Secrets to driving change and adoption with Office 365

Drive adoption and succeed with Office 365 by avoiding common pitfalls and preparing yourself for change.

We’re seeing many organizations struggle to roll out Office 365. In some organizations, infrastructure teams are busy rolling out Office 365 features but lacking the capacity or capability to engage with end-users on needs analysis and training. In others, multiple IT disciplines (e.g. applications, infrastructure, and desktop groups) have each rolled out components of Office 365, but have failed to coordinate their efforts with a joint roadmap. Thwarting rollouts even further, there is signficant overlap in Office 365 capabiltiies and new features are released monthly, which makes it difficult for anyone to discern which tool to use when.

Here are five insights from our most successful digital workplace change initiatives. If you’re forming an Office 365 change and adoption strategy, you may want to consider including these in your plan:

  • Know your “why” and “why now?”
  • Conduct a readiness check, clarify stakeholders and refresh your governance model.
  • Consult, don’t just deploy.
  • Avoid a big-bang launch and instead, take an integrated and iterative approach to change.
  • Build an engaged and empowered end-user community.

Know your “why” and “why now?”

Companies that understand their “why” have a higher likelihood of engaging employees in the change. It’s not good enough to tell people that “we own Office 365 licenses, so we better be using them…”

Instead, organizations need to create a shared vision for the impact they’re trying to make on their employees’ work-life experiences. The vision needs to be practical, not overly lofty or vague, otherwise people won’t invest their time.

When we work with organizations, we often start by asking what are you trying to accomplish? Is there a shared vision for what success looks like? Do we know the problems we are trying to solve and where the most significant pain points are today? Of course, the most important question to ask is “why now?” Is there a compelling event or strategy that people need to rally around? Answering these questions will help shape your rationale for the change. Once you’ve done that, the next step is to communicate it to employees, so they understand what’s coming.

Conduct a readiness check

Companies that have an IT team that is clear on their role, ready (and able) to provide support for Office 365 and that has a clear understanding of their target end-user audiences are more likely to have success than those that aren’t clear or not ready. Sounds obvious, but we’ve seen countless companies that aren’t clear about who owns the program of work, or which internal IT team is responsible for what.

It can be easy to assume that your governance model is in place, but it is worth stepping back into a quick review before you launch. Many companies find that their intranet governance model does not fully apply to the broader digital workplace.

Within IT, it’s also important to assess how ready the admin and support teams are to set up, configure, and manage Office 365. Chances are they aren’t ready and don’t have a hot stinking clue about all the configuration decisions. Some of these teams may need time to get up-to-speed or embrace the change at a pace that they can keep up with. They also might not feel accountable for making some of the bigger policy decisions and so it’s important to understand how the sponsors, working groups, project teams, and support teams will all work together.

Consult, don’t just deploy

Companies that take a capability-deployment approach tend to struggle to drive adoption of Office 365 much more than those that take a consulting-oriented approach. A capability orientation tends to be concerned with turning something on, but a consulting orientation is focused on fixing problems or enhancing the underlying collaboration experience. Don’t stop short of talking to real end users.

It is not enough to have an infrastructure team activate various collaboration tools. That might work for Exchange and OneDrive, but we’ve seen infrastructure teams struggle with a lack of capacity and skill in navigating through the messy world of business requirements, rapid solutioning, and training. By taking a more consultative approach that is human-centred, not feature-obsessed, you can look at how people in your organization are working, and consider what would improve their daily, lived experiences. That’s what digital transformation is really about.  

Avoid a big-bang launch and instead, take an integrated and iterative approach to change

Many companies form their launch plan around a big-bang roll-out. With Office 365, you don’t need to do it that way. A big-bang roll-out can put a lot of stress on your support team and end users to adjust their practices all at once. Instead, you can take a more gradual approach and phase the scope over a longer period of time. Taking a more gradual approach can make change easier for employees to digest and adopt.

Build an engaged and empowered end-user community

Our experience shows that when employees know how to surface ideas and raise their hands for support, you are more likely to generate successful change. A healthy community is necessary so that the actual business needs can emerge, and your collaboration support team has a mechanism for gathering opportunity, prioritizing requests, creating a plan, and delivering new experiences. Adoption will stall out if people don’t know who to talk to, how to make a support request, or if they don’t feel IT is capable of providing efficient and reliable service. Some suggestions

  • Host a monthly working group meet-up to discuss what’s going on, showcase new collaboration wins, uncover opportunity to shift focus, or support new use cases.
  • Use your intranet as a channel for sharing the vision, key program updates, training resources, and roadmap timing.
  • Use SharePoint or ServiceNow to outline the types of collaboration services or solutions that people have available to them. Create a modified “what tool, when” analogy so people understand how the organization is leveraging different tools in the Office 365 stack.

Given these insights, do you see any red flags in your Office 365 roll-out plan? Give us a call. Let’s make sure your plan isn’t prone to these common pitfalls and that your organization is truly ready for change.

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