Help! Our Office 365 roll-out is an epic fail

Rolling out Office 365 or a 365 intranet certainly has its challenges. While some of these may be technical, there can also be problems with adoption, governance, findabilty and more. Your users may be bewildered and confused by your array of tools, or your central team may simply be overwhelmed by the change management efforts to roll everything out. Perhaps youre a victim of your success and MS Teams is already running out of control?  There could be risk issues because restricted documents are being loaded to your intranet. Maybe your employees are addicted to Slack, email and spreadsheets, and you cant get them to use the new tools at their disposal?

Sometimes IT functions and digital workplace teams experience a number of these issues and conclude that their Office 365 roll-out or SharePoint Online intranet is not a success and needs some kind of re-boot. At its worst, we have had clients declare it an epic fail and asked for advice on how to rescue the roll-out and get things back on track.

If you feel your Office 365 or SharePoint Online intranet is an epic fail, firstly dont panic. Youre certainly not alone! There are a variety of things you can do to try and make the situation better and although it realistically will involve more work its good to move forwards rather than stagnate with an unsuccessful programme.

Here are some of the approaches that can help rescue a failing Office 365 intranet or programme.

1. Revisit your strategy

We often find out that when an intranet or digital workplace programme is failing, it might be that the original strategy wasnt quite right. Perhaps it had the wrong focus, the wrong prioritisation, or the wrong scope. Perhaps circumstances have changed and what you were originally planned has less chance of succeeding.

If things simply arent working out, pause your efforts and revisit your strategy. It could be time for a fundamental rethink and also helps to draw a line under your previous approach. Revisiting your strategy is an opportunity to get things back on track; many of the suggestions below are steps that might be a part of or help you define your new strategy.

2. Set a more realistic roadmap

Rolling out Office 365 or some of its constituent tools like Microsoft Teams or a SharePoint Online intranet requires ongoing support and change management to be successful. Central teams can trip themselves up with inadequate resourcing and difficult logistics if a launch programme is too ambitious, finding themselves simultaneously rolling out and supporting what theyve just rolled-out.  In these cases, either the launch methodology or the change management effort may suffer, impacting the overall success of a programme. If this is the case, a more realistically paced or phased roadmap may be required.

3. Identify use cases that are going to make the difference

You can do multiple things with Office 365 and its tools covering collaboration, communications, workflow, mobile apps, innovation, reporting dashboards and more. Many of these may be constituent parts of  a 365 intranet. The range of capabilities means it can be difficult to know where to start.

Successful Office 365 programmes tend to identify clear use cases where the use of Office 365 tools is a no-brainer because it drives efficiency or effectiveness. Identifying the right use cases helps drive adoption and establishes ROI and  can make all the difference to success.

4. Do some fresh user research

If you are revisiting your strategy it may be necessary to do some fresh user research to gain insights into what may be going wrong with your current Office 365 programme. If you dont know why things arent going right, you cant take corrective action. Understanding your users through workshops, interviews, surveys, observation and more, as well as understanding the priorities of your stakeholders, is rarely a waste of time. If you didnt carry out user research before, it may also explain why your current Office 365 programme is an epic fail.

5. Work on the governance side of things

Having a robust governance framework in place is key for Office 365 or SharePoint Online intranet success. Without the policies, roles, processes, structures and guidelines in place that clear governance establishes, then adoption, findability and user experience can suffer. You need a stack of governance in place for a successful intranet, and even more for the wider focus of a digital workplace or Office 365 programme.

The types of governance you need can be widespread, covering everything from agreement on ownership and strategy to guidance on which tools to use when, to data security and privacy policies and more. It can also be quite specific for example putting some processes in site provisioning around Microsoft Teams can avoid the proliferation of unused, duplicate and high-risk sites. If your Office 365 is failing, then a lack of governance could be what you need to address.

6. Create custom business apps

Sometimes organisations work in specific ways that arent quite met by the range of different Office 365 tools on offer. In these cases, creating some custom business apps that are wrapped around the way people work can have a huge impact. If you wrap these into your Office 365 intranet, even better. For example, at Moving Made Easy we crafted a whole custom digital workplace centred around key business processes, enabling digital transformation, and super-charging the Office 365 programme.

7. Use your SharePoint Online intranet as an integral part of Office 365

If you have an Office 365 programme it makes sense to include a SharePoint Online intranet as part of your roll-out. This can make any programme more successful, actively contributing to other aspects of your digital workplace,  including:

  • integrating other Office 365 tools into your intranet to drive business efficiency, and workflow
  • driving adoption by helping people find sites and spaces they are members of
  • supporting governance by encouraging use of certain tools
  • helping drive digital literacy through internal communications and access to resources.

As Microsoft continues ever closer integration between different Office 365 tools, your intranet can become the front door and the guide to the wider Office 365 universe.

8. Double down on change management efforts

As stated above, you usually need some kind of change management effort to support the best use of Office 365, a SharePoint Online intranet and the range of different tools. Change management can consist of a variety of different approaches including formal training, communications and support resources. A network of champions or evangelists who can promote your digital workplace to their peers is also now a common and highly effective way of rolling out Office 365. If your main problem relates to adoption, then doubling down on your change management efforts will be an effective tactic.

Still stuck?

Another option is to bring in external expertise and help to get Office 365 unstuck. Weve supported Office 365 and digital workplace teams both with advice as well as development work thats resulted in better tool adoption and a refreshed momentum. If your Office 365 roll-out is an epic fail and youd like to discuss ways to stop the rot then get in touch!

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