Microsoft builds admin tool to spare Office 365 sellers' blushes

'Nothing worse than customer phoning to tell us the service is down'

Microsoft's legion of Office 365 floggers have waited 18 months for a tool that allows them to manage customers using the cloudy suite, and in that time blindly fielded some calls from irate folk suffering outages.

But help is finally at hand, according to Adam Jung, senior product manager of the Office 365 team: a bigger and better Partner Admin centre is being rolled out globally over the next couple of weeks.

Previously, channel partners were limited by the tools on offer, they could only provide delegated administration tasks, create trial invitations, and purchase offers on behalf of their clients.

Under the new system, which partners told us should have been available from the start when Office 365 launched in July '12, resellers can view all customers with delegated admin privileges in one place.

They can view, create and edit requests from their punters and essentially - given that no vendor can guarantee up-time - they can at least be aware when Microsoft servers go down via a service health dashboard on the portal.

"The [drop-down customer] list makes it easy to review the service heath of all your customers," said Jung. "A glance at the Service health column lets you know quickly if any customers have been impacted by a service incident."

When a problems arises, customers tend to return to the supplier from whom they bought the service, and resellers told us they faced embarrassment when punters phoned to tell them about outages.

One told us, "There was no trigger to let us know the services were down, its absolutely critical. There is nothing worse than customers calling to say our service is down and the reseller responding, is it?"

Channel partners will also be able to provide admin tasks or service requests on behalf of clients, logging into admin centres for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online or Lync Online by using a link on the portal.

Previously, resellers would have to log into the portal as a customer to do this, we are told.

Jung said the move allows resellers to "manage customers more efficiently" and Microsoft will build more improvements in the months ahead.

The tools should have been in place from the beginning, one Office 365 seller told us, "the fact they weren't is bizarre and illustrates a lack of vision and thought in the design process".

"This is a scramble to fix things," he added, "Microsoft continues not to learn from the mistakes of the past … they spend too little time thinking how to harness the power of the channel through technology."

The Partner Admin centre is only available to Office 365 partners in the Cloud Partner programme. ®

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