Managing Stakeholders in Office 365 Adoption

Office 365 is becoming popular.

Deploying it is easy. But effective adoption and full utilization is not.

Here is how you manage all the stakeholders while driving adoption.

Manage stakeholders in Office 365 adoption

Estimated reading time 7 min

The problem with Office 365 Adoption

Office 365 (E3 or above) gives you all the latest products. Office 2013 Professional, Exchange 2013, Lync, OneDrive and SharePoint, Yammer, Delve, Videos and more.

Deployment is usually easy because everything is hosted by Microsoft. Only Office needs to be deployed locally.

Having done all the deployment, IT’s job is done. But there is a problem still left to be addressed. How to induce all users to utilize the full power of this incredible platform.

I work extensively on this subject with Microsoft and many customers globally. Here is one of the first articles which addresses this issue.

We usually call them “users” – everyone who is not from IT is a user! But it is not that simple. There are many types of stakeholders involved and each category needs special attention and different adoption approaches.

Here I describe key stakeholders and guidelines for helping them adopt the new platform willingly and proactively.

The Stakeholders

Office is used to perform unstructured work. This type of work has no defined processes, standards or norms. Everyone works the way they feel like – as long as work is done.
Therefore, from an end user point of view there is nothing at “stake”. Hence the term stakeholder is a misnomer here!

Having said that, the following types of user profiles are valuable for driving long term and sustained adoption.

Top Management

  • If they are convinced about the potential benefits, they will start using the new technology and lead the way
  • This compels people down the line to sit up, take notice and attempt to adopt to the new way of working.
  • They can help in marketing new platform effectively. A blog article by CEO is more effective than a costly and colorful internal marketing campaign.

Executive Assistants to Top Management

Usually these are trusted, long time employees. The top management relies upon them heavily for getting their work done. They usually have FULL ACCESS to the inbox of their boss! What can be more powerful Smile

  • They are a very important but usually ignored audience
  • They are usually unassuming but very powerful
  • Due to the long time they have worked, they understand office politics and inter-departmental power play very well
  • Once they are convinced (along with their boss), they will go the extra mile to make adoption happen
  • Usually in this role there is no growth path in terms of designation upgrade. Of course, they are usually very well paid and get special privileges.
  • In my experience, they love the power and control which Office provides them.
  • Suddenly, they see that they can grow faster and achieve more with LESS effort.
  • If they know something which is useful, they will make sure that the boss knows about it and uses it. They are the best trainers in this context!
  • It is a very good idea to analyze what they do and recast it in the context of the new platform and show them the way.
  • They are the real influencers in upward as well as downward direction.
  • I recommend a detailed session with admin assistant and then a combined, short session with both (assistant and boss).

Power Users across departments

In every department, it is usually easy to identify few people who are more savvy than others. These are the people whom everyone approaches to solve problems with Office, get some tricky analysis done, create macros, make their presentations look better, format complex documents, and so on.

  • They can be early adopters for any new tool being introduced
  • Usually they learn faster than others
  • Often they are waiting for upgrading to the latest version – looking forward to new features and capabilities
  • Furthermore, they are the ones who will unearth the real applied knowledge where a particular feature can be really beneficial in specific business scenarios.
  • They know the departmental and business language better than anyone else.
  • Therefore, they can help their colleagues get used to the new, improved way faster than any IT person or trainer.

Desktop management team in IT

  • Usually their role is to deploy and maintain Office client and servers
  • They are goaled on the standardization, automated deployment, patching, security and desktop hardening related areas
  • However, in their role, they rarely get the chance to add proactive value to end users.
  • Office 365 adoption can be a very good way to show them how IT can empower users.
  • They should be part of the team which applies features to business context.

Interns / New Hires / Trainees

  • These are usually younger people who want to prove their mettle.
  • They are eager to learn and apply new stuff.
  • They have no fixed ideas or bias.
  • They also are in the process of learning the business processes.
  • Therefore, they are in a very good position to understand strengths of the new platform and the needs of the business and finally put two and two together.

Learning and Development team

  • This group knows how to teach.
  • They know the business jargon.
  • They can identify user needs better than users themselves.
  • They can amplify their growth using Office platform more effectively.
  • They can sustain the adoption drive in the long term.

Of course there could be many more roles.
But I have found these roles to be critical to quick adoption and long term efficiency improvement.

Your suggestions and experiences are most welcome. Do post comments and let me know what worked for you and what did not.


2 thoughts on “Managing Stakeholders in Office 365 Adoption”

  1. I think your Office 365 adoption targets are spot-on. I would add that mobile and remote first users like Sales Managers and outlaying offices can also be a good start. These users are used to the benefit of work-from-anywhere technology and tend to “get-it” from the start.

    1. Thanks Darrell. Very valid inputs. Mobile users are always struggling with files, emails, underpowered devices, market pressure and suboptimal support form HQ. Office 365, if properly used, is a paradise for them.

      I especially love the Office on Demand feature – which, unfortunately, is hardly known and used!

      I think I will write a separate article about it.

Comments? Suggestions? Wish list?