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How Microsoft could boost Office 365 and challenge Google Apps

November 29, 2011

Apart from both companies claiming to be in the lead, Google is in a great position to make the next step with Google Apps. As predicted earlier on in this blog Google+ for the Enterprise is becoming reality (revevol in France has confirmed they pilot it already). This is a major risk to Microsoft. They key question would be how quickly enterprise customers will be willing to pick up social business ways of collaboration and whether they will choose Google over SalesForce.com and Yammer. The second blocker is more a regional one with regards to data privacy rules in Europe and Google’s approach to meet them or even not. But let’s keep data privacy aside for this view on the business.

Microsoft has one asset though that could create a loyal group of users which will actively help promoting Office 365 if only it would be integrated into that.

That is the Microsoft Project product line.

With Microsoft Project and Microsoft Project Server Microsoft has ensured themselves a solid position in a market in which neither Google nor the other competitors mentioned above do play. It is a huge question mark to me why Microsoft has not taken their project management tools into the cloud yet. Not only would it enrich the overall value of Office 365 but it would also make absolute sense to have the project management hub in the cloud and available through all means of connecting to a SaaS service. The benefits are manifold.

Improved cost allocation to projects – as you book the service per project rather than keeping licenses in stock you can better allocate the cost as well as reduce the overall cost by letting unused licenses sit around just in case.

Easier integration of customers and partners – As the service would sit in the cloud rather than your own “holy” company network, the effort of giving external employees, partners and customers access to the project platform. Imaging the project server sitting in a cloud and role models are becoming real so that all parties involved can participate. A direct result will be improved reporting with less hassle.

Book it for the time you need it – Some project run several years while other only last a few weeks or months. Still the need for professional project management supported by the best tools is a commonality to all projects. By moving MS Project up into the cloud and offering it as a SaaS with variable subscriptions models would add real value to customers.

Mobile integration – Not all projects do take place in the head quarter; often you have mobile or globally dispersed teams. In the present it is a hassle and security discussion to implement mobile or remote access to resources in the company core network. Likewise it is a hassle to set up a DMZ just for a project and manage that setup. The cloud with its established ways of separation, integration and extensions like mobile phone access reduces that big time while delivering additional value to the users in an Office 365 setup with SharePoint and even E-Mail.

Without any doubt an approach like this would boost the take up of Office 365. I would even suggest including Microsoft Office 365 Project Management into Office 365 at no extra cost. Surely it will have an impact on the license sales for the classic MS Project and Microsoft Project Server but it would be worth to make sacrifices with regards to these revenues for a stronger uptake of Office 365. It is a bit like Google does it with Google Apps. They keep increasing the value through new bits and pieces. Only this thing would not be bits and pieces but a real chunk of value that would give Microsoft’ Office 365 a real marketing boost as well.

Another benefit would be that it will give folks access to Microsoft Project that might not have had it in the past and through that cement Microsoft’s position in the project management tool market.

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3 Comments
  1. Hi Matthias,

    I think the problem with Microsoft nowawdays is that it lacks innovation. It’s not producing anything new anymore (when was the last time that Microsoft produced a new, original product?).

    Google, on the other hand, is innovating all the time. Microsoft is just building on its previous products. Google will catch on eventually.

    • Thanks for your comment. I do believe actually that there is a market segment that is not that much about innovation as the consumer market might be. In the enterprise space Microsoft not only has a historic position but also a lot of puzzle pieces to create a bigger picture. I would agree though that Salesforce.com has a good chance to attack Microsoft on a wider space even in the enterprise segment.

      The issue with Microsoft is that it is playing in many fields but judged on very few only. The issue with Google is that it is playing only in one field for real but judged on all the others as well. The consumer business in a sense is strange (-;

  2. Matthias,

    Today: The current version of SharePoint Online, while not exactly the same as Project with Project Server capabilities, does in fact provide an extremely powerful management solution that can be tailored as needed by organizations and/or for specific projects. Microsoft Project files can also be easily imported into SharePoint lists, allowing for access to project info that’s typically challenging for remote users. While customers of Project and Project Server would find SharePoint as a step back, in the SMB market (where these solutions are less common) SharePoint can address most project based needs without the added (and often unused) complexities of single-point software.

    Tomorrow: Microsoft’s roadmap for the cloud is to achieve parity with all their on-premise software products. What is not available today, you can rest assured that Online Services will soon deliver all business software + services via the cloud eventually.

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