How to choose the right Office 365 partner
Making the wrong choice can ruin the move to the cloud.
Choosing the right IT company to advise you on moving to Microsoft’s cloud platform Office 365 can determine whether your transition to the cloud goes smoothly. I regularly come across businesses that have had a bad experience with Office 365, sometimes because they chose technology partners who didn’t really know what they were doing.
The process of picking an IT partner should be similar to choosing any other supplier or employee. You need to look at their work history, credentials, interview them and do your reference checks.
Let’s break these down into more detail.
A long history and plenty of experience in IT is not the same thing as experience with Office 365. In IT new products and solutions come along regularly – but if it’s something that the IT partner doesn’t focus on how can you expect them to be knowledgeable about it?
It would be like hiring a bookkeeper who has plenty of experience in MYOB but none in QuickBooks. Sure, accounts and books are the same, but the systems used are different. Do you really want them to learn at your expense?
As with work history, your IT provider may have numerous certifications under their belt, but that doesn’t mean they are certified in Office 365.
Microsoft introduced two levels of cloud partnership programs for its partners, Cloud Essentials and Cloud Accelerate.
To get Cloud Essentials partners need to sell at least 50 licences of Microsoft cloud services (eg. Office 365, Windows Intune, CRM Online, Azure) in their first year of partnership.
Cloud Accelerate is a show of cloud commitment as partners need to achieve at least three deals and 150 licences to apply, and to stay in the program must achieve eight deals and 500 licences.
Talk to your IT partner and ask about your specific requirements. Make sure they can answer all questions and provide you with a comprehensive plan of how they plan to perform your migration to Office 365 and ensure there is minimal impact to your business.
If you’re not completely confident, keep looking.
I can understand that this may be hard in the case of an existing relationship with an IT provider who claims to be able to perform your Office 365 migration. But make sure that your trust in them as a provider/adviser will not impact negatively on your business due to their lack of experience.
Just because you have a good feeling doesn’t mean that everything will work fine when the time comes to perform your migration to Office 365. Speak to others in your industry or business circles if they have taken up Office 365 and how well the migration was done. Then ask your nominated IT partner to provide references of customers of a similar type, size or industry who have been moved to Office 365.
When done right the move to Office 365 should be relatively seamless and the benefits almost immediate. If your partner can’t meet the above standards ask them if they would be prepared to partner with someone who has more experience.
Make sure you feel comfortable trusting your business to the right partner to implement Office 365 otherwise the costs to your business could be far greater than the services invoice.
Loryan Strant is a Microsoft Office 365 MVP (Most Valuable Professional). Follow him on Twitter @TheCloudMouth.