Office 365 Has the Potential to Drive Technology Business [interview]Emma OkonjiAll Africa Global Media
Country Manager, Microsoft Nigeria, Emmanuel Onyeje, tells Emma Okonji about Office 365, and its significance to cloud computing. Excerpts:
What is Office 365 all about and what relevance has it in today's business?
The Microsoft Office 365 is as enterprise-grade collaboration solution for large and small businesses that was made commercially available in Nigeria in June, 2012. It is the company's next-generation cloud productivity service for businesses of all sizes in Nigeria.
The web-based solution can keep businesses up and running with Office Web Apps, Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Lync Online and an external website in just 15 minutes, for $6 per user, per month. These tools put email, voicemail, enterprise social networking, instant messaging, Web portals, extranets, video conferencing, web conferencing and more at everyone's fingertips.
Office 365 for enterprises has an array of choices for midsize and large businesses, as well as government organisations, starting for as little as $4 per user, per month for basic email. Office 365 for enterprises also includes Microsoft Office Professional plus desktop software on a pay-as-you-go basis, for the first time ever, for $20 per user, per month.
Businesses can try it for free for 30 days by signing up at www.office365.com or from Microsoft's 31 leading local Nigerian service providers, which will integrate Office 365 with other offerings and market the service to the hundreds of thousands of small and midsize business customers in Nigeria.
How will the solution impact on technology driven businesses?
The introduction of Office 365 to Nigeria has the potential to fuel business and economic transformation by delivering cost-effective, flexible access to enterprise-class Information Technology (IT).
The service was first introduced last year with enthusiastic response, particularly among small and midsize businesses. Over a few months, more than 10,000 organisations around the world, many of which were small and midsize businesses, signed up and began testing Office 365, creating one of Microsoft's largest global beta programs for businesses.
We are evolving from the information age to the collaboration age, where the ability to take action on information will set successful businesses apart from the rest, and that is what Office 365 is designed to achieve. The solution will accelerate that evolution by delivering enterprise-grade collaboration for all businesses, large and small.
What is the link between Office 365 and cloud computing?
Office 365 is the channel through which businesses are connected to the internet from where business owners could have access to their servers and monitor their business. The idea of hosting technology infrastructure in the cloud from where people access their business is known as cloud computing. Moving to the cloud with Office 365 does not require a business to change the way it works, because the service is based on familiar productivity tools people know and trust, including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access and more. Employees get new ways to work together with ease, on virtually any device or mobile phone, and businesses get the reliability, security and IT controls they need in the cloud, even without a dedicated IT staff.
What does Microsoft wants to achieve with Office 365?
Microsoft is building a massive partner ecosystem around Office 365, which includes new ways of partnering with service providers such as telecommunication and hosting firms. Combined, the partners will integrate Office 365 with their existing services, from web hosting and internet connections to finance solutions and mobile phone services. These partners will then be able to deliver integrated packages to their customers, creating a one-stop-shop for small and midsize businesses seeking business services.
What is value of cloud computing to the Nigerian economy?
It enables business owners to reach out to more customers as it will open their business space online. It gives access to businesses in a more convenient and efficient manner.
Customers can easily access business from the cloud and it makes business owners to become more responsive to customers' challenges because the business is online.
It gives businesses high speed of operation and saves cost of doing business. It has become a global trend where small and big businesses operate from the cloud and Nigerian business can do same. It gives business owners the technology tools to compete favourably in today's world of competition. Cloud computing accommodates both big and small businesses.
Cloud computing is the way to go now because it saves a whole lot of cost for business owners. For a typical small business to take off from the ground, it needs infrastructure like server, routers, generating set, UPS, before talking about maintenance. But with cloud computing, the business owner does not need all of these. What the business need is just to host the server somewhere in the cloud and connect to it via the internet.
How viable is the SME market with cloud computing?
There is a viable business for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with cloud computing. We have over 80,000 SMEs in the country, and the infrastructure on ground supports online businesses. We have the MainOne, Glo 1, SAT 3, MTN WACS, and NigComSat. The available infrastructure support online business, by providing the necessary broadband. Some operators are currently providing 3G, and 4G services and all these compliments cloud computing business in Nigeria.
How secured is the cloud computing business?
Online businesses are secured, especially when using the Microsoft platform that is already certified. Microsoft has the ISO certification, ensuring high level of security standards. Microsoft online businesses are highly secured and business owners and their customers need not entertain any fears, as the issues with encryption and data protection are settled with the Microsoft platform.
Again Microsoft is involved in combating online crimes. Few days ago, we brought down one of the most dangerous sites through an online process. Microsoft, in collaboration with security agents, brought down the site that is known for malicious hacking. The site has sent out millions of malware and viruses, and has hacked into several websites in the past.
What is the relevance of Microsoft's business to the Nigerian economy?
Our business in Nigeria is driving wealth and job creation. We have 1, 750 partners in Nigeria and they employed over 45,000 people in the country and that alone is boosting m-Commerce and the Nigerian ecosystem. Globally we have 8,000 partners who are equally creating jobs for people worldwide.
We also have enhanced student business programme, where we partner with university authorities to prepare students and make them ready for the job market. The programme teaches students on how to get jobs and how to become self-employed.
Microsoft is partnering with 510 NGOs in Nigeria on education, where grants, software technology and loans are given to them to boost training in schools.
Microsoft is involved in 'Imagine Cup' competition for students, where students are encouraged to develop software in solving basic challenges in the country. We organise the competition every year and sponsor the best team to international completion that is done every year.
It exposes students to software development. Again we are involved in educating teachers with latest technology tools that will enhance teaching. We have through our education programme, impacted over 2.7 million teachers and students in the past two years in Nigeria, giving them training in technology.
What is Microsoft doing to promote software innovation among Nigerians?
In the area of innovation, Microsoft is helping its developers to come up with innovative local software that will solve basic economic challenges. We have helped developers to create local software, using the Microsoft platform and we are using our platform to showcase locally developed software. Through the process, many developers are selling their applications online, while using our Windows platform to leverage their business. Today many developers develop software from their mobile phones, using the Microsoft Windows. By the time we launch Windows 8, which is coming soon, the number of developers that will be developing and selling software from their mobile phones, will definitely increase.
How much has Microsoft invested in all these partnerships with students, teachers and NGOs?
The amount of investments is huge and runs into several millions of dollars, but what is more important to us is that Microsoft in impacting on lives of individuals, institutions, corporate organisations, and the Nigerian economy.
What are some of your challenges in the course of doing business in Nigeria?
Our challenge is in software piracy, but piracy is an infringement on intellectual property right, which cuts across software, movies, books and music.
The issue of piracy is not peculiar to software alone, but there is need for government to give the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), the necessary support that will enable it carryout actual enforcement plan on pirated works. Piracy is sabotage and should be discouraged.
There is also need for awareness creation to educate people on the danger and negative effect of piracy on individuals, institutions and the economy.
As country manager, Onyeje assumes overall responsibility for Microsoft's commercial activities in Nigeria, as well as its corporate citizenship initiatives. He is also responsible for the company's business in Gambia, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
He has over16 years of experience working in the country's growing technology sector. Prior to his appointment as general manager for Microsoft West and Central Africa, he held positions as the services manager for the company in Nigeria, as the chief information systems officer for a Nigerian bank, and also as an executive at Resourcery, one of Microsoft's largest partners in Nigeria.
Microsoft first opened offices in Nigeria in 2000 and currently has over 60 employees in its Abuja and Lagos offices. Its vision is to work with many of the largest and best known organisations in the country, to help build the local Information Technology (IT) economy and to enable its customers enhance their productivity and profitability.
Onyeje is passionate in bringing the Microsoft vision to the fore through his commitment in boosting partner engagement.