If you’ve read the promotional material you’d be forgiven for thinking that deploying Office 365 is a straightforward process, requiring minimal support and following a standardised, templated process.

While it’s true that the technical aspects of deploying Office 365 are less complex than traditional on-premises infrastructure and applications, the potential complexity and risks around areas such as identity and messaging in particular shouldn’t be overlooked. And when it comes to the ‘people & process’ aspects of Office 365, the complexity and multitude of options within Office 365 mean there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for getting users to adopt the new technology – and no silver bullet for getting the right return on your investment.

Office 365 is a complex mix of different and often competing applications

Office 365 is an all-around solution that extends across all markets and is applicable to a wide range of industries. That said, there are no two identical Office 365 implementations: Office 365 can be configured and deployed in a multitude of ways to meet different requirements.

Specifically, whilst some applications (or ‘workloads’) in Office 365 are commonly configured and deployed as standard components across different customer setups, other workloads require a more bespoke approach because they involve more complex decisions, and can be seen as optional by business users.

Office 365 app launcher

‘Core’ workloads

Workloads in the first category include email (Outlook) and document productivity apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote). These applications are critical components of an employee’s personal productivity toolkit and most times face no ‘threat’ from other apps directly competing in the same space within an organisation’s tech landscape.

They’re also the workloads which are typically rolled out first when deploying Office 365 – partly because they are considered essential for employees to do their jobs, and partly because they don’t require lots of thinking from a governance, adoption or business value perspective. These are familiar tools meaning that use cases for them are clear and straightforward.

‘Complex’ workloads

Workloads in the second category include Skype for Business, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online, Yammer, Microsoft Teams, Planner, Office 365 Groups, Office 365 Video, Delve, Sway and Power BI.

These applications differ from the previous category for a number of reasons:

  • They need to fulfil a particular business user’s or team’s requirement in order for the individuals to see the value and start using them (e.g. Skype, OneDrive, Teams, Planner, Sway)
  • They require consultation with business users and involvement of technical/specialist teams before being deployed and configured (e.g. SharePoint, Power BI)
  • They need clear governance when positioned to employees as they might be offering alternative solutions to the same business requirements (e.g. team collaboration in Yammer vs. Teams vs. Groups), or they may be directly competing with each other in terms of features (e.g. call/video conferencing in Skype vs. Teams or file sharing in OneDrive vs. SharePoint)
  • They require careful planning in cases where they’re competing with 3rd party tools external to Office 365 (e.g. online meetings in Skype vs. WebEx/GoToMeeting or file sharing in OneDrive/SharePoint vs. Dropbox/Box/Google Drive etc.)
  • They require a clear use case led by a specific business unit before being configured and rolled out to the entire organisation (e.g. internal communications via Yammer or employee training/education via Office 365 Video)
  • They represent completely new concepts which are hard for employees to grasp unless explained properly and considering the ‘what’s in it for me?’ aspect for the end user (e.g. Delve, Sway)
  • They involve a fair amount of complexity which makes them difficult for employees to understand and use, unless given proper education and training (e.g. Office 365 Groups, SharePoint).

A bespoke approach to Office 365 gives you the best return on investment

For the above reasons applications in the second category are in most cases pushed out in later stages of customers’ deployment roadmaps (when following a phased / staggered deployment approach) – and are also the workloads most at risk of low levels of adoption and usage.

Building momentum, adoption and usage of these workloads is not an easy task and requires a bespoke approach for each customer, which is next to impossible to template and replicate as a “one size fits all” model. There’s a large amount of templated information available online for customers to leverage (Microsoft’s own Fast Track portal offers the best knowledge repositories of this type), but piecing that together and producing a tailored, actionable strategy and plan requires a lot of hard work from the customer’s side.

To maximise success and ROI when rolling out Office 365, IT leaders need to spend a considerable amount of time scoping and planning the deployment of the more complex aspects of this all-encompassing and versatile productivity suite. And crucially, must ensure that business users are involved in the planning process, in order for the initiative to be seen as Business vs. IT-driven and delivering clear results for stakeholders.

Customers that take a people-centric approach when rolling out Office 365 and target well defined business objectives and requirements, are the ones who achieve the highest adoption levels and therefore make the biggest returns from their Office 365 investment. The potential value hidden in the more complex aspects of Office 365 is huge, and certainly worth the additional effort and investment over and above your considerable licensing and technical deployment costs.

We’re here to help

At Betterworking we help customers maximise the value they’re getting from Office 365 through the design and implementation of flexible, efficient and scalable deployment models that incorporate the bespoke elements that make every customer organisation unique. Talk to us if you’d like help with your upcoming Office 365 investment – we’d be more than happy to help.

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