Moving to Office 365 has many benefits, including low entry costs, a financial shift from CAPEX to OPEX and improved business agility. It is truly an exceptional tool that can help your business reach new heights. That said, I have one warning for those of you interested in moving to 365: be careful to avoid what I call the “Beatlemania” effect.
It is very easy with any new cloud technology to get swept up in the frenzy and swoon over the agility and scalability that the cloud can provide. While moving to the cloud may want to make you twist and shout, it is good to be aware of the potential limitations of the new solution and what you can do to address them.
Some initial challenges associated with Office 365 are related to the sometimes complex nature of integrating cloud-based and on premise systems. Limitations include:
- Query suggestions and related queries
- FAST-specific features even though FAST isn’t available on Office 365
- The abilities to do advanced content processing and crawl external content
Cloud/on premise integration challenges are not unique to Office 365. In fact, there are similar limitations with other applications throughout the cloud. A recent survey (see the chart below) of companies moving parts of their business into SaaS platforms, such as Salesforce.com, showed that the ability to customize and build on platforms and the ease of integration with on-premise systems are the weakest points for SaaS overall. Not quite the sunshine daydream you imagined.
The first two sets of limitations – those related to queries and those related to FAST-specific features – will fade away with future releases. The third set of limitations, however, will not disappear any time soon – and presents the following set of challenges for enterprises:
- Inability to manage and navigate their organization’s information
- Navigating data that is trapped in silos
- Satisfying a wide range of user requirements across diverse systems and diverse roles
Part of the challenge is that the volume of data in the enterprise is growing at an explosive rate. According to estimates, the volume of business data worldwide, across all companies, doubles every 1.2 years. (Source) While data is growing in volume, enterprise data is increasingly growing in unstructured content and number of silos. The average enterprise of 1,000 – 10,000 employees has more than 150 different systems practically ensuring that data will remain siloed by application, line of business, or even business user.
The inability to bridge these silos can lead to poor or incomplete data which can cost businesses 20%–35% of their operating revenue. (Source) Bad data or poor data quality costs U.S. businesses $600 billion annually. (Source) Office 365 is a great example of your content can get trapped – you can get content inside of Office 365 but not outside of it.
Enterprise Search is your ticket to ride. Search can help with these challenges by providing a unified view of your information across silos. After working for more than eight years to help organizations bridge their data silos, lately we’ve seen additional complications related to hybrid solutions and the need to integrate online information services with on premise services. Hybrid models often occur because building to the Cloud is rarely a matter of flipping a switch, especially for larger enterprises. It is a migration process, this holds true for Office 365 and a number of other business critical applications.
While Microsoft gives companies the flexibility by supporting an on-premise and Cloud hybrid, the ability to search across both instances and present the information in an actionable format is hindered because it is not fully integrated. Listen to our latest webinar, Integrating Office 365 with the Rest of Your Enterprise: Best Practices and Pitfalls, for strategies and tools to help you achieve a unified view with search for Office 365.
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