Microsoft 365 could revolutionize how business users work and how MSPs and IT admins manage their IT infrastructures.

June 22, 2018

5 Min Read
Cloud office


Scott Paul

By Scott Paul, Senior Director, Microsoft Alliance for AppRiver

Microsoft 365 represents the latest milestone in Microsoft’s longstanding journey toward delivering a cloud-based portfolio of productivity, collaboration and security tools that address the future of business. I believe it has the potential to revolutionize how business users work and how MSPs and IT admins manage their IT infrastructures. Partners need to understand the product and how it fits for customers.

Microsoft has been saying for some time now that the typical workplace is transforming. The future is cloud-based. It’s mobile, global and dispersed. It’s not tied to a formal office. And, it’s not secure. For managed service providers, consultants and resellers, Microsoft 365 presents an opportunity to not only help to sell subscriptions, but also to educate clients and support the new workplace. Partners will need to develop an understanding of the features, benefits and shortcomings of Microsoft 365 before making client presentations or recommendations, however. While Microsoft has provided a great deal of information on Microsoft 365, it can be a significant task to sort through the available assets and determine which are applicable.

Satya Nadella also announced what he calls a “platform opportunity” around the bundle, including a new Microsoft Intelligent Edge Partner Community where partners, particularly those involved in devices, may connect with one another to identify collaboration opportunities. The community also  provides a single source for training material, technology previews, hardware developer kits, OS builds and end-to-end solution certification programs.

Let’s begin developing your knowledge of Microsoft 365 by discussing what Microsoft 365 encompasses, key security considerations and new service and business opportunities.

Microsoft 365: What’s ‘In the Box’

Many assume that Microsoft 365 is just a new branding approach for the Office 365 suite. It isn’t. The bundle includes Office 365, Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility + Security. It is available in three levels: Business, Enterprise and Education. Pricing starts at $20 per user per month. Even at the basic configuration, Microsoft 365 is the applications, management tools and the operating system combined as one. It’s a union that, at a glance, may seem unwieldy. However, the payoff for slightly more complexity is the ability of a partner to transform the customer’s workplace for the better.

My advice for partners and IT pros is to think of Microsoft 365 as a practice, not a product. While Microsoft 365 will have a significant impact on business users, it will be a fundamental shift in how IT administrators manage technology and their users. In turn, partners also need to take a more consultative approach when presenting Microsoft 365 to clients.

Securing Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 radically changes the security footprint and foundation. With Microsoft 365, all the pieces are working in concert and receive …

… structured updates that are compatible with the entire stack. Microsoft recognized that security can’t be effectively addressed at only the enterprise or IT pro level given that end users can infect the network with the click of a bad link. Therefore, Microsoft extended security to the user level, and partners need to educate their clients on how to use these new tools.

Microsoft 365 improved on legacy operating systems with a secure state that extracts the best of Redmond’s new security capabilities. Still, while Microsoft 365 offers a wide range of security enhancements above and beyond Office 365, it will require additional protections and will demand heightened monitoring and maintenance, meaning partners still have plenty of opportunity.

Microsoft 365: The Channel Opportunity

Beyond the chance to sell new subscriptions to customers, Microsoft 365 provides channel partners with a new opportunity to deliver ongoing service and support, along with the necessary hardware and security software that will power the next-generation, secure enterprise. From a financial perspective, Microsoft 365 carries a higher perceived price point than Office 365, so gross margins will likely increase if partners apply the same markup methodology. Partners should expect a 10 percent to 18 percent increase in earnings over typical managed services.

Since Microsoft 365 is still new and there is much confusion in the market, expect to receive many questions from clients. Some will also raise objections about the move to Microsoft 365 by attempting to hang on to current or legacy operating systems as long as possible. Given the security risk posed by outdated OSes, that’s a bad idea.

Based on Microsoft’s commitment to moving customers to the cloud and the widespread benefits that I expect Microsoft 365 to deliver, the upgrade is essentially inevitable. It’s not about if, it’s when since many end-of-life (EOL) events are already scheduled to occur by the end of 2020. And while Microsoft has been known to extend EOL deadlines in the past, the transitions to Microsoft 365 and reseller opportunities will happen soon.

My advice: Get up-to-speed quickly on Microsoft 365. Few have time to sort through the bulk of Microsoft materials and extract the most actionable items, so it’s helpful to ask your suppliers, masters and distributors for materials, podcasts and videos that act as an “interpreter” to help decipher Microsoft’s marketing language and support documentation for you and your customers. There’s also a dedicated blog and certifications to help partners learn and sell Microsoft 365 — these certs are a key element of validation that IT decision-makers will seek when selecting expert Microsoft 365 resellers.

Develop your knowledge, then get ready for the new era of opportunities with selling and supporting Microsoft’s visionary new platform to IT decision-makers.

Scott Paul is the senior director of AppRiver’s Microsoft Alliance. AppRiver was one of the Microsoft’s original go-to-market partners for Office 365 and now has one of the most experienced Office 365 support teams in the business. The company also provides free Microsoft 365 training courses for channel partners.

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