Software

Microsoft Office 365 is suffering from the dreaded feature creep

Microsoft continues to add more apps to Office 365, but it may be time to ask whether the app deluge is more harmful than helpful.

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Image: iStockphoto.com/g-stockstudio


Microsoft Office 365 is (and you can argue this point if you wish) the standard by which all other productivity suites are measured. Sure, there is competition from Google Apps and the like, but they all play second fiddle to Office 365.

Office 365 offers enterprise users just about every software application that they could want and more. However, that may be where we run into a bit of a problem. Microsoft may have given enterprises too many applications. When does too much of a good thing become a bad thing?

Counting apps

As someone who has spent years writing about technology and software, having a multitude of applications in my productivity suite is perfectly okay with me. It just means there is more to think about, write about, and complain about. But I am far from a normal enterprise user.

Most users, especially those working in a large enterprise setting, just use the tools they need to perform their job. All the other applications available to them are often considered clutter they have to work around to get to the tools they actually need. So the question is, has Microsoft created a productivity suite in Office 365 that is mostly clutter?

SEE: Microsoft launches Teams, goes to war with chat giant Slack

The screenshot below shows my installation of Office 365 Business Premium. Notice how many icons are listed on my Home tab. Also, take note of how many third-party Office 365 apps are available to me. There is even an app that makes it easy for me to schedule meetings at Starbucks. Do we really need that?

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Office 365 is starting to suffer from feature creep and application redundancy. For example, there are at least four presentation applications listed in the current Office 365 Business Premium Home tab: PowerPoint, Sway, Delve, and Stream. Each has its own merits and perhaps even its own niche, but are all four apps really necessary?

SEE: Microsoft custom tailors Office 365 and Azure cloud for Department of Defense

Bottom line

Under CEO Satya Nadella's leadership, Microsoft has emphasized over and over again that it wants to create software for a cloud-based enterprise workforce—a workforce that relies on mobility and collaboration to get its work done. That sounds great and is welcomed by a large percentage of the target market.

However, I can see the number of available apps in an Office 365 subscription quickly becoming more distracting than helpful. Microsoft has reached a turning point in Office 365 development. Adding more applications to the suite could be counterproductive and do more harm than good.

I am not suggesting that Microsoft remove any applications from Office 365. In fact, I feel relatively certain that many younger users like and expect a plethora of software choices. Trying new applications and throwing out old ones is what they are used to and, frankly, it is how enterprises will get the best out of their younger workforce.

But for the more task-oriented, "This is my job and these are my tools" crowd, Microsoft has crossed into the realm of distracting clutter when it comes to Office 365 apps. Personally, I would like to see Microsoft spend some resources developing better administrative tools for Office 365 so enterprises can get control of feature creep and reduce the chaos of what has become a messy suite of productivity tools.

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Your thoughts

Are there too many applications in Office 365? Share your opinion with your peers in the discussion below.

About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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