A Response to “New report slams Office 365 compliance features unfairly”

We recently published a multi-sponsor white paper entitled, The Role of Third-Party Tools for Office 365 Compliance that you can download from our Web site here. Tony Redmond provided a critique of that report on the Windows IT Pro blog that you can read here. While we appreciate Mr. Redmond’s thoughtful response to the white paper, particularly given his stature in the industry and his many years of experience with Microsoft and Microsoft-related solutions, we wanted to offer our two cents on his critique:

The title, New report slams Office 365 compliance features unfairly, doesn’t really reflect the tone of several of the statements we made in the white paper, including:

  • “Microsoft has invested and continues to invest a significant amount of financial resources and effort to build compliance capabilities into Office 365.”
  • “Microsoft offers a range of current [compliance] capabilities in these areas, and is evolving its capabilities to increase coverage.”
  • “With a platform aimed at hundreds of millions of users, Microsoft recognizes that its compliance capabilities will not meet every need, nor address the requirements of every organization. The aim is to have sufficient systemic capabilities to address broad and general-purpose compliance requirements, in line with certain assumptions about the organization and its IT environment.”
  • “Office 365 is a robust platform that offers a number of useful capabilities.”

Quite honestly, we don’t think that we slammed Microsoft or Office 365, both of which we hold in high regard as reflected in these quotes from the paper.

Moreover, we have publicly stated within the past couple of weeks: “Should organizations consider deploying Office 365? Absolutely, since Microsoft offers a robust feature set and continues to enhance Office 365 with new features and capabilities.

In another multi-sponsor white paper we published earlier this year we stated, “There is no denying that Microsoft Office 365 is a robust offering that offers a wide range of capabilities. Microsoft has taken pains to ensure that Office 365 operates with reasonable reliability and that its features and functions meet the needs of a wide range of potential customers. However, as with any mass-market, technology-based offering there will be deficiencies in specific aspects of the features and functions that many customers require. Because no cloud-based offering can be all things to all customers, many – if not most – Office 365 customers will require third party products and services to supplement the native capabilities of the platform.”

In short, we like Office 365, we think it provides robust functionality, and we think it’s a good value for the money. What we’re not saying is that it can be all things to all users all the time.

Also, Mr. Redmond’s blog originally and inaccurately stated that that survey data cited in the report was used for three reports, but after our conversation he graciously and quickly corrected the statement – a survey was conducted specifically for this report, although we have conducted several Office 365-focused surveys this year. However, the fact that this white paper was also sponsored by five other companies in addition to Knowledge Vault (Good Technology, GWAVA, KeepIT, Mimecast and Smarsh) was not mentioned in the blog. As an aside, the link to “Knowledge Vault” in the blog goes here, an incorrect site; and not here, the correct one.

While we definitely do NOT think that Mr. Redmond’s review of our white paper was in any way tainted by the fact that he is on the Advisory Board of a Knowledge Vault competitor, a footnote stating that would have been a useful addition.

Mr. Redmond wrote that, “Another criticism leveled is that Microsoft delivers “good enough” compliance features. The report acknowledges that Office 365 has to service hundreds of millions of users, amounting to some 1.2 million tenants. A specific compliance requirement for one company might therefore not be found inside Office 365, especially if that requirement is specific to a certain industry or country. In any case, the success of Exchange and SharePoint in the on-premises arena is underpinned by an ecosystem of third party software that fill the gaps left by Microsoft.

Yes, that was exactly our point, as stated in the paper: “As with any cloud-based offering, these [Office 365 compliance] limitations will necessitate the use of third-party compliance capabilities in order for organizations to fully satisfy their regulatory and legal compliance obligations.”

On balance, we appreciated Mr. Redmond’s blog, but take issue with a few of its points.

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