User Adoption

The Coffee Chat on 365 Adoption (episode 3)

img_4406

Daniel Glenn and I are releasing episode 3 in our podcast miniseries The Coffee Chat on 365 Adoption! The episode, titled User Adoption Planning for Office 365 Pilots & Rollouts, was recorded at the 2019 MVP Summit. It focuses on strategies for building user adoption campaigns to support Office 365 product rollouts. We discuss how user personas can help you identify product use cases and key product features, share practical ideas for generating user excitement, and talk about the importance of running Office 365 pilot programs to road-test your communications and training plans.

We hope you enjoy episode 3!

Have a user adoption question?
During our next episode, we’ll be answering user adoption questions. Want to have your question featured on the episode? Submit it now at https://go.re365.show/CoffeeChatQ

Want to know more about our podcast miniseries?
The Coffee Chat on 365 Adoption explores the challenge of driving Office 365 adoption at the organizational level. In episode 1, we dispelled the idea that adoption is an urban myth. We explained why the traditional “build it and they will come” IT model doesn’t work and outlined why organizations must invest in user adoption as an ongoing service.

Episode 2 focused on organizing and facilitating user adoption events. We shared creative ideas for hosting internal user group events, including virtual or in-person office hours, “lightning round” demos, and hack-a-thons (aka innovation day events). We also discussed the importance of making these events your own by tying them to your company culture.

Previous posts in this series:

Piloting your Office 365 rollout

architecture-black-building-1563085.jpg

If you’re just beginning to plan your Office 365 rollout (or are in the process of rolling out additional Office 365 applications), it’s important to consider the benefits of running a formal pilot program. A pilot enables a subset of users to access Office 365 prior to its rollout to the entire organization. There are many benefits to running a pilot, including:

  • Road-testing your communications and training. I host weekly Q&A calls for my pilot testers. The calls enable pilot participants to provide feedback on their experience, highlight favorite features, identify gaps in our training materials, recommend new methods for engaging business teams, etc.. This feedback is key because it comes from the business. Whenever possible, I like to test out the pilot users’ training ideas during the pilot itself. If they request a What is Office 365 training session, I’ll assemble a training curriculum and offer the new class to the pilot group. Taking this extra step during the pilot enables me to gather more feedback and puts me in the best possible position for my org-wide rollout.
  • Building a knowledgeable set of pilot users that can support your rollout and (hopefully) recommend Office 365 to their colleagues. Giving users early access to Office 365 and offering them the opportunity to impact your rollout builds rapport. This enhanced sense of community engagement will help you build momentum for your rollout, enhancing user adoption.
  • Testing your license enablement and support processes. As part of your pilot, you’ll need to enable Office 365 applications for your pilot testers. You’ll also need to provide support as they begin using the products. This is an excellent opportunity to test (and improve) your licensing and support processes. After all, pilot testers are more likely to forgive enablement issues and support delays. And learning from your mistakes during a pilot will ensure the same mistakes don’t occur during your org-wide rollout!
  • Identifying use cases and success stories. Ideally, your pilot testers will be leveraging the new capabilities they’ve received. Consider setting up time for them to show off their results. You may find unexpected use cases for Office 365 and success stories that highlight key value-adds. Leverage these use cases and success stories to tell the story of Office 365’s business value.
  • Validating your governance and compliance policies. A pilot program enables you to see how Office 365 performs in your environment. Your networking team can validate network traffic is flowing smoothly. Your information security team can validate all appropriate risk requirements have been met. If you have compliance or legal record hold requirements, those teams can validate to ensure data is being scanned, stored, and supervised appropriately. If there are issues, you have time to correct before Office 365 is rolled out to your entire organization.

Pilot Planning
But how big should your pilot be? And how long should it last? The scale of your pilot should reflect the size of your organization and the level of governance and compliance controls you need to implement.

As a general rule, I recommend building a pilot program that is roughly 3% of your overall user base. If you’ll be rolling out Office 365 to 10,000 users, that would mean having a pilot group of 300. If you have a user base of 50,000, you’d want to build a pilot group of 1,500. While this 3% target may sound large, it affords the best opportunity for user feedback. Keep in mind that you cannot expect strong participation from all pilot users. No matter how well-intentioned, there is always a percentage of pilot testers that contribute minimally or not at all. Targeting 3% of your user base ensures you will have a viable set of pilot testers to try out your products.

Your pilot program will also enable you to test key governance and compliance controls (e.g. archival and supervision of Outlook email, record retention, SharePoint hub site governance, etc.). In order to run a valid test, you will need a sufficient data sample size. If 3% of your user base will not give you enough data to work with, increase the size of your pilot group accordingly. It is always best to adjust any necessary governance policies or security and archival controls before your org-wide implementation.

Now that you have a rough idea of your pilot size, it’s time to start planning who should be part of the pilot. Ideally, you should target:

  • Highly engaged users from across multiple business lines (not just IT).
  • Green dot and yellow dot users that are quick to adapt to change.
  • Volunteers. Always engage those who want to be part of your pilot. These users are more likely to engage, will dedicate more time, and are much more likely to provide feedback. While it may be more work to amass a set of volunteer resources, they will be more engaged and provide better feedback than voluntold users.
  • Strong communicators. Feedback is an essential part of the pilot process. You want to engage those that are willing to provide written or verbal feedback.
  • A variety of personality types. Ideally, you want to include technology optimists and pessimists in your pilot group. Technology optimists have a good impression of IT and are generally enthusiastic about trying out new technologies. Technology pessimists have a stronger “what’s in it for me” mentality and need to see or hear something compelling before they decide to jump on board. Incorporating both technology optimists and pessimists in your pilot will give you the best opportunity to validate your Office 365 messaging and training.

How long should your pilot last? While many companies have intense pressure to roll Office 365 out quickly, I’m a firm believer in meaningful pilots. The more time spent piloting and refining your approach to governance, training, and license enablement, the more successful your rollout will be. A pilot period of 3 weeks is incredibly tight, but can generate value. A pilot period of 1-2 months will generate more user data and enable you to refine your training offerings.

There is one exception to this “lengthier is better” rule for pilots. If you work for a company with a strong technology innovation culture and most of your users are very comfortable with technology change, a longer pilot may not be necessary. If your organization is facing a great deal of technology debt in the workforce productivity space, a longer pilot will better enable you to build momentum for the upcoming change.

Pilot execution
Now that you’ve completed your pilot planning, it’s time to execute your vision. Plan to launch your pilot with a formal series of kickoff meetings, brown-bag lunches, and/or targeted pilot communications. The goal is to celebrate this important stage of your Office 365 rollout efforts. And the more positive noise you can generate, the more pilot user engagement you’ll see.

You’ll also want to make it easy for pilot users to learn about Office 365 and provide feedback on their experience. A few ideas I’ve seen work well:

  • Share “getting started” scenarios. Many users may feel intimidated when they first open a new Office 365 app. Providing quick, easy-to-follow “getting started” scenarios for each app gives your pilot users a running start. If you’re going to pilot OneDrive for Business, for example, you could create getting-started scenarios that explain how to:
    • Create files in OneDrive
    • Save Microsoft Office files to OneDrive
    • Share a OneDrive file (or folder) with someone
    • See OneDrive files that have been shared with you
    • Open files using the OneDrive sync client
    • Edit files in the OneDrive mobile app
  • Host weekly Q&A sessions. As I mentioned previously, I host weekly Q&A calls for my pilot testers. The calls enable pilot participants to provide feedback on their experiences and ask product-related questions.
  • Schedule “Show & Tell” events where pilot users can share Office 365 tips and demo solutions they’ve built. Provide an opportunity for your pilot users to shine. Schedule a recurring meeting where the pilot users come together to share cool new tricks they’ve learned and demo solutions they’ve built in Office 365. For best results, keep this a peer-to-peer sharing meeting. Having a pilot user demonstrate a new Microsoft Flow they’ve built is powerful stuff. Their excitement and confidence in using Office 365 will motivate other pilot users to follow suit.
  • Build a private Yammer group for your pilot users. Yammer is a great “thinking out loud” app that supports discussion and sharing of ideas. I recommend creating a private Yammer group where pilot users can share insights, ask questions, etc. Add all pilot testers to the group before your pilot begins and send them the group URL for easy reference. As the pilot coordinator, it’s important you actively participate in the Yammer group. Share Office 365 tips, provide links to appropriate training resources, and answer pilot user questions.
  • Track your pilot user Yammer sentiment. If you’re providing your pilot users with a Yammer group for sharing ideas, use Microsoft Flow and Azure Cognitive Services to perform sentiment analysis on the pilot Yammer posts. The sentiment data gathered may provide insights into your pilot group’s overall satisfaction with Office 365 and help you identify solution use cases.
  • Stay in touch. I always want my pilot testers to feel like they are part of a valued community. Connect with pilot users that are in your geographic area by hosting meet-ups or coffee chats. Communicate with geographically-distributed pilot users via Yammer or Teams. And share an “Office 365 tip of the week” for all pilot users.

Want to learn more?
Asif Rehmani published a great article on the key reasons to include an early adopter program in your Office 365 rollout. Check it out–it’s well worth a read!

Learning & doing more with the Microsoft 365 Adoption Guide

Microsoft released a new Microsoft 365 Adoption Guide in January 2019. The guide explains why technology change is so hard and provides practical ideas for driving organization adoption of Microsoft 365. If you’re tasked with driving organizational adoption, the guide is a must-read.

Adoption requires users to adapt and change their technology behaviors. New Microsoft 365 users must understand the new technology at their disposal and be willing to fundamentally change the way they work. Bringing about a change of this significance requires an open mind, as well as an organizational investment of time, people, and resources. It requires effective just-in-time training to help people get up to speed on the technology, operational support that can assist users with their questions, and champions to promote the use of Microsoft 365. But organizational adoption programs also have to inspire users. Change is an individual choice that cannot be mandated or coerced.

The adoption framework outlined in the Microsoft 365 Adoption Guide provides a process for building your adoption plan and optimizing your results. It guides you through defining your strategy, determining your readiness to adopt, building your adoption plan, measuring and reporting usage, and encouraging ongoing engagement/adoption.

accomplishment-achievement-adults-1059118The guide also shares the inspirational champion story of the Best Buy SharePoint Ninja program. I’m thrilled to see the program still being upheld as a success story. Launching the SharePoint Ninja program at Best Buy was one of the highlights of my career, and effectively-built champion programs are a vital part of the Microsoft adoption story. For more information on the Best Buy SharePoint Ninja program, check out the session Matthew Ruderman and I delivered at SharePoint Conference 2014: http://aka.ms/bestbuyninjas 

Building a flexible model for sharing Office 365 changes with your end-users

Darrell as a Service published a great article recently about upcoming changes to the Office 365 ‘save’ dialog box. Starting in February 2019, Microsoft will roll out updates to the default save function for all Windows and Mac Office 365 users. When users press CTRL+S or click Save, the simplified ‘save’ dialog box will display. Files will be saved to OneDrive by default, but users will be able to change the save location via the More save options link. While we still have many questions about how this new ‘save’ dialog box will work, we know that this functionality change will impact our end-users significantly.

How many of our end-users will adapt quickly and easily to this ‘save’ dialog box change? And how can we ease this transition? Without an effective strategy for communicating changes like this one, we could be facing significant user confusion and a tidal wave of calls to the internal help desk.

save dialog box-01
Image source: support.office.com 

Building a flexible communications model
Most organizations can’t afford to create a formal communications plan for individual Office 365 feature changes (particularly given the volume of changes rolling out monthly). So how do we efficiently and effectively share Office 365 changes with our users?

We build a flexible communications model that guides us through the process of sharing Office 365 product updates. This model should provide a variety of conduits for communication, along with guidelines on when/why each should be used.

Your communications model should reflect the culture of your organization and the learning style(s) of your end-users. As I discussed in my post Change by color: The secret of green dots, yellow dots and red dots, some end-users will easily adapt to change. They’ll either roll with the changes when they come across them or be content with a quick explanation posted on a SharePoint Communications site or Yammer post. Other users require formal change communications. These are the users we need to build a flexible communications model for.

So how do you build this flexible model for sharing Office 365 updates? To start, I recommend building a list of the communication mediums you have at your disposal. Examples include:

  • Internal user group meeting announcements/demos
  • Yammer announcements
  • Microsoft Stream videos
  • News articles on a SharePoint Communications site
  • Tips & tricks rotator/carousel on your internal Office 365 learning center
  • Subscription-based email distribution groups (e.g. have end-users subscribe to an email distribution list to receive feature change communications)
  • Department or company-wide email broadcasts
  • News bulletins/announcements on your company intranet or help desk site

Once you know how you can communicate changes, you can build criteria for when to use each. You may decide, for example, to use an internal Office 365 Yammer group to share quick product updates. To help users differentiate these Yammer posts, you’ll use a consistent set of hashtags for product announcements:

  • #WhatsNew – denotes a new feature or capability
  • #mobile – denotes when an announcement is mobile-related
  • #OneDrive – denotes a OneDrive Yammer post
  • #Flow – denotes a Microsoft Flow Yammer post

The key is predictability. Users that want to learn about Office 365 changes on a proactive basis should have an easy time figuring out where to go to learn more. And your help desk agents should know where to go to review recent Office 365 changes so they can validate if a recent change is causing user confusion.

Your communications model must also flex and change over time. Be open to suggestions for improvement. And keep an eye out for trending information from your help desk. If you’re seeing large spikes in Office 365 user issues after changes are released, it could mean your communications model isn’t marketed well enough or isn’t hitting the right target audience. Focusing on a continuous improvement model will enable you to hone your approach and find the right strategy for communicating changes to your users.

The Coffee Chat on 365 Adoption (episode 2)

img_4406

Daniel Glenn and I just released episode 2 in our podcast miniseries The Coffee Chat on 365 Adoption. The miniseries explores the challenge of driving Office 365 adoption at the organizational level. In episode 1, we dispelled the idea that adoption is an urban myth. We explained why the traditional “build it and they will come” IT model doesn’t work and outlined why organizations must invest in user adoption as an ongoing service.

Episode 2 focuses on organizing and facilitating user adoption events. We discuss creative ideas for internal user groups, including virtual or in-person office hours, “lightning round” demos, and hack-a-thons (aka innovation day events). We also discuss the importance of making these events your own by ensuring they reflect your company culture. We hope you enjoy episode 2! And keep an eye out for episode 3 in the coming weeks!

Have a user adoption question you’d like us to answer in a future episode? Tell us about it: https://go.re365.show/CoffeeChatQ

Previous posts in this series:

The Coffee Chat on 365 Adoption (episode 1)

I have exciting news to share! Daniel Glenn and I are ready to unveil the first episode in our new podcast miniseries “The coffee chat on 365 adoption!” The podcast enables us to drink coffee and talk about the challenge of driving Office 365 adoption at the organizational level. We recorded the first podcast episode several weeks ago at SharePoint Fest Chicago.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Why organizations have difficulty achieving strong adoption
  • Common adoption pitfalls and roadblocks
  • The challenge of scaling adoption initiatives (moving beyond one-on-one initiatives to impact a broader group of users in your organization)
  • Why adoption should be treated as an ongoing service instead of a one-time project

Daniel and I will keep the user adoption conversation going as we record several additional coffee chats in the coming months. Each episode will focus on a different Office 365 adoption topic. We’ll share successful strategies we’ve seen for hosting adoption events and provide practical tips for supporting the rollout and adoption of key Office 365 applications.

We hope you enjoy this episode. And don’t miss the outtake photos from the podcast recording!

20181213_121432958_iOS
20181211_025749395_iOS

 

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.

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.

nick-jio-138454-unsplash.jpg

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.

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?

rawpixel-315193-unsplash.jpg

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.

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.

community-field-footwear-1350614

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!