Review: Office 365 fails at collaboration

Despite years of promises and gap-filling acquisitions, Microsoft's collaboration toolkit remains a woefully inadequate mishmash

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Sadly, Microsoft doesn't yet offer a viable collaboration platform

Messaging is where Microsoft fared the poorest in our tests. It's clear Redmond simply has no clue about how to do messaging -- not even in Windows. It's no wonder the company is now exploring options other than Yammer, such as Outlook Groups.

By contrast, the other Office 365 collaboration tools suffer more from poor execution and Windows bias than from Yammer's degree of cluelessness. Thus, a Windows-only shop could make do with Office Groups and OneDrive for Business, for example. iOS and Android users could participate in document collaboration and marginally for shared calendars. Mac users will be even more restricted, so if you have a meaningful percentage of Mac users, Office 365 collaboration won't work.

The more platform-agnostic your organization is, the less Office 365's collaboration tools will work for you. You'll probably need to use other providers' tools instead. (The good news is that the productivity part of the Office 365 suite works well across platforms.)

Of course, there's a price to be paid when you use an outside tool: management and security. A big appeal of Office 365 is the unified management and the greater security that brings. When someone joins, their access can be configured centrally for all appropriate services, and when someone leaves, their access can be easily terminated to all services. When you use an independent tool, you have to manage all of that for each service, which creates risk.

But the risk of not being able to collaborate is even higher. Until Microsoft builds out the collaboration roads on its road map, many businesses will have to find another way to get around.

Special thanks to these testers: Dan Dudziak of the IDG Technology Services Group, Rich Hein of, Ken Mingis of Computerworld, Jon Phillips of IDG Consumer and Small Business, Kyle Kramer of, Bob Brown of Network World, Steve Ragan of CSO Online, Amy Bennett of ITworld, and Marc Ferranti of IDG News Service. And thanks to the teams at IDG Enterprise, IDG Consumer and Small Business, and IDG News Service and to our colleagues at the IDG Technology Services Group, IDG Digital Media Group, and for their recommendations on and evaluations of the collaboration technologies explored here.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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