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Disabling services in Office 365 is not an option

3 min read
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Managing all services in Office 365 is hard. But turning them off because you can’t tell if your colleagues use them responsibly is even worse. Here is why.

Other blogs in this series:

Many faces of Office 365

Office 365 offers great value to organizations of all sizes. Using its many services you can publish content, collaborate on documents or communicate with your colleagues and partners. What’s more, you can tailor these services to your needs offering you even more benefit. But there is a downside to all this.

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​Not all of these services and customizations are easy to manage. There is no centralized inventory of applications your colleagues have built and what these applications do. In the end, you can’t tell what external services your organization is reaching out and where your internal data is being sent to. And it’s also a tough story to sell to your management. Turning some services off seems like a good alternative to prevent the uncontrolled growth of your intranet – but is it?

The price of disabling productivity services

Recently, while reading a whitepaper published by Microsoft, I came across the following paragraph:

…it is really up to the capabilities and the creativity of your organization to determine how it leverages the platform. As an enterprise administrator, you can choose to either be a blocking force in the way of that creativity, or an enabler. As an enabler, you will put in place the necessary licensing, policies and processes needed to ensure success of the teams.

It makes perfect sense. You don’t want to be the bad guy. You don’t want to make your colleagues feel miserable at work. You want to be an enabler, right? But it’s also your job to ensure that your organization is compliant with laws and regulations. You have to ensure that your organization’s data is not leaked and your organization won’t end up in the news. So you can’t just allow your colleagues to do whatever they want. You need to define some boundaries. And here is a problem.

Office 365 offers you the ability to monitor how some of the productivity features are used in your organization. But the information you get is very limited. It allows you to control just a few aspects of your environment, in the end leaving you with nothing else than turning off services that you can’t manage adequately. And it’s a shame because often this leads to two things: decreased employee satisfaction and shadow IT. There is, however, a better approach to it. Let me show you.

Control the usage of your Office 365 tenant

If you think about it, there are just two things in your way to allow your colleagues to use Office 365 to its full potential. You must know what applications your colleagues have built on top of Office 365 and what these applications do. That’s it.

Office 365 - PowerApps and beyond
​Just because Office 365 doesn’t offer you a centralized inventory of all applications out of the box, it doesn’t it’s not possible to have one. You will need to tap into the different locations and services used by your colleagues to compile a list of all applications in your tenant. Once you have it, you would take a closer look at what these applications do and how they impact your organization. And then, you will need to keep doing it regularly, because your colleagues will likely add more applications to your tenant.

The first time you get these insights, you won’t believe your eyes. Most likely you will feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of data. But you will also feel empowered. Because now finally you will be able to properly control your Office 365 tenant. Finally, you will know how the different applications affect your organization and its data and you will have evidence to back it up!

To successfully monitor applications in your tenant, you need to have a proper understanding of Office 365, how it can be customized and what to watch out for. You can try to build something yourself or you could try one of our assessments. How many applications do you think we’ll find in your environment?

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Waldek Mastykarz

Waldek is a Microsoft Office Development MVP and Head of Product at Rencore. He reinforces our product development adding loads of business experience from working as a SharePoint consultant for more than 10 years. Waldek is passionate about what he does and shares his enthusiasm through his blog and as a regular speaker at conferences and community events all over Europe. Recently, Waldek joined the SharePoint Patterns and Practices (PnP) Core Team to help developers make better use of the SharePoint and Office 365 platforms.