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4 common mistakes with Office 365 and SharePoint Online intranet rollout

Many organisations are currently undergoing an Office 365 programme; this can be a complex multi-year programme involving multiple projects and workstreams, different phases, a wide number of teams, various moving parts and some real challenges. Its a major change for most organizations it takes a lot of planning!

We can guarantee that virtually every project team will make mistakes along the way. Implementing Office 365 is absolutely a learning curve and some setbacks and blockages go with the territory; they are inevitable in the path towards success. Usually these issues tend to mean a delay to your plans., although at their worst an Office 365 roll-out can feel like an epic failure.

Over the years weve seen some common pitfalls that Office 365 and digital workplace teams fall into when rolling out Office 365 and its constituent tools. Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and some of these mistakes can be avoided. Here are four common mistakes weve observed with clients and what you can do to avoid them!

Mistake #1
Migrating all the content over from your legacy intranet

The problem:

Many Office 365 implementations involve creating a new SharePoint Online intranet, not only transforming internal communications but also acting as a front door to the new Office 365-powered digital workplace. Often much time is spent on getting the intranet to look great and integrating powerful capabilities; however, many teams fail to address the quality of the content on the new intranet.

One of the reasons for this is they just migrate the content over from the legacy intranet, even though poor content on the old intranet was one of the reasons for building a new one! Usually an intranet that is being replaced may have poor governance and become bloated with out of date, irrelevant and poorly written pages.

Migrating this content over may seem like the easiest starting point to get a new intranet project off the ground quickly, especially as preparing high quality content can be time-consuming. However, the net result can be a disappointment for users expecting a new platform with relevant and engaging content and the easy ability to find items. Frustrating your users who already dont trust the content on your old intranet is the worst possible start for a new SharePoint Online intranet.

The solution:

When you first launch an Office 365 intranet make sure all content is relevant, has a purpose, is accurate, well-written and conforms to defined publishing standards. Avoid simply migrating your legacy content over. Instead work with content owners to review all content and only migrate over what is necessary; many successful intranet projects end up deleting most legacy content. Some teams also consider hiring copywriters or content specialists to help content owners rework pages.

Once your new SharePoint Online intranet is launched then establish governance measures and processes to keep content high quality! This will help drive findabiity and effective search, as well as increasing trust, engagement and adoption.

Mistake #2
Underestimating the change management effort

The problem:

A key mistake some organisations make is to neglect the change management aspects of Office 365, particularly if the full range of tools are exposed to users without explanation, for example via the waffle menu. Office 365 has the potential to transform organisations with new ways of working, but the tools can be confusing. When employees arent properly prepared for Office 365 the result can be a lack of adoption, less than successful use or even misuse of different tools and general confusion. Users then tend to fall back on systems and tools they are more comfortable with, particularly email.

Many project teams underestimate the change management effort that needs to happen around launch, as well as afterwards in the business as usual phase. Operationally a project team may find themselves simultaneously focusing on the next wave of tools to be rolled out and trying to support new users on the tool they have just launched. This can be caused by not enough budget being allocated to change management, as well as an over ambitious launch schedule.

Overall, inadequate change management can be a significant issue that impacts user and stakeholder confidence in Office 365 and dampens the success of your roll-out both for the short, medium and even the long term.

The solution:

Make sure you plan properly for change management using a range of targeted interventions and communications. Users need to understand how to use tools but also why they would benefit from using them.

Approaches and tactics that have proved useful for companies include:

  • using networks of champions to promote the tools in ways that make more sense to local teams
  • providing learning resources, including videos
  • having an expert community on hand to answer questions
  • traditional comms
  • training modules and e-learning
  • using senior leaders to set an example
  • establishing aids to show which tool to use in which scenario.

Additionally, having good governance and realistic budgeting for your change programme, as well as a realistic launch schedule. are also important.

Mistake #3
Establish OneDrive governance and ensure people know what they are posting

The problem:

One of the most powerful elements of your Office 365 environment will be the ability to search for documents that previously have been hidden and effectively lost in your file shares. All of a sudden, tools like Delve and Microsoft Graph-powered search will be suggesting content and surfacing those documents that individuals may have previously submitted to a Teams space, SharePoint library or may be sharing via One Drive for the first time.

This has lots of benefits, but it does come with a risk. If you dont have any governance in place for OneDrive and other document libraries, the new search capabilities can suddenly expose sensitive, private or restricted documents that dont have the necessary permissions on them. You dont want employees to accidentally stumble on a spreadsheet with everybodys salary details or find your CEOs highly sensitive restructuring plans.

Not putting the right permissions on a document may be a common practice if previously placing items on the network share made them effectively undiscoverable because nobody could usually find the document. Similarly, when employees share a document (or their desktop too) via OneDrive they may not realise that is discoverable by everybody. Your new Office 365 environment may no longer be a black hole but actually a highly effective way to discover and find files, including ones that employees shouldnt see.

The risks involved can be high, with a range of unfortunate outcomes. It may also result in nervous stakeholders who could halt or even pull the plug entirely on your roll-out.

The solution:

Before you proceed with rolling out Delve, Graph search or indeed any Office 365 rollout, make sure that you have governance in place around document sharing to avoid unfortunate slip-ups. There are usually three conditions that need to be satisfied:

  • Documents exposed have the necessary restrictions on them
  • Risks associated with sharing documents are minimized through policies and rules
  • Users understand when they submit or share a document who can potentially see it.

Only the necessary content audit and clean-up exercise, definition and execution of polices and related communication and training can achieve this. This may sound onerous, but a package of governance measures is the only way to minimise the risk of something happening.

Mistake #4
Make sure you AD data is in shape

The problem:

When many organisations introduce Office 365 and also start to implement a powerful intranet like Wizdom they are attracted by the idea of being able to use personalization to target relevant content and experiences to different groups, for example based on their location, function and role. For internal comms functions and HR departments this is one of the most exciting reasons for deploying a modern communication platform like Wizdom.

However, companies can make the mistake of not preparing their Active Directory (AD) data so that is complete and up to date. Personalization and targeting are based on AD profiles but if this data is in poor shape, then it may not be possible to fully leverage the personalization capabilities of your intranet product right from the get-go; this will be disappointing for the communications team and result in a less relevant intranet and digital workplace.

The solution:

Complete and reliable AD data is a prerequisite for a successful Office 365 and SharePoint Online intranet. Content targeting and personalization needs to be both robust and granular, and its not unusual for Active Directory to have large gaps that are not exposed until you come to launch your intranet. To circumvent problems run a thorough clean up AD exercise to get rid of inaccuracies and fill the gaps. When you do have cleaner data, setting governance processes or even using AI tools can really improve your AD data and also keep it clean.

Learning from mistakes

Making mistakes and then learning from these is a common experience of rolling out Office 365. In this post weve explored some common issues that are avoidable we dont want you to repeat them!

If you need help with your Office 365 roll-out, your SharePoint Online intranet launch or everything just feels like an epic fail, then dont panic! Get in touch with us to discuss your options.

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