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Office 365 administrators seek these new skills to stay relevant

Some IT administrators are concerned they are not essential in the Office 365 era, but admins can prove valuable to their organization if they evolve with the times.

As more organizations move to Office 365, administrators who mastered the management and implementation of on-premises...

Exchange Server may question the sustainability and relevance of their jobs.

IT no longer needs to manage servers, operating systems and applications, such as Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business, to enable business collaboration: Exchange Online and related Office 365 services require little management. This shift can be seen as an opportunity for Office 365 administrators to guide their organizations through Microsoft's rapidly released new features and services for the cloud-based collaboration platform.

Office 365 includes messaging, cloud storage and enterprise content management along with advanced security capabilities and collaboration tools. The options are enticing but complex without the guidance of an Office 365 administrator. For example, a clinical department in a North Carolina hospital needed to schedule events and maintain documents, announcements and other key data in a centralized and secure location, according to the hospital's IT director. After the IT team discussed the requirements with the Office 365 admin, they found they already had access to numerous tools in Office 365 -- such as SharePoint and Office Groups -- that met the end user requirements.

This example shows how IT administrators can be consultants as well as technical resources. To fill that role, Office 365 administrators must make changes to their skills and perception from the on-premises Exchange world.

Shift from one platform to an entire ecosystem

Administrators who previously focused on Exchange workloads and its complex infrastructure are now faced with a challenge: adapt to managing a different set of tools. Once workloads are moved from on-premises into Office 365, administrators have to manage several areas, such as SharePoint, Skype for Business, Teams, Planner, Office Groups and licensing. The admin works through a web-based portal, which is also accessible through the Office 365 Admin app for iPhone, Android and Windows phones.

Emphasize security practices and compliance

Administrators who previously focused on Exchange workloads and its complex infrastructure are now faced with a challenge: adapt to managing a different set of tools.

IT executives have security on their minds, and Microsoft responded to the high demand by incorporating advanced security and compliance capabilities into the Office 365 platform. For organizations without a dedicated security team, this means security engineer is another of the new Office 365 administrator roles to play. But more importantly, IT administrators must align the business's requirements, from a compliance perspective, with what Microsoft makes available in the product.

Talk more about end-user experience

Exchange administrators are now the first to be exposed to new enhancements and features for users. The Office 365 administrator job includes sharing new features and functionality releases with the team and trainers, ensuring employees are aware of new capabilities and potential benefits of them.

Fine-tune Office 365 with PowerShell

For those hardcore IT engineers who miss the complexities of an environment -- and the need to hone their technical skills -- PowerShell is a way to manage Office 365, sometimes out of necessity. The platform requires some scripting and familiarity with PowerShell. There are a number of administrative tasks and some platform details that require the use of PowerShell scripts.

Use health service monitoring to keep up

Since Microsoft hosts and provides supports for Office 365, there is less concern from the Office 365 admin about what to do to resolve system outages, and a greater focus on proactive monitoring and vendor management. Office 365 provides administrators with notifications on service interruptions and new fixes; these alerts are accessed via the web portal or through an RSS feed subscription. The health portal becomes the go-to site for administrators when multiple users report incidents or other problems hint at a system-wide issue.

Next Steps

When the Office 365 admin center beats PowerShell

How to make bulk changes in Office 365

Five quick tips for managing Office 365

This was last published in March 2017

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