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What Office 365 is, and What Office 365 isn’t

It's a step in the right direction, but O365 is a far cry from unified information governance

It's a step in the right direction, but O365 is a far cry from unified information governance

Recently I have had a number of discussions with industry leaders who wonder how their companies' transitions to Microsoft Office 365 (O365) is going to affect their information governance mix. While this is not a new discussion, Microsoft's foray into cloud-based architecture for email, SharePoint, and storage reflects an important shift in the IT space.

Right now, the trend is for Fortune 1000s to use a number of applications to meet their diverse IG needs. Most companies that I work with combine a mix of software to perform data capture, data processing, and data presentation across a host of business use cases. This model is tenuous. It is a delicate balancing act between providing end users across a variety of business groups best of breed point solutions and maintaining a unified data governance policy across the enterprise.

Business users doing the day-to-day discovery and compliance work have historically had the loudest voices when it comes time to make a decision about their company’s governance mix. Because these employees use the software daily to do their jobs, their input has been highly regarded. As a result, top-of-the-line point solutions have won the day at the cost of cohesive governance.

The emergence of O365 is evidence that the C-level suite and other decision makers in the Fortune 1000 have been listening to their IT departments and records managers when making IG decisions. IT professionals are acutely aware of the pitfalls of electronic data silos in an organization. They feel the pain of disjointed strategies for data gathering across business units in their enterprises because they are charged with stitching together different processes for each of these groups to ensure that they have access to all of the relevant data.

O365 is Microsoft’s effort to begin to consolidate silos across its product line. It alleviates some of the burden on IT departments to manage the day-to-day of Microsoft products such as email, SharePoint, and IM. This is an important step towards simplifying an enterprise's content creation and management workflow. It is not, however, information governance.

Enterprises need to make sure that their governance stack yields consistent results across the enterprise. Files, for example, should not be treated differently when they are attachments in emails than they are when they are sitting on a file share. Business groups who need access to files should not be required to consult multiple search engines, lexicons, and interfaces in order to be certain that they have done due diligence. And IT teams should certainly not be responsible to fuse these components together to present all of this information in a Frankensteinian format for production.

Microsoft is a department-based email and collaboration software company that is trying to answer growing IT concerns about the unsustainability of silo data across the enterprise. A true information governance solution is agnostic. It ingests, categorizes, applies policies, and controls data irrespective of its origin. It evaluates content and metadata the same way, independent of where the content comes from. A true information governance solution operates a layer underneath content generation software. It manages unstructured data natively and consistently across data sources.

O365 is a strong offering that addresses a number of drivers including minimizing IT overhead, and externalizing the risk of data loss. I would encourage enterprises to make the shift from Exchange to O365 when doing so allows them to better utilize their IT personnel. O365 does not provide complete information governance, but it could be a part of your overall solution.

My work in project management at ZL Tech is an exercise in working with others to find productive compromise at the intersection of theoretical solutions and the technical implementation of those solutions. Personally, I enjoy following baseball, learning about word etymology, and dancing (albeit not particularly well).