Top Predictions for Office 365 in 2018

Dec 19, 2017 | Blog, Office 365 | 0 comments

It’s been one hell of a year for Office 365. This year has seen Microsoft Teams released and fast establish itself as one of the most important services in Office 365.

In addition to that, we’ve seen a long list of small and large updates to the Office 365 service – improving performance, making compliance easier, adding functionality and making it easier to secure the service. On average, there have been around 25 updates a month and 300 within a year.

It has also been a year where Office 365 migrations haven’t slowed down. The shift I began to see a year ago was a move away from just doing an Exchange migration as “phase one” but to a more strategic shift to use multiple Office 365 services.

People now are able to grasp easily how Office 365 fits together, largely thanks to Office 365 Groups. Improvements to OneDrive and SharePoint have unlocked the potential for easy to use and user-managed collaboration sites, and Microsoft have pinned down the vision for what tool to use when with the inner/outer loop model for Teams versus Yammer and recognised email will remain ubiquitous.

From Microsoft’s perspective, they’ve also met their targets to reach an annualised revenue run rate of $20 billion before June 2018. They managed this in the first quarter of their financial year, which is quite an achievement. This doesn’t necessary mean they are done with the Office 365 push – by some conservative estimates only half of Exchange Server deployments have moved to Office 365.

In that context, I wanted to have a think about what to expect over the next twelve months. Now, I know predictions are always destined to be wrong – so do not hold me to any of these, but factoring in what I’ve seen over the last year, and what I would love to see happen over the next year here are my top ten predictions for Office 365 in 2018

AI hits mainstream in Office 365

You’ve heard Microsoft have started to refer to Teams as a platform for Intelligent Communications rather than Unified Communications. This is partly due to the integration of connectors and bots to help with everyday tasks like automation. Whirring away in the background is the AI underpinning services like Delve in Office 365 as well. In the keynote to Microsoft Ignite, we saw Bing for Business shown integrating with business systems to provide relevant, contextual information, along with services like Cortana integrated deeply with Office 365. We’ve got everyday AI at home – next year we will see it in our business tools.

Greater security focus

Azure is a big push for Microsoft over the coming twelve months – and many of the security features that Office 365 relies upon fit into Azure AD, and the wider Enterprise Mobility + Security piece.

One of the top blockers in the past has always been the security of the Office 365 service. Cloud App Security has really hit a mark here, both as part of Office 365 E5, and as part of EMS. Conditional Access policies, Privileged Identity Management and Azure Information Protection Plan 2 have seen accelerated use this year and will become commonplace in 2018.

Last mile performance improvements

Microsoft still need to get their edge closer to users. We’ve seen announcement for “go local” where new datacentres are built in country, but Microsoft have behind the scenes been putting extra “front doors” to the service closer to users. This benefits performance because it reduces the latency for the connection to Microsoft’s datacentres. Confidence in performance for services that are very reliant on low latency connections, like Microsoft Teams with Office online and Skype reliance will benefit massively here.

Auto-labelling proves valuable in GDPR compliance projects

Labels will become the future for tagging data in Office 365. Keeping all data for a certain amount of time or expecting users to label data themselves is not the way forward, and people are crying out for the ability for this pain to be removed. 2017 has seen a lot of noise about moving towards GDPR compliance but not as much action yet. As May 2018 approaches, using auto label policies to classify data on a per document or item level basis will prove extremely valuable in GDPR projects that are late to begin.

Wide take up of multi-geo services

I’ve talked previously about multi-geo and multinational companies using Office 365 in my Managing Office 365 across different geographies webinar. In essence, the advice is to only use it if you need it to be compliant with regulations, not just for performance reasons. That said, there are a lot of organisations that have had to remain in long-term Hybrid, or hold back on migrating to Office 365 because they need to keep data locally within particular regions. In 2018 expect to see interest in multi-geo from many organisations that have held off migrating to Office 365.

Beginning of a big push to move from Exchange Server 2010

Exchange Server 2010 reaches the end of extended support in January 2020, and many Exchange 2010 implementations rolled out around the 2011-2013 timeframe are approaching the end of their serviceable life – and there are very, very many out there. We’ve seen many more Exchange 2010 and 2013 migrations to Office 365 over the last year – and over the next year, expect to see many more, as it would be very unwise to leave beginning a large migration until 2019.

Teams projects will surpass Skype projects, with some Cloud PBX projects put on hold

Just last week, Microsoft launched calling capabilities in line with their announcement at Microsoft Ignite that Skype for Business Online will eventually bring all its features into Microsoft Teams. Those part way through Cloud PBX projects, especially with Cloud Connector Edition (CCE) integration will naturally continue as there’s a long road for Microsoft to take before scenarios like Hybrid voice work within Microsoft Teams. However, many simple and straightforward Cloud PBX projects will now be able to begin, and over the next year those waiting for Teams to get specific Cloud PBX features will hold back their Cloud PBX rollout for a short while, and wait until Teams catches up.

Microsoft 365 becomes the sensible choice

I’ve seen Windows 10 really take off this year, and it’s now unusual for someone not to have an upgrade project on the go. Integration with EMS makes Windows 10 work really well, and I think a lot of enterprise architects see that the overall big picture of having Microsoft 365 – with its Windows, Office 365 and EMS capabilities that all integrate really well is just such a sensible option that it’s almost crazy to ignore it. So, I expect Microsoft 365 to become the right choice for many – thanks to good engineering rather than fancy marketing.

Office 365 Pro Plus deployments accelerate

Eighteen months ago, I saw quite a large number of Office 365 Pro Plus deployment projects. Mid-lifecycle deployments of Office upgrades made sense then, as Office needed to be deployed to Windows 7 and Windows 8 devices to support the proper rollout of Office 365.

However, as organisations decided to gear up for Windows 10 deployments, there’s certainly been a slow down in that type of project. As the Windows 10 projects begin, then naturally we’ll see this paired up with deployment of Office 365 Pro Plus to support the rollout.

Azure Active Directory Premium becomes mandatory for Office 365 deployments

And finally, Azure AD Premium P1 – the version that comes with EMS E3 – will become seen as a mandatory requirement for enterprise deployments of Office 365.

At the moment, most large organisations I’ve worked with do have a pairing of Office 365 and EMS licences, but not all do. Many people do know that Azure AD only comes as a free version in Office 365, which doesn’t have an SLA, and as such it’s important for that reason alone to make sure they have Azure AD Premium.

However not all organisations do buy Azure AD Premium and haven’t really seen its value – until recently. A lot of new really clever features, like group expiry, automated licensing, conditional access policies and self service password reset add lots of value – and small details like group naming policies, usage policies and many more contribute to the overall necessity of buying it to really get the most out of Office 365. So I expect we’ll see quite a few customers see it as a must buy in 2018.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me @stevegoodman

About our author

Steve Goodman

Steve Goodman

Principle Technology Strategist | MVP - Exchange & Office 365

Steve is a 5 times recipient of the MVP (Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional) award from Microsoft, is a regular international conference speaker, podcast host, regular blogger, plus he is the author of a number of best-selling Exchange books. Steve has worked on a vast number of Exchange and Office 365 projects across customers large and small, often with complex requirements and would love to help you on too.

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