Microsoft continues to invest in new and expanded products and services for its business customers, likely the company’s most important market segment according to its “cloud-first, mobile-first” strategy. Whether it’s Office 365 for business, Dynamics, or Azure, Microsoft recognizes the need for solutions to keep enterprises in the fold. And as the Microsoft news site reports today, Microsoft is announcing a host of new enterprise-orients solutions aimed at solidifying their hold on this market.
It seems like not a day goes by when Microsoft isn’t holding a conference or even somewhere and announcing some new offerings. This year’s Convergence EMEA conference in Barcelona, Spain is no different, and Microsoft took advantage of the business-oriented audience to make three principle announcements.
Office 365 enterprise enhancements
Office 365 is the linchpin in Microsoft efforts to reposition itself as the productivity platform company, and so Office has been transitioning from a standalone software suite aimed at Windows users to a cross-platform subscription service aimed at everyone who uses virtually any kind of computer.
Today’s announced enhancements to Office 365 for business are intended to “modernize the enterprise across meetings and voice, intelligence, and security and privacy.” Microsoft considers the following to be some of the most important new functionality for enterprises added to Office 365 since its inception:
• A complete meeting and voice solution. With Skype Meeting Broadcast, Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) Conferencing, PSTN Calling and Cloud Private Branch Exchange, Office 365 customers now have one platform for calling, conferencing, video and sharing integrated with the Office applications they use every day.
• Analytics and data visualization. Delve Analytics empowers individuals by providing rich, interactive dashboards that surface insights into how they spend their time and who they spend it with, so they can focus on the tasks and people that matter most.
• Advanced security and compliance. Customer Lockbox offers customers full control over access to their data in Office 365 by giving them ultimate approval rights in the rare instances when a Microsoft engineer must request access to the service. Office 365 Advanced eDiscovery brings machine learning and text analytics that reduce the costs and risks inherent in managing large quantities of data for e-discovery.
Between these three new offerings, Microsoft is linking Office 365 with Skype for Business to enable enterprises to utilize one platform for both productivity and communications services. The combination results in cost savings and a less complex environment for IT staffs to manage. Customer gain more control over their cloud data via Customer Lockbox, while Advance eDiscovery makes Office 365 a more powerful platform for enterprises in accessing data for e-discovery purposes. And Delve Analytics enhances productivity by making data more easily accessible and insights more readily apparent.
Taken together, these new offerings make up a new Office 365 for business subscription tier, Office 365 E5. Lower tiers will also be able to buy into the features at add-on prices.
General availability of Dynamics CRM 2016
Dynamics CRM 2016, which Microsoft dubs “the most comprehensive CRM release to date,” becomes generally available today and provides a number of important enhancements:
Dynamics CRM 2016 utilized Azure Machine Learning to provide deeper access to data and intelligence that enhances the ability for sales, marketing, and service professionals to know their customers and make better decisions in pursuing sales and providing customer service.
Mobile professionals benefit from enhanced offline capabilities, along with the ability for enterprise to create task-centered mobile apps. Cortana integration further enhances the ability to access information and drive processes for mobile users.
Microsoft customers recognize the value in focusing on customers rather than internal business needs:
Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts is one such customer that knows the benefits firsthand. “To transform how you operate and to become a leader requires an internal transformation,” said Abdullatif Awadh, director of customer relationship marketing at Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts. “We found Microsoft Dynamics CRM had what we needed, and now we’re shifting our focus to ensure our campaigns are relevant to the guest, rather than the business, because it’s the guest who drives our business.”
Microsoft is also introducing a new set of tools aimed at enabling enterprises to create apps that connect to Microsoft business systems securely and collaboratively. As the industry continues to migrate to mobile environments, PowerApps will help Microsoft leverage the dominant trend and help enterprises make their cloud services, line-of-business systems, and mission critical apps available throughout their organizations:
• Employees. Quickly create apps that work on any device, using the familiar Microsoft Office experience, with no coding required.
• Professional developers. Expose data and services to empower employees to innovate on their own, and continue to create native Web and mobile apps and APIs with Azure App Service.
• IT professionals. Manage organizational data and app sharing in a controlled and secure way.
PowerApps is intended to allow app development to be quick and easy, offering up prebuilt connections to Microsoft and third-party services such as Office 365, Dynamics, Salesforce, DropBox, and OneDrive. The PowerApps development environment is similar to Office and offers tools such as templates and a visual designer to make automating workflows an easier and more dynamic process.
Simply put, Microsoft is clearly focused on ensuring that it continues to provide deeper value to enterprises. The days of locking businesses into Office running on Windows and utilizing on-premise Windows Server implementations are over. Today’s announcements demonstrate that Microsoft recognizes the threat of mobile platforms like iOS and Android, competing cloud services from the likes of Amazon and Google, and the proliferation of simpler, mobile-centric productivity offerings like Google Docs.
Windows fans will always be perturbed as Microsoft pushes its solutions to platforms other than Windows, and sometimes first, but ultimately that’s the only way the company can ensure that companies stay in the Microsoft camp. Their new focus on “cloud-first, mobile-first” and productivity is aimed at helping customers build enterprise-wide workflows around Microsoft’s platform and thus make it far more difficult to competitors to push Microsoft out the door.