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The top 5 Microsoft 365 challenges and how to manage them

By Libby Bagley is Community Manager at License Dashboard, which specialises in software asset management and licensing expertise for large and fast-growing organisations.

As organisations throughout the country were shuttled towards remote working faster than anyone had planned for, those not already using cloud-based applications, such as Microsoft 365, had to get accustomed to them extremely quickly. But whilst there’s no arguing that the pandemic has had a positive impact on digital transformation, the abrupt shift to working from home, along with a lack of time to acclimatise, means there are bound to be some inevitable hiccups when it comes to managing these tools.  

More than simply a suite of office applications, Microsoft 365 allows users to access and share files securely, work collaboratively, use email, update calendars, hold meetings and even socialise. From an operations perspective, these capabilities are an excellent way to facilitate remote working, but they’re also what make it such a challenge for business owners and IT teams to oversee when it comes to security, compliance and budgeting.

Here are five common areas we find clients struggling with:

  • Visibility – Visibility couldn’t be more important when it comes to managing your IT estate, especially for those operating a remote or hybrid working model. A lack of visibility results in poor decision making, which in turn leads to unnecessary spend, because you simply aren’t aware of what licenses you already have. Beyond a waste of budget, poor visibility can also be a security risk, with accounts potentially being assigned to people no longer with the business or unpatched software that leaves the organisation exposed.
  • Managing licenses – not only are there a number of frequently changing programmes, plans and subscriptions to stay on top of, but within these there are multiple features and varying security levels to be aware of. It’s perhaps no surprise that license management continues to be challenging, but it should also be a priority to understand what licenses have been assigned and what these licenses allow you to do; if they aren’t being managed properly, this leads to poor assignment.
  • Individual vs role based assignment – a lack of user profiling can result in ineffective license assignment, increased spend, slow adoption, and poor user experience. Applications need to be assigned to a role rather than an individual. This method is more cost effective and you can ensure individuals are not oversized or undersized, whilst still retaining access to the tools they require.
  • Cost managementnot being able to manage costs leads to unbudgeted expenditure, unnecessary licensing fees and limited financial planning capabilities. Microsoft does actually provide some discovery tools for Microsoft 365, however, they aren’t always user friendly and require substantial manual effort. These reports don’t always have your costs available within the system either, making it difficult to understand your true spend.
  • Adoption and change management – Slow adoption is one of the biggest factors holding companies back from maximising their use of cloud-based tools, and Microsoft 365 is no different. Limited change management often means increased onboarding time and poor user experience. Make a point of finding out if there are certain features not being used, or a disparity in use between departments – the answer could be something as simple as a lack of awareness or inadequate training.

Better management of Microsoft 365 starts with increased visibility

To stay compliant and manage budgets more effectively, a holistic view of usage is imperative. It’s also just the best way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your investment. Software asset management tools can provide you with full visibility of who is using Microsoft 365, when, and how. This is the first step towards making sure the right people have access to the right tools at the right time.

Your priority should then turn towards making sure employees are using these tools to their full effect. If you’ve invested in Microsoft 365 to increase efficiency and productivity, then they need to be used consistently by everyone within the organisation. During the migration and transition period, the adoption of such applications needs to be constantly monitored. All too often, people are quick to use these new tools and features at first, then adoption tails off. Setting alerts to notify you of such patterns of behaviour can help you stay on top of change adoption.

A solid software asset management strategy provides you with increased visibility, in real-time, enabling you to share valuable insights with other departments and key individuals. At a time when remote working and the shift to the cloud is increasing, this protects you from licensing non-compliance, optimises software spend, and enables more effective collaboration.

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