DIY support is not that difficult any more.
Since Office 365 was released in late June we have seen the nature of IT support change significantly. Where previously SMBs would call their IT person for assistance, now they call on Telstra as the first line of support for Office 365.
Many would say that the road for Office 365 support is not paved as smoothly as it should be, and that Telstra does a sub-par job in providing assistance to Office 365 customers.
A big part of the issue around Office 365 support (both in Australia and globally) is due to the misunderstanding by customers and IT partners alike of the support options.
One of the paradigm shifts brought about by cloud is the ability for customers to bypass traditional IT channels in order to procure services and to locate support resources. With Office 365 Microsoft has gone to great lengths to allow customers who are slightly tech-savvy to support themselves.
For SMB customers on the “Small Business and Professional” licence (aka the “P” licence) support in most countries is only available via the Office 365 Community site. Here in Australia, however, Telstra provides first-level support (commonly referred to as “break/fix”).
As Telstra is supporting a great deal of customers and does not have a history in IT support some businesses can find the experience to be quite frustrating due to hold times or the inability to get answers themselves.
Many customers choose to use IT service providers for Office 365 support and pay for the privilege because they can maintain and support hardware and software systems outside the scope of just Office 365.
Various options have been made available by Microsoft for customers to support themselves with Office 365 as quite often the problems or questions SMBs have are relatively straight forward to address. These include various forms of online help and tools.
The Office 365 troubleshooting tool prompts customers to answer a short series of questions to determine the problem and provide potential answers. It can be found here.
Office 365 Community
The community site contains a great amount of blog posts and wiki articles written by both experts in the field as well as Microsoft staff.
Here customers can also submit questions on a variety of different topics using the forums. Quite often these questions are answered by Microsoft support staff and experts at Microsoft IT services companies to help Office 365 customers get the most out of their subscription.
The community site can be found here.
Office 365 is just one offering in the portfolio of Microsoft Online Services. If you are happy to spend time browsing around the vast library of help pages that have been created by the Microsoft content teams then I suggest you view this site. Anything from getting started with Office 365 through to developing SharePoint workflows is covered. Online Help is here.
For many years the Office help site has been available for users to get help on various Microsoft Office desktop products. Similar to the Online Help site you will find a great deal of content here created by Microsoft to answer almost any questions you have with Office. Office Help is here.
Something many users don’t realise is that help is available right in front of them. If you’re in an Office application press F1. Generally this will load help content that is relevant to the application open on your screen.
SharePoint has a small question mark icon on the right side of the main screen so you can access help at any time on any SharePoint topic.
Customers from time to time ask me how much it would cost to provide them with regular support, or if I can provide a managed service helpdesk for their Office 365 support needs. I tell customers there are more than enough ways for them to help themselves with Office 365 and that it is a practice I discourage, with a few exceptions for advanced topics.
Office 365 makes IT simpler, and Microsoft has created a vast amount of support resources for customers of the service. The time has come for users to help themselves. It’s not that hard any more.
Loryan Strant is a Microsoft Office 365 MVP (Most Valuable Professional). Follow him on Twitter @TheCloudMouth.