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4 critical factors to drive Microsoft 365 adoption in your business

Microsoft 365 can help employees be more productive, but only if they are willing to embrace it, Microsoft executives say.

With digital transformation projects underway, IT departments are moving from system management and maintenance to enabling the business, according to Gideon Bibliowicz, director of Microsoft 365 customer success. In a session at Microsoft Ignite in Orlando on Monday, Bibliowicz explained how the Microsoft 365 productivity suite can empower employees to more easily work together—but only if they are willing to embrace it.

"The key question our customers are asking is, 'What is my role as IT in this new world?'" Bibliowicz said. Part of the answer is ensuring that whatever technology the company implements is actually adopted by employees, he added.

Customers with the highest levels of usage of Microsoft 365, the highest satisfaction rates with the platform, and the highest value gained from it have implemented the following four tools for success, Bibliowicz said:

1. Stakeholders

Recruit executive sponsors, who can identify and prioritize business use cases, and act as a face to the program. These individuals can also model how employees can use the platform, Bibliowicz said.

SEE: Securing Windows policy (Tech Pro Research)

IT should also empower "champions," or enthusiastic employees who will scale adoption efforts across the organization, evangelize Microsoft 365 and its value across team, welcome new users, and answer questions, Bibliowicz said. It's key to seek people outside of IT to become champions, especially those that sit within the business units, such as HR and marketing. Research shows that the most effective way to learn in the workplace is from a coworker, so having these employees across your organization is highly effective.

2. Scenarios

IT must prioritize scenarios, or business use cases, and define what success will look like, Bibliowicz said. You can start delivering value quickly with several easy wins, including sharing and managing information across your organization, communicating with your team in real time to gain input and consensus, meeting with coworkers and customers worldwide, and working more securely from anywhere, on any device.

You can then build on those wins, and share successes, Bibliowicz said.

3. Awareness

Raising awareness of what the platform is and how it can help each line of business is critical, Bibliowicz said. One option to do so is through events hosted by IT and champions, in which they run demos and pass out information, said Matt Ontell, principal program manager of FastTrack at Microsoft. These events could be hosted online for remote offices, he added.

"Go beyond sending an email saying 'Hey, the migration's coming,'" Ontell said. "Learn how you're going to talk about different aspects of the product, and how you're going to target different groups in your organization." Microsoft offers templates and resources for doing this, he added.

4. Training

IT needs to train end users and ready their help desk for implementation, Bibliowicz said. This requires a focus on the why, Ontell added: "Make sure employees know why the change is happening, what's in it for them, and why they're being asked to change," he said. "Use real work scenarios, and tasks or business processes that are familiar to your audience as a way to draw them in."

Using multiple formats to reach every style of learner, as well as reinforcing ideas over time, can also help, Ontell said.

Conducting an early adopter program is also beneficial, Bibliowicz said. Roll out the platform to a select number of employees, and get feedback, identify potential stumbling blocks, and develop and recruit your pool of champions. You should include both people who are enthusiastic about new tech as well as those who are not, to learn their pain points and make it as easy as possible for all employees to implement down the line.

SEE: Microsoft targets firstline workers with new 365 offerings, AI-powered Bing search, better security

Standard Bank Group, the largest banking group in Africa with 50 million corporate and private clients, was determined to become "a 152 year old startup," according to Ian Doyle, its head of end user experience. It did so by replacing core banking systems, developing new ways of working, investing in mobile, and scaling Agile delivery methods. Part of this involved implementing Microsoft 365.

"We had a host of challenges, some commercial and some technical, but the most difficult ones were the people ones," Doyle said. "The people shift was really difficult. We found the biggest resistance came from the IT organization, not the business."

Doyle recommends putting personnel on the task of implementation specifically. "The most valuable investment we made was dedicating a very small team that focuses on [Microsoft] 365 and how to pull value out for the business," he said. "If you don't think about it every day, you won't get to that level of focus." Soon, other members of the IT department began stepping up and offering their time to work on it as well, Doyle said.

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Image: CNET

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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