O365–Delegated Admin–What is it and why would you want it?

We have had a number of customers that have asked about Delegated Administration and is it something that they want?  I’ll answer this in the reverse order and say, yes, you want it!  But, as usual, there is a bit more to it than a simple “yes”.

Delegated Administration is the method that Microsoft provides for Microsoft Partners to “connect” to an organization’s O365 tenancy and “administer” the tenancy on behalf of the organization.  The key word here is “delegated”; the Partner does not “take over” your tenancy nor does the Partner replace your primary administrator.  The Partner is there as an adjunct to your normal administrator.  The whole point of Delegated Admin is to give your desired Partner the ability to easily connect to your tenancy and take care of the issues that you want them to handle.  You should note that you can drop or change Delegated Administrators at your pleasure, you are not “stuck with” a particular Partner.  And, yes, Microsoft does “pay” a fee to Delegated Administrators on a monthly basis but it is NOT “big money”.  Trust me, you can’t sustain a business on Delegated Administrator fees; the fee is just a sweetener.

Anyway, back to the discussion at hand.  Why would you want a Delegated Administrator?  The answer is pretty easy … while O365 does “hide” a lot of the nuts and bolts of the backend pieces (Exchange, SharePoint, Lync) there is still an ongoing need for “educated administration”.  O365 makes some things easy but other things are still fairly complex simply because the underlying building blocks are complex (hey, Exchange is still Exchange).  And your Delegated Administrator can also be your “interface” into Microsoft if there are any issues.

There is nothing that a Delegated Administrator can do that your own authorized administrators cannot do; large organizations with lots of in-house Microsoft talent probably don’t need a Delegated Administrator as they will task some of that in-house talent with the job of being the O365 administrators.  Smaller organizations that don’t have the in-house talent are probably better suited to the Delegated Administrator model and there are lots of Microsoft Partners, like itgroove, that would be pleased to work with you to ensure your O365 experience is the best it can be.  They’ll be there when you make the jump to O365 and on down the road after you land onmicrosoft.com.

Finally, and this is a point I want to really make very clear, there is no requirement from Microsoft that you have a Delegated Administrator.  You are under no obligation to appoint one.  I know there are companies out there that are offering various types of services that require you to appoint them as your Delegate Administrator but that is their requirement, not Microsoft’s.  In the end the choice is yours.

My recommendation is to work with a Delegated Administrator at least for your jump into O365 simply because there is much that can go sideways during the migration and its always nice to have someone that has “been there, done that” to help navigate the minefield.  After that the decision is yours about how you move forward.

CORRECTION:  Sean has pointed out that I am incorrect in stating that a delegated admin is compensated by Microsoft.  There is a mechanism whereby Microsoft does compensate a Partner that is a Delegated Admin if they are also the “Referring Partner” (the Partner onboards you to O365 through an “invitation” process and also acts as your Delegated Admin).  However, there is no direct compensation for being just a Delegated Admin.  My apologies for the misstatement.