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Improving Office 365 adoption in your company

World over, more than 130 million business users who use Microsoft, are paying a recurring subscription for it per month and this figure is growing at the rate of more than 40% annually. Our recently concluded survey conducted with 47 such companies of different sizes gave us an opportunity to talk to them and it proved to be an eye opener. Our real purpose was to know more about the adoption of Office365 among their employees and if the companies are getting a return on their investments.

Our target groups were the following sizes of Office 365 implementations:-
Between 20-50 users = 12 Companies
Between 50-300 users = 21 Companies
Above 300 users = 14 Companies

We were in for a shock when most of the companies admitted they are not really doing anything significant with their Office365. The highest adoption was seen in terms of E-mail and MS Office.

Very few have invested in leveraging collaborative features such as SharePoint. Majority of these CIO's with whom we spoke, admitted that they are struggling to justify ROI on their O365 investments because they haven't got beyond the basics.

This made us seriously wonder as to why have some of the most experienced and qualified CIOs, those have driven very successful implementations of other business applications such as SAP, ORACLE, Salesforce etc., not been able to drive Office365 internally.

Although most of them are aware of collaborative strengths of Office365 such as document management and business process automation, they admitted that adoption is still a concern. We asked them a simple question- “Why do you think you are not able to do that?” Their responses varied and their reasons could be generalized as:-

  1. Lack of periodic trainings for the business users
  2. Not having an intranet that excites users
  3. Out-of-the-box screens not attractive enough
  4. Lack of business process automation

Our primary respondents came from C Level higher management and so we really never doubted their seriousness for making efforts towards adopting it. They all looked very sincere and committed to getting higher ROI on their Office365 investments. In fact few of them have taken significant steps to drive it internally but could not sustain it due one of more factors highlighted above.

I would now like to elaborate on the above findings and come up with a practical approach to increase Office365 adoption.

1. Training is important

Office 365 is a product that offers so many ready features that one can start using in their day-to-day office work.
Some of these features need enhanced practice to be able to understand their business value. Concept of sites is something that most of regular business users do not even understand in just one training session. Screens are full of buttons that scare business users.
All these features are easy but they need considerable time to be able to understand them. There are so many Office365 Apps in the subscription that confuse users because most of them are not integrated and information is scattered within Office365.

My suggestion is to engage an Office365 training company that specializes in SharePoint. As CIOs agree that collaboration features would drive adoption, therefore unless business users start using SharePoint features, their adoption will remain low. Better is to have an annual training contract with a company that can provide 6-8 trainings in a year and set up a help desk to answer user queries on day-to-day basis. Employees would like to use these features as long as there is someone out there who understand their business need and guide them when they need help.

2. Having a branded Intranet helps

Intranet brings all business users to a common page that is vibrant and has information that would excite everyone. One may argue that features of a standard Intranet could be achieved by out-of-the-box offerings by Office365 but most of the respondents acknowledged that visual appeal is very important. Once Intranet is configured or deployed, it should be easy to update and modify content. Therefore my suggestion would be to consider branded readymade intranet as one of your important adoption strategy and decide a timeframe to implement that.

3. Office365 out-of-box screens are not that easy to use

There are organizations where out-of-box non-branded intranets are working and everyone is using that. It is important to understand that such a scenario would come only if Office365 users are mature IT users driven by constant trainings and learnings. If you have more of front line and middle management workers, then driving out-of-box Office365 intranet would be a challenge.

Generally content is updated by employees who find it very tedious to open various lists and libraries within Office365. Branded Intranet helps in this case as all screens of content updates look like familiar web pages which are easy to understand without any training.

Generally in a branded Intranet, one is not required to understand and remember list and libraries structure at all and this is an important point that would increase adoption. Microsoft is gradually coming up with more APPs that have rich user interface to counter this issue but it is a long way to go. It is important that companies take lead and have their own approach in addressing this issue.

4. Lack of business process automation

As Office365 or SharePoint is the ideal tool for automation of your internal business processes, there is no doubt that having them on Office365 in your company is going to help adoption. Employees must have a compelling reason to use Office365 for their day-to-day jobs. It helps in expanding their curiosity to try other features as well. At least they start talking about it and that really helps adoption. Simple request management system could be one example that would drive all traffic to Office365 internally.

All these findings are part of my drive to increase Office365 adoption. Above four initiatives must be evaluated by companies before putting any adoption strategy in place. Internal marketing of Office365 is important but unless we address above issues, adoption will remain a challenge. Our survey has given us many insights that would be discussed in my upcoming blogs. I'll be glad to assist companies in picking up right strategy for increasing Office365 adoption.

  • Ashish Kamotra
  • Jun 25, 2018
  • 1 Comments

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