Thursday, July 10, 2014

Changes to the Office 365 P and M plans

Microsoft has release a blog post:

http://blogs.office.com/2014/07/09/evolving-office-365-plans-for-small-and-midsized-businesses/

That details some significant changes to the P and M plans. Basically they are being replaced by 3 simpler plans:

  • Office 365 Business – The full Office applications – Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Publisher, with 1TB of OneDrive for Business cloud storage to access, edit and share your documents across your Windows PC, Mac, iPad, Windows tablet and smartphone.
  • Office 365 Business Essentials – The core cloud services for running your business – business class email and calendaring, Office Online, online meetings, IM, video conferencing, cloud storage and file sharing and much more.
  • Office 365 Business Premium – Get everything from both the Office 365 Business and Business Essentials plans.

You can read the details in the post but here are my initial thoughts on what I have read:

- It is going to greatly simplify the options for businesses. Effectively now one plan with desktop Office, another with cloud services and the third with a combination of both.

- Effectively no more seat limitations. Experience indicates that customers initially select the cheapest current plan and get stuck with a 25 user hard limit as they grow. No more. These plans scale to 300 users.

- A smoother way to upgrade plans. It seems that moving from any of these three new plans to existing Enterprise plans will not be the rip and replace we see now if you need to upgrade from P to M or E.

- The ability to add other plans like Project, Visio,, etc that you used to be only able to add to Enterprise plans.

- Yammer will be available with any plan that includes cloud services (i.e. not the entry Business plan). This highlights Microsoft’s continuing focus on Yammer as an important tool for its cloud services. So, if you are not into Yammer yet you should be.

- AD federation with all plans. This to me indicates that Microsoft is focusing more on identity management and on premise integration. This is good because it is a point of differentiation for their service.

- The new plans are going to be cheaper than the existing plans. This will always be the trend with cloud services but it is good to see that you are effectively getting more features for less money.

- OneDrive for Business is become are much more important part of Microsoft’s plan going forward. It is really the way to bring SMB’s easily to the cloud. The plain Business offering gives them OneDrive with 1TB and Office on their desktop and devices. From there it is an easy step up to add more cloud services. Less friction, lower barrier to entry means an easier transition. However, what it does mean for many is that they need to learn more about what OneDrive can offer and how to manage and maintain the product.

- The only down side I see is that during the transition there will be some confusion around how the migration will happen, how to get the new features, when the new features will become available, etc. That is part of technology and has been the case before with Office 365. However, the end result is that it will be dimplier which is a great result. For people selling and supporting Office 365 it means a little more work to understand all this. 

So in conclusion after digesting all this and reflecting on it a bit I believe this is a very positive move for the product and bring it more into line with what people have been asking for (and who says Microsoft doesn’t listen?). I also think that it unlocks a huge amount of more features and abilities for SMBs who are currently on P and M plans that they eventually find limiting.

It is still early days for all this change but in short I like what I see and acknowledge the fact that Microsoft is will to make these major changes to the product offerings and that it is announcing these early in the piece. I’m sure I’ll have more to say as time goes along and we get more details but it is all very positive.