The History and Story Behind the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook

An Idea for a Cloud Exchange Book Grows

The story began in August 2014, when Tony Redmond started to write about Office 365 while on vacation in the South of France. Microsoft Press had published my Exchange 2013 book in September 2013, and I wanted a new book project, perhaps covering the brand-new world of cloud Exchange. However, the problem with Office 365 was that everything changed all the time (it still does, as Paul Cunningham describes here).

In any case, the range of topics that needed coverage and the ever-changing nature of Office 365 meant that more authors were needed, so I signed up Michael Van Horenbeeck and Paul Cunningham, with Jeff Guillet as the Technical Editor, and we launched into the new project in December 2014.

Ignite 2015

By April 2015, we had a book and approached Microsoft to ask whether they’d like to launch it at their new Ignite conference in Chicago the following month. Microsoft agreed, and also agreed to publish some paper copies of the book. That was quite a project because a professional editor had to transfer our Word documents into Adobe Indesign to create the PostScript files for a printer. But it all worked and 500 copies of “Office 365 for Exchange Professionals” appeared at Ignite 2015. Perry Clarke of Microsoft, the technical brain behind many of the innovations inside Office 365, is holding one of the printed copies in Figure 1.

Office 365 book launch at Ignite 2015
Figure 1: Michael Van Horenbeeck, Perry Clarke (Microsoft), Tony Redmond, and Jeff Guillet at Ignite 2015

The printed version was about 550 pages. We have dabbled at printing other editions, but once the book got to around 900 pages, the exercise proved just too difficult. In any case, a printed book goes out of date as soon as the ink hits the paper, and the whole point of doing an eBook is to avoid that problem. This is especially pertinent when you’re writing about something like Office 365 when topics change every month.

The Desire to Update

We always knew that we needed to update the book but had not figured out how best to do it in quite the best way. The IT/DEV Connections conference in Las Vegas in September 2015 seemed like a good target, so we launched the second edition there with the help of Binary Tree, who paid for a nice party, and gave away copies of the book on USB sticks signed by the writing team (Figure 2).

The original Office 365 for Exchange Professionals writing team celebrate the book's launch
Figure 2: The original Office 365 for Exchange Professionals writing team Celebrate the book’s launch

Third Edition

Our third edition appeared at Ignite 2016. By now, we had sorted the update process and were able to ship updates as we needed. But Office 365 was changing and the initial focus on moving email to the cloud had passed. People wanted to do more with Office 365 than email and we needed to change the focus and content of the book.

Fourth Edition

This brought us to the fourth edition, released on June 1, 2017. We renamed the book to be “Office 365 for IT Pros” to reflect the new focus on the breadth and depth of the service and included coverage of many new topics. We welcomed a new technical editor in Vasil Michev too, and began to enjoy the unique experience of his probing questions about arcane but important details that we had never considered before.

The 4th edition lasted 13 months and received 51 updates in that time. Some 315 separate chapter updates were applied. It was a crazy release schedule, but it was needed because of kind of changes that happened inside Office 365 during this period. Teams appeared in November 2016 and reached General Availability in March 2017. We also had to deal with Planner, Stream, StaffHub (now gone), big changes in Azure Information Protection, and so on. In any case, the fast cadence of change forced a pace that we kept up with, but it was hard work at times.

Fifth (2019) Edition

The fifth edition was launched with a new writing team. Reflecting that Office 365 is much more than email, we added people with real expertise in SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, app development, and security. Paul Cunningham and Michael Van Horenbeeck stepped down after four versions but their legacy remains in some of the content, especially in the new companion volume. This version featured the photo of a land iguana on the front cover.

Figure 3: The land iguana on the cover of Office 365 for IT Pros (2019) edition

Sixth (2020) Edition

Our sixth edition launched in July 2019 and a Galapagos giant tortoise replaced the land iguana on the front cover. The influence of Teams on the Office 365 ecosystem was now very apparent, and we gave an increasing amount of coverage to the topic over three chapters. We also launched a new chapter covering the Power Platform. We don’t intend to do much more on app development because that’s a book onto its own right, but it’s good to have this content.

Figure 4: The Galapagos giant tortoise dominates the cover of the 2020 edition

Seventh (2021) Edition

In July 2020 we launched the seventh edition. Brian Desmond, a well-known author, took over the mail flow chapter from Brian Reid and we welcomed a new sponsor in Quest Software. Office 365 still exists, but Microsoft is slowly but surely moving everything to the Microsoft 365 brand. Lots of activity continues around Teams, SharePoint Online, sensitivity labels, compliance, and many other topics. We still pump out monthly updates and the interesting thing is that each update appears to change more chapters. This might be because Microsoft is changing apps more often, or it’s because we are better at detecting change through the revamped message center in the Microsoft 365 admin center (and its integration with Planner). The cover of this version features some steaming clouds of sulphur on the side of a mountain in Iceland. The lone figure in the distance is a metaphor for a lonely Office 365 tenant administrator grappling with the challenges of cloud life. At least, that’s our story…

 Icelandic sulphur clouds feature on the cover of the 2021 edition
Figure 5: Icelandic sulphur clouds feature on the cover of the 2021 edition

So that’s the background story of how Office 365 for IT Pros came to exist.

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