7 Tips for a Successful Office 365 Adoption

In a recent BitGlass automated survey of domains, more than half of all domains worldwide use Office 365, with its usage growing phenomenally from 34% in 2016 to over 56% in 2018.

With support for “anywhere access” of its rich suite of solutions that span email, chat, file sharing, document collaboration and video conferencing amongst others, it more than lives up to its goal of enhanced collaboration, improved productivity and seamless business continuity.

The rush to embrace Office 365’s business benefits, however, can lead to a tedious migration with sub-optimal or incomplete employment of its solutions. While planning and employee training help, they are best realized as part of a long-term vision of not just migrating to Office 365, but of adopting Office 365 holistically. This is particularly true of a solution such as Office 365, which holds tremendous business potential and has a pervasive enterprise-wide impact.

Here are seven tips for a holistic adoption of Office 365 that can enable you to make the most of its features.

#1 Understand the Whys: List Business Objectives and Org-wide Use-case Scenarios

Understanding the objectives and business benefits of the move can propel the migration through possible migration plateaus to continued success. It provides benchmarks to measure the progress of the adoption, and can provide insights into new business opportunities that the solutions can afford.

Detailing the Whys also helps with the critical point below — getting stakeholder and user buy-in. Understand business challenges and the scenarios that the migration to Office 365 would influence; especially in the areas of flexibility and collaboration. Apart from high-level business benefits, map important/oft-used processes of various departments with Office 365 tools and features. Explain how the migration would improve/ease those use cases.

#2 Get Buy-in: From Executives, End Users and your Infrastructure

As with any organization-wide migration, Executive Sponsorship and their active participation is critical to its success. Identify key stakeholders, connect with them and understand their business priorities and expectations from the migration.

Similarly, end user buy-in, is just as essential. Change is uncomfortable. Showcase to users how their current workflows can be easily replicated/improved on in the Office 365 platform. Communicate realistic migration timelines and delays/hiccups in a regular, timely manner. Keep the communication two-way — add their inputs and feedback to your Migration Plan.

Finally get buy-in from your IT infrastructure. Audit your current infrastructure to check if it can support the Office 365 load. Understand the infrastructure requirements, specifically for Exchange Hybrid migrations and Video Conferencing workloads.

#3 Plan and Prioritize: Lay the Groundwork

Planning is key to a smooth migration. It is better to take three months to plan and a week to implement, than the other way around. Decide on the type of migration for the services that are moving to Office 365. For Exchange, cutover may be easier for small organizations while a hybrid migration may be better suited for larger enterprises. For OneDrive, known folder move may be the best approach if your organization can support it. For SharePoint you need to decide the scope of the migration, will you include File Shares and Legacy SharePoint Sites?  Verify your organization’s readiness for each of the types. Chart out both the migration timeline and a user adoption timeline.

Office 365 comes with a plethora of service choices — some services offer configuration options that allow organizations to tailor the service to meet various business needs. Licenses like the E3 and E5 control a user’s access to the services. Be picky about the services you roll out and who you roll them out to. Start with the most fundamental scenarios and phase your migration. Use personas of key stakeholders to identify the value and impact of various Office 365 solutions. Prioritize the ones that demonstrate quick value and have maximum leadership support.

#4 Champion and Train: Usage will Drive Success

Champions are your Office 365 evangelizers and their enthusiasm and guidance can drive organization-wide adoption. Even with a dedicated migration team, enlist the support of department-wise champions. Educate them about how their department-specific business scenarios will be impacted/benefited. Encourage them to emphasize the benefits and improvements to productivity that the move would yield, and to guide users as they adopt the various solutions

Trained usage of the various solutions will help to iron out issues and inform processes. Formulate a plan to train all end users with video tutorials that are customized to the business processes they use. Spruce things up with contests where users can showcase how Office 365 tools/features have improved their work life, provide easily consumable tips and tricks such as infographics and cheat sheets and hold regular lunch-and-learns.

#5 Reach Out: Explore the Latest Migration Tools and Migration Partners

Be sure you are reading the very latest guidance from Microsoft for the specific versions of Office 365 tools you will be migrating to. For example, Known Folder Move is an excellent new feature for migration to OneDrive. Microsoft itself has a host of migration resources such as migration readiness checkers, an exhaustive knowledge base, deployment advisors and training centers. For large-scale migrations, Microsoft also offers a start-end deployment and adoption solution called FastTrack, which is available with eligible subscriptions to Microsoft 365, Azure, or Dynamics 365. If the migration is too complex or huge, consider working with a Microsoft partner or a migration consultant.

#6 Secure Your Adoption: Check on Compliance Implications

Unlike an on-premises setup, data on a cloud-based solution like Office 365 is stored on Microsoft’s data centers. This will have compliance and retention implications. Involve your organization’s legal department to check on them.

With the onset of the GDPR, data protection is a “shared responsibility.” While Microsoft has very high standards of security, it cannot protect you from data loss at your end due to employee error, malicious intent, malware, ransomware, etc. Having a reliable data backup and recovery plan keeps your valuable data secure, ensures business continuity and helps demonstrate compliance.

#7 Practice Continuous Adoption: Keep Measuring and Incorporating Feedback

Effective adoption is continuous adoption. Business and user workflows are subject to change, as are updates to the Office 365’s functionality. Set up channels such as a dedicated email address, Microsoft Team, and/or a Yammer group to get real-time feedback from staff and champions. Tweak your adoption plan based on their feedback.

Check on how widespread user adoption is using Office 365’s Activity Reports. Keep a ready portal of past training material for new joinees and regularly add new feature updates and innovative use cases to it. Have frequent pingbacks with your initial list of “Whys” — business objectives and goals — and check how the adoption is faring vis-à-vis them.

The possibilities for innovation and new business avenues are limitless with Office 365. We hope the guidelines above help your organization execute a successful and secure Office 365 adoption.

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