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A Complete Guide to Office 365 Deployment


May 24, 2022

If your organization hasn’t already migrated to Office 365, doing so can seem like a daunting challenge. This is understandable. Microsoft’s Office 365 is a complex platform and managing an Office 365 deployment across an organization can take time and planning. 

In this article, we summarize what an Office 365 deployment means, the general steps required to deploy Office 365, and some considerations to get you started.

365 Deployment Guide

What is
Office 365?

Office 365 is Microsoft’s suite of subscription applications that include Teams, Outlook, Word, Excel, Powerpoint and a myriad of other programs used in business, enterprise, education, and personal use settings.  It is one of the most robust and ubiquitous suite of applications and has been in use (in various iterations) since its initial release in 2011.

What does Office 365
deployment mean?

What do we mean when we refer to Office 365 deployment? Office 365 deployment is the process of preparing, structuring, installing, and onboarding the Office 365 platform company or organization wide.  It may seem simple on the surface, but an Office 365 deployment can be a complex task. In this article we focus on deployment at the business and enterprise level.

A step-by-step guide to Office 365 deployment

There are many steps to take when undertaking an Office 365 deployment across an organization. Here, we’ve broken down 8 key steps for you:

Step 1:

Assess your environment and infrastructure

The first thing to do is undertake a full assessment of your organization, including users and apps. This includes:

  • Existing infrastructure and requirements
  • Your licenses
  • Network capabilities
  • Application compatibility (Microsoft’s Readiness Toolkit for Office can help with this)

These steps will help you gain a better understanding of what your infrastructure is capable of, what your business needs are, and what you need to do to ensure your infrastructure will support the needs of your business and subsequently, the Office 365 applications required. 

After that, it’s time to make your enterprise deployment plan.

Step 2:

Choose how you want to deploy Office 365

How you will deploy Office 365 depends on the needs of your organization, how many users you have, and the capacity of your IT team.

Many organizations will opt to use a combination of these deployment methods, depending on user profile. For a small group of users who are not often connected to the internet, a self-installation deployment is optimal. For others, a Configuration Manager is the wiser choice. 

How complex your organization is – and subsequently your user needs – will dictate which deployment method you choose, and even whom you want to undertake this often complex task, i.e., using your in-house IT team or bringing in experts to do this for you.

There are a few options for deployment that you can choose from:

  1. Deploy from a local source with Configuration Manager
    With Configuration Manager, you can manage your deployment, download and deploy Office 365 from distribution points on your local network.
  2. Deploy from the cloud
    With Office Deployment Tool (ODT), you can manage your deployment and install Office 365 on devices using the Office CDN.
  3. Deploy from a local source with ODT
    While this is still deploying from a local source, instead of deploying using Configuration Manager, you can deploy Office 365 using the Office Deployment Tool (ODT).
  4. Self-install from the cloud
    While not highly recommended for many organizations, there is still the option of self-installation from the cloud. In this scenario, you’ll instruct your users to install Office on their devices directly from the portal. This choice is often better left for individual and personal uses of Office 365.

Step 3:

Decide how to manage updates

Decide whether you want to have your devices automatically update, what tool you will be using for these updates, and if you’d like updates installed from the cloud or a local network source. 

Keep in mind, this step can be time consuming, both during deployment and, if you choose manual update management, can be taxing on your IT department. For small organizations, if this task is left to the users, it may fall through the cracks. 

There are three choices of update management:

  1. Automatic updates
    This is the most recommended method of updating. It allows your users’ devices to update automatically from the Office CDN.
  2. Manage updates with Configuration Manager
    This option uses Configuration Manager to download and deploy updates.
    Manage updates with Office
  3. Deployment Tool
    Similar to managing updates with Configuration Manager, this option allows you to download and deploy updates to a local source by the ODT. This is then installed on devices.

Step 4:

Pick your update channels

Microsoft 365 Apps allows you to control how frequently you receive feature updates to Office applications. Which update channel you choose depends on how predictable you want your updates to occur and how urgent those updates are to your team.

There are three options to choose from:

  1. Current channel
    Current channel provides you with the newest features off Office 365 as soon as they’re ready. However, this method does not operate on a set schedule.
  2. Monthly enterprise channel
    Monthly enterprise channel allows you to update to the newest features of Office 365 on a monthly set schedule.
  3. Semi-annual channel
    Prefer less frequent updates? Semi-annual channel updates to the newest features of Office 365 on a biannual basis.

Step 5:

Define your source files

During the deployment process, you’ll need to create an installation package of the source files used to install Office 365. 

The source files are dependent on which update channel you choose and also are different for 32-bit versus 64-bit versions of Office. Due to this, you’ll probably need to create multiple installation packages.  

On top of this, you can also create separate packages based on different Office 365 applications, installation settings or languages. However, this isn’t commonly the recommended approach. It’s a complex process, and one that will take your IT team some considerable expertise, not to mention time.

Step 6:

Determine your deployment groups

Next, it’s time to look at deployment groups. You can choose to install different versions of Office, depending on user requirements. This includes choosing specific applications, languages, and generally defining the installation experience. 

If you use Configuration Manager, you will use the deployment wizard to select your settings for your specific deployment groups. If you use the Office Deployment Tool, you’ll instead choose all the settings in a configuration file. 

Although each group of users will be set up as a different deployment group, you can use the same installation package to deploy different settings to different groups. These installation packages can be reused for different deployment groups, saving bandwidth and cost.

Step 7:

Come up with an upgrade plan

Before you even get started, it’s recommended that you remove any existing versions of Office 365. While Microsoft supports installing Microsoft 365 Apps alongside the most recent version of Office suite, it can add complexities. 

If it’s necessary for your staff to have both versions of Office on the same computer, it’s best to strip down the old version to only the most necessary applications and make a plan to transition them to the latest apps as soon as possible. 

Step 8:

Consider shared computers

This step is optional and applies to organizations who are using virtual desktop instructure (VDI) or shared workstations. 

If this applies to your organization, when you deploy Microsoft 365 Apps, you will need to enable shared computer activation for these devices. Then, any user that has been assigned a Microsoft 365 Apps license can login and use the Office Suite.

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Things to consider when deploying Office 365

Just like anything else, how you deploy Office 365 across your organization isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. 

Which leads us to…

Deployment isn’t a one-size-fits-all process

Office 365 is a very powerful and complex suite of apps that supports a multitude of use cases. And it’s entirely reasonable that not all of those applications will suit all businesses. 

There are some things to consider when planning your Office 365 deployment strategy. But this requires making a choice as to which apps to keep and which aren’t necessary. This is where a lot of organizations require the help of an IT solutions provider.

Onboarding support

Rolling out apps that not all of your users may be familiar with adds a level of complexity that can hold up the entire show. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Onboarding and training is an important part of the process, and one that will help your deployment run smoothly. 

Make sure your IT team – or the experts you brought in to help with Office 365 deployment – are able to give your users the full scope of the applications that apply to them. Beyond that, making sure there’s always support will help your deployment run smoothly, now and in the future. 

Think about security

Office 365 is often targeted by hackers simply because it is one of the most popular platforms available. That means there is a lot of data that Microsoft (and your company) is protecting. 

Office 365 updates are crucial in your security regimen. These updates not only make your user experience smoother, but they also ensure application security patches are installed, and your data is kept safe and compliant with regulations.

Internal or external deployment

This may be last, but it should probably be one of the very first considerations on your list even before starting your deployment steps: Does your IT team have the capacity to undertake an entire deployment, or is this something you need to bring in experts for?

Office 365 deployment isn’t generally part of your daily IT tasks, and because of this, your IT team may not be well-equipped to deal with this. It can take considerable time and expertise to do this effectively, smoothly, and efficiently.

In addition to that, does your IT team have the capacity to provide 24/7 support, 365 days of the year – at least at the beginning?

Start your Office 365 deployment off on the right foot

When it comes to deploying and managing cloud-based productivity solutions, WatServ is a committed IT partner. Need help ensuring your Office 365 deployment is executed smoothly, on budget and error-free?

We offer:

Office 365 assessment and planning

Migrations and deployment

Education and training

Learn more about how WatServ can help by visiting Office 365 deployment services today.


WatServ is an IT solutions provider that helps organizations digitally transform through cloud technologies and managed services.

Serving clients as a trusted advisor since 2006, WatServ provides experience-tested, strategic solutions across all stages of the digital transformation journey. Clients choose WatServ to migrate infrastructure and applications to the cloud, secure critical data, implement disaster recovery, deploy virtual desktop, enable data-readiness for productivity solutions and manage IT environments.

Our clients span a broad range of industries, and we’re a global supplier of IT services for many Brookfield Portfolio Companies. To help our mid-size clients, we provide scalable offerings that simplify cloud adoption and drive business optimization. For enterprise clients, we co-create cloud solutions that enable stability and efficiency for complex IT tools and processes.

With more than 15 years of experience, WatServ has a track record of delivering quantifiable business results and a superior client experience. Ranked as one of Canada’s Top 100 Solution Providers for the last three years in a row, WatServ is always on.

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