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new Windows Blue leaks portend the end of Redmond operating systems as we know them. But the software giant has also been generating excellent buzz for one of its current efforts -- namely, Office 365. Enterprises are discovering new ways to reduce costs and boost productivity with the cloud-oriented, subscription-based edition of Word, Excel, et al., and Microsoft this week used its annual Public Sector CIO Summit to tout the product's growth in government.
In a blog post about the event, Microsoft highlighted successes of recent Office 365 adopters. The customer spotlights included the city governments of Seattle and Kansas City, Mo., the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, and the University of Miami.
In an interview, Mary Miller, CIO of Kansas City, Mo., explained how Office 365 will help the city save upwards of $600,000 annually. By handing management of Office 365 over to Microsoft's cloud, the local government will be able to avoid multi-million dollar server refreshes, which otherwise would have occurred every five years. The move has already enabled Kansas City to reduce its data center by 26 servers, adding reduced power consumption to the savings mix.
Miller said Office 365 also allows her to reallocate employees, shifting those who would have been maintaining on-premises email, for example, to core business functions. As a result, average time to completion for IT tasks has been decreased by two to five days.
[ Want to know about Microsoft's inroads into education? See MS Touts Education Wins For Windows 8, Office 365. ]
Kansas City also considered Google Apps for Business, which was cost competitive and which the city still uses to a certain extent due to a partnership involving Google Fiber. Miller said the city opted for Microsoft due to compatibility with existing software and workflows.
Many of the other institutions Microsoft trumpeted at the Public Sector CIO Summit shared similar stories of reduced costs and increased flexibility. Some also lauded Office 365 as a productivity booster because its cloud repositories facilitate on-the-go access to documents. Miller said Kansas City has explored this angle as well, and suggested the cloud's versatility could play into BYOD plans the city is considering.
In addition to the cost savings and productivity gains showcased at Redmond's recent event, Office 365's subscription models have also provided some businesses with more room for budget maneuvering. Advocate Health Care VP Rance Clouser recently told InformationWeek, for example, that his company gained flexibility by classifying Office software as an operating expense rather than a capital investment.
Still, the subscriptions have not been a universal hit. Some consumers were outraged, for example, when Microsoft, in an ostensible effort to herd buyers toward Office 365, placed heavy restrictions on standalone Office 2013 licenses. Redmond eventually responded by offering more attractive terms, but it remains to be seen how consumers will take to the company's new model.
Businesses also face some uncertainty, as many are still wary of housing sensitive data offsite. But those worries will become harder to maintain if Office 365 delivers compelling savings.
InformationWeek's 2013 Government IT Innovators program will feature the most innovative government IT organizations in the 2013 InformationWeek 500 issue and on InformationWeek.com. Does your organization have what it takes? The nomination period for 2013 Government IT Innovators closes April 12.