Aligning Office 365 strategy with business priorities to maximise adoption and ROI

Our deployment strategy and supporting services delivered a successful phased deployment of Office 365 focused on defined business scenarios and user requirements.

Our customer, a financial data management specialist providing services to the investment management community, had made the decision to migrate to Office 365 from their legacy on premises Microsoft infrastructure and applications.

This was primarily a technical and IT-led decision, based on a number of typical factors including legacy systems moving towards end-of-life and a desire to embrace the technical and commercial benefits of a cloud-hosted SaaS solution.

From an IT perspective, our customer also wanted to:

  • Maximise the opportunities presented by their investment in Office 365, rather than approaching it as a purely technical deployment and application refresh
  • Leverage in-house skills and support from their incumbent technical services provider for deploying core workloads (i.e. migration to Exchange Online and deployment of Office ProPlus to desktops)
  • Access Betterworking’s expertise and support with the more complex Office workloads, which – unlike email and Office – wouldn’t necessarily be embraced and adopted by users

In addition to the customer’s IT requirements were a number of business requirements surfaced through initial conversations with stakeholders in the wider business, including:

  • The Global Head of Marketing was aiming to improve internal communications and employee engagement by connecting up offices, teams and individuals and providing more effective channels for communication and dialogue
  • The Legal and Compliance teams had a requirement to address data security concerns relating to the sharing of data and documents, mobile access and working, and the use of consumer Skype
  • The Global Head of Sales needed to connect his team across time zones and geographies to enable more effective communication, knowledge sharing and collaboration on sales opportunities and customer accounts.

Working with our customer’s IT Infrastructure & Information Security team we developed a phased deployment strategy for Office 365 – designed to maximise the adoption and benefits of Office 365, address priority business and end-user priorities, and to leverage the customer’s in-house capabilities and available third party resources.

‘Core’ Office 365 workloads prioritised

The strategy prioritised the deployment of the ‘core’ Office 365 workloads of Exchange Online and Office ProPlus to the company’s global population of approximately 250 employees. Users were already familiar with previous versions of Outlook and Office, therefore this initial phase was approached primarily as a technical deployment. All users were migrated over a short period of time with the process managed by the customer’s in-house IT team supported by their technical services partner. We supported the technical deployment with awareness comms to inform users of the forthcoming changes, and educational content explaining and promoting the new online capabilities and other feature enhancements.

App launcher showing Office 365 workloads typically enabled with E3 license

Strategy for value-add Office 365 workloads

Having successfully deployed and migrated users to Exchange Online and Office ProPlus, the strategy next focused on the additional Office 365 workloads available. The customer had purchased the E3 license SKU and therefore had access to a range of new capabilities including OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online and Yammer. The customer also wanted to take advantage of the functionality and cost-savings available through Skype for Business and the PSTN Calling add-on.

We engaged and consulted with business stakeholders to design a deployment approach for the additional Office 365 workloads which aligned the new technology and capabilities with well-defined business and end-user needs and priorities. Unlike email, calendars and Office applications, these additional Office 365 workloads are either new and unfamiliar and/or not embedded in the day-to-day behaviours of users, and therefore they require effective change management support to ensure they are properly understood and well adopted by users.


From a business perspective the priority was to improve internal communication, employee engagement and collaboration between individuals, teams and global offices.

Yammer was identified as the ideal candidate to support these requirements. Betterworking led the strategy, planning and deployment activities, incorporating the following key elements:

  • Interviews with senior stakeholders in key operational functions including sales, marketing, sales engineering, customer support, product development and engineering – to identify business scenarios and use cases and engage stakeholders with the initiative
  • Development of Yammer deployment strategy and tactical plan incorporating technical configuration, focus areas and use cases, awareness & engagement, education & training, change champion and adoption support workstreams
  • Yammer configuration and remediation activities, leveraging FastTrack technical resources and support
  • Project management and coordination of all technical, engagement, onboarding and adoption activities.

We conducted an initial soft-launch based around a small number of priority use cases, in order to pilot the onboarding and adoption activities and to build early momentum before inviting the majority of users. The official launch was supported by a number of awareness and engagement activities, including digital and offline comms, and promotional and educational videos using company employees.

A competition was used to promote the launch and drive early adoption of Yammer, linked to a significant anniversary for the company. Employees needed to complete their profile and participate in various activities on Yammer to go into the hat for a fantastic prize of a holiday to any one of the company’s global locations.

Skype for Business

The next priority from a business perspective was to address concerns raised by the customer’s end-clients relating to the use of consumer Skype to host voice and video calls and to share information via IM and file transfer. This had to led to a requirement from the internal legal & compliance team to remove the consumer version of Skype from users’ desktops, however this solution was widely used and would create operational issues if removed without migrating users to an alternative solution.

Skype for Business was therefore selected as the workload and focus area for next phase of the deployment. Betterworking again led the strategy, planning and deployment activities, incorporating the following elements:

  • Skype for Business deployment plan covering technical remediation, awareness, onboarding and adoption workstreams
  • Engagement with FastTrack team to support technical remediation and troubleshooting
  • End-user communication and adoption support via ‘Skype for Business 101’ Yammer group and direct user engagement
  • Office 365 analytics to track overall adoption and usage, and to identify individual users requiring support.

Following the technical migration from the legacy hosted Lync Server to Skype for Business Online with PSTN Calling, the Skype for Business onboarding & adoption campaign ran for 6 weeks – to promote the availability and benefits of Skype for Business, and to migrate users from consumer Skype to Skype for Business.

Betterworking supported the IT Infrastructure team throughout this process, including ongoing coordination with the FastTrack to remediate issues as they occurred and facilitating engagement and the sharing of education and training content via the Skype for Business 101 Yammer group.

The phased deployment strategy resulted in the successful introduction and adoption of the priority Office 365 workloads, and established the process and ‘template’ for deploying further workloads.

Initial workloads deployed

The technical migration of users and data to Exchange Online ran smoothly, as did the deployment of Office ProPlus to users’ desktops. Users were informed of the upcoming changes using email and manager briefings, and were provided with simple ‘quick start’ information to explain the new functionality now available with Office 2016 and Office Online.

For Yammer the soft-launch provided early momentum based around operationally-focused use cases, and the competition generated high levels of awareness and on-platform engagement for the first 30 days following the official launch.

To maintain and build on the initial momentum generated by the launch activities, a number of operational processes were moved onto Yammer – including replacing legacy internal comms approaches to make Yammer the primary internal comms channel, and replacing ‘all company’ emails relating to new business wins with a dedicated Yammer group to share and celebrate sales successes. The customer is also considering appointing a dedicated Yammer community manager, having both seen the potential for Yammer and the need to proactively manage the network to drive adoption and success.

For Skype for Business, the approach of general awareness raising and educational content provided through Yammer and email comms combined with targeted support for inactive users was successful in onboarding all users to Skype for Business. This enabled consumer Skype to be removed from users’ desktops, to meet the legal & compliance business driver.

In addition, significant cost savings were achieved through the replacement of expensive 3Com handsets with a combination of softphones and headsets. Major enhancements were also made to voice and videoconferencing, in terms of improved functionality and new conference devices, and standardisation and cost savings through the cancellation of legacy conferencing facilities from GoToMeeting and Webex.

‘Optimized’ Office 365 tenant

The successful deployment and adoption of Exchange Online, Office ProPlus, Yammer and Skype for Business enabled our customer’s Office 365 tenant to quickly reach the ‘Optimized’ stage of the Microsoft Adoption Optimization Model.

This is achieved when three of more Office 365 workloads have 40%+ active usage, and is a key performance indicator for both Microsoft and Microsoft Partners.

Further phases and additional Office 365 workloads

The initial phases established a successful strategy and ‘template’ for deploying Office 365, by aligning Office 365 workloads with clearly defined business scenarios and use cases and supporting the technical deployment with adoption and change management activities.

Using this approach, the next priority areas to be addressed are file storage and sharing (which will see the introduction of OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online), followed by project collaboration (which will bring in Teams, Office 365 Groups and Planner).

The customer has been delighted with this strategy and our services, which have enabled the phased introduction of Office 365 workloads and capabilities, focusing on making each step a success rather than creating risks and overload through a single ‘big bang’ deployment. We have also helped them to maximise the use of their existing in-house and 3rd party resources, and take full advantage of the services available via FastTrack.