Article originally published on crn.com/news by Joeseph Tsidulko - December 01, 2015
Recently, Microsoft released the latest and greatest enterprise edition of its Office 365 cloud-based productivity suite, promising partners that the product's added capabilities would create entirely new opportunities for them to drive business.
E5, the long-anticipated release of the enterprise-grade version of the world's leading office productivity and collaboration SaaS suite, introduces first-time functionality into Office 365, including cloud-based calling and web-conferencing, security and compliance features and an eDiscovery tool.
While partners were expecting most of the new capabilities -- Microsoft discussed the product extensively in July at its Worldwide Partner Conference and has been briefing partners since — the channel finally got a look at how E5 would be packaged and priced.
Phil Sorgen, Microsoft's corporate vice president of its Worldwide Partner Group, told partners in a blog post that "the new Office 365 unlocks a whole new suite of capabilities for our customers, and a whole new opportunity for our partners."
Those innovative tools will be available as standalone features, or as the Office 365 Enterprise E5 package, said Microsoft's channel chief.
"For partners, this means one thing – opportunity," Sorgen blogged. "There are a few specific ways you can maximize this opportunity with new and existing customers."
Among them, partners can upsell to existing customers the web-conferencing and cloud-based communications tools. Or they can leverage the security, analytics, insights and compliance features to win new customers, Sorgen said.
Ric Opal, vice president of Peters & Associates, a Microsoft partner based in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., told CRN that partners must now start thinking about how to capitalize on Microsoft's innovations.
"We have to figure out how we're going to leverage the new features Microsoft released in E5 and differentiate ourselves," Opal said.
Those capabilities are raw ingredients that partners must use to carve out their own positions in the market and drive healthy margins, he said.
"The true trick is figuring out from all the stuff they dropped how to weave your value proposition around their innovation," Opal told CRN.
Matt Scherocman, president of Interlink Cloud Advisors, a Microsoft partner based in Cincinnati, said E5 is a major upgrade, not just a gradual evolution, of the enterprise product.
"If you look at what they added, like end-user and organizational analytics, that stuff wasn't in [the edition] before this one," Scherocman told CRN. "It's cool that it’s a whole separate product. The cloud-based phone functionality didn't exist before, and now it's in E5."
While partners who sell on-premises phone systems might not see that as much of a benefit, for "those who don't, it’s a natural add-on that we can start selling as a package," Scherocman said.
"The key here is that Microsoft continues to innovate the platform," he told CRN.
The two most-surprising elements of E5, Scherocman said, are the enhanced eDiscovery capabilities, which help customers prioritize the most-relevant documents they query; and the ability to open e-mail attachments securely in a virtual machine, making sure the attachments and links are safe.
"I think it will help get rid of a lot of malware and issues that people have with their PCs," Scherocman told CRN.
Sorgen encouraged Microsoft's partners to team with their peers who specialize in such areas as security, eDiscovery, business intelligence and communications and take on joint engagements to expand their practices.
"This is perhaps our best opportunity yet to convince customers that the benefits of the cloud far outweigh the risks," Sorgen said.