Posey's Tips & Tricks

Make Office 365 Onboarding Easier with Microsoft FastTrack

If you have ever worked through the process of linking Office 365 resources to an organization's existing IT infrastructure, then you know that Office 35 onboarding can be daunting.

Thankfully, help is available for organizations that have 150 or more Office 365 seats through a Microsoft program called FastTrack.

If you are about to engage in an Office 365 deployment, all you have to do to get assistance is to log into the FastTrack site and complete a request for assistance. Once Microsoft has reviewed and accepted your request, you will be assigned a FastTrack manager and a FastTrack engineer who will assist you with the process.

The FastTrack manager's job is to be your point of contact throughout the process. It is this person's job to coordinate the onboarding efforts with the organization and the FastTrack engineer (as well as any other subject-matter experts that may be needed). Furthermore, if issues are encountered during the onboarding process, it is the FastTrack manager's job to escalate those issues as needed.

The FastTrack engineer is tasked with guiding the organization through the onboarding process. To meet that objective, the FastTrack engineer may provide migration tools and technical advice. The engineer may also assist with the onboarding process if necessary.

While it is true that the FastTrack program is primarily geared toward organizations with 150 or more seats, there are variations to the program for both smaller and larger organizations. Any Office 365 subscriber, regardless of size, can access online resources such as tools and documentation. Organizations that have 50 or more Office 365 users have the ability to ask questions, even if their organization is not large enough to qualify for full-blown FastTrack assistance.

In the case of enterprise-class organizations (which Microsoft defines as those organizations with more than 500 Office 365 users), Microsoft provides a FastTrack architect. The FastTrack architect acts as the organization's initial point of contact, and helps the organization to get all of its ducks in a row before working with a FastTrack manager.

Enterprise customers also get the benefit of mail and file migration assistance. Microsoft will help enterprise customers to move mail from Exchange Server, Domino, Google Apps for Work, GroupWise or any other IMAP-capable mail system. Likewise, Microsoft can assist with moving files from locations such as Google Drive, Box or even a file share to SharePoint Online.

The FastTrack program is based on what is essentially a three-step process. Microsoft refers to the first step in this process as Envision. The Envision step can best be thought of as the planning phase of the project. This is where Microsoft provides tools and best practices, and helps customers to come up with an organization-specific approach to onboarding.

The second step is what Microsoft calls Onboarding. The Onboarding phase is exactly what it sounds like. This is the part of the process in which the FastTrack engineer works with the organization to enable the use of Office 365.

The final phase of the project is called Drive Value. This phase of the process occurs after the transition to Office 365 is complete and consists of two goals. The first of these goals is to get the end users to accept Office 365 and to actually use it. The second goal is to revise existing business processes so that they mesh well with Office 365, thereby resulting in optimal efficiency. 

The most important takeaway is that Office 365 subscribers are not simply abandoned after the Office 365 transition. The organization's FastTrack contacts continue to work with the organization for a period of time to help the organization get the full benefit of its Office 365 subscription.

Incidentally, even though I have discussed FastTrack from the standpoint of Office 365 onboarding, it is important to note that FastTrack is not exclusive to Office 365. Microsoft also provides FastTrack services for Azure and Dynamics 365.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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