By day I am a change and project management consultant; helping clients to successfully rollout and gain adoption of new processes and technologies.  This can present challenges, but it is always rewarding. A new responsibility that I have is to migrate our consulting company, Expressworks, from an on-prem environment to Office 365.  As a part of that project, I attended Microsoft Ignite last week wearing both my consultant and Office 365 implementer hats.
The amount of information at Ignite was overwhelming but one thing is for sure; a lot of exciting change is coming our way.  I thought I would share my insights based on my experience of rolling out Office 365, the Ignite sessions that I attended and discussions that I had with other attendees.

sam2Office 365 is all about the democratization of IT.  What does that mean?  Simply stated, it gives end users simple tools that will empower them to create and use IT, whenever they need it, in order to facilitate collaboration and innovation.  Office 365 also brings a shift from the mindset of searching to one of discovery.  You can only search for content that you know exists. Imagine if you were working on a proposal and you were offered similar content that you could re-use?  Handy, right?  The Graph API is a powerful back-end tool that presents users with content that has a high likelihood of being useful.  This is based on the user’s activities in Office 365 as well as their security settings.

Another major improvement is the ease of use and accessibility for all end users to empower themselves.  In the past, SharePoint was challenging enough that you had to have some level of SharePoint administration knowledge in order to be effective.  With Office 365 and Microscoft’s future plans, this all changes.  Tasks like creating a list, a team page, or a new document repository are simple and easy for end users to take advantage of without much training.  Another bonus is the launch of Flow and PowerApps which allow your power users tools to create mobile apps as well as workflows seamlessly.  This just scratches the surface of what is available now and what is coming.

With all of this change comes the challenge of how to implement all of these great features without overwhelming your administrators and end users.  Here are my observations from Ignite:

  • Focus on Business Requirements:  There are a million different capabilities available in Office 365.  If the end users don’t see the business value for what you are giving them they will not embrace it. It is critical to focus on business value rather than technology features.  Here is a presentation by Simon Denton with Mott McDonald sharing how he drove adoption of Office 365 at his company.
  • Know Your Culture:  In one of her presentations at Ignite, Susan Hanley stated “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.  This is very true, if your company culture does not reward sharing but rather rewards what each individual knows you will not have success rolling out collaboration tools.  You have to remember that tools only enable behavior they don’t drive it. Take a look at the existing culture of your company and determine how much behavioral change is required in order to move to a more collaborative environment.  Here is a great session that Susan Hanley and Dan Holme presented at Ignite with techniques on how to do this.
  • Take Baby Steps:  Too much change at one time (change saturation) is a real problem.  This recommendation comes from my experience in rolling out Office 365 as well as discussions with other Ignite attendees.  Rolling out functionality in waves gives your users time to adapt to each one and will keep them from being overwhelmed.
  • Adapt Your Change Strategies:  Change Management for SaaS is very different than change management for an application launch.  Microsoft continues to rollout new functionality at a breakneck pace.  You have to have a change and communication plan that is not only continuous but is also flexible and adaptable to technology changes that come your way.  This panel discussion on managing change in a SaaS world has many good points.
  • Don’t let Fear Drive Your Design:  I’ve seen many clients lock everything down; thereby crippling some of the greatest value that Office 365 can provide.  The collaboration capabilities and empowerment of your end users will payoff greatly with increased productivity and innovation.  Microsoft has built a lot of administrative tools to help manage the security of the Office 365 environment.  This presentation by Robert Harbridge will help you to know what to use when and this presentation by Brad Anderson will provide an overview of managing security.

Office 365 provides us with a glimpse of the future where information sharing and collaboration will be possible beyond our wildest dreams.  It can and WILL change the way we work. Paying attention to business needs, understanding your culture, and managing the change proactively will facilitate the process. Successful adaptation in these areas means you WILL be more successful in leading your company into the future.  I look forward to collaborating with you!

Samantha Leach is a Change Management consultant with Expressworks International LLC.  At Expressworks, every client project is unique, which is why we don’t (and you shouldn’t) hire consultants with matching resumes. Expressworks is a mosaic of more than 100 experts from diverse backgrounds, each with a different story to tell, yet bonded by a common vision, personal commitment and professional expertise. They come together in small, precision-built teams to provide exactly the knowledge and expertise our clients need to create change. We can help. Contact us