7 top tips to improve Office 365 adoption and change management

Adoption and change management (ACM) is an essential activity in ensuring that your Office 365 implementation is successful and delivers the enterprise-wide benefits and ROI expected by your senior stakeholders. Office 365 opens many opportunities to raise productivity, drive innovation and transform collaboration, but this often requires users to learn how and when to use new tools, adopt new behaviours and gain confidence across the digital workplace.

Successfully changing user behaviour is never a given and is rarely mandated; employees are also usually very busy, frequently overworked, and already bombarded with messaging relating to other change initiatives. Digital workplace teams need to work hard to gain the attention of employees, win over hearts and minds, and continually reiterate messaging to truly embed behaviours.

Here at Content Formula, we’ve implemented hundreds of Office 365 / Microsoft 365 projects, often supporting the ACM work stream with launch, support and training activities. In this post we’re going to explore seven tactics that we’ve seen often work.

1 Involve and train your champions

In our recent post about how to drive Office 365 adoption and change management, one of our eight essential elements  was “top-down and bottom-up communications”. While you must show a tool has the support of senior leaders, bottom-up messaging from peers also helps to drive adoption. Involving a network of local champions and ambassadors who can frame their messages using scenarios, use cases and terminology that makes sense to different locations, functions and teams, will make change communications far more relevant across a diverse workforce.

Hearing a recommendation from a peer also can also give s a message more authenticity, while champions can also provide some local support by answering questions and even performing some training. We’ve seen many times how a a network of enthusiastic champions makes a real difference in an Office 365 roll-out and helps small central digital workplace teams achieve more.

Successful champions tend to be recruited on a voluntary basis rather than being “conscripted”, and central teams are often surprised about how enthusiastic and energetic they can be. Training and engaging them through formal and top-up virtual sessions, assets such as slide decks, maintaining a support community, and recognising the contribution of individuals, are all tactics that can help.

2 Focus on real use cases rather than concepts

All too often Office 365 change management campaigns centre on higher level concepts such as “increasing collaboration” and “working smarter” and “increasing our productivity”. These messages are all benefits of the platform, but they need to be communicated in conjunction with specific use cases that resonate with employees and illustrate the tangible benefits of the 365 platform. In this way, users can more easily see “what’s in it for me” and how Microsoft 365 and its tools will impact everyday working practices.

For example, your new digital workplace might help users to see all their notifications in one place, find the contact details of a colleague, ask a question to an expert, see the latest news, support a professional community, make it easier to manage a project, or use a whiteboard in a virtual meeting. All these are real world use cases that illustrate the benefits of a platform and support adoption efforts.

3 Creating engaging campaign assets

Creating engaging campaign assets to increase awareness of the launch of Office 365 or some of its constituent tools such as a SharePoint intranet or Yammer can support adoption and change management efforts. Eye-catching images, imaginative concepts, relevant and relatable messaging and consistent themes across multiple formats can all help to drive curiosity, spread information and even create a “buzz”.

There are a number of different types of assets that can be created, including:

  • Page tours that walk users through new features on first logging into a site, for example an intranet
  • Promotional banners that can appear across your digital channels
  • A training centre with self-serve resources – see below for more details
  • “How to” videos that are instructional, but also might explain the “why” and the related benefits of a tool
  • Tailored training to special groups including digital champions, content publishers or managers
  • Lock screen graphics to reiterate messaging across the office
  • Even a Q&A chatbot that can answer questions about Microsoft 365 or tools within it.

We’ve produced all of the above for different clients, and each has proved to be successful. We can help produce these for you as part of our new Office 365 ACM service.

4 Plan out your reinforcement activities

When we support our clients with Office 365 ACM we follow the ADKAR framework – a leading change management model based around five stages (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement). This last “reinforcement” stage is very important as it truly embeds changes in user behaviour for the longer term; without it, any initially promising adoption levels from your first launch efforts can start to wither.

From the outset, always plan some reinforcement activities that follow your initial launch period to remind users of your core messaging on an ongoing basis, building on your earlier efforts. These activities could include:

  • recognising adoption efforts such as highlighting teams who have used the platform successfully
  • leading engagement-led activities that encourage people to use tools such as a mini-campaign to get people to complete their profile
  • providing ongoing support, for example through an online Yammer community.

5 Plan self-serve resources

Self-serve resources can support adoption for users, as well as special groups like content owners and publishers, by providing information on how to use Office 365 tools, which tools to use for what purpose, and the benefits of each. Creating a self-service SharePoint site or intranet site aimed at your users, with an additional site for your content publishers, can prove to be a valuable resource that IT support helpdesks and digital workplace teams can point people towards. These resources are not only useful in your initial launch, but also an ongoing basis.

For example, when we helped Entain Group launch their Entain.Me digital workplace, we created a site for content publishers called “Entain.Me Guru” with how to guides, help videos, recordings of publisher training sessions and an embedded Yammer feed from a publisher support community. The site was created in the run up to launch but has remained live as an ongoing reference point.

6 Use Office 365 to drive usage of Office 365

The Office 365 platform itself can actually support some of your Office 365 ACM activities. For example, Yammer groups make excellent user or community support groups, while a SharePoint site is the obvious choice for a learning or knowledge-focused resources site. Taking an “eat your own dog food approach” and using the very tools that you are trying to promote to drive your ACM efforts sends the right message to both users and stakeholders, and can even get employees used to using the relevant tools.

7 Ring fence your ACM budget

As a rule, adoption and change management activities relating to Office 365 are sometimes not adequately budgeted for. The extent of ACM effort needed tends to be either underestimated or does not extend for a long enough period. Another danger is that there are other unexpected costs aspects of the project that emerge which were not budgeted for; these then end up eating into the ACM budget, which tends to be regarded as expendable, compared to other workstreams within your project. If you do have an ACM budget, ring fence it to ensure that it doesn’t get spent on other project aspects and that the spend is dedicated to critical ACM activities.

Need help with your Office 365 change and adoption? Get in touch!

We know how important adoption and change management is to the success of Office 365; this is why we’ve created a new Office 365 ACM service that assists with everything from planning your strategy to creating engaging campaign assets to providing ongoing support. If you’d like to discuss this or any aspect of growing your Office 365 adoption, then get in touch!

How to drive Office 365 adoption and change management

Adoption and change management (ACM) is a big-ticket item for any team involved in launching Office 365 or Microsoft 365, as well as constituent tools such as a SharePoint intranet, Yammer, Teams, Viva and OneDrive. Microsoft 365 is a strategic platform that is designed to be used every day at scale, so you want to make sure as many employees as possible are using it in a way that drives value.

Good levels of adoption can never be assumed – they don’t just happen on their own. Change management efforts are needed to influence both the hearts and minds of busy employees so they know how, when and why to use the new digital workplace tools at their fingertips. It’s worth noting that “adoption” is not just about getting higher numbers of active users, but also about using tools in the best way possible to drive productivity and achieve positive outcomes. All your employees using 365 tools, but in less-than-ideal ways, does not amount to good adoption.

In this post, we’re going to explore why ACM is so important for the Microsoft 365 digital workplace, some of the associated challenges and the elements that need to be in place for a successful ACM programme.

Why is good Office 365 adoption so important?

There are several reasons why adoption of the 365 platform and its tools is critical.

Supporting your ROI

Office 365 is a significant strategic investment, designed for adoption at scale. The benefits will not be fully unlocked without good levels of adoption, and you need an active ACM initiative to achieve ROI.

Productivity and efficiency

365 tools are designed to transform both employee and team productivity, improving efficiency across multiple processes. The higher the adoption levels, the more opportunities there are to derive productivity benefits across your organisation.

Communication and collaboration

Teams, Yammer and SharePoint can revolutionise communication around companies, as well as transform collaboration across different locations. Good levels of adoption lead to flows of information and knowledge that are critical for remaining competitive, allowing everybody in the company to work together effectively.

Enables remote and hybrid working

The age of hybrid work is here. Good adoption of 365 tools is critical when navigating the challenges of remote and hybrid working.

High profile use cases

A range of high-profile use cases rely on good adoption of 365 tools, such as internal communications that reach a high number of staff.

Advancing the digital workplace

When you have good adoption levels across your digital workplace, this increases your workforce’s confidence in using digital tools, in turn providing an excellent base from which evolve your landscape by adding more 365 tools to deliver additional value.

What are the challenges around adoption, and how does change management help?

Challenges can emerge when trying to reach adoption levels and usage patterns that really drive value. Here, change management efforts are essential to achieve the adoption levels your leaders want.

Employees are very busy and suffer from change fatigue

The majority of employees are very busy, and are constantly being bombarded with messages. They may also have developed change fatigue, what with the continual roll-out of initiatives and tools. You need strong messaging with clear benefits to really capture the attention of employees, persuading them to invest the time and cognitive effort required to adopt a new tool.

Employees can be reluctant and resistant to change

Many of us can be both reluctant and resistant to change. Doing things differently requires effort and potential learning curves. Change can even seem threatening, and some employees are particularly resistant to adopting new technology. In fact, in the famous adoption curve popularised by Roger’s Diffusion of Innovations, 16% of users are usually classified as “laggards”.

Efforts wane over time and change lacks reinforcement

Employees often start with good intentions, but adoption can wane over time and employees fall back into old habits. A lack of both reinforcement in messaging and opportunities to use the tools can mean that adoption is not truly embedded and is vulnerable to diminishing.

Employees get the how, but not the why

Employees might be able to use tools and have had the benefits explained to them, but that doesn’t always mean they are convinced to change their behaviours. Sometimes, employees need to have the “why” illustrated for them to understand what’s in it for them.

Usage is not advanced

Tools might have high numbers of active users – Microsoft Team, for example – but how they are being used may not be advanced or even optimal. Often, employees need specific training on how to use Microsoft 365 in more sophisticated or advanced ways, such as using whiteboarding in Microsoft Teams.

Top-down approach when you also need bottom-up

Some employees aren’t swayed by top-down messaging that comes from the centre about using new digital tools. This might be because these central communications are not viewed as relevant to their particular function, location or role, or there might be an inherent mistrust of messaging from the central IT function. Here, a bottom-up approach which involves endorsement from peers and local champions can be essential in driving adoption.

It’s hard to keep up with 365

365 is a very extensive platform, and Microsoft is continually investing in new tools like Microsoft Viva, as well as extending the capabilities of the existing suite. It can be very hard for employees to keep up with new tools and features, as well as smaller changes to the UI.

ACM is not always budgeted for

A practical reason why ACM efforts can sometimes fail is that there is simply not enough budget left over for it. Leaders tend to underestimate the costs needed for large digital projects, or other elements of the project end up eating into the ACM budget.

What are the essential elements needed for adoption and change management?

There are various elements that need to be in place for a successful ACM programme that delivers lasting adoption and embeds change.

Putting employees at the centre, not technology

Change and adoption is about people, not technology. The digital workplace or 365 tool that you are expecting people to use must be people-centred, with a good user experience and no technology-related barriers to use. Any adoption campaign must also put people at the centre and be targeted around their needs.

Understanding employees and their pain points

A thorough understanding of employees and their pain points, conducted through user and stakeholder research, is important to not only shape the tools they use, but also design an impactful ACM campaign. For example, focusing on use cases which resonate with particular groups can illustrate the value of using a particular tool.

Training and support

Usually, there will be some kind of training involved in change management, whether for champions, super-users, site admins, content publishers or even on a “train the trainers” basis. Training is not necessarily required for users, but some ongoing support whereby they can ask questions might be, alongside making self-serve resources available.

Measurement

Measurement is an important part of adoption and change management. You need to apply the right measures and metrics to know whether adoption and usage is reaching required levels, and to subsequently target additional interventions and communications if they are not. Measurement also needs to be sustained as adoption patterns change over time.

Top-down and bottom-up communications

Generally, a good ACM plan will incorporate both top-down communications from senior leaders to show a tool is endorsed and is a company priority, and bottom-up communications from peers and champions that are more likely to resonate with different locations and groups.

 A formal plan

Having a formal ACM plan (and related communications plan) that all stakeholders buy into is critical in order to execute successful 365 adoption and change management. This ensures you can co-ordinate efforts across different stakeholders and communication channels, but also change the focus over time as adoption and behaviours evolve. At Content Formula, we use the ADKAR change model as a basis for our planning, a popular framework with five stages – Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. Microsoft also advocates for the use of ADKAR.

Targeting efforts

It’s important to target your ACM effort to different groups. We advise using key personas to maximise the impact of messaging.

Engaging communications

Successful ACM initiatives rely on good communications. These need to be engaging to stand out and have an impact. Use of video, imaginative assets and relevant, targeted copy can all make a difference.

Announcing Content Formula’s new Adoption and Change Management (ACM) service

We know how important ACM is, and we often work with clients to design successful change management programmes that lead to successful and sustainable launches of Office 365, Teams, Yammer, Viva or a SharePoint intranet.

Our new ACM service covers everything you need in order to embed change in the best possible way and drive secure transformation, supporting users and leading them successfully through change.

As noted, our ACM approach is based around the highly regarded ADKAR framework:

  • Awareness: Announce and explain the change, involving employees
  • Desire: Get employees ready for the change, overcome any fears and build momentum
  • Knowledge: Drive confidence through training, demos and champions
  • Ability: Get employees used to using new tools through practice, training, coaching and feedback
  • Reinforcement: Provide recognition and incentives to embed the change, along with ongoing support.

What to expect

Our ACM package includes a number of phases and deliverables:

ACM-led discovery

We will begin by gaining an understanding of employees’ approach to change, communications and training, as well as levels of stakeholder/champion engagement to date. We will do this through a general change workshop, a stakeholder workshop and user interviews, followed by a playback of our discovery findings to the project team.

Strategy and change planning

Based on our findings, we will shape a strategy and roadmap that includes tactics for effective communications, training and support.

Communications

Following on from planning, we will deliver communications which directly address user pain points, along with core desires to build a campaign that is engaging, effective and informative. Assets can include digital posters, GIFs, intranet articles, lock screen graphics and videos.

Training

Our training will be tailored to the audience. We will get to know employees’ wants and needs, and deliver training that addresses these. This can include training support materials and videos, carrying out champion training, content owner support and even a Q&A chatbot.

Post-launch support

The change effort will not stop on launch day. Our ACM includes a pot of days to be used when required for strategic support/coaching, as well as reinforcement activities up to six months post-launch to ensure continued adoption.

 

Need support with 365 adoption? Get in touch!

Adoption and change management is critical. If you need help, want to discuss your ACM strategy and approach or are interested in our new ACM service, then get in touch!

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