Sourcing managers with a Microsoft enterprise agreement (EA) that is about to expire face an important decision and may have many questions. Should they renew their next EA along the same lines as they did three years ago? Expand it to embrace Microsoft’s new cloud-based services, including the Office 365 suite? Scale it back significantly to save money?
Fundamental changes in Microsoft’s product and licensing strategies mean drastic changes to its software assurance’s (SA) value. Your decision criteria will be very different from when you last evaluated your EA, and any related decision involves placing bets on your organization’s future deployment of Microsoft products.
Where should you place your bet?
Few sourcing managers are 100% confident about which way to bet. Gather as much information as possible to improve your chances of making the right call while finding answers to the following questions:
That said, whether procurement managers think about taking a SA vacation or upgrading immediately, it is imperative to consider Google Apps as a close contender as well as a leverage over Office 365.
Google Apps for Business (GAFB) and Office 365:
If you work in an organization that absolutely must work with MS Office files regularly, particularly if you need to use the advanced functionality that MS Office applications provide, then the natural choice is going to be Office. Although GAFB can be used to produce and edit MS Office documents, this functionality is limited and you can expect hiccups when you try to edit and save a complex Office document or spreadsheet with a Google app. That said, although GAFB technically allows you to edit both documents produced with Google Apps and MS Office apps, this is not true of Office 365.
If your organization sends and receives a large amount of email, you might find yourself drawn towards a ‘Business’ GAFB plan, as these come with unlimited email storage. However, if you're on a budget and email storage is a big issue, you'll find that the Office 365 entry-level plans are considerably more generous.
The environment in which you are hoping to deploy GAFB and Office 365 should also be factored into your decision. If your organization uses a wide mix of devices and operating systems, then you could potentially make life easier for your users with GAFB, which is designed to run online. With GAFB, it simply won’t matter whether your team members use Mac OS, Windows, Linux, or Chrome OS – everything will look, feel and function the same. But if your organization is entirely MS Windows-based, there's a lot to be said for Microsoft Office 365; a plan involving the desktop apps will fit neatly into such an environment.
While it’s always a good idea to have some IT resources available, the resource and IT cost implications for deploying, maintaining, and supporting GAFB will (in my view) be lower than Office 365, particularly if desktop apps are involved. And finally, regarding scalability – the more affordable Office 365 plans (for example, the ‘Business’ ones) currently cap the numbers of users at 300. No such limit applies to GAFB plans.
One should focus attention on six key areas before making the final decision:
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