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Microsoft SPE helps joined-up thinking

We assess how Microsoft’s secure productive enterprise licence can help enterprises coordinate their digital transformation

The Microsoft product portfolio can enable digital transformations, but there is no reason to wait three years for your next enterprise agreement (EA) renewal before performing a thorough review of Microsoft’s role in your business technology strategy.

Microsoft Secure Productive Enterprise (SPE) is a simple way to license a broad suite of products, and Microsoft hopes it will become the platform for new ways for people to work together.

It extends the company’s existing Enterprise Cloud Suite, which is itself a combination of lower-level suites such as Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) and Office 365 E3. SPE is seen as more evidence of Microsoft’s keenness to increase customers’ adoption of certain products whose significance to the company goes beyond their direct contribution to revenue.

Digital transformation

Microsoft is not only a key supplier for most enterprises, thanks to its flagship Windows and Office products, but it also has a product range that covers many software categories that are important enablers of any enterprise’s digital transformation. A transition to Microsoft’s cloud offerings could be an important step in a company’s journey to become a digital business.

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Security and compliance products, such as Intune and Azure Active Directory, are very important to Microsoft because they put its technology in control of non-Windows devices, such as iPads and Android phones. Windows’ dominance in enterprise devices may be over, but EMS may preserve infrastructure teams’ loyalty to a Microsoft-based device strategy.

Digital businesses must serve customers where they want to be served without jeopardising their security or privacy. This is driving convergence between device management and cloud access control. Microsoft’s EMS offering reflects this convergence, even if the components are not yet market leaders in their own right.

Every messaging format, from voicemail to Slack-style messaging, declines in value as it becomes more popular and starts to get swamped by internal spam. Microsoft hopes to revolutionise collaboration by using the artificial intelligence (AI) behind Cortana to despam your inbox. To do that, it first needs to get as many of your messages and documents as possible into its cloud. Microsoft intends the SPE to encourage cloud migration by making it easier for firms with a lot of on-premise legacy to start moving some of their collaboration to Office 365.

Work together better

The Office 365 collaboration tools allow you to move from siloed to connected. Microsoft has the broadest, deepest set of products to enable people to work together better within and across teams. Products such as OneDrive, Yammer, Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams support many collaboration methods and styles in addition to familiar, unfashionable, but still predominant, email.

Also, innovations such as Delve represent a potentially transformative application of AI to improve enterprises’ collaboration effectiveness to help you work faster, smarter and safer.

Microsoft markets SPE as a trusted and secure way to bring together Office 365, EMS and Windows 10 Enterprise. Making Microsoft the sole source of all these software categories can be a good idea technically and financially. However, Microsoft changes its software packaging, pricing and licensing so frequently that the optimum sourcing strategy for your organisation may be very different now from what it was two or three years ago.

Reap the benefits

You can reap the benefits of SPE if your colleagues are happy to widen your firm’s dependence on Microsoft – and if you are on a clear path to the cloud with the supplier. With SPE, you should be able to realise significant savings – it can lower the cost of hybrid cloud/on-premise environments.

The new SPE user subscription licence (USL) includes full server and client rights for Exchange and SharePoint, including instances running on servers in customers’ own datacentres. Customers that have not fully migrated to Office 365 no longer need separate per-server licences, nor do they need complex constructs such as bridge client access licences (CALs) or add-on USLs.

The USL simplifies software management by including everything in one subscription. Licensing device products such as Windows and Office by user means CIOs can deliver those products to all employees’ devices, including tablets and smartphones. You no longer need to worry about unexpected bills for unlicensed copies on secondary devices.

The SPE also means you can eliminate point solutions from niche suppliers. Microsoft hopes to take business from suppliers such as Cisco, Citrix, Symantec and VMware by persuading customers to replace its competitors’ products with Microsoft’s own offerings. You can avoid costly evaluation exercises by a Microsoft-first strategy, and will usually get products that soon catch up with competitors if they aren’t already leaders.

Burt despite all these benefits, SPE may not be the right option for every IT leader. Its broad reach means that your evaluation of it must consider many different colleagues’ technology adoption plans.

À la carte licensing may be more appropriate for organisations that take a more discriminating approach and look beyond Microsoft products when better alternatives are available. The on-device Office suite represents about 40% of the SPE’s cost. Instead of upgrading to SPE, companies with Office in their current EAs have a one-time chance to temporarily go in the opposite direction.

Ready to upgrade

You could save about $100 per user annually by dropping Office from your next EA, and the long-term downside may be less than you think. The SPE, or its successor, will always be available later, when you are ready to upgrade beyond Office 2016.

Another option is to consider competitive products that may deliver greater benefits. For instance, EMS rated behind the leaders in Forrester’s 2015 evaluations of enterprise mobile management products and cloud security gateways. Even if you effectively get them for free, they may cost you in extra work for your technology management team, additional software to fill functionality gaps, or in reduced user satisfaction. Your organisation should therefore evaluate each product carefully before assuming that their collective presence in your company is a net benefit.

Microsoft’s multi-product suites, of which SPE is the latest and broadest example, are a simple, cost-effective way to license a broad range of Microsoft products for firms willing to embrace more of Microsoft’s portfolio.

But these suites also increase the risk of long-term supplier lock-in, so they won’t be the best licensing route for every enterprise. As such, the best recommendation is a thorough, up-to-date assessment of Microsoft and its suites, which can enable you to make the right long-term bet between expanding Microsoft’s footprint or staying with an eclectic, best-of-breed sourcing strategy. n

This is an extract of the Forrester report ‘Sourcing Microsoft’s Secure Productive Enterprise’ by Forrester principal analyst Duncan Jones.

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