Author: Sarah Haase

Corporate collaboration evangelist & librarian | Microsoft MVP | Office 365/SharePoint Enthusiast

Organizational Culture: Take it or leave it, but it’s yours

Close up of men's rowing teamCan organizational culture predict the success or failure of your Office 365 rollout? Absolutely. The positive (or negative) impact of your organization’s culture has a direct influence on the success of your technology initiatives. After all, your culture defines how easy or difficult it is to do almost everything, from onboarding new employees to openly sharing ideas and driving adoption of new technologies.

Your IT department’s reputation and history of engagement with business teams is a key indicator of its cultural tie-in to your organization. An IT department that fosters open dialogue and has high-trust relationships with business teams has a tremendous advantage in deploying Office 365. Conversely, a tarnished set of relationships with IT can make it virtually impossible to drive successful change management efforts. Users that distrust or have an adversarial relationship with IT may be predisposed to view all IT initiatives in a negative light.

Your organizational culture is a living, breathing organism. It is built over time and is reinforced by operating norms, employee interactions, and executive modeling. Every communication decision your executives make and every unwritten social norm your departments have put in place has driven the design, shape, and usability of your culture. Changing (or rewriting) your organizational culture is a monumental effort that requires diligence, time, and a huge influx of positive energy. And ultimately, your employees will decide if the culture shift has a hope of succeeding.

Many factors can negatively impact your company’s culture: well-regarded executives leaving for new opportunities, founders selling the company or retiring, erosion of employee trust, etc.. Ironically, difficult economic times and business turbulence isn’t always a harbinger of negative culture shifts. Positive cultures can exist and thrive in negative business climates if there is trust, transparency, and a sense of company unity.

So what steps can you take to improve your company culture and support your Office 365 rollout? First, evaluate the current state of your organization’s culture. If you’re concerned your employees can’t evaluate your culture objectively, bring in outside consultants to perform a culture assessment. Next, build a vision for where you want to go. Interview employees, executives, and board members to gather their wish list for culture improvements. If you haven’t done so already, try leveraging innovation games to gather creative ideas for cultural improvements.

Once you’ve documented your current and desired future state, it’s time to build your transition plan. The specifics of your plan will be driven by your specific context, but common themes for cultural improvements include:

  • Aligning strategy & communications. Ensure your organizational goals are clearly defined and openly discussed at all levels. Having everyone on the same page and moving towards the same goal brings a sense of unity and common purpose.
  • Tear down the silos. Ensure your business teams are working together effectively and not competing for attention, funding, or recognition. Actively use the word “we” when referring to company initiatives, tasks, and efforts. Inclusive language fosters a collaborative, engaging atmosphere.
  • Be transparent. Employees can sense inauthenticity. Consistent, strong leadership is critical, and transparency and trust will build bridges and inspire cooperative behaviors.
  • Communicate early and often. Talk about what’s going well and what still needs work. Engage in departmental, cross-departmental, and all-employee meetings and engage everyone in the mission to improve your company culture. A unified strategy will help achieve buy-in and drive adoption.

There’s no wrong time to start your cultural transformation. Yes, it would be ideal if all our organizations had a winning culture before we began rolling out Office 365. This is rarely the case, so don’t sweat it if you’re not in a perfect position. Where you’ve been is less important than where you’re going.

SharePoint Fest Chicago 2018

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It’s almost time for SharePoint Fest Chicago 2018! I’m excited to head back to Chicago next week for this year’s conference, where I’ll be presenting a half-day user adoption workshop along with sessions on designing next-gen user adoption events, reeling in overgrown SharePoint implementations, and governing usage of SharePoint hub sites.

SharePoint Fest Chicago is always a great event. There’s a mix of technical how-to sessions on SharePoint and Office 365 along with conceptual sessions on user adoption, governance, business valuation, search, content management, etc. For more information on the great content being offered, check out the conference agendaStill want to register? Use discount code Haase100 and save $100 on your registration.

Abstracts for my conference workshop and sessions are included below. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the event!

business-commerce-container-379964SharePoint/Office 365 User Adoption Master Class

A smooth deployment isn’t enough. Driving effective utilization of SharePoint and Office 365 is more than building effective migration strategies, training users on key features or sending out marketing emails. This master class provides a deep-dive on the components of user adoption. You’ll learn why user adoption programs succeed and fail, gain practical experience designing adoption strategies and learn how to leverage innovation games to build consensus.

During this workshop, you will:

  • Learn the basic foundations of user adoption, including key intrinsic and extrinsic motivators
  • Understand how different types of users in your organization can make (or break) your chances of user adoption success
  • Understand how innovation games can help drive shared understanding, uncover user requirements and drive engagement/enthusiasm
  • Examine real-world user adoption programs and determine how and why they were successful

brandon-green-321795-unsplashThe Peter Pan complex: Determining when a SharePoint site should grow into a hub site

We’ve been waiting for it….and now SharePoint hub sites are here! Hubs enable us to create a shared experience for a group of related SharePoint sites, including: common navigation, unified branding, aggregated news displays, and multi-site search. But how do you determine which sites should be hubs? And how do you manage the fulfillment of hub site requests?

As SharePoint site owners are educated about the capabilities of hub sites, demand for new hubs will increase. This session outlines key business criteria you’ll want to consider as you start leveraging hub sites. You’ll learn:

  • What hub sites are and how hubs can be leveraged
  • How to determine when a hub site is needed (e.g. should every department have a hub site? What are the criteria for leveraging a hub site?)
  • How to build an organizational strategy for usage and governance of hub sites
  • Practical ideas for managing the provisioning of hub sites

rawpixel-315193-unsplashNext-gen user adoption: Leveraging hack-a-thons to drive creative Office 365 engagement

We want our users to leverage Office 365 to drive productivity and collaboration. But how do we engage our users, spark their creativity, and inspire them to build Office 365 solutions that re-imagine work? Hack-a-thons are an immersive and inexpensive way to build enthusiasm and foster learning. Hack-a-thon participants take part in the entire design and build process, from envisioning new business solutions to learning how to build capabilities in Office 365.

This session explores the use of hack-a-thons to drive user interest, enthusiasm, and innovation. You’ll leave with practical tips on how to design and facilitate a hack-a-thon event for your organization or user group.

An old abandoned house overgrown withReclaiming SharePoint: How to reel in an overgrown implementation

SharePoint is organic. File-based SharePoint sites grow exponentially, consuming more and more storage space and making it difficult for users to find what they need. Governance plans designed to steer SharePoint’s utilization tarnish over time, discouraging users from adopting the platform.

This session outlines the reasons why SharePoint environments become overgrown and under-utilized and provides practical guidance on how you can assess your implementation and create a revitalization plan. We’ll also review several real-world SharePoint turnaround stories, highlighting the challenges faced and the methods taken to revive user adoption. Whether you have a “green-field” implementation with no formal governance in place or have a faded governance model that is no longer working, you’ll leave this session with proven techniques for engaging your key constituents and driving change.

Information architecture in a flat SharePoint world

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There’s a tectonic shift taking place in the world of SharePoint information architecture. The deep nested webs of SharePoint 2007 and 2010 site collections are a thing of the past, as is the exhausting task of combatting site urban sprawl. We’re now being told to rest easy and create a multitude of modern SharePoint sites. And these modern SharePoint sites don’t exist in a hierarchy with many sub-sites. Since each modern site is its own site collection, all modern sites exist in a flat architecture. Managing hordes of these modern SharePoint sites is easier than ever, with stronger built-in management capabilities (e.g. retention policies and labels), meatier reporting, and an advanced Office 365 modern admin center. But why is a flat information architecture better? And how do we help our users connect the dots between our multitude of modern SharePoint sites?

Before we examine why flatter is better, I want to ensure we have a common definition of information architecture. I define SharePoint information architecture as the art and science of organizing, storing, and labeling content (e.g. documents, list data, Office 365 groups, SharePoint sites, etc.) to support content findability and usability. Information architecture helps your users find what they need and ensures your content is stored once and not multiple times.

Now let’s review why a flat SharePoint site architecture is advantageous:

  • Flat = modular. Flat SharePoint sites can be assembled in an endless array of logical families (as opposed to a physical hierarchical architecture of nested site collections). These logically-grouped SharePoint sites support quick navigation and contextual flow without requiring sites to move and data to be migrated anytime an information architecture change is required. Microsoft released SharePoint hub sites in March 2018 to help us manage families of SharePoint sites using these logical links. No physical relocation is required for hub sites–sites are linked together and links can be updated quickly and easily.
  • Adapts to ever-changing organization structures. A flat information architecture eliminates the need to migrate sub-sites to new site collections based on departmental reorganization. Re-orgs may require updates to the navigation links between your site collections (or updates to your hub site’s navigation bar), but it will not require a physical migration of your SharePoint site or result in a site URL change.
  • Supports new Office 365 capabilities. Functionality like Office 365 groups are heavily reliant on a modern information architecture. Office 365 groups serve as the security foundations for a wide array of functionality in Planner, Yammer, Exchange, and Microsoft Teams. New Office 365 groups cannot be nested–each exists at the same layer as all other groups. Quite simply, a hierarchical information architecture cannot be used easily alongside Office 365 group-enabled capabilities.
  • Enables sites to operate independently. As I mentioned previously, every SharePoint site in a flat architecture is its own site collection. This enables each site to operate independently, with custom permissions and unique governance settings. There’s no longer a need for all sub-sites in a site collection to be ruled by the governance requirements of one site. Each modern site has independent settings.
  • Shorter site URLs. When you create a nested series of sub-sites in SharePoint, you end up with long URL addresses for your sites. If you have an Information Technology site collection with a child Help Desk site, your URL would look something like this: https://splibrarian.sharepoint.com/sites/Information%20Technology/Help%20Desk/
    If you create these same sites in a flat information architecture, you will have shorter, easier-to-use URLs:
    https://splibrarian.sharepoint.com/sites/Information%20Technology/
    https://splibrarian.sharepoint.com/sites/Help%20Desk/

Mind-mapping our SharePoint sites
This new flat architecture requires us to change the way we conceptualize and present our SharePoint sites. Instead of building pyramid-style site hierarchies, we need to build a logical links and connection points based on subject matter, user base, etc. Tying sites together by department or organizational division is no longer enough. We must account for how users will think about the content stored on our sites and the connections they’ll make as they access SharePoint Online.

A good model for this new conceptual model is mind-mapping. Mind-mapping is the visual representation of thoughts, discussions, and ideas. It connects thoughts and ideas together in a documented, visual map (almost like a cognitive diagram). While many strategists and information architecture practitioners have advocated using mind-maps for years to capture group conversations and decision-making processes, the new flat architecture model for SharePoint now requires us to apply this same mind-map thinking to the logical ties between our multitude of modern sites.

The example mind-map below shows how ideas and data points can be connected to a central ideal/theme in a visual way. If we apply this mind-map idea to connecting our SharePoint sites or hub site families together, we’ll be in a better position to build navigation links and “connect” our flat SharePoint sites together in a usable way.

Example mind-map. Illustration credit: Meagan Haase
Sketchnote

 

Disruption vs. Value: Keeping your Office 365 Initiative Afloat

As Office 365 practitioners, we need to consider the speed with which we roll out app capabilities to our organizations. Yes, some of our advanced users can make use of a wide array of Office 365 apps quickly and with relatively little discomfort. But most of our users are disrupted by the rollout and onboarding process for new technologies. The delicate balance of success hinges on generating enough disruption to change user behavior without alienating the very users we’re trying to engage.

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Disruptions are not always a bad thing. Disruptive ideas and events are often credited with bringing about periods of great change and innovation. Office 365 provides an opportunity for your users to rethink the way they work and drive massive gains in their personal productivity. The intelligent form capabilities of PowerApps, the workflow automation of Microsoft Flow, the connected teams communication vehicles in Microsoft Teams, and the mobile capabilities of OneDrive and OneNote can be leveraged to drive a stronger digital workplace.

But how much disruption is too much? And how do you balance the executive “value” question with the impact of disrupting your users? This blog post examines this delicate balance of value versus disruption.

Note: Before you can evaluate how to roll out Office 365, you need to validate WHY Office 365 is right for your business. After all, technology is secondary. Our business drivers and employee needs come first. For more information, check out my blog post It’s not about the technology. It’s about the use case.

Determining your path
Every organization is unique. While there is a plethora of guidance on how to approach your Office 365 rollout, you should not blindly implement a “one-size-fits-most” strategy. Your approach needs to reflect the culture of your organization. If you work for an innovative think tank that prides itself on offering cutting-edge technology, a slow-and-steady Office 365 rollout is ill-advised. On the opposite end of the spectrum, organizations with a high degree of technical debt and a user base that is averse to change should carefully plan and communicate their Office 365 deployment.

I recommend creating formal personas for each of the key user groups that will leverage Office 365 in your organization. Ideally, these personas should be granular enough to account for each of the different Office 365 applications you roll out. You may have a business user persona, for example, that leverages Microsoft Flow to drive departmental process improvements. You may also have a customer service technician persona that leverages Yammer to respond to user questions and drive reductions in support desk calls.

Each user persona should identify:

  • High-level work objectives
  • Technology pain points the user faces
  • The user’s appetite for adapting to change
  • The speed with which the user adopts new technologies
  • Technology learning preferences
  • Preferred training and communication mediums (e.g. brown bags, video-based learning, self-service knowledge base, etc.)

These user personas should inform your Office 365 rollout strategy and form the basis for your user adoption campaign. The personas can also be used to build adoption targets for each of your Office 365 applications. Adoption targets estimate the rate at which users will leverage your new Office 365 capability. If you have 1,000 Office 365 users, for example, you may target having 10% of your users adopt Microsoft Flow within the first 12 months. Your Microsoft Flow rollout plan should account for driving this user growth, and monthly checks should be performed to measure your adoption efforts against your defined goals.

You must also determine what criteria your executive leadership team will use in determining the success or failure of your Office 365 implementation. Start by assessing the key business drivers for your organization and industry. Are your executives driven by financial metrics like margin, lower operating expenses, and total cost of ownership? Or are they swayed by productivity optimization (e.g. shortened business processes, workforce innovations, etc.)? The goal is to clearly articulate the value Office 365 is providing to your organization. Substantiating these value claims with appropriate supporting evidence (e.g. usage statistics, Office 365 success stories, user testimonials, etc.) is important. Executives are discerning, especially when it comes to business value claims. Your success depends on your ability to thoroughly back up your Office 365 value assessment.

An interesting debate
At Microsoft Ignite 2018, a set of REgarding 365 experts debated whether organizations should turn on all the Office 365 apps at once or take a slower rollout approach. The debate commentary brilliantly summarizes the disruption challenges organizations face. Take a look at these quotes from the debate:

“Not everybody needs everything…think about what you’re doing, what business challenges you’re trying to address” – Loryan Strant

“Experimentation is the lifeblood for innovation…I have to have all the availability of the things I want to use to be able to create solutions. I don’t want to be halfway down a path of a solution and then fall into some type of a trap that I can’t complete the solution based on the fact that I don’t have access to a certain tool” – Liz Sundet

“Are you operational-ready? Are you able to support all of the requests that are going to come at you all at once when you turn everything on?” – Daniel Glenn

“Office 365 is a suite. It’s not really individual products…so you’ve really got to go for it and turn everything on” – Steve Collier

“The company does not have (an) appetite for that which it does not understand” – session attendee

“We were challenged by our boss to get it (Office 365) out in 90 days. So we basically turned everything on, got it all out there, and then realized we have no governance whatsoever in place. And it was a disaster. We have group names, we have 5,000 SharePoint sites that nobody ever uses. And it’s just out of control. That’s one of the problems with turning it on without having the governance. Once you get the governance and all your framework in place, turn it on. Let people innovate. But make sure you’re there before you turn it on” – session attendee

You can watch this session in its entirety at Turn it all on in Office 365 – RE365 Debate (BRK1092).

The bottom line
Office 365 implementations are disruptive, and that’s OK. Success isn’t about avoiding disruption. Success hinges on driving business outcomes that outweigh and outlast user disruption. How much time you have to drive those business outcomes and how much allowance you have for causing disruption is going to be unique to your situation. The key is determining what business value looks like at your organization and building user personas that can help you limit the disruptive force of your rollout.

You also need to ensure your executives understand your approach and expected adoption of Office 365. If you have aligned your Office 365 rollout strategy with your business goals and clearly understand the value your executives want to see from your implementation, you’re on a solid path to success. Misalignment of expectations will fracture and limit the efficacy of your results.

As you roll out Office 365, keep your executives apprised of unexpected delays or changes in your forecasted adoption rates. Any gaps between your executive’s expectations and your project’s realities should be identified and communicated quickly.

SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities: Fall 2018 Edition

SPSTC_logo_smallSharePoint Saturday Twin Cities is coming up fast! Our Fall 2018 event will be held November 17, 2018 at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota. We’ll have 40 sessions from an impressive set of nationally-recognized Office 365 and SharePoint speakers. Sessions will be focused on several tracks, including:

  • Office 365
  • PowerApps & Microsoft Flow
  • Microsoft Office
  • Information Workers
  • Developers
  • IT Pros/Admins

We have 600+ attendees registered so far, but there’s still time (and space) to sign up! Register now. Or check out our website for information on the day’s schedule, sessions, and speakers.

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It’s not about the technology. It’s about the use case

This week, I participated in a REgarding 365 debate about use of org-wide Microsoft Teams. Not surprisingly, the Microsoft Teams versus Yammer question was raised multiple times. Here’s the thing–there are uses for Microsoft Teams (including org-wide teams) and there are uses for Yammer. In the end, it’s not about which tool myself or the other REgarding 365 panelists prefer. The valid questions are:

  • What are your organizational use cases and content needs?
  • What is your company culture?
  • Which technologies best fit your use cases and culture?

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Use cases are practical business needs (aka requirements) that need to be met. Examples of use cases include:

  • Sharing organization-wide HR policy changes
  • Sharing strategy and content updates from the company’s CEO
  • Providing newly-onboarded employees with a resource center for frequently asked questions
  • Enabling employees to instant message, chat, and screen share with their peers
  • Enabling employees to quickly engage with other employees and members of IT on technology support questions

As collaboration strategists, our first job is identifying and documenting the unique use cases for our organization. Next, we need to assess our organizational culture, including: company values and norms; technology adeptness (aka how well our users adopt new technologies); and readiness for change (e.g. do our users welcome change or do they fear it?).

When we view our use cases alongside our company culture, we’ll be able to determine which technologies are best-suited to meet our needs. There is no one-size-fits-all model or one Microsoft 365 capability that wins the day. Let’s look at our organizational use cases and culture and determine what tool works best for our specific needs.

REgarding 365 debate #4: Org-wide Microsoft teams

Microsoft Teams will now support creation of organization-wide teams for small-to-medium sized companies. Org-wide teams can be created by Office 365 global administrators, but are limited to organizations with no more than 1,000 users. The org-wide public team will automatically incorporate all company users, pulling Active Directory information for everyone who joins or leaves the organization.

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This new capability is generating some interesting discussions about how to best facilitate org-wide dialogue. Is Microsoft Teams best suited to host this type of open communication? And how would this new feature impact use of the All Company group in Yammer? The REgarding 365 team has assembled some thoughts on these questions. Check out our latest video:

We’ll be taking this discussion to the next level as we debate the merits of org-wide Microsoft teams. Tune in on October 25, 2018 at 4pm Central time to hear the debate live

The importance of Community Managers

I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in the SharePoint and Office 365 community for many years. The relationships I’ve formed have helped me grow my career, expand my technical knowledge, and build lifelong friendships. This community is special because of the people in it–people who are willing to support one another and share what they know. This selflessness is the distinguishing characteristic of strong community managers.

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Community managers give their time and talent to support the growth and development of others. Community managers come in a variety of forms. They can be internal Office 365 administrators, user group leaders, Microsoft MVPs, Yammer evangelists, or people who engage in regular Twitter conversations about SharePoint/Office 365. The community manager role can be formally acknowledged (e.g. leader of a formal user group or online community) or informally earned (e.g. an Office 365 user that drives engagement by regularly liking and commenting on Yammer posts). The hallmarks of the community manager are what they give to others–support, encouragement, and a continued positive focus.

I had the good fortune to spend time with several great community managers at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando a couple of weeks ago. Folks like Darrell Webster, Phil Worrell, Liz Sundet, Heather Newman, and Tracy van der Schyff encourage others to come forward and share what they know. They support a diversity of opinions, give others a chance to shine, and applaud people publicly for their contributions.

This concept of community management was also woven through several of the #MSIgnite sessions I attended. In her session on how Kimberly-Clark powers employee engagement with Yammer, Karen Prather outlined key ways community managers drive engagement:

  • Promote the creation of new community content
  • Drive ongoing dialogue by liking and commenting on posts frequently
  • Jump-start conversations by posting questions and user polls
  • Share popular posts from other communities/groups to drive cross-engagement
  • Continually invite others to post and share content
  • Attach pictures and videos to posts to drive higher click-thru rates
  • Keep a pulse on the community (understand what drives it forward, what inspires community members, etc.)

I also had the opportunity to participate in the #MSIgnite meetup “Learning through sharing: The new way to build your community.” Darrell Webster, Daniel Glenn, Loryan Strant, and Alistair Pugin led a facilitated discussion on fostering in-person and virtual Office 365 conversations/user groups. There was no one-size-fits-all approach that worked across geographies and types of groups, but community managers that knew their audience and tailored their approach to match the unique needs of their users were the most successful.

If your SharePoint or Office 365 journey has been positively impacted by a community manager, take a few minutes to say thank you. And perhaps it’s time to consider whether you have the time and talent to lift up others in your community. We’re always looking for strong community managers to spark new conversations!

Creating a custom Microsoft Flow template gallery for your organization (part 2)

This flow internal template gallery was designed and built in partnership with Daniel Glenn, Office Apps & Services MVP. For more information about the template gallery solution we developed, check out Daniel’s blog post and his Microsoft Ignite 2018 session.

In my earlier post, I laid out a business case for creating an internal Microsoft Flow template gallery for your organization. The internal template gallery enables you to build and share custom Microsoft Flows within your Office 365 tenant. The gallery ensures company data and internal data connections in your flow templates are secure, while safely enabling your users to pool their collective knowledge and avoid re-work in building flows. You can also create a formal approval process for internal flow templates. The process ensures that flow templates are reviewed for accuracy and are appropriate for internal sharing.

But we don’t have to stop there. We can take this template gallery idea several steps farther by creating a Microsoft Flow Resource Community. The resource community can serve as a self-service gathering place for Microsoft Flow users in your organization, complete with links to training resources, Yammer discussion groups, your internal template gallery, etc. The resource community will:

  • Promote the use of Microsoft Flow by providing “getting started” materials for new users and a place for advanced users to share what they know
  • Support open dialogue and troubleshooting of flow issues
  • Prevent users from having to “recreate the wheel” by enabling easy re-use of flow templates
  • Provide a browsable interface for reviewing and downloading flow templates
  • Enable the submission and approval of flow templates for internal sharing
  • Drive engagement and adoption by providing a “community space” for Microsoft Flow

We recommend building your Microsoft Flow Resource Community on a SharePoint Online Communications site. You’ll want to customize the contents of your resource community, but here’s a list of suggestions to get you started:

  • Links to internal and external Microsoft Flow resources (e.g. 100-level introduction to flow, Microsoft’s flow guided learning site, the official Microsoft Flow team blog, and the Microsoft Flow Community).
  • Events calendar that highlights flow and other Office 365 learning opportunities
  • Microsoft Flow internal template gallery
  • Instructions on how to download flow templates from the gallery and leverage them to deploy new flows
  • Live display of Yammer conversations related to Microsoft Flow
  • Links to your Microsoft Flow governance policies
  • Information on where people can go to get advanced flow help

Most important–make the site relevant, engaging, and full of great flow content!

Now that we know what a Microsoft Flow Resource Community is, let’s take a look at a sample site.

The home page
We wanted a graphic, engaging home page for our Microsoft Flow Resource Community. The hero web part at the top of the page contains links to various flow learning resources. The remainder of the page includes our flow template catalog, a display of our Microsoft Flow Yammer group, and a list of upcoming Office 365 events. (Note: We elected to use the classic Yammer web part on our site because it enables full engagement. Users can like and comment on Yammer posts directly from the resource community without having to open Yammer in a new browser tab. For more information on the available Yammer web parts and the differencees between them, see my Yammer web part blog post.)

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Our flow template catalog is built using a series of News pages–one page for each flow template. News pages are stored in the Site Pages library, and the catalog is displayed on the site home page via the News web part. To help users quickly see which app(s) are included in the flow template, we added an app graphic to each template news page.

Let’s take a look at one of our template news pages in more detail. The banner across the top of the page displays the name of the flow template and the related app(s) the flow uses. Screen shots of the flow are displayed on the left, along with a clickable link to download the flow ZIP file template. A detailed description of the flow is provided on the right. The description pages for all flow templates include the same standard information–a description of how the flow works, a list of the required Office 365 or external application connections that the flow requires (e.g. a valid OneDrive account, a valid Box account, etc.), and a link to instructions on how to use the flow template ZIP file. A comments box at the bottom of the page enables users to comment on each of the templates.

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If you want to enable all Microsoft Flow users in your organization to submit workflow templates to your gallery, you may want to consider building out a review and approval process. Consider your must-have safety controls and review requirements as you build out this gatekeeping process. While governance is important, all governance policies and procedures should drive innate value.

We hope this Microsoft Flow Resource Community sparks your creativity. Best of luck in creating a site of your own!

Driving adoption of Microsoft Flow

Depositphotos_70209473_originalIn the land of Office 365, Microsoft Flow users are unique. While most of your users may use Outlook for email, OneDrive for file storage, and Microsoft Teams for intra-team collaboration, not all your users will create and leverage flows. Your approach to Microsoft Flow user adoption needs to account for this uniqueness. While you can launch broad Office 365 awareness campaigns, you will need to create a targeted adoption model just for Microsoft Flow.

Your user adoption campaign should focus on 4 key goals:

  1. Make flow relevant. Show your users how Microsoft Flow can help them meet their business goals. Making flow relevant to their daily work lives will drive home the why.
  2. Make flow achievable. Some innovators may start using Microsoft Flow based on word-of-mouth discussions or native curiosity about what the app can do. But the vast majority of your users will need help breaking through the conceptual barriers to using flow. They need an easy way to learn the basics, easy wins that can boost their confidence, and a method for getting peer or expert IT support as they start building more advanced workflows.
  3. Give your users a running start. Teach your users how to leverage Microsoft’s existing flow template gallery. And to drive stronger adoption and greater ROI, consider building out a series of company-specific flow templates that can be re-used internally.
  4. Make them shine. Provide your users with the educational materials and coaching they need to build flows that will make a difference and drive business value. Turning new flow users into flow superheroes will ensure continued adoption.

Planning for your flow user adoption campaign
To get started, you will need to clearly identify your target audience. I recommend creating formal personas for each of the key user groups you believe will leverage Microsoft Flow. You may have a business user, for example, that creates flows to help drive departmental process improvements. You may have a developer that creates flows as part of an agile engineering team. Identifying key types of flow users, documenting the reasons why they would leverage flow, and identifying their technology learning preferences will lay the groundwork for your custom user adoption campaign.

Once you identify your user personas, start building a target estimate for flow user volume. The estimate should project the rate at which users will start leveraging flow. If you have 1,000 Office 365 users, for example, you may target having 10% of your users adopt Microsoft Flow within the first 12 months. Your flow user adoption plans should account for driving this user growth, and monthly checks should be performed to measure your adoption efforts against your defined goals.

Now that you’ve identified your target adoption rate, it’s time to start building your flow user adoption campaign. It’s vital that you design your campaign to reflect and complement your organization’s culture. Look at programs that have succeeded or failed in your organization and unpack the key lessons learned. Determine what types of education and communication initiatives work well in your organization. If employees at your company don’t engage with or read news stories published on your company intranet, then publishing mass-market intranet articles about flow will not yield much success. If brown bags are popular, consider hosting targeted lunch and learns for each of your core Microsoft Flow user personas.

You also need to determine how to invest your valuable time and user adoption efforts. As I explain in Change by color: The secret of green dots, yellow dots and red dots, some of your users will readily accept change and be driven to adopt new technologies based on an intrinsic desire to learn and grow. Invest in these change adopters, but don’t overcommit your time. Target your efforts on the users that are slower to adapt but are still willing to change and learn new technologies.

Once you’ve defined your user personas and built specific user adoption campaign ideas that fit your corporate culture, you’re ready! Identify business needs and existing work processes that can be improved using Microsoft Flow. Leverage these opportunities as “starter projects” that will show of flow’s capabilities. Ensure you’re working alongside key influencers and innovators on your business teams for these starter projects. You want to engage with users that embrace technology and are quick to adopt. They’ll be willing to hear new ideas and, if they’re successful, will be able to evangelize flow’s capabilities. If you have resources that are already knowledgeable about Microsoft Flow (e.g. pilot testers or members of IT), introduce them to key business users and foster peer mentorship opportunities.

Most importantly, remember that flow user adoption isn’t a one-time project. In order for flow user adoption to become a reality, you need to treat it as an ongoing service. And yes, you’ll need to build, evolve, and drive your adoption program from now until the day you stop leveraging Microsoft Flow. Even the most successful adoption programs will die without dedicated attention and fresh ideas.