The Problem with the Office 365 Roadmap

As many of you know, Microsoft recently released its Office 365 Roadmap, an up to date list of planned updates, new features and other changes in the pipeline for Office 365 customers. Not only does the Roadmap provide these sorts of critical insights, enabling customers to incorporate these future capabilities into their planning discussions, but it also does so in an incredibly consumable, user-friendly way. Whether an update has been recently launched, rolling out now, in development or canceled – customers can see what’s around the corner and plan accordingly.

That said, with the technology moving as fast as it is, the only alternative is allow enterprise customers to be surprised when their platform shifts under their feet. So, while it is a great thing, it was also a necessary step as more large (and demanding) enterprises adopt Office 365 services.

So, what’s the problem?

Whether or not Office 365 makes sense in a particular environment isn’t a given and in a lot of real-world cases, the subject matter of intense planning & debate. Unfortunately, we’re only afforded this easily understood roadmap for one half of the question that many customers have to ponder – Which path will they follow?

For many customers considering an on-premises / private cloud solution, it can be exceedingly difficult to fully understand where the functional differences are today, let alone where they’ll be tomorrow.

Customers want better intel.

Yes, Microsoft has provided the SharePoint Online Service Description, which does a decent job of laying out a feature-by-feature comparison between Office 365 plans, a comparison between SharePoint Online plans and a comparison of on-premises SharePoint versions, but it addresses each group separately. There’s also the Office 365 Service Comparison page, which is actually pretty slick. It’s a handy Excel Online doc that Microsoft posted to allow adhoc comparison between the online versions and the traditional products. It’s a great tool, but it doesn’t address the “around the bend” features depicted in the roadmap.

Speed… the promise of the cloud. But, just as with every other sense of the word, speed caries risk in selecting an enterprise collaboration platform. The faster you go, the more devastating your missteps can be. For Office 365 and its on-premises counterpart products, individual requirements & capabilities can be the deciding factor for customers planning their deployments. Having new or planned on-premises/private cloud features depicted in a similar roadmap would be an incredible win for customers that are about to make a significant investment, leading to more informed and therefore better decisions.

The entire time that I’ve been writing this post, I’ve been unable to shake the idea that having a clear, well-marked path to Office 365 & a murky undefined path to future on-premises versions is (potentially / likely) both an intentional and effective way to drive customers into the cloud.

Microsoft’s cloud-first strategy is understandable, but I would prefer this strategy be focused on technical & functional capabilities – not injecting doubt into traditional platforms through creative marketing & information attrition.

If you want to chime in, head over to the UserVoice site that the teams use to collect feedback: http://officespdev.uservoice.com/forums/224641-general – Want to vote on this idea, go right to it: http://officespdev.uservoice.com/forums/224641-general/suggestions/6135258-extend-office-365-roadmap-to-address-private-cloud

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1 Comment on The Problem with the Office 365 Roadmap

  1. “Microsoft’s cloud-first strategy is understandable, but I would prefer this strategy be focused on technical & functional capabilities – not injecting doubt into traditional platforms through creative marketing & information attrition.”

    I suspect the powers that be at Microsoft think that customers will head to the cloud with or without Microsoft, so this is as much about “being the disruption” as injecting doubt. But you make a good point.

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