Today I saw this piece from Fast Company about one way that Microsoft is one of the most innovative companies of 2017. The article talks about how Microsoft has leverage the acquisition of Minecraft by pushing it into the classroom and allowing educators to use it to teach biology, physics, history, and more. This is truly an amazing innovation both in the use of an extremely popular game that has been extended for use by educators, but also in the way that Microsoft is licensing Minecraft to schools ($1-$5 per student).
We all know that Microsoft has fully bought into the idea of Consumption Economics and many others are following suit, but this doesn’t always highlight how Microsoft, and other partners, are working to constantly add value to their customers. Let’s look at a few examples.
- Office 365 – There are two ways that Microsoft is adding value to customers via Office 365. The first one, and the one that drives most business, is the simple transfer of cost and responsibility. When you go to Office 365 you don’t need to spend money on licenses for servers, for the servers themselves, and for their upkeep (patching, electricity, etc.). However what people don’t always think about is that Microsoft is also on the hook to innovate in the cloud and boy have they been doing that. From Delve to Groups to Teams and more, Microsoft has been adding new features to Office 365 and customers that use that service are getting to take advantage of that innovation. Before O365 Groups, companies had to spend valuable IT resources providing ad hoc collaboration to their users, now it is out of the box.
- Mobility – We all remember Steve Balmer and his desire to make everything Microsoft. Satya Nadella has taken a very different approach. Now it doesn’t matter if you are on an Android, an iOS device, or a Windows device, you are consuming Office 365 or another Microsoft platform when you use your device. Store items in iCloud and it likely is in Azure on the backend. Hit a website and there is a good chance that Azure is powering it. Microsoft has released dozens of mobility apps (I wrote about some of them here), and their plan is to continue to be where the marketplace is and drive that marketplace to Microsoft back end services.
- Security – One HUGE advantage to Microsoft customers now is their commitment to security. They have created a Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) that is focused on a wide variety of security issues and which customers get to leverage for their expertise. This means that when you become a Microsoft customer, especially when you purchase an E5 license or certain stand alone features, you have expanded your IT security staff by the entire complement of the DCU. Now, as they track malware and other malicious intrusions to the entirety of the Microsoft network, you can call upon that knowledge and experience for your organization. As that knowledgebase and experience grows, Microsoft will push more and more of those features to you as the customer.
- Common Data Model – A relatively new offering that has great potential, the Common Data Model allows organizations to provide a consistent data access method for their data, regardless of the source system. Take data from SaaS solutions like Workday or Salesforces, or from other Microsoft products and services like SharePoint or Dynamics 365, or from on premise solutions like SQL Server or Oracle and consume them from one framework that can be consumed by PowerBI, SharePoint, PowerApps, or Flow. In effect you can create an Enterprise Service Bus without having to actually purchase or write the ESB.
What does this mean for you?
It means that you need to stay abreast of the innovations that Microsoft is making and take a long look at how you consume Microsoft services.
- Are you leveraging Azure Active Directory Identity Protection? Doing so means that you can leverage Microsoft’s DCU to ensure that your identities are protected and proactively monitor for intrusions.
- Are you using Azure Active Directory Conditional Access? This would allow you to manage access to resources via groups and policies reducing your risk footprint.
- Intune and EMS? If you have Office 365 then you have part of this already, but the full service means that you can manage your mobile devices, actually all devices, and how they access your network resources. Control what types of devices are allowed, require security features, remote wipe, and control application usage centrally for all of your users and leveraging the dozens of mobile apps that Microsoft has released
- Are you using PowerBI to create easy to consume dashboards by and for your users?
One thing is certain, its likely that Microsoft has released something recently that will add value to your organization if you implement it.