Microsoft's Plan to Automatically Email Office 365 Users Is A Rare Disconnect
Microsoft’s Office 365 is the crown jewel for the company’s software-as-a-service model; the platform has passed 155 million commercial customers and shows little signs of slowing down.
So when the company announced that they would start automatically emailing users of Office 365 and Microsoft 365 tips and tricks, to get the most out of their subscription, it was a record-scratch moment. Microsoft was planning, in late November, to start emailing users and had begun notifying admins of this practice.
It may seem harmless to want to help your customers learn more about the product they are paying for but that completely misses the issue. Especially for Microsoft 365 and I’d be willing to be a large portion of the user-base of commercial Office 365, has no idea what either product is; they simply know it as Office and Windows.
Say Goodbye to Traditional PC Lifecycle Management
Traditional IT tools, including Microsoft SCCM, Ghost Solution Suite, and KACE, often require considerable custom configurations by T3 technicians (an expensive and often elusive IT resource) to enable management of a hybrid onsite + remote workforce. In many cases, even with the best resources, organizations are finding that these on-premise tools simply cannot support remote endpoints consistently and reliably due to infrastructure limitations.
That point aside, emailing your paying customers with what will likely be viewed as spam is a bold move and the feedback has been harsh. So harsh in fact that the company has put a hold on rolling out this practice while it reviews the messages it has received.
As it should be, Microsoft does not fully know how each company uses each platform and sending content to the end user about how to get the most out of Yammer, when a company may not be using the software, is filling corporate inboxes with junk. And for backend staff, this could cause unnecessary inquiries about software they don’t use which only adds more overhead to the typically understaffed help desk.
Further, the end user is not the person who decides when and where software is deployed inside of a large company. This is an IT or management specific decision and trying to entice the end user to learn about software their organization does not currently use, will create more headaches for IT.
I do like that Microsoft is trying to help educate users about features of their software to help improve productivity, this is not the issue, the problem is that it needs to be in a controlled by IT and should be an opt-in, not an opt-out, as it is currently designed. If IT can preview and control the flow of tips to help its users with features they use for products that IT supports, that can be helpful, but to blast everyone with un-targeted content is noise that is not needed.
This is a rare disconnect for Microsoft as the company is typically extremely careful about touching Office 365 as it has proven to be a pillar of its SaaS future. For now, the company has listened to feedback about emailing its paying customers and if they change their minds again, we will keep you updated.