The Reluctant IT Director’s Guide to migrating to Microsoft 365 – Maximising your return on investment

15 September 2020

Many SME and mid-market organisations have installed Microsoft 365, previously known as Office 365, yet their implementations have often been limited. Usually, they upgrade the suite of Office applications, but miss out on a wide range of productivity tools and services that Microsoft 365 has to offer.

In this article, Nigel Morris from BDO’s Technology Advisory Services (TAS) team looks at the benefits of a comprehensive Microsoft 365 implementation. He explores how, as a Reluctant IT Director, the non-technical director responsible for IT, you can leverage your Microsoft 365 subscription to improve business efficiency and resilience.

Maximise your return on investment

Microsoft 365 subscriptions offer much more than continuously upgraded desktop Office applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. They provide an opportunity to migrate productivity servers hosted on premise, such as Exchange and SharePoint, to cloud based alternatives. 

This enables an organisation with limited IT resources to take advantage of the latest technology, without the headache of managing a data centre, regularly upgrading servers and updating software, whilst enabling collaboration and remote working securely on a resilient platform.

Reaping the benefits

Any SME or mid-market organisation should expect a comprehensive implementation of Microsoft 365 to reduce risk by:

  • Significantly reducing or eliminating the need for on premise servers
  • Ensuring application security through automated software updates and patches
  • Maintaining data security and integrity through encryption and replication
  • Enhancing resilience through server and storage duplication and automated recovery

Yet that’s just the beginning of the opportunity. Comprehensive implementation means you’ll enjoy improved business efficiencies and be able to harness the latest productivity applications and innovations. Your employees will react faster, collaborate easier and share information with heightened security.

However, realising these benefits requires the right expertise. It’s dependent on establishing your needs, selecting appropriate subscriptions, planning a smooth migration and arranging professional post-implementation management and support.

Establishing your requirements

When our Technology Advisory Service (TAS) team assists with a comprehensive Microsoft 365 implementation it’s likely to include:

  • Installing the full set of Office apps on user devices (Windows and Mac PCs, tablets and smartphones)
  • Using OneDrive and SharePoint to synchronise individual and shared files across local devices and cloud storage
  • Managing email, contacts and calendaring using Outlook and Exchange
  • Employing Teams as the focal point for collaboration and communication
  • The ability to manage security and compliance using policies, permissions and online protection services.

Further options that we discuss with clients include advanced identity and access management, information and threat protection, and granular PC and mobile device management. The value of these additional options is often dependent on the industry sector, and any requirement to demonstrate compliance with regulatory standards and processes.

Microsoft continues to add functionality and features to Microsoft 365, some of which were previously only available through 3rd parties. Not all organisations choose to rely exclusively on Microsoft to provide all productivity-related services. It is not unusual for an organisation to select a 3rd party to provide additional functionality such as managing data backups independently of the Microsoft 365 cloud environment.

A comprehensive Microsoft 365 implementation offers an organisation the opportunity to rethink its working practices, and consider how components such as Teams could improve collaboration, realising a step change in creativity and efficiency within your organisation.

Choosing your subscriptions

Once your requirements are clearly defined, it’s time to decide which levels of Microsoft 365 subscription are right for your business. You should consider that:

  1. Subscription levels can be changed as your needs change. Avoid long term commitments to expensive subscriptions incorporating functionality you will not utilise in the short term.
  2. Not all users need to subscribe at the same level. Users who only require access to email may subscribe at a less expensive level than a power user requiring the full range of productivity applications.
  3. One size does not fit all. Beware, less expensive Business level subscriptions are limited to a maximum of 300 users. Larger organisations will need to deploy more expensive Enterprise level subscriptions.

Understanding the features included with each subscription type and level is a vital component of maximising the benefits of Microsoft 365 for your business. Always consider your requirements and IT capabilities, it’s surprisingly easy to overlook them.

Planning a smooth migration

Tasks to plan for during the migration to Microsoft 365 include:

  • Configuring Microsoft 365 cloud services
  • Installing applications on end user devices
  • Integrating with line of business applications
  • Training end users, possibly to use new software leading to a different way of working
  • Migrating data, including settings, files and emails

Migration can involve a substantial volume of data, and is rarely achieved overnight. Clients often ask us how long a successful migration can take, and we suggest you should plan for it to take place over several days or weeks. However, always use a hybrid configuration that keeps your on premise and Microsoft 365 servers synchronised until the data transfer is complete. It’s the only way to ensure a safe and unobtrusive migration.

In our experience, some organisations choose to maintain a limited hybrid configuration once the implementation is complete, often to retain local management of users, devices and policies. Any changes made locally synchronise with Microsoft 365, to ensure all productivity and line of business applications access common information, such as access credentials, to facilitate a Single user Sign On.

Planning and executing the migration requires extensive detailed knowledge of best practice and is best managed by those with demonstrable competency in this specialist area. There is no doubt that the long-term benefits of a managed migration will far outweigh any short-term costs. Not only will it get you up and running faster, and with more efficiently, it will also ensure you have the optimum package for your business.

Management and support

Never underestimate the ongoing management and support required once the migration to Microsoft 365 is complete. Common tasks such as adding and deleting users can be accomplished in house with limited training, yet more complex tasks require a deeper knowledge. These include incident trouble shooting, adding new features such as Single Sign On and integrating 3rd party applications.

Maximising the benefits

When you commit to a comprehensive implementation, Microsoft 365 will provide the backbone of your productivity applications and services for years to come. Therefore, before embarking on a full-scale implementation you need to invest time and resources to evaluate all the functionality and benefits on offer. What’s more, you need to weigh up how they can be implemented to maximise business efficiency and resilience.

Businesses regularly rely on our expertise and ask our TAS team about:

  • The best ways to maximise ROI from a comprehensive Microsoft 365 implementation
  • Planning and managing the project, and the migration from on premise servers to cloud services
  • Providing post implementation management and support

The BDO difference

Here at BDO, we understand the challenges that the non-technical board member faces when they become responsible for IT. Our TAS team has an extensive hands-on track record of delivering strategic, operational and technical IT advisory services. We’ve developed our services with the non-technical board director in mind and we provide management and support services to suit each client’s needs.

To find out more about our practical independent advice and IT support services contact Nigel Morris.