Microsoft’s huge advantage in the cloud is because the company controls the productivity suite, Agio CEO Bart McDonough tells TechRepublic’s Dan Patterson. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Dan Patterson: This seems to be a new era, and you told me that you saw increased confidence in Azure. Why?

Bart McDonough: Yeah. Certainly for the clients we work with — more the professional services firms — where you have information workers interacting, I think there’s a couple reasons. One, they kind of control email, a lot of firms [use] Office 365, but more than that, they control the productivity suite. The cash cow for Microsoft continues to be Office, and I think it’s what a lot of Americans, a lot of workers, use as their number one screen. Outlook tends to be the No. 1 application followed by Excel, PowerPoint, Word. They have you captive. When you take that productivity suite, and you integrate it with the back end, with Active Directory at Azure, and some of those other tools that they have, it’s a really powerful, compelling offering.

Patterson: Bart, I ask this all the time to end interviews. I wonder if you could give us maybe the short term, in terms of the public cloud, maybe the next six months, but also the middle term, and say the next 18 to 36 months. I ask this because I think it’s incredibly important as we solidify cloud platforms, and as we look at this, more or less maybe, benevolent lock in. The cloud wars really do matter for business today. So when companies are looking at the rest of 2018 and then beyond, what do they need to be paying attention to?

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McDonough: Well, I think in the short term, continuing to have great cybersecurity, [and] a process around managing it. I think in the short term, though, people are not going to be buying more and more of their hardware on premise. You can have that hybrid strategy. I think people need to really make sure that their staff, whether it’s internal, or if they’ve outsourced that management, are well equipped to handle some of the complexities that the public cloud offers. I mean, I think that’s the short term.

The long term, you need to create a strategy that is consistent with your business, whether those are regulatory constraints, geographic constraints, and finding that public-cloud provider that really suits that. Then, last one would kind of be how you use data. Are you a data-intensive organization in terms of processing, of structured data, or is it more around using unstructured data, and how does that impact, again, going back to some of the cybersecurity and regulatory pieces, how does that all work together? I think you’ve got to keep your eye on that horizon, and how these things are going to change.