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How to Master Your Office 365 Adoption Strategy

8 Sep 2020 by Scott Croucher

Office 365 Adoption Strategy

If you get it right, Office 365 can change the way your business works forever. Get it wrong, and your users will question why you migrated in the first place. This is why you need to nail your Office 365 adoption strategy from the start. In this article, I’ll walk you through the key steps to implement for your organization.

The common mistake for many companies is thinking you can ‘just move’ from on-premises to the cloud. This isn’t the case; Office 365 provides applications and services designed to change the way users work, creating the ‘modern workplace, from anywhere and any device.’

The one thing to note is that people do not like change, especially when they have been working the same way for a long time. It makes them uneasy and often unwilling to embrace new ways of working.

Landing a new product in the workplace is difficult. New technology requires behavior change and engaging with users way in advance of launch. What’s key to deployment is that if you don’t truly understand your user base – how they work, and the actual benefit Office 365 can deliver to them – then you will not succeed in driving adoption.

Users are essential. I know this may seem obvious, but all too often, technology overshadows reality. The story should 100% be about your users.

Office 365 Adoption Strategy: Understanding ‘The Now’

Before you venture on a company-wide rollout of Office 365, the first thing you need to do is understand how the business works. Not just the technology you’ve got in place, but how your users are using it.

You need to know how they share information and collaborate, and any workarounds they have for when technology fails. For example, you can’t deploy Microsoft Teams if you don’t understand the current ecosystem for collaboration in your organization. How can you promote a new solution when you fail to understand what it’s replacing and how it promises to perform better?

Understanding ‘The Now’ enables you to tailor your adoption strategy to meet the business needs. A generic adoption plan will not work across your entire organization, and getting to grips with this will help you deliver a successful project.

People

A successful Office 365 adoption strategy is not about the technology team rolling out the service offerings. It would help if you had the support and buy-in from the business. Three key focal teams will play a massive part in the success of the project.

1. Product Teams

Your product team plays a vital part in bridging the gap between the business and IT. They are bilingual – speaking tech and business – and can help translate the business requirements and map them to Office 365. They also play a vital part in implementation, ensuring your training and communication processes are correct. Communication is crucial to the project; you want the business to understand the value of being onboarded to Office 365 and how it will improve their working practices.

2. Early Adopters

Early adopters are a crucial part of the adoption process. They provide valuable feedback on how the new technology fits into their existing and new working practices, allowing you to understand further the scenarios mapped out in the discovery phase.

Getting the right users onto the early adopter’s stage of the project is critical. These users should be:

  • From across the business
  • The ones who find technology and change a challenge
  • Those who will eventually flow into becoming Business Champions
  • Support staff

You should avoid making too many IT staff early adopters because they will either try and fix the problems themselves (not feeding back into the project), or not be able to give the early adoption the attention it needs. This team will help you identify possible issues with the service early, and the feedback from them will help tailor the overall approach to the deployment.

Be mindful not to think of these as pilot users because they aren’t. They are part of the project lifecycle and will continue to be a key group when you release additional features and functionality.

3. Business Champions

These are the employees who will help promote and build enthusiasm for Office 365. They’ve been on the journey from the beginning and have experienced the good and bad, giving constant feedback to the project team.

On that note, it’s crucial to create a communication channel for your project. Microsoft Teams is an excellent application for this because it allows users to not only provide feedback but also to have an open dialogue.

The Big Three Questions

To execute a successful Office 365 adoption strategy, you need to answer three questions.

  1. What are we trying to accomplish? – Our Vision
  2. How will we know that this is an improvement?
  3. What changes can we make that will result in an improvement?

These three questions are the pillars of success in your adoption journey. Each drives a ripple effect to another, and if you get one wrong, your pillars will fall. You won’t just answer them once, and you will re-evaluate them continuously as your project progresses.

What are we trying to accomplish? – Our Vision

It’s more than a statement of ‘we want to roll out Office 365 to our users’. It’s about mapping out a strategy.

Having studied ‘the now’, working with your Product Team, and holding workshops with the business, you will have identified issues, wants, and needs that you are looking to improve through the deployment of Office 365.

You can build up a catalog of scenarios that you’ll map to Office 365 applications and services. These will feed into your early adopter program, allowing you to gain valuable insight and feedback.

It would help if you ensure your goals are in line with business needs, and you can provide tangible benefits to your users.

How will we know this is an improvement?

There are several ways we can do this. A good approach would be to send out a survey to the user base to gauge their knowledge of Office 365. It would be best if you ran satisfaction surveys during and at the end of the project to measure your adoption projects. By tailoring this, you can measure not only satisfaction but also productivity.

Usage reporting is an excellent way to determine the success of the adoption project. To gain a true reflection of usage and adoption, you need to track it over a period. You can use Office 365 and PowerBi report packs to help with this, or third-party Office 365 reporting software.

It’s essential to keep at the forefront a clear idea of what you’re measuring; a project can frequently change, so ensure you stay on track. Define your KPIs during the early stages of your project, and ensure you understand the report frequencies, data sources, and how these will feedback into the project.

What changes can we make that will result in an improvement?

Once you have rolled out Office 365 doesn’t mean the journey ends there, you want sustainability and are going to want to improve the experience for users. You may have resolved the issues they had in the ‘old world,’ but they will find new ones. If you don’t plug these issues, they will seek workarounds, which will negatively impact the success of your adoption program.

To continually drive adoption, you should:

  • Keep users up to date on new features and functions via email or Teams
  • Provide further training to help users gain benefits from new features, tools, and functionality
  • Use the feedback from your Champions network.

Kurt Lewin, an acclaimed pioneer of social psychology, developed an oft-cited change model process. For Lewin, this involved creating the perception that a change is needed, then moving towards the new desired level of behavior, and finally casting that new behavior as the norm.

Transition acceptance does not happen overnight; people take time to embrace the new direction and engage proactively with ‘the new’. People need to understand how it will benefit them; not all will come at first. Time and communication are vital to helping with this.

Adoption Accelerator

Quadrotech’s Nova Office 365 management software can be instrumental in executing a successful Office 365 adoption strategy.

The Adoption Accelerator feature is designed to provide you with granular insights to identify users who are falling behind, enabling you to build multi-phased email campaigns with advice and development courses to encourage uptake.

Once you’ve launched your campaign, you can monitor progress and refine settings as your Office 365 adoption strategy kicks into action. To learn more, please check out our full capabilities for boosting Office 365 user adoption


Scott Croucher

Scott is an Office 365 and Azure Solutions Architect. He has vast experience of Office 365 implementations and migrations, having worked in this space since the days of Microsoft's BPOS cloud service