How to Optimize Service Delivery of Mission-Critical Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 is a powerful platform that drives greater workplace productivity in complex, global, or remote work settings. As your organization grows and senior leaders (CxOs) outside of IT evolve into actively shaping cloud strategies in parallel, the complexity of your Microsoft investment now multiplies. This “rush to digital” creates a defining moment for CIOs. If strategic decisions are not in place upfront, then your digital transformations goals are comprised.

How to Optimize Service Delivery of Mission-Critical Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft environments are complex. As organizations grow, the complexity only multiplies, complete with lots of critical services, countless activity sources, massive amounts of data, and a need to reduce production risk ensuring it is all running well. CIOs must understand how to effectively deliver service and improve the workplace productivity of both employees using the Microsoft collaboration suite and IT teams managing it.

In this article, one key CRITICAL takeaway is for CIOs to plan and develop a cloud monitoring strategy that is growth-oriented, defined minimally, then redefined iteratively; always aligned with business needs. Its outcome delivers an agile operations modality centered around the ability of the organization to proactively monitor complex distributed applications the business depends on.

In today’s world, CIOs must plan and develop an effective cloud monitoring strategy. With the right strategy and the right monitoring solutions, CIOs can achieve greater visibility, increase employee workplace productivity, and lower the cost of Microsoft ownership. Read this white paper as an initial collation of strategy recommendations for optimizing service delivery of mission-critical Microsoft Office 365.

Content Summary

Executive Summary
Identify the business objective
Determine what you have
Considerations to inform your strategy
Deliver business value
Conclusion
Resources

Executive Summary

Microsoft environments are complex. As organizations grow, the complexity of their Microsoft investment only multiplies, complete with lots of critical services, countless activity sources, massive amounts of data, and a need to reduce production risk and ensure it is all running well. This creates wasted time for multiple departments in critical situations and less and less visibility into whether services are being delivered as expected.

Another layer of complexity comes from the massive scale of Office 365 with remote users distributed across several data centers, hundreds of thousands of servers, hybrid environments, and multiple locations and devices. Within a sea of information, understanding license consumption, identifying underutilization, forecasting license needs, driving adoption, and eliminating unnecessary spend without sacrificing productivity is key.

CIOs must understand how to effectively monitor Office 365 and continue to deliver service and improve the workplace productivity of both employees using the Microsoft collaboration suite and the IT teams managing it.

As a result of these challenges and complexities, it is critical CIOs plan and develop a cloud monitoring strategy that is growth-oriented, defined minimally, then re ned iteratively; always aligned with business needs. Its outcome delivers an agile operations modality centered around the ability of the organization to proactively monitor complex distributed applications the business depends on.

Identify the business objective

Determine target business processes to improve desired outcomes monitoring should support.

Start by determining the business objectives of your monitoring initiative. Examples include faster response times to issues or better insight into environment performance. The more specific you can be about the outcomes you want to achieve, the better. This is also a key part of the business case for the initiative. When you have identified a business process you want to improve, identify elements of the process that a monitoring solution could address. This likely requires analysis of the end-to-end business process—how it works today, where the inefficiencies are, and what changes you want to make. You will need to identify the systems, tools, and teams that would need to be involved in making that possible, the requirements that need to be met, and the gaps and obstacles that exist. This kind of analysis will help you determine the capabilities your solution must have and will also indicate how extensive the business process changes might be.

CIOs may need to formulate an early strategy for operations management, in which monitoring plays a major role. Consider these four outcomes:

  1. Manage cloud production services when they go live into production, such as networking, applications, security, and virtual infrastructure.
  2. Apply limited resources to rationalize your existing monitoring tools, skills, and expertise, and use cloud monitoring to reduce complexity.
  3. Make your monitoring solution processes more efficient, work faster and smoother, at scale and be able to change quickly too.
  4. Account for how your organization will plan for monitoring based on cloud models.

Map out the end-to-end scenario and define high-level requirements. Line up executive sponsorship and get stakeholder support before moving into solution implementation to reduce risks.

Determine what you have

Assess the current state of your systems, including the people, partners, outsourcing, tooling, complexity, gaps, and risks.

You may be working closely with a steering committee, an architect, and strategic planners. Once you have identified the business process you want to address, you will need to profile the systems and applications involved. An assessment will help you prioritize the set of found problems and select the key opportunities that improve the current situation. Determine also, the services, systems, and data that are likely to remain on-premises as one important outcome. Ideally, the executive teams want a roadmap of initiatives, but in direct proportion to the known planning horizon. Discussing unknowns, are as important.

Monitoring influences and justifies the motivations, business outcomes, and initiatives. Therefore, you must include monitoring during strategizing and planning phases of your IT operations. Imagine what the cloud operating model needs to look like, including the role of monitoring. Monitoring is best served with a service-based approach, as an operations function, where monitoring is an advisory service and a provider of expertise to business and IT consumers

Ensure your solution can work with your environment — both for systems you have and for systems you might add in the future.

The following are important areas that strongly influence a sound monitoring strategy:

  • Monitor the health of your applications, based on their components and their relationship with other dependencies. Start with the cloud service platform, resources, the network, and lastly the application by collecting metrics and logs where applicable. The hybrid cloud model includes on-premises infrastructure and other systems the application relies on.
  • Include measuring the end user’s experience in your application’s performance monitoring plan by mimicking your customer’s typical interactions with the application.
  • Ensure security requirements correspond with your organization’s security compliance policy.
  • Align alerts with what is considered a relevant and practical incident (such as warnings and exceptions) and align severity with its significance following your incident priority and urgency escalation matrix.
  • Collect only the metrics and logs that are useful, measurable, and identifiable to the business and IT organization.
  • Understand who needs visibility, what they need to see, and how it should be visualized based on their roles and responsibilities.

At the heart of operations management, CIOs need to establish centralized governance and strict delegation over approaches to build, operate, and manage IT services.

Considerations to inform your strategy

Consider where early monitoring capability informs strategy, and the role monitoring plays in strategies to incrementally protect and secure the digital estate.

The monitoring expert or systems administrators will discover that Office 365 monitoring is faster and easier to establish, leading to inexpensive demos or proofs-of-value. To overcome the tendency to stay in demo mode, you need to stay in constant touch with strategy and be able to execute production-focused monitoring plans. Because strategy has plenty of uncertainty and unknowns, you will not know all the monitoring requirements in advance. Therefore, decide on the first set of adoption plans, based on what is minimally viable to the business and IT management.

Strategies need real-world input from monitoring of service enablement.

  • Activity logs and security monitoring are needed to measure directory usage and external sharing of sensitive content, to inform in an incremental approach to layer on protective features and achieve the right balance with privacy monitoring.
  • Policies and baselines will inform the rationalization objective (migrate, lift, and shift, or rearchitect) and improve confidence that data and information can be migrated from on-premises to cloud services.

Depend on early monitoring data to build a capability roadmap that guides limited resources and adds confidence.

Consider privacy and security

You will need to secure certain monitoring data emitted by resources and the control plane actions that are logged, known as activity logs. Additionally, specialized logs that record user activity such as the Azure Active Directory sign-in and audit logs, and if integrated, the Office 365 unified audit log, as they contain sensitive data that may need to be protected under privacy laws.

Consider business continuity

Monitoring tools collect, index, and analyze real-time machine and resource-generated data to support your operations and help drive business decisions. Under rare circumstances, it is possible that facilities in an entire region can become inaccessible, for example, due to network failures. Or facilities can be lost entirely, for example, due to a natural disaster. By relying on these services in the cloud, your planning is not focused on infrastructure resiliency and high availability, rather it’s planning for:

  • Availability for data ingestion from all your dependent services and resources in the cloud and on-premises.
  • Data availability for insights, solutions, and other visualizations, alerting, and integration.

Create a recovery plan, and make sure that it covers data restoration, network outages, dependent service failures, and region-wide service disruptions.

Consider maturity

Maturity is an important consideration in your monitoring strategy. We recommend CIOs start minimally, gather data, and with this information, determine the strategy. The first monitoring solutions you will want are those that ensure observability, to include responsive processes, such as incident and problem management.

Over time, you gain confidence with the need to measure health indicators. This involves expanding the focus on the collection of logs, enabling, and using insights and metrics, and defining log search queries that drive the measurement and calculation of what is healthy or unhealthy.

Learning cycles includes getting monitoring data and insights into the hands of managers, and ensuring the right consumers have monitoring data they need. Learning cycles include continual tuning and optimizing of your initial monitoring plans to adapt, improve service, and inform adoption plans.

Monitoring is foundational. Your strategy should address these four disciplines of modern monitoring, to help you define minimum viable monitoring, and gain confidence in steps. Moving your capability from reactive to proactive and scaling its reach to end-users is but one goal.

Observe: Establish initial visibility of services: availability, performance or capacity, security, and configuration compliance. Include knowledge and readiness of monitoring consumers, defining, and triggering from events, for service work such as incidents and problems. One indicator of maturity is how much can be automated to reduce unnecessary human costs to manually observe health and status. Knowing which services are healthy is as important as being alerted on services that are unhealthy.

Measure: Configure collection of metrics and logs from all resources to monitor for symptoms/conditions that are issues, which indicate the potential or actual impact to the availability of the service, or impact of the consumers of the service/application.

For example:

  • When using a feature in the application, is it showing response time latency, returning an error when I selected something, or unresponsive?
  • Ensure services are meeting service agreements by measuring the utility of the service or application.

Respond: Based on the context of known issues to observe and measure, evaluate what qualifies as a bug, auto-remediation, or requires a manual response based on what is classified as an incident, problem, or change.

Learn and improve: Consuming actual monitoring data through insights and reports enables you to continually improve the target service and to enact tuning and optimization of the monitoring configuration.

As you progress, your strategy reveals there may be much to do in the end. Ultimately your mindset extends outside the corporate network into the workplace, to devices and endpoints. You want the strategy to define your monitoring boundaries of responsibility in alignment with the business’ cloud adoption strategy, based on the cloud service model your business adopts.

Deliver business value

Gain real-time visibility and new insights and use this information to improve operations.

Operationalize your current and future systems management strategy that includes monitoring, to:

  • Apply limited resources in consolidating your monitoring investment.
  • Decide how monitoring will help enable the future services your business needs: cloud monitoring of highly scalable, resilient, and globally aware cloud services.
  • Align monitoring to the future services and resources that you will be monitoring in the cloud.
  • Identify monitoring gaps across the three dimensions (depth, breadth, and across) of the health model.
  • Model the financial aspects, costs, and support factors that support a cost-benefit analysis.
  • Guide the hybrid decisions that you need to make.
  • Refine your business rules and identify potential data gaps.

With sufficient data, you can identify problems and forecast events—the baseline elements for anomaly detection and, eventually, predictive management.

The main principle of monitoring is greater visibility and service delivery. For a service, asset, or component to be fully visible, CIOs need to balance the three sides of this principle, which are:

  1. Monitoring in-depth by collecting meaningful and relevant signals.
  2. Monitor end-to-end or breadth from the lowest layer of the stack up to the application.
  3. East to the west with a focus on its aspects of health (availability, performance, security, and continuity).

Some key strategic questions for CIOs include:

Microsoft Office 365 is a powerful platform that drives greater workplace productivity in complex, global, or remote work settings. However, if strategic decisions are not in place upfront, then your digital transformations goals are comprised. What is your insurance policy to not compromise your goals?

As your organization grows and senior leaders (CxOs) outside of IT evolve into actively shaping cloud strategies in parallel, the complexity of your Microsoft investment now multiplies. This “rush to digital” creates a defining moment for CIOs. What are the boundaries of cloud operations versus health and performance? How will you provide visibility into whether services are being delivered as expected and communicated back to the other CxO owners?

Flexible and efficient IT operations are essential to long-term and sustainable cost optimization within organizations with finite resources. How will you maximize staff utilization and business-related value of IT and transform from a pure cost center to a more strategic growth partner within your organization?

Conclusion

It is important CIOs plan and develops an effective cloud monitoring strategy. The strategy must be growth-oriented, defined minimally, then refined iteratively; always aligned with business needs. Its outcome delivers an agile operations modality centered around the ability of the organization to proactively monitor complex distributed applications the business depends on. Without proper Office 365 monitoring, and by relying solely on the built-in capabilities, administrators are often left to wait for feedback from their users to understand when something is wrong. This is far from ideal. Being able to pick up on early warnings in any of the components within the infrastructure, including Office 365, is vital.

We hope you found the strategic guidance in this document helpful. With the right strategy and the right monitoring solutions, CIOs can achieve greater visibility, increase service delivery, increase employee workplace productivity, and lower the cost of Microsoft ownership.

Resources

Without a solid strategy in place, IT teams and administrators noticeably struggle to manage, maintain, and deliver the expected business (and to the IT organization) outcomes for the critical services that IT is charged with delivering. Monitoring is considered core to managing infrastructure and the business, with a focus on measuring the quality of service, workplace productivity, and customer experiences. The best strategy is one that monitors several systems and workloads and can go deep to support one of your largest investments ultimately delivering the value and ROI to your organization.

Moving to Microsoft Office 365 is not a time to relax and requires even more diligence than standalone on-premises environments. It is important to understand that Microsoft is only responsible for their cloud service and has very little incentive to diligently monitor their systems let alone yours. This creates a hefty number of blind spots. Relying on native tools as your strategy indeed falls short of meeting critical needs.