Reading between the lines it appears healthy competition will lead to better service for Cloud consumers.
I would be foolish to try to write an article comparing these two products without resources and a research team behind me. Luckily our friends at Gartner have done just that by producing a report based on discussions with hundreds of sources both large and small – and it makes for interesting reading.
Disclaimer: As a “pure-play” Microsoft Cloud Partner we are biased. Therefore it is tempting to use some of the comments from the document to show the benefits of moving to Office 365 versus Google . For credibility’s sake I will try to refrain from comparing products and discuss the thematic aspects.
If you need to compare the solutions nothing beats hands-on experience or talking to Partners regarding either product.
On first reading it is apparent the solutions are not compared like-with-like. It feels unfair to only compare Microsoft’s strengths against Google’s weaknesses. By the denouement (or maybe sooner for you clever people) you realise that is the exact point of the report – the current performance in the marketplace is not aligned to Microsoft’s obvious strengths vs. Google’s obvious weaknesses. Or simply, the sales of Google Apps don’t make sense compared to the strengths of Office 365.
Are you in it for the long-haul?
My favourite statement in the analysis is not related to a specific product:
“These are still relatively early days for what we believe is a 15-year or more migration cycle”.
I assume this migration cycle is the time it will take the majority of businesses to move up to the cloud. “15 years or more” is good news for our customers who know their infrastructure and services will continue to improve for the following reasons:
- Whilst it might take time; a migration cycle of this duration is indicative many more businesses will move to Cloud Services
- More users on a platform equates to better efficiencies realised by the supplier and more funding to invest in the platform
- More users on either platform increases competition; competition will drive innovation to demonstrate the best value to the customer
As a business owner with a team heavily invested in Cloud it is reassuring our investment to learn and overcome some our internal rejections of this technology will pay-off; even if it equates to five years of business rather than fifteen. In the early days there was a natural reluctance to stay “hands-on” with on-premise solutions.
Are Enterprises really looking for “new”?
An argument for Enterprises not moving to Office 365 immediately is that there is not a new compelling reason/function to move:
“The lack of a compelling reason — a major forcing function — driving Microsoft customers (particularly the larger ones) to immediately move to Office 365 has opened the door to increasing legitimacy for Google as it posts a growing number of wins”.
Reading this I wondered if Enterprises, who tend to show conservative “wait for Service Pack 1” behaviour, are really looking for new functions or are in fact waiting for a proven track-record and an eco-system of experts in case they need people to facilitate it? Combined with getting used to the idea of moving critical assets outside your organisation and it is no wonder there is slight inertia.
Cloud enablers like Penman have a responsibility to explain the benefits to the risk-averse, and develop the support ecosystem. This is key for the migration cycle to take place.
Early adopters probably have a bigger appetite for risk and therefore are able to consider radically changing their infrastructures. This may be a factor why the “other” vendor is performing better than expected. Over the long-term this will change and the report itself concludes Microsoft will dominate the market.
If organisations are seeking new functionality – both platforms provide a compelling “feature”: your in-house team are no longer running the service and can focus on business differentiators. Imagine a world where every company generated its own electricity. See, you just can’t visualise it can you?
(In addition neither platform allows customisation (versus configuration); which relates whether Cloud is really suitable for an organisation and should be highlighted in any early readiness exercises).
“Office” is no longer confined to the Office
For most of us in the industry we are already personally affected (positively/negatively) by connectivity to the office enabled by technology:
” In a sense, the term “office” is passé because more and more people are working outside the office, outside of office hours and using a whole range of tools, some of which they own, some of which the enterprise owns and some of which others own.”
“Office” is a strong brand, unlikely to change – yet this small observation is interesting. What term now fits working practices and places now? “Life”?
Hybrid Cloud Services enables “user effectiveness”
For those with the luxury of budget and time the report recommends running Hybrid systems:
“opting (where appropriate) for best-of-breed components and subsystems to optimize user effectiveness instead of best-integrated suites that optimize IT efficiency”.
Another shift, in-line with BYOD, is the focus on providing flexibility for the end-user. As IT departments stop dictating what software is in use a more heterogeneous IT landscape will evolve. Therefore it is essential to understand other technologies beyond what you know. This means partnering with SMEs to present hybrid / flexible business environments.
The research states that for some large Enterprises they may have the tools to segregate their users into “Power” users who require full desktop software, versus “kiosk” type users who can use lighter (and therefore cheaper) software. Saving costs without preventing productivity is key in this scenario. An example is provided of an Enterprise running Google Docs for low-end users and the full Office suite for power users it is dependent on a number of factors:
- What version of users were using prior to software upgrade.
- Whether document fidelity is necessary to share documents
We have customers who have moved from very old versions of Office and the equivalent Web App (mostly Outlook) is far superior than what they were using previously.
Moving from Office XP to Office 15 with related Office Web Apps might address this need without having to negotiate with two service providers and providing 100% fidelity with documents. In the past upgrading Office whilst ensuring document compatibility was a black art. That process may become more challenging if you have two suppliers providing desktop software.
Conversely we have seen some customers engage with both suppliers in order to negotiate (albeit small) discounted service.
There’s turbulence getting up to the Cloud
“Based on the number of users in enterprises in the developed world with more than 500 employees, we informally estimate that Microsoft has well over 90% of the personal productivity suite”
The report then demonstrates that early performance (due to recent wins by Google) this figure has reduced to 66%. Over 90% market penetration is something to be admired and all observers are waiting for that “inevitable” fall from grace. Yet it is also apparent there is inertia in the market so these figures are bound to change.
This threat/turbulence is what will drive innovation and change – change that is passed onto the end customer in regular cycles (90 days for Microsoft, unknown period for Google). In either case this provides further reason to move to the Cloud – as users do not have to wait for on-premise IT migration/rollout projects to take advantage of features driven by competition in the market.
It feels great to have a meeting with a client and tell them their system was upgraded and without effort ( increases of mailbox sizes and mobile phone connectivity changes with 365 being most memorable).
Getting up to the Cloud may be turbulent and market share may change. But the market is changing rapidly and some users will select a new supplier as they move up to the Cloud.
But many will stay with their current supplier.
This is a very complex area which would take further analysis than a blog entry. Yet, having digested the report it feels these are the key take-aways from the study:
- Microsoft will still dominate
- Competition is healthy
- Forced innovation is beneficial for all
Overall what is key, as ever, is the people. The ecosystem of employees, programmers and businesses with knowledge and time invested in these platforms who are essential for their success. This is a critical factor when deciding Cloud strategy.
It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this subject and the Gartner paper. There is so much detail it’s an interesting subject to debate.