Posted on April 20, 2017 by Martin Pietrzak
We just did an entire webinar on how to get the most value out of Office 365 — and we did it all without mentioning a single feature. Not one.
For the same reasons every technology project, ever, succeeds or fails: it isn’t about the speeds, feeds or special features. It’s about achieving a business use case and bringing value to end-users. Features are just the details to be worked out after!
While it’s rare to expect businesses to boast a 100% adoption rate, the numbers with Office 365 are telling. According to an analysis of our own customer data, Office 365 customers are only using 20 percent of what they buy.
Why? The reality is, lots of things get in the way of adoption. One challenge is businesses typically treat Office 365 as “just an infrastructure project.” IT rolls out the product and hopes people will use it. They don’t take the time to consider how lines-of-business actually work and how the tool fits in. That’s a mistake that has deeper consequences than poor adoption rates. In fact, according to a Softchoice survey, not consulting your end-users leads to twice the amount of dissatisfaction and three times the likelihood they will quit your organization.
The “DIY mentality” is another challenge. Organizations try to implement Office 365 alone. Unfortunately, most are divided into silos, fail to see the bigger picture and overlook crucial issues. This leads to gaps when it comes to configurations, compliance, integrating various workloads and, most importantly, the suite’s value to end-users. In the same Softchoice study, we found that 45% of the organizations using Office 365 had no integration between their voice, video and data systems, for example.
Third, overlooking the importance of training and change management is a huge problem in most enterprises. Too many businesses treat training like a “one and done” process, failing to keep users up to date and provide ongoing help. Even worse, one in three businesses we surveyed said they offered ZERO training to their people.
The good news is that with a little upfront planning and employee engagement, your business can avoid the pitfalls. Here’s how:
Aligning IT with business strategy is nothing new, but this all important step is ignored too often. Knowing the full business context is vital before delivering a new technology.
This business-driven approach starts by defining the business goals, challenges and risks, and measurable outcomes. (See chart 2). Only from there do you get into IT strategy, architecture and the solutions needed to pull it off. Along the way, key stakeholders should be consulted regularly.
One of your clients, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, has a very impressive approach to aligning IT with the business. Technicians work on a hospital ward for at least one day a year so they can see the challenges users face first hand. Understanding the day to day struggles makes their IT team more sensitive and aware of just how crucial their role is and how to deliver technology to move the organization forward.
Traditionally, before new project starts, organizations focus on how much the initial investment will cost. But just as much focus should be placed on how it generates value and returns AFTER launch. When you make this shift, you realize the only way to achieve your desired business outcomes is ensuring employees actually use the technology in the way it was intended! In other words, you need to put energy into making sure the tools are adopted!
So how do you successfully drive adoption? There are a few key steps, but it’s easy to sum it all up in a few words: user-centric focus. If you build your technology with the specific needs and challenges of users in mind, higher adoption will follow.
More specifically, there are numerous strategies and resources you can tap to make adoption more likely. Executive sponsorship, ongoing education, and communication, measurable goals for both IT and business stakeholders and incentives are all key ingredients in delivering a user-centric solution. For example, when one of our customers transitioned from Gmail to Outlook, they spent extra time educating end-users about the key differences between the two apps. Not only did this answer questions, but it gave users an incentive by showing them how much easier their lives would be with the new solution.
Finally, all your planning will mean nothing if the execution is done poorly. By far, this is one of the most difficult components for most organizations to get right on their own. So, it’s something we highly recommend finding an experienced partner to help guide.
There are a few reasons this stage is so important. If the app is not configured correctly, for example, the end user will have a bad experience and perhaps not use it again. Delays in rolling out tools also cause frustration, and create a demand for “Shadow IT.” Finally, a lack of skills or experience prevents you from picking the right solution and delivering it effectively. With a solution as relatively new as Office 365, this last point is all the more common.
You want to find a partner with a proven track record and methodology to take you through every step. For example, Softchoice’s own professional services methodology takes you from planning, to design and into the future. It’s important to remember Office 365 isn’t just a one-time delivery, but an evergreen, always evolving the platform. So having the support of a knowledgeable partner is really important to ensure your business stays on top of updates, fixes, and the product roadmap.
Too many businesses aren’t getting everything they could from their Office 365 investments. But with a focus on the needs of lines of business, as well as the end-users, the odds of success and adoption are much higher.