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Managing Microsoft Office 365 at Scale

Sep 29, 2020 by Nigel Williams

Image of a cut-out cloud in the sky, depicting the challenges of Office 365 management.

Regardless of whether your organization is growing within a single tenant or has chosen to operate in multiple tenants, getting the right Office 365 management toolset in place is vital to ensure the choices you make are based on the needs of your business, not on technical constraints.

The key to achieving this is to decouple your IT management structure from your organizational structure so that management can be conducted at the correct level, anywhere in the organization.

Most organizations that use Microsoft Office 365 centralize within a single tenant. However, organizations that wish to retain autonomy of administrative control for operating entities, business units, or brands may choose to retain multiple tenants as they grow – often as a result of mergers and acquisitions. 

Tenant Management Challenges

Despite the business need for autonomy, as the number of tenants increases, organizations with multiple tenants are likely to consider tenant consolidation regularly due to the challenges created by multi-tenant management. Those challenges include:

  • Every tenant is an island that needs to be viewed and managed as a separate entity, making it hard to gain a detailed view across all tenants. Getting an accurate breakdown of information about license usage across tenants can be incredibly time-consuming and difficult
  • Ensuring consistency of settings and policies across tenants presents a significant challenge. This is problematic in both onboarding new tenants and in preventing unwanted tenant changes
  • Centralized IT and licensing functions can struggle to achieve the level of visibility and control necessary to do their jobs effectively. This can result in inconsistent service delivery, licenses being out of compliance, overspending, and wastage of license costs, slow investigations, service desk coverage issues, and other disorders that come from large-scale user management
  • It is hard for distributed tenants to leverage each other’s operational best practices
  • There is no mechanism to delegate administrative privileges across tenants, which means you can’t spread work between tenant admins to handle bursts of work or emergencies.

Consolidation does not eliminate Office 365 management problems – it redistributes them by merging your tenants into a single large tenant with its own set of management complications due to the multiple workloads, admin consoles, and data sources that comprise Office 365. Some of the key challenges inherent in large tenant management are:

  • Poor visibility into what you have, especially Office 365 license management and usage
  • The inability to create boundaries around operating entities such as business units so that IT can be equipped with an appropriate span of visibility and control
  • Tension between the need to reduce the number of Global Admins for security and the need to grant more elevated admin privileges to increase flexibility and speed of problem-solving
  • Difficulty in granting the right permissions to the right people across the organizations, especially in geographically distributed enterprises or in those with multiple business units
  • No granularity of control inside the tenant. Native tools provide either too much or nothing, which leads to regular attempts to manage the balance between central management and local autonomy.

The Office 365 Management Tools You Need

Whether your challenges of managing Microsoft Office 365 at scale result from a single large tenant or several smaller tenants, you need to manage your IT assets independently of how the business is structured. You will also need specific tools for distributed or centralized management.

To manage multiple tenants, you need to define and execute an organizational hierarchy across and between tenants and group tenants together. Once grouped, reporting can be run across the tenants on geography, brand, industry, or operating entity basis.

Managing a single large tenant effectively requires parts of the tenant to be isolated so that certain individuals can only see them. These boundaries also need to dynamically update as users’ properties change. In some cases, data will need to be masked for compliance purposes.

These capabilities are available today. For more information on multi-tenant and enterprise tenant management, please visit Nova Office 365 management software.