Microsoft BPOS Morphs into Office 365

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News from Redmond last night was the announcement of Office 365, the replacement for Microsoft BPOS – Microsoft’s cloud hosted productivity suite, which is due to launch early in 2011 complete with new versions and reduced pricing.

So, what’s new?

Microsoft BPOS

First a quick recap of BPOS: It’s based around the Microsoft Office 2007 technology stack and gets you:

That’s all priced $10 per user per month. (UK pricing is £6.72 per user per month).

Office 365

Office 365 will come in two different flavours: Office 365 Small Business and Office 365 Enterprise. These are based around the Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 technologies and provide new features at reduced prices.

Office 365 Small Business

This suite  provides broadly the same functionality as the current BPOS offering, but with the addition of the Office Web Apps.  It is targeted at businesses with 1-25 staff (with a maximum of 50 staff). Here’s what you get:

  • Exchange Online
  • SharePoint Online – team collaboration based on SharePoint Foundation 2010 including Access Services web database technology
  • Office Online – edit and collaborate on documents in a web browser using Office Web Apps
  • Lync Online – As we reported in September, Lync is the replacement for Office Communicator and Live Meeting and in the ‘Online’ version will provide instant messaging and web conferencing facilities formerly provided by Live Meeting and Communications Online
  • Email Support

The price for all this will be just $6 per user per month. (UK pricing still to be announced).

More detail on Office 365 Small Business is here: http://office365.microsoft.com/en-US/small-business.aspx

Office 365 Enterprise

This suite targets larger organisations and adds full array of SharePoint Server 2010 capabilities.  Here’s the detail:

  • Exchange Online – as Small Business offering, plus email archiving and retention and cross mailbox search for e-discovery scenarios
  • SharePoint Online – as Small Business offering, plus full SharePoint Server 2010 capabilities including portals, social networking capabilities and enterprise search
  • Office Online – as Small Business offering
  • Lync Online – as Small Business offering
  • 24/7 Phone Support

The price for this is $10 per user per month – the same price as the current BPOS offering. (UK pricing still to be announced). In addition you can choose to add the Office Professional Plus client suite to the subscription bundle for an additional $14 per user per month.  That looks an extremely attractive option to us.

More detail on Office 365 Enterprise is here: http://office365.microsoft.com/en-US/enterprise.aspx

Office 365 Beta

Microsoft have announced a limited Beta – sign up for the Beta here: office365.com.  The full launch of Office 365 is expected in early 2011.

Communicator 14 to Integrate with SharePoint 2010 Activity Feed

Communicator '14'Microsoft took the wraps off Office Communicator ‘14’ this week – their corporate VOIP and Instant Messaging offering. One of the interesting new features is that your Communicator status updates now integrate with the SharePoint 2010 Activity Feed. Don’t know what the Activity Feed is? Think of it as the company equivalent of the Facebook or LinkedIn news feed.

In the current version of Communicator you only get to see you contact’s status in the Communicator client and in Outlook.

SharePoint Explained

What is SharePoint?

In short, SharePoint is a business collaboration platform. It enables employees to publish, share, search, analyse and manage information all through a browser. This video gives one example of how you might use it:

What Can SharePoint Do For Me?

Search

SharePoint 2010 Search ResultsEver wondered why you can search the entire Internet in 0.2 seconds, and yet finding information in your own organisation is next to impossible?

SharePoint plugs into your existing intranet, file shares, databases and applications to become the Google for your company, One central location to search for everything, regardless of where it might be stored.

Collaboration and Knowledge Management

How do you make sure knowledge stays in the company if employees leave? How can you make sure knowledge is shared across the organisation instead of having staff repeatedly solve the same problem, simply because they don’t know a solution already exists?

With SharePoint you can create community sites (sometimes called communities of interest, or communities of practice) where staff can share knowledge and best practices. You can create blogs and wikis, and each employee gets a personalised home page -  just like you are already familiar with in Facebook or LinkedIn – but with all the appropriate security, and none of the risks, of using public collaboration tools.

Document Management and Compliance

Have you ever been stuck waiting for someone to finish making changes to a document before you can add your contribution? Or worse still, edited a document only to find someone else has accidentally deleted your edits because they didn’t realise they had the wrong version?

SharePoint provides one central place to store documents, track changes, group related documents, retain, archive and manage records. SharePoint 2010 also adds new features supporting eDiscovery – helping you find and place holds on information subject to legal process and enables several people to edit the same document simultaneously meaning you never have to wait for your colleagues again!

Manage Teams and Projects

Coordinating and managing teams and complex projects can be a tricky task, but SharePoint enables everyone to work together effectively with shared team calendars, contact lists, task lists and document libraries. SharePoint becomes the central information hub that staff collaborate around, rather than having documents and information locked away on personal hard drives and in email. What’s more, if you’re a mobile worker, SharePoint Workspace let you take that information and continue to work on it while you are offline.

Track Your Business Performance

SharePoint 2010 BI DashboardHow often have you gone to a meeting and looked at print-outs of charts or data, and then tried to figure out who has the most up-to-date or correct version? SharePoint enables users to upload charts and data visualisations they have created in Excel and share them across the company without sharing the underlying data set or formulas. This means you get one “version of the truth” that the whole company can use to track your monthly business goals and understand how their performance contributes to the overall number.

How Can I Try It?

You have the choice of a traditional in-house deployment, or a cloud-based subscription offering.

The hosted cloud offering has the advantage that you can get started right away, there are no up-front licence fees or hardware costs to pay, and you don’t need to spend time and money training in-house IT staff on how to operate SharePoint before you begin. Sign-up for a 30 day free trial, or learn more about our hosted offering first.

If you prefer in-house deployment we can provide you with a 180-day trial licence for SharePoint and share our expertise to help you get up and running with useful sites and solutions tailored to your business for a small cost. To find out more, contact us at info@connectegrity.com.

Windows Phone 7 Series – SharePoint Integration

Windows Phone 7 Series Office Hub

Yesterday Microsoft announced the successor to their current crop of Windows Mobile phones, to be called Windows Phone 7 Series. Interesting in the announcement was built-in SharePoint integration, shown in the image above. I wonder… might it just start to make an impact on Blackberry’s dominance in big business?

Neat demo of the phone’s capabilities here:

Web Favourites Jan 18 2010

This post is part of a weekly/bi-weekly roundup of things that I read and found interesting. There won’t be a lot of comment from me, but hopefully you will find the links useful. Enjoy!

Interesting stuff I came across this week:

SharePoint for Legal Project Management–A Retrospective – “To help you understand the power of SharePoint, I thought I would share what I was able to start doing with it within a week of it having it set-up…”

Case Study: Alternative Fees – “We are at the tipping point when it comes to the billable hour, and one law firm leading the way into the future is Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP…It studied what clients stated in writing what they wanted, gave it to them, and generated lots of new business.”

Get Connected or Get Out of the Kitchen – “I’ll make a prediction here that I’ll review this time in 2011. There will emerge two types of solicitors firms by the end of the year: those that have fully adopted IT systems for service delivery and those that have not.”

Web Favourites Jan 10 2010

Frozen Britain Jan 2010 This is the first of what I hope will be a weekly or bi-weekly roundup of things that I read and found interesting. There won’t be a lot of comment from me, but hopefully you will find the links useful. Enjoy!

(The picture here is from NASA’s Terra satellite last week and show the extent of the snow and icy conditions on frozen Britain.)

Interesting stuff I came across this week:

A Case for Operating in the Cloud – “Microsoft’s ‘cloud’ enabled me to survive this downturn, will help me thrive in the upturn”. One law firm explain how they cut costs and moved to Exchange Online and SharePoint Online with Microsoft BPOS.

10 Things SharePoint can do for Your Law Firm – How to use SharePoint to “improve attorney effectiveness, deliver better client service and reduce costs”.

Why Some People Are Reluctant to Share – Rajesh Shetty explains the knowledge capture problem of KM tools: When something becomes obvious people tend to stop sharing.

Social Knowledge Management

In their post on tacit knowledge management yesterday, 3 Geeks and a Law blog ask whether 2010 will be the year that Knowledge Management (KM) thrives or dies.

In its current state, KM has turned into a mechanism that attempts to capture explicit knowledge in a way that is seamless to the person creating that knowledge. The results turn out to be databases filled with retrievable information presented as contributed knowledge from someone within the firm. So, we end up with CRM databases, document management systems, research capturing tools and expertise databases. All of which are simply ways that KM has attempted to capture the explicit knowledge of those within the firm as it written down in order to be retrieved at a later time by others in the firm. Unfortunately, this has become the classical KM routine, and the resulting product turns out to be a rarely used resource because the data is either ‘dirty’, obsolete or irrelevant to the current needs of those within the firm.

The Geeks are right. KM as we know it is dead. And the sooner we all realise that, the better.

The key problem of traditional KM tools is a human one: When something becomes obvious, people tend to stop sharing. It becomes implanted in their subconscious as background thinking and they cease to write it down. Rajesh Setty explains this phenomenon beautifully in Why are some people reluctant to share?

What is needed instead are simple tools that connect people to people and their knowledge. And they are not always technology tools…

In my 7 years at Microsoft plenty of KM initiatives came and went but nothing was anywhere near as successful these simple social business tools:

  1. Searchable discussion forums – by far the most important mechanism for sharing knowledge. Why? Because it is based on need. People ask questions, and they get a response, as and when they need it. (Too many KM system entries are based on what experts think people need, or what they think is good for them)
  2. People Search – the ability to search for people based on their area of expertise, see where they sit in your social graph, and get an introduction.
  3. Instant Messaging – to be able to ask questions of experts in time critical situations. You should aim to create a flat organisation. Create a culture where staff are empowered to ask questions of experts and where experts are rewarded for sharing knowledge.
  4. A buddying system for new hires to coach them on the company culture and processes – all the stuff that isn’t in the training manual.
  5. A mentoring programme for all staff to help people build connections both up and across the business.

Blogs and Wikis also had a place too, but to a lesser extent. Blogs were good for keeping up to date with news from various parts of the company. Wikis useful when a group were collaborating to solve a problem or document a process for the first time.

Finally, in 2008 a prototype twitter-like service called TownSquare was introduced which was incredibly was useful for keeping up to date on what your network was working on. This will see the light of day in SharePoint 2010 later this year.

So there you have it… my take on knowledge management and the use of social tools to capture and share knowledge. 

What tools and techniques have you found most useful for sharing knowledge across your organisation?

Official SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 Blogs

image Following on from my summary the other day of official SharePoint 2010 resources, here’s a list of 20+ official Microsoft Office and SharePoint product team blogs that you can count on to have the most up-to-date product information as we head towards launch.

 

SharePoint Server 2010 Blogs

 

Office 2010 Client App Blogs

 

Have I missed anything? Leave a comment below to let me know.