which is why we have a business. Some have also told us it is not as accessible as our service via external partner networks – but I’m not sure why that is. We invited @david_terrar to our Health sector workshop last week and he will back me up most were very vocal about their frustrations with Sharepoint.
I should add that our clients believe that O365 is changing the landscape and that Sharepoint might eventually do what it is supposed to. Our strategy is to play nicely with Sharepoint/O365 and let our clients decide what is the best collaboration tool to use on a project.

What are your thoughts about Office 365 and the digital workplace technology stack? Is it the key platform for establishing a digital and collaborative working environment? For myself – I have quite ambivalent thoughts – certainly 0356 provides a dominant platform for the key “working tools” of our daily work. With Sharepoint it provides certainly also an infrastructural platform for building interesting “digital spaces” to store and share business relevant data and information – but this is for me just a part of the digital workplace.

Looking forward to your comments on this – on this blog – or in our Slack community.