Microsoft seems to infer that anyone can easily and quickly get an Office 365 CMS up and running without planning. This might be true if you are ok with bland default web apps and a single plain Jane Library that is merely an online filing cabinet.

But most people want some of the more common features they’ve heard about in this powerful tool – content sharing (internal & external including calendars), permissions, categories vs folders, workflows, Teams, task assignments/tracking from a meeting, OneDrive cloud storage, and maybe even more than one site collection.

Office 365 requires you setup DNS an domain before you even start. Microsoft can do this for you using one of their partners like GoDaddy. They assign you to a Tier 1 partner to provide support after that. They will be happy to help you determine which licenses meet your needs and basic setup…for a price. Setting up the Central Admin in Office 365 is not an “out of the box” task nor is it all that intuitive. There are a host of settings for everything from external access to resource quotas to a host of other features, each with their own Central Admin centers.

Azure (for Active Directory and solutions), Exchange, SharePoint, Security & Compliance, etc. all have their own settings to configure. There are some good guides available including this one direct from Microsoft.

One of the critical aspects of planning something as wide in scope and with so many options \that impact future usage and methodology is planning, or a roadmap. Make the wrong selection and you might find you need a 100 hour rebuild at $100 per hour by a hired contractor to achieve something you took for granted. And that is a moderately low estimate.

Granted, you could hire offshore help at an amazingly low rate, but caution is advised. The saying “you get what you pay for” is valid in most cases with offshore resources. Some can do a good job, but one should expect communication challenges, misunderstandings, different presumptions and expectations and a tendency to seek ways to increase revenue from you, sometimes in questionable ways.

Site collections themselves have several foundations including Team, published and more. Which one you choose decides which features will be available to you.

Some settings in Central Admin are critical if you want external access, connections to Azure Active Directory (and Federated Services (ADFS)), new vs classic experience (some things can only be done in one or the other).

There are things Microsoft thinks are intuitive but are not so much, like using the app launcher (what one person calls the “Rubik’s Cube”), using the ellipsis menu, when to change profiles, etc.

Then there are tasks suited to the Site Collection Administrator (there are many admin types, you need to be familiar with them), like content types, how to make bulk changes in a list or library (and the gotchas), permission controls and when to break inheritance (it is a serious concept that complicates administration.

How about “flat” data base vs nested folders? A flat database can save a lot of money when migrating content. They are also easier to manage. The proper way to configure content is to use categorization where you categorize the record using metadata (a column), like city, etc. While you can use item-level permissions (useful in HR records), administering such a list\library is painfully tedious. This is where careful planning of permissions and groups comes in your Active Directory.

I could write a book on the many aspects of Office 3656, but suffice to say this little walk through should demonstrate the need to understand your CMS tool before plunging in. Take a class, read some online material (Microsoft support has a huge library!). The foundation you build now will dictate your future functionality.

One other tip, sign up for Office 365 roadmap so you will get the weekly changes. If nothing else, Microsoft is famous (or infamous) for changing things.

Contact me if you would like help setting up your Office 365 or some Best Practices training. As you might tell, I LOVE to talk about this incredibly powerful tool. It is, after all, the “elephant in the room” when it comes to CMS apps.

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