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Blog post:

Business focused advice when getting Office 365

  • Office 365 is a powerful tools suite often implemented either as an upgrade of the traditional office tools or to enable new digital collaboration capabilities. However, ensuring strategic alignment, understanding how the toolset can be segmented, when to roll out what and how can mean the difference between chaos and an effective knowledge landscape.

To maximize ROI when implementing Office 365 it is important to do so in a way that is aligned with your strategy and that enables business value. This Point of View presents advice to help you achieve this.

More value and less headache

Start with defining the capabilities and long-term value you are after
Set your strategy before you plan your tool selection, segmentation and overall implementation. As a quick check, do you know what key capabilities you need to enable? How does this implementation tie into your overall business strategy? Sadly, strategy often becomes an afterthought which given its role as foundation and direction risks your entire structure and value realization.

Rolling out all tools at once with no focus is often a major mistake
Given the great width and depth of the Office 365 suite, one can get so overwhelmed that one simply tries to roll out all tools at once with little focus on what to use what for. This is often a major mistake. For many users this will simply be overwhelming and the uncertainty that resulted in the decision will multiply across the business and may make the investment in the new toolset reduce performance instead of increasing it.

Make a clear and simple tool segmentation
Each tool in Office 365 can serve multiple purposes. However, this freedom means that you often should (at least initially) restrict and clarify their recommended use through segmentation. This maximizes their benefit and allow first time users peace of mind that they know what to use what for in what way. Below follows some advice with regard to tool segmentation:

  • If you chose to use a large pool of tools, use a multi-tiered segmentation to create initial simple clarity. For example, segment it into Communications and Teamwork, or other forms of high level segments that suite your needs, and then on tool level.
  • Consider if there are ways to maximize each tool’s unique value, while minimizing the actual amount of places the user must visit. For example, consider suggesting that Planner is used as a tab in Teams.
  • All tools are not needed for all organizations. For example, Yammer can sometimes be replaced by Teams and all organisations do not need SharePoint beyond using it as the IT “foundation” of Teams.
  • The more one tool takes on multiple roles, the more important it will become to segment “within” the tool. For example, if Teams take on many different roles, ensure you define and train on e.g. how to set up different types of teams.

Ensure that your other business structural elements are up to par
Given the impact a new toolset such as Office 365 can have on your knowledge landscape, it is important to also ensure that other business structural elements such as your information architecture and information security is up for the job. If not, you can create unnecessary challenges for how knowledge can and should flow in your organization; having a clear impact on the value you get. Here are three example questions to help check if your overall business structure is ready:

  • Is it clear where all key types of information/knowledge should be stored, found and managed over time, including all levels of confidentiality they may have?
  • Have you considered how the knowledge flows will impact learning?
  • How will internal communications change due to your new toolset and way of working?

It is often wise to first roll out what is familiar and then gradually expand, starting with pilot groups
Once you understand which tool to use for what (preferably with use cases) you are ready to consider when to roll out what and how. Here we would like to provide three pieces of advice:

  • Start by rolling out what is familiar. Often this is just a new version of Word, Excel and so forth.
  • Conduct pilots of new tools before rolling them out to get input on how your segmentation and use cases work in practice.
  • Continue step by step, in an order that makes sense for you. One example could be to start with OneDrive and then progress to Yammer, Teams and Planner.

Ensure you roll out properly, not just in the right order, as your goal is proper adoption
In the end, proper adoption is the what that enables your long-term value. Below follows some advice to help you achieve this:

  • If you can ensure just one thing, ensure you have passionate change agents as they will be critical in ensuring that you get the adoption and the right behavior of your social information system.
  • Make sure communications and training enable the appropriate culture, not only inform about the tools and how to click. You often need a new way of thinking and behaving to get the most out of digital collaboration tools. Show the users how this is different and the direction of the journey you are taking. For example, consider introducing a few key Yammer channels before teaching how to create new ones and engage with the users through your new toolset.
  • It is important to make sure that you’ve got both quantitative and qualitative data on what’s happening with your organisation’s adoption of Office 365. Also, make sure that you share successes and send out situationally adjusted Office 365 tips. Use the data that you have gathered to target future communications.

Co-Author: Erik Högman

Pierre Jarméus