Ten takeaways about Microsoft 365 and SharePoint adoption and change management

Driving adoption and change management (ACM) in Microsoft 365 and related channels such as a SharePoint intranet is a big-ticket item for every intranet and digital workplace team.

Teams want to increase the adoption of the platform and ensure it is being used in ways which deliver sustainable value; an intranet or digital workplace with limited adoption is not successful. But adoption and change management is not always straightforward.

Recently the Content Formula Team – consisting of Alex Yeomans, Manpreet Baghi and John Scott – hosted a webinar titled “Achieving adoption on your Microsoft 365 intranet”.

We were lucky to be joined by Si Steers, Head of Digital Product, Channels & Editorial, Internal Communications at Entain Group. Content Formula worked with Si and his team to help launch a new digital workplace at Entain, a large and growing brand in the gaming sector.

In this post we’re going to explore ten ACM takeaways from the session. You can also watch a recording below.

1. The ADKAR framework is great for embedding and sustaining change

Fundamentally change management is about people and changing behaviours. It’s also a mature discipline with a vast body of knowledge and range of frameworks and methodologies. One of the most popular of these is ADKAR – a robust methodology that Content Formula use and advocate for. One of the strengths of the ADKAR model is that helps to embed but then also sustain change but through a series of different steps.

In the webinar, Manpreet walked us through each step:

  • Awareness – driving awareness about the change and the need to change (“Have you heard of the proposed change”)
  • Desire – focusing and instilling a desire for people to change (“I am excited to get on board”)
  • Knowledge – providing knowledge about the change (“I have attended the training session and feel more confident”)
  • Ability – ensuring people are actually carry out the change required (“I am using the software daily now”)
  • Reinforcement – reinforcing the change for the longer-term (“I am complemented for incorporating this change”).

2. ACM is critical for Microsoft 365

Many organisations are implementing Microsoft 365 across their digital workplace. Here, adoption and change management is integral for success. Achieving ROI on the platform is dependent on adoption at scale but this will involve people using new tools and working in new ways for widespread communication and collaboration; only then can you expected to get the widespread productivity and efficiency gains that Microsoft 365 promises.

Manpreet also explained how Microsoft 365 also enables remote and hybrid working – another area which requires extensive change management. Moreover, when changes in behaviour are truly embedded and users are confident with using new tools, it also means you can start to advance the digital workplace and explore new and more sophisticated ways of using the tools at hand.

3. ACM has some key challenges

ACM is not always straightforward and does come with some common challenges. When teams are aware of these, they can then plan ahead to make sure their ACM efforts have maximum impact. Common challenges cover a number of areas:

  • Change fatigue is a common issue in change management with employees exhausted from a continual series of initiatives, making it harder to embed any further change.
  • Resistance to change is also common and there will always be groups who feel either threatened by the change or refuse to break existing habits.
  • ACM is often about winning both hearts and minds, and frequently employees get how to work with new tools, but don’t get the “why” behind the change, making it harder to change behaviours.
  • Sometimes usage is not advanced enough – for example Teams adoption might be high, but it is not being used in the right way – so the required change has not gone far enough.
  • Microsoft 365 and Office 365 are constantly being updated with new tools and improvements to existing tools within the suite; while this has its benefits, it does mean it can be hard to keep up with all the changes, and therefore manage the change effectively.
  • In digital workplace projects, ACM activity is not always adequately budgeted for; the change management budget can also get eaten into as other priorities or issues emerge.

In the webinar the team explored some of the ways to tackle these challenges such as using personas to help design the change effort and getting the right messaging across in communications.

4. Think about the short, medium and long-term

In the second half of the webinar, we heard from Si Steers at Entain Group. Entain is a diverse company with 25,000 employees spread across different countries, and includes a 14,000-strong frontline workforce based in shops in the UK. Content Formula helped Entain to move to a new Microsoft 365-based digital workplace, introducing Yammer and a new intranet called Entain.Me.

Si explained that when it comes to ACM it is important to think in the short-, medium- and long-term. Over the course of the year-long project to launch Entain’s digital workplace and also after going live, managing change has been baked into everything the core team does; initially getting people excited about the change, making it “sticky” in the medium term, and then refreshing the platform to support the ongoing change.

5. Launch with a splash but support users

In the session, Si talked about some of the activities the team carried out to launch Entain.Me, helping to grab the attention of employees, but also supporting users:

  • The team designed a communication campaign that had the consistent message that Entain.Me was a unique and personalised experience built around every individual user
  • They created a hashtag called #PlayYourWay and other communications that strongly echoed this message.
  • The launched an Entain.Me “Playbook” designed to help users get the most out of the new platform.
  • A classy and well-received launch video was created which was more of a “lifestyle” video than being about technology.
  • They made a quick-fire video series walking users through different platform features.
  • They created a Yammer community where people could ask questions about Entain.Me
  • They held a global “masterclass” event held via Yammer, which was an introduction and walk-through of the new intranet.

6. Support your publishing community

An essential component of any new intranet is also having good content. Content Formula worked with Si’s team to also focus on change management for the content owner community too, ensuring they felt supported. A site for content owners called Entain.Me Guru with a variety of guides and resources was set up. Initial training was also provided with an ongoing set of weekly drop-in content clinics, each one focusing on a separate theme, as well as the ability to ask different questions. This helped content owners migrate and create content in time for the launch of Entain.Me.

7. Leverage champions for long-term success

One successful change management approach that the Entain team has used is to leverage local champions who can embed changes with their peers in meaningful ways that make sense for local teams; this also helps a small central team to drive ACM across a large and diverse workforce.

The “Tecchies” – part of a wider ambassador programme called the Entainers – are acting as change agents on the ground to drive adoption of both Yammer and Entain.Me. They attend team meetings, share updates and help colleagues on the ground. Currently there are about 40 champions, but Si explained that he is keen to expand this to support the wider digital workplace journey.

8. Be mindful of the schedule

One important element in change management is to consider other change initiatives that are landing around the same time, or the order with which initiatives are launched to the business. Si explained that Yammer was launched before Entain.Me for two main reasons; firstly, the team did not want to overwhelm employees with two platforms launching at the same time. Secondly, as many Entain.Me sites had embedded Yammer groups, they wanted to ensure that Yammer was populated with content and discussions before people viewed it on the new intranet, so they didn’t find an “empty room”.

9. Don’t stand still

The need for ACM is always ongoing, even after a site has launched or a digital project has finished. Si advised that it as important not to “stand still”. Entain.Me was almost an MVP when it was launched, but there was always a vision for it evolve into a wider digital workplace with integrations to support a better employee experience.

The team are now working hard to iterate Entain.Me, for example to leverage Viva Connections to deliver more of that digital workplace “dashboard” functionality. Si emphasised that adoption and change management is a “continual journey without a start or end point” and it was essential not to let a site go out of date.

10. The essential ingredients of ACM

Towards the end of the session, Manpreet covered some of the essential ingredients of any successful ACM programme. These includes:

  • always putting employees at the centre of the change
  • ensuring you have a good understanding of any pain points that need addressing
  • establishing the right training and ongoing support
  • putting metrics in place in order to measure the change and track progress
  • having both peer-driven bottom-up communications perhaps though champions, but also top-down messaging to show endorsement from senior leaders
  • having a formal change and communication plan that targets efforts to different groups
  • making sure you have communications and assets that are engaging and stand out.

Need help with Office 365 or SharePoint adoption and change management?

ACM is critically important for Microsoft 365, SharePoint, Microsoft Viva and more. If you’d like to discuss your ACM strategy and approach for your digital workplace, then get in touch!

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