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How Office 365 balances IT control with user satisfaction

Mary Branscombe | July 8, 2015
At the end of 2014, Microsoft bought Acompli, creators of a popular email app that it quickly rebranded as Outlook. The familiar name doubtless drew in more users, but it also gave IT teams a set of expectations about the security and management options a product called Outlook would have.

Microsoft backed down and admins can now mark specific senders and messages so that they stay in the inbox, even if they're the kind of message users ignore or delete. Ironically, the feature is used by Clutter itself, to show you a daily list of all the email messages that it's decided you didn't want to see, that you have to delete by hand. (Microsoft tells us the alert is meant to arrive weekly but an unfixed bug is sending it out every day.)

The Clutter bypass rules are good if you have a legal requirement to prove that you delivered a message, not so good if you use them to prevent people controlling their own email experience. Email even business mail is very personal, and employees are so used to choosing where, when and how they read their messages that trying to take back control of their inbox is only going to drive them to other mail email alternatives like Slack (or, if you're lucky, your own enterprise social network).

With even Microsoft firmly committed to prioritising user experience something it has to do to compete with Apple and Google CIOs need to evaluate what would be create too much uneasiness for them and what's just discomfort at switching to securing information rather than devices, and make sure that they have a policy that will deal with the next big-name app that raises these kind of questions.   

It's also time to look at whether IT is going to be the route through which users are going to learn about every new feature on every service that they use. The Office 365 roadmap and other tools will give IT a general heads-up about what's coming, but with mobile apps and cloud services, users are used to getting new options regularly. Having your IT team curating what features users get and when, and holding some features back until they're tested and understood, may just drive your users into the warm embrace of shadow IT.


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