Maximize Return on Your Microsoft 365 Investments
- March 06, 2023
Organizations must invest in unified communications and productivity solutions to support a hybrid work model that will accelerate their digital transformation. Microsoft 365 is a suite of interlinked products, including Office applications, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and many other tools that combine cloud capabilities, analytics, artificial intelligence, enterprise mobility and security.
Many organizations subscribe to large bundles of Microsoft 365 with more tools than they need at an attractive introductory price. They also renew the same subscriptions without carefully analyzing their licensing requirements. Microsoft continuously introduces new capabilities, feature updates and commercial models for Microsoft 365. Organizations find it challenging to keep up with these developments and maximize their return on investment. Hence, subscriptions remain underutilized or unused.
Making the most of a Microsoft 365 investment
1. Understand your product bundle
You can make informed decisions to optimize the return on your investments only if you understand and group your subscribed products logically. Products that require active IT support typically require more investment. Consider grouping your product suite into the following categories:
Business-led products: These products can be used by employees with minimal IT support. E.g., Teams, Planner, To Do and Productivity Suite (Office Apps like Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook).
IT-led products: These advanced products need IT support to train business users. Examples of products needing IT personnel to train users include Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, and SharePoint Online. After categorizing products, assign product owners to drive user adoption effectively and maximize utilization.
2. Profile your users
Work with your Software Asset Management (SAM) team to collect your employees’ license usage data. Use analytics to derive your employees’ consumption patterns and determine licensing needs. Field workers, contact center agents or contractors may not need to use email and cloud space as heavily as knowledge workers. Employees with light usage can remain productive with web-only subscriptions. However, corporate functions, engineers, architects, researchers and data scientists may need a comprehensive suite of productivity tools and security capabilities to protect sensitive data.
3. Improve adoption of Microsoft 365 products
Regular employee education on new features, tools and benefits is essential to getting the most out of your subscription. Work with your SAM team or extract the adoption report from the Microsoft 365 admin center to analyze your organization’s license usage. Identify those already deriving value from less-adopted products and encourage them to promote those tools to other employees. Build a team of champions to drive adoption by educating business users on how to get more value from Microsoft 365. You can integrate different lines of business in Microsoft Teams to make it a productivity hub.
You can integrate SharePoint, Approvals, ServiceNow, Power BI, Power Automate, OneNote and several other applications with Teams. You can also enable shared channels in Teams, allowing internal and external stakeholders to collaborate as one team.
4. Take advantage of automation
Microsoft 365 has low-code or no-code platforms like Power Automate, Power Apps, etc. Leverage your domain experts to automate repetitive tasks, such as generating compliance reports, gathering employee feedback, organizing engagement activities, triggering service downtime alerts, notifying the right stakeholders and taking corrective actions to improve your services. Various other use cases can increase employee productivity, enhance the work experience and maximize ROI on your subscriptions.
5. Subscription and consumption optimization
Provisioning excessive licenses to meet the increasing demand for different tools and inaccurate mapping of licenses against business functions results in underused licenses. Harvesting such data and mapping features to different roles and business functions can deliver significant savings. For example, some frontline workers can be provided with F1 licenses instead of F3 or E3.
6. Reduce the redundancy of your current licenses
Often, enterprises invest in different solutions from multiple vendors. They combine investments in third parties for enterprise detection and response solution (Symantec/Crowdstrike), identity and access management solutions (Okta, Ping Identity, etc.) and cloud security solutions. Many of these services are already bundled in a Microsoft 365 E5 license. You can reduce redundant third-party investments while saving other administrative efforts.
Enterprises deploy different third-party solutions for unified endpoint management for mobile devices and virtual clients. A Microsoft 365 E3 or E5 license can eliminate the need for several third-party solutions and help save significant dollars spent on licensing and associated support.
Preparing for contract renewal
Renewals aren't just about continuing with the same bundles and discounts availed earlier. Such discounts often come at the cost of buying extra features you don't need. Determining appropriate licensing needs is important. Analyze historical Microsoft pricing trends and make renewal a systematic process like the following:
- Discovery: Start your preparation a year before renewal. Build a team to collect your current licensing data, identify any issues in data sources and redress them.
- Analysis: At least 9 months before renewal, after analyzing your license and user estate, review the as-is and to-be state of your technology landscape and evaluate options.
- Forecasting: About 6 months before the renewal, decide the right set of products for your organization. Reconcile the license options and map them with your user profiles.
- Negotiation: Discuss your requirements with Microsoft a quarter before your next renewal. Request at least 2-3 proposals depending on your requirement and evaluate multiple financial models. Finally, review the contracts and negotiate for the best price, terms & conditions and lock-in period.
- Contract execution: Execute the contract renewal documentation within the stipulated time, raise awareness, educate users, run campaigns and drive adoption. Ensure SAM processes are customized for your organization.
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