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Microsoft FastTrack Footprint Gets Bigger

Microsoft offered a rare glimpse into the scale of its FastTrack operations this week.

FastTrack is Microsoft's initiative for accelerating uptake of its cloud products. The program started with Office 365 mail migration projects in 2014 and has expanded to encompass other cloud products over time. At a high level, the FastTrack brand can include three things. The main one is a customer offer, sometimes referred to as a benefit, to bring Microsoft cloud customers up to what Microsoft executives have called a "run state." The idea being that if you buy a Microsoft subscription to the cloud, where operations are supposed to be simpler, the least Microsoft can do is get you up and running in that product at no cost beyond the service subscription.

The term also covers the FastTrack Center, a Microsoft-run operation with employees who reach out to Microsoft cloud customers and then use various tools to perform migrations, which are heavily automated and require relatively simple source environments. The FastTrack term also sometimes refers to the partner incentives programs related to FastTrack, although those are usually referred to as Adoption Offers.

In a blog post this week, Cyril Belikoff, senior director of Office Marketing at Microsoft, revealed how quickly Microsoft is onboarding customers through FastTrack right now.

"To date, Microsoft FastTrack has enabled more than 22,000 customers, migrated 2.45 PB of data and is currently taking on more than 4,000 new customers every month," Belikoff wrote. He also provided some guidance on the rate of growth of FastTrack migrations. "As the FastTrack team works with customers, we learn from those experiences and use all of that learning to continually improve the service. With more customers discovering the benefits of Office 365 and FastTrack, migrations are now increasing at an average rate of 10 percent per month."

Based on Belikoff's numbers and the growth rate he shared, Microsoft should double the total number of customers it has moved to the cloud through FastTrack in less than five months. While that growth rate is substantial, it's also still tiny compared to Microsoft's overall Office 365 business. When the company released its first quarter earnings last month, it claimed 85 million commercial active users of Office 365 and 24 million consumer subscriptions.

Belikoff's blog also marks the first time Microsoft has shared the number of employees working within the FastTrack Center operation, previously known as the Onboarding Center. "We have over 800 FastTrack engineers worldwide, available to assist you and your partner in 12 languages, providing best practices, insight and guidance," he said.

That figure is at the high end of earlier estimates for how much staffing Microsoft would be providing through FastTrack to help customers move to the cloud. There was no indication in the post whether Microsoft would need to add FastTrack employees to handle the increasing volume.

In the same post, Microsoft unveiled another way that FastTrack is expanding on the product side. Migration services covered through the FastTrack benefit have steadily increased since the launch of the program in September 2014. From first covering only e-mail migrations to Office 365 for organizations with more than 150 seats, FastTrack's free migrations have expanded to include e-mail data, enterprise voice, as well as Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) and its components Azure Active Directory Premium, Microsoft Intune and Azure Rights Management. Microsoft also shifted the program from being a one-time benefit to an ongoing benefit that customers could continue to use as they add more users and services, as well as reducing the minimum seat requirement to 50 seats. Additionally, Microsoft bundled in "envisioning" services prior to onboarding and "driving business value" services afterward, both available without minimum seat requirements.

The newest addition to the program's free migrations involves a limited-time offer of migration services from on-premises SharePoint 2013 to Office 365. FastTrack employees will work with customers to move from SharePoint 2013 on-premises to SharePoint Online and from MySites to OneDrive for Business.

Two elements of the new program suggest that adding SharePoint services to FastTrack is a trial balloon -- the offer only extends until March 31, 2017, and unlike other FastTrack migration services, it uses the old limit of requiring at least 150 licenses.

It's probably safe to expect that any changes in the future will be in the form of expanding the offer in terms of types of SharePoint migrations covered, making it permanent and possibly reducing the seat requirement.

Without saying so outright, Belikoff's post all but guaranteed that FastTrack capabilities will continue to expand aggressively. "Over the past 12 months, we've continuously evolved FastTrack to help meet your needs by enhancing the FastTrack digital experience at fasttrack.microsoft.com and expanding the scope of services delivered by our engineering team," Belikoff wrote in a section of the customer-focused blog with the sub-headline, "FastTrack is continuously evolving."

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 17, 2016 at 11:29 AM