Oct
24
2014

Office365 for higher education event

On 17 October, I attended the “Office 365 Collaboration Tools Event for Further and Higher Education” conference in Edinburgh, which sought to bring together experiences of these services in the further and higher education sector.

Background

The University has already adopted some of the features of Office365:

  • Outlook Web App (for email and calendar)
  • Office Online (online document creation and editing)
  • OneDrive (document storage)
  • Lync Instant Messaging
  • SharePoint

You can find out more about these services on the University support pages:

Event format

The event was hosted at the Waverley Gate offices on Princes Street in Edinburgh – a building I’ve wanted to have a look inside for some time. The entrance atrium is bright, spacious and modern, and leads to the offices of a number of major companies. Microsoft’s Edinburgh offices contain a number of meeting and conferences rooms for hosting events of this scale.

The Waverley Gate building on Edinburgh's Princes Street.

The Waverley Gate building on Edinburgh’s Princes Street.

The event comprised of a series of presentations and discussions from institutions across the UK on various aspects of the Office365 suite, from deployment and adoption through to delivery of tools. Although the consideration of the value of the suite (in many cases, cost-free) led some of the adoption efforts, there was a focus on best practice in ensuring that decisions met primary business requirements.

The take-home message

The key idea I took from the event was the importance of ensuring that your product meets the needs of users. In the era of BYOD, it isn’t viable to dictate to users the software you wish them to use to perform a task or to control the environment in which they do it – they will hunt for and use the tool that best suits their needs, and the easiest device on which to do it.

As an example, there are a variety of instant message and video conference tools available: Skype, Google Hangout, Lync and others (including the University’s virtual classroom tool, Collaborate). Users will self-select the tool they find easiest; most compatible; and most open to collaboration (internal and external). You should add value to your institution’s choice with quality training and support materials – but if our offering in any area doesn’t meet those user requirements, then people will use simply use another tool to achieve their task.

The UWP need to be aware of the range of products available to our users in order to deliver their websites, and ensure that our offering stays relevant over time, and that it offers compatibility with other systems that our users may choose to use. This was one of the key considerations when we chose our new CMS framework.

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