If you’re a business owner, there’s a good chance there’s a Microsoft Office app open on your screen at this very moment (maybe it’s minimized – but that still counts!). In which case, you’re already an Office 365 user.
But are you on the right course? Is Microsoft Office 365 still the dependable juggernaut in the realm of office collaboration and productivity tools? Or has it slipped up?
With companies like Google on the heels of Microsoft for office supremacy, the battle is heating up for businesses to get on their platform. So what’s going on with Office 365? Should you keep using it – or switch over to it? Or should you switch to one of the new kids on the block, with their cheap subscription plans and huge storage?
Let’s find out!
Why Office 365?
Microsoft holds an iron grip on this market – Microsoft owns over 65% of the market share for cloud-based office technology in 2023. But why? Why do businesses love Office so much? Here are the simple answers:
- Remote Access: Like many cloud providers, one of the big advantages of Office 365 for companies is its worldwide coverage. Office 365 standardizes usage across teams, across borders, and across the world. O365 enables a sales executive in Tokyo can seamlessly collaborate on a presentation with their counterpart in London. You can see the effectiveness of worldwide access to the same software in a 20% increase in productivity for businesses that have adopted Office 365.
- Collaboration: Along those lines is collaboration – tools like Microsoft Teams make it so employees and teams across the world can collaborate in real-time on a project. A recent survey indicated that businesses using these tools reduced project turnaround times by up to 30%, according to Forbes. This means projects that used to take a month can now be completed in just over three weeks, leading to faster decision-making and increased profitability.
- Data Security: Microsoft knows how damaging a data breach could be to the continued success of their platform, so you can bet they have the leading software and hardware engineers working around the clock to make sure O365 is as safe as possible. Considering how costly a data breach can be to a business in 2023, this is a large reason companies use Office.
- Reliability: Let’s be honest, Microsoft Office is the old man in the room. It has been around since the Stone Ages of the Internet – since before AOL or dial-up, even! Which means it works, and it works well. One of the many reasons businesses use Office 365 is because it just works. Business owners know that Office 365 will work…365 days a year. This is probably the most common reason businesses choose Office.
More Than Just Word
You might know Office from the horror days of Clippy, annoying you every time you did something wrong. But Microsoft is never a company to stand still, and has been slowly adding things to their Office offerings.
In 2023, Office 365 offers more than just the traditional Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It’s a comprehensive ecosystem designed with businesses in mind. Here’s some of the ways Office is being used these days
- Microsoft Teams: One of the most popular O365 tools, Teams integrates chats, video calls, and file sharing. A project manager in a multinational company can hold daily stand-ups with a remote team, assign tasks, and track progress – all within the Teams platform. Microsoft reports this leads to a 25% increase in project efficiency, a massive change for cross-functional teams.
- Power BI: With Power BI, businesses can visualize their data, derive actionable insights, and make strategic decisions. A retail chain, for instance, can analyze sales data to identify top-performing products and regions. Microsoft reports this leads to a 15% increase in sales. This data-driven approach allows businesses to stay ahead of market trends and make informed decisions.
- SharePoint: SharePoint facilitates content management and internal communication. HR departments, for instance, use SharePoint to onboard new employees, providing them with essential resources and company updates. Microsoft reports this reduces onboarding times by up to 50%.
Limitations and Considerations
While Office 365 offers a plethora of advantages, businesses should also be aware of certain limitations.
- Internet Dependency: Being cloud-based means a reliable internet connection is paramount. For businesses in regions with unstable internet, this can pose challenges. This can lead to disruptions in workflow and potential losses. The good thing is that Office’s essential tools like Word and PowerPoint can be used locally.
- Learning Curve: Transitioning from another piece of software isn’t a huge deal in 2023, but it can lead to slowdowns and potential training. Larger organizations have reported investing up to $10,000 in training programs to ensure smooth adoption. While the cost of training may seem high, the results you may get from using O365 can be much, much greater than the initial investments.
- Feature Creep: Microsoft salespeople love to upsell you after you sign up for an initial enterprise sub. And while they offer scalability, the recurring costs can add up over time, especially as Office 365 sells you on more features. Over a five-year period, larger enterprises have reported spending up to 20% more than they initially anticipated due to additional feature costs. This can impact the overall ROI for businesses, especially those operating on tight margins.
Pros and Cons of Office 365
- Scalability: As your business grows, Office 365 scales with you. Startups evolving into larger businesses have reported a seamless transition, eliminating the need for frequent migrations and reducing IT costs by up to 30%.
- Integration: Office 365’s ability to integrate with third-party apps ensures it fits seamlessly within any business ecosystem. A company using Salesforce, for instance, reported a 20% increase in sales efficiency post-integration. This level of integration ensures that businesses can create a cohesive digital environment, enhancing overall efficiency.
- Regular Updates: With Office 365, businesses are always equipped with the latest features and security updates, ensuring they stay ahead of the curve and reduce IT maintenance costs. This means businesses don’t have to worry about outdated software or potential security vulnerabilities.
- Cost Over Time: The subscription model can become a significant expenditure in the long run, especially when additional features are considered. This requires businesses to keep a close eye on their subscriptions and ensure they’re getting value for their investment.
- Complexity: With a vast array of features, some users might find Office 365 overwhelming, leading to underutilization of its potential. It’s essential for businesses to provide regular training and updates to ensure all employees are on the same page.
- Privacy Concerns: Storing sensitive business data on the cloud might not sit well with businesses operating in sectors with stringent data privacy regulations, leading some to opt for on-premises solutions. This can be a significant consideration for businesses operating in regions with strict data protection laws.
Office 365’s Competitors
Office 365 used to be the only game in town, but recently, competitors have been appearing to challenge O365’s dominance in the area. Here are some of the most prominent competitors.
- Google Workspace: Easily their biggest competitor – and a platform that is only continuing to grow its user base. Formerly known as G Suite, Google Workspace offers tools like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, which are counterparts to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, respectively. While Google Workspace excels in real-time collaboration and is favored by startups and smaller teams – usually because of its incredible affordability (100 GB storage for $2.99/month!? What!?) – Office 365 often wins in terms of advanced features, especially for larger enterprises.
- The real challenge for Google is flipping established Microsoft users to their tech. Even though they are functionally similar, it’s just hard to get people to fix what isn’t broken.
- Zoho Office Suite: Zoho offers a suite of business applications, including word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. While it’s a robust platform, especially for CRM and project management, it doesn’t quite match the comprehensive nature of Office 365. However, for businesses looking for a cost-effective solution with a focus on CRM, Zoho might be a preferable choice.
- LibreOffice: A free, open-source alternative, LibreOffice provides tools similar to Microsoft’s offerings. While it’s a powerful suite for individual users or small businesses on a tight budget, it lacks the cloud integration and collaborative features inherent to Office 365.
Who Shouldn’t Use Office 365?
Office 365 has significant benefits but also significant downsides (largely, cost and feature bloat). In what situations might people not want to use Office 365?
- Businesses with Strict Data Regulations: Companies operating in sectors with stringent data privacy regulations might be hesitant to store sensitive information on the cloud. Industries like healthcare or finance, where data breaches can have severe consequences, might opt for on-premises solutions or specialized software tailored to their needs.
- Smaller Teams with Limited Budgets: Startups or small businesses with limited funds might find the subscription costs of Office 365 hard to swallow, especially in the face of free alternatives. In such cases, free alternatives like LibreOffice or even Google Workspace’s basic plans might be more suitable.
- Companies with Established Alternative Infrastructures: Businesses that have heavily invested in alternative ecosystems, be it Google Workspace or other niche software, might find the transition to Office 365 disruptive and costly. The migration process, training, and potential downtime can be deterrents.
- Creatives: Creative teams often work on non-Microsoft software and hardware. While O365 is available on any platform, the functionality on Macs, for example, is often less than desirable. Most creative teams also have established workflows that do not involve Teams or Office 365 apps, so there’s really no reason to switch.
So, do you need Office 365 to “unlock” that next level of your business?
No, not really. The reality is that there are plenty of free or cheaper options out there that will get you similar results for a fraction of the price.
However, if you are a large enterprise, there’s almost no reason not to sign on with Microsoft, considering all of the features they offer, and the fact that many of the decision-makers in these organizations are already addicted to Microsoft.
References & Additional Reading:
Microsoft Annual Report
Fortune 500 Analysis
TechCrunch: Office 365 Growth Analysis
Microsoft Revenue Analysis
Cybersecurity Ventures: Cybercrime Damages
Collaboration Tools Survey
Business Efficiency Report
Remote Work Statistics
Google Workspace vs. Office 365
Zoho Suite Analysis
Data Privacy in Healthcare
Startup Software Choices
Migration Challenges to Office 365