Posted On April 18, 2016

office desk setup with computer

Microsoft has tried to make it easy for organisations to get on board with Office 365 through their Fast Track program and the associated Office 365 Adoption Guide – an essential starting point for any project team tasked with planning and deploying the technology and managing the change.

Getting the most out of the investment, however involves driving adoption of the productivity tools and this requires paying as much importance to the people side of the equation. And this is where HR and L&D can make an important contribution to the success of the project.

With this in mind, we’ve compiled some important tips and traps you should know as a HR and L&D pro before you find the people in your business in a serious spot of bother.

STEP ONE: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else”

That quote from Yogi Berra (1925–2015), the American baseball player, manager and coach well-known for his wise albeit paradoxical statements, is another way of saying that a successful implementation of Office 365 is all in the planning – and that begins with knowing why you need the new platform in the first place. So firstly, clearly define what your business drivers are behind the need for Office 365, and how Office 365 meets those needs, and never, ever let them out of your sight.

HR needs to know where employees will be working in the future – on PCs or multiple devices? As individuals or teams?

Next, scope the implementation carefully so that you have well-defined boundaries around the project. When this planning phase begins, you should start with the technicalities: how many servers do you need? How many licenses? How much bandwidth? Do you need a risk assessment around any content you’re shifting across the cloud? Answers to these and other similar questions will help you to define a vision for where you’re taking the enterprise, as well as identify objectives, challenges, scenarios (how the new platform will fit match existing organisational initiatives and, importantly, drive tangible results) and, if necessary, executive support you might need.

Your organisation needs to be cloud- and mobile-ready to take advantage of the new way of working with Office 365. This can be problematic for HR departments who are used to eye-balling employees in the office every day.

Speaking of getting the support of executives, you ignore the broader human aspects of the change at your peril. Identify your stakeholders and get them on-board early to build momentum and fuel the organisation’s appetite for adoption. More on that in a minute.

STEP TWO: “What do I want? Why do I want it? And, how will I achieve it?”

Now that you’ve answered the first two questions above, asked by inspirational author Shannon L. Alder, how you answer the third – mapping Office 365’s capabilities to your scenarios and prioritising your efforts so that you get the right things done right at the beginning – is the next big step when implementing the new platform. For this, Microsoft recommends looking at four key areas to determine “first things first.” They are:

  • Complexity – “How complex or difficult is it to put the solution into place,” Microsoft says. “It could be due to technical, organisational or cultural challenges.” And anything to do with organisational or cultural challenges falls squarely in to the remit of the HR department.
  • Added Value – Where, and how, will new value be created by Office 365? Again, HR needs to be heavily involved in this discussion.
  • Impact – Closely linked to added value is where, an again how much, will impact be felt? For instance, will everyone in the organisation feel the benefits, or only a team or department?

With many components of Office 365, especially SharePoint, employees won’t know how to exploit the power of the tools until they have a chance to play with the technology. That’s one of the reasons why many organisations implement a pilot program, testing the system on a small group of users before bank rolling many licenses. By the way, Microsoft offers free 30-day trials of Office 365 if you want to try before you buy.

  • Leadership Support – “For each solution, estimate the amount of leadership support you are likely to receive,” Microsoft literature says. Making that support stick through thick and thin goes far beyond initial estimates, and HR must lead that battle without fear or fetter.

Supporting, and underpinning, each of these areas is the need for HR to be very clear about how success of implementing Office 365 in the organisation will be measured. That could be in user satisfaction, employee engagement or adoption velocity, any of the metrics that reflect their business outcomes, or any combination of these.

Next, roll all this into an adoption plan that will ensure the organisation’s people will understand what’s going to happen, why it’s happening and what’s in it for them. Here Microsoft recommends a mix of activities to maximise user acceptance:

  • Communications – “This is critical to driving adoption as it informs and inspires users about the new technology and helps create a natural ‘buzz’ or excitement,” Microsoft says, and this activity could be the subject of an entirely new article
  • Engagement Events like team meetings, parties, contests and giveaways will help employees fully engage with the program
  • Training – Whether it’s classroom-style sessions, online self-help guides or a buddy system of mentoring and coaching, the need for training cannot be overstated if users are expected to get the maximum benefits Office 365 has to offer.

At the end of the day, Microsoft’s main business is selling software so you need great in-house facilitators and/or the capabilities of learning leaders like MCI Solution to provide training on the products themselves as well as the skills needed to coach subordinates and build high-performing teams in the new-look Office 365 workplace.

STEP THREE: “Without execution, ‘vision’ is just another word for hallucination”

The speaker of those words, Mark Hurd, is co-CEO of Oracle Corporation (2016 revenues: $AU48.8 billion) as well as past chairman, CEO and president of Hewlett-Packard – and he knows a thing or two about committing resources and executing on Earth-changing initiatives.

You may not have Oracle’s resources to commit, but you can bring your adoption plan life by following a simple guide like this:

  • 4-8 weeks before launching Office 365 – inform users of what’s coming and what’s in it for them, and help create anticipation. A huge amount of internal communication is needed at this stage that can take the shape of posters, booklets, handouts, announcement and countdown emails or SMSs, and newsletters
  • 4 weeks before launch – bring people together and increase confidence. Engagement events and user community activities like lunch-and-learns can really build up a head of steam for your rollout.

And all the while, training. Microsoft’s best practices in this phase include creating a learning centre and real-work scenarios, and mobilising champions across the Office 365 community who are committed to it and can deliver coaching and assistance wherever needed.

STEP FOUR: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”

This age-old management adage is as applicable today as it ever was. Getting feedback is critical, as is doubling down on how you defined success and using real-life measurements you’ve captured by way of surveys, success stories, reports from the Office 365 Admin Console or other snapshots identified back in steps 1 and 2.

One final thought, the launch of Office 365 across your enterprise isn’t the ending for HR – it’s only the beginning.

Driving adoption and innovation is a continuous cycle, and successful organisations understand the value of iteration – always being on the look-out for how new tools, and ways of working, can drive ongoing improvements and productivity gains to add business value.

MCI Solution is very experienced with all aspects of Office 365. It’s what we use ourselves, including Skype for Business which we use extensively, and we’re helping many of Australia’s largest organisations to migrate this exciting new way of working. So we understand how to help you provide training to project managers and end users, give managers the coaching skills they need and enable leaders to design and implement ongoing, sustainable organisational change. Call us today on 1300 768 550 or get in touch with us.