Office 365 as a disruptive technology

In the news lately I’ve been tracking a shift with how people take taxi’s and ride sharing. Uber has burst out onto the market and is turning the taxi industry on their ears. The taxi companies can’t seem to figure out how to compete or adapt and are hamstrung by existing red tape and regulations. While Uber allows customers a choice that has been sorely missing and competition that the taxi industry is not used to having. The whole story has got me thinking about other disruptive technologies that are currently emerging.

Office 365 as a product offering is the convergence of technologies that have combined when the cloud has become more than just a commodity product offering. The cloud is nothing new, it has been around since the days of BBC boards, then everyone had a web server, eventually email was the cool technology and everybody had a hotmail account. I’ve had my hotmail account since I was 18 years old and I am currently 38…20 years a from of the cloud, in this case hosted email has been around and during that time there are a few technologies that have also grown up around it. Affordable storage, cheap, fast and widely available internet connections and security. All of these technologies have caught up to allow a paradigm shift from on-premise IT to a mix of on-premise IT and cloud based IT.

The definition of a disruptive technology is  an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leaders and alliances. The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995.[2]More recent sources also include “significant societal impact” as an aspect of disruptive innovation.

What technologies and markets has Office 365 disrupted then?

Office 365 has provided an alternative to on-premise IT, hosted servers which are often costly to run with rising energy prices etc, and risky. The idea behind Office 365 is to remove the reliance on companies having to host their own infrastructure for productivity. Microsoft has gone so far as to say they will no longer offer on-premise software feature parity with Office 365, and often Office 365 will get features before and even despite whether on-premise will get the updates.

Another market that Office 365 hits is the small and medium business market. It was not too long ago that these markets could not afford to host their own infrastructure and were often relegated to using insecure and less reliable email services. Now Office 365 turns that market on it’s head by offering the same enterprise email offering as large enterprise companies have had for years.

In a way, Microsoft has become a disruptive force in itself. Since Satya Nedella has taken over the helm of Microsoft, their mandate has changed as well. For the last 20 or so years, Microsoft has delivered software. They have purchased companies such as great planes and created software suites such as Dynamics CRM, Exchange, Lync (Skype for Business), all on premise software requiring infrastructure. In the last 2 years, Microsoft has undergone a transformation and their new motto shows their shift. Microsoft has adopted a “Cloud first, mobile first” mentality with all of their software and services. While there have been talks about selling software as a service since Windows 2000, Azure and Office 365 is really the product of this thought process. In doing this Microsoft has disrupted their own 20/30 year product line in just 2+ short years.

Luckily they’ve also provided ways for you to do both. It would be extremely alienating to their customers and counter productive to have customers invest so much over the years through upgrades to go all in to the cloud and not offer any hybrid solutions. For pretty much every Microsoft software suite, there is a hybrid solution.

We live in very exciting times with technology and a lot of markets have been turned on their ear. Instead of being pushed out of the market by other disruptive technology, Microsoft has disrupted their own technology model. It’s not a bad a thing when you are own disruption.

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