Pitfalls: Office 365 Consumption measurement

Office 365 Consumption involves quantification of product specific usage.  Microsoft as well as customers monitor Office 365 Consumption and use it to estimate ROI as well as efficiency gains from Office 365.

Often, teams a pre-defined increase in utilization as a KRA which is linked to salary / bonus. This article shows the pitfalls of using the Active Users chart to measure Office 365 Consumption. This applies to O365 E3 or above.

Office 365 Consumption Chart

This is a chart for my organization which just has two active users and 3 demo users (total 5 users). For larger companies, the chart will look different.

Pitfall 1: Same Scale for Office 365 Consumption

Usually the Exchange series is at the top and all others look dwarfed by it.  That is natural because Exchange (or some kind of email) is already known to all users. It is not a new product or a new concept.

However, it makes it appear as though other products are hardly being used. In many cases, it may be the reality! In some cases, the chart is being skewed in favor or Exchange. We do not consider the fact that OneDrive, SharePoint, Yammer, Skype are new products. Naturally, the utilization of these products has to start from ZERO whereas, Exchange has always been there – leading to a much higher baseline.

Best Practice

See individual charts for each product to assess the real impact. The default chart is for last 7 days. You must expand it to a higher level of granularity in order to assess the real impact (Month or Year).

Compare the growth with the actual rollout and launch activities. This is bound to have some spike. The next step is to look at sustenance. Usually the launch activities (including training) affect a small subset of all users. If there is no long-term increase, it means that your launch did not achieve the intended purpose. You need to reinforce it with

Pitfall 2: Wrong interpretation of Exchange usage

In most cases, increasing usage of Exchange will be considered a favorable outcome. Unfortunately, it is the WORST indicator. You get a “False sense of consumption”.

Why is increasing Exchange consumption bad?

No discipline due to 50 GB mailbox.

Earlier, most users had dismally small mailboxes. They had no choice but to keep that mailbox alive. Each one of them has found some method which works. Essentially, they know how to “manage” the mailbox.

It is difficult (not impossible – as you will soon realize) With 50 GB mailbox, they have nothing to worry about (at least initially). They do not require the earlier methodology to keep the Inbox running.

Uploading of old PST files

Most users have archived mails in local PSTs. They upload all these to Exchange online. It does have offer a benefit – all old content is available across devices and is searchable.

However, this also reflects as further increase in the Exchange usage chart.

Unused collaboration

Earlier, the only method of collaboration was email – with or without attachments. Now you have other collaboration tools available for all users.

If majority of users are not utilizing OneDrive, SharePoint sites, Groups, SFB and Yammer; Exchange will be misused and over-used by them.

Why are they not utilizing all these great tools?

Many reasons here.

  1. They don’t care (most common reason)
  2. They don’t know WHY they should use these tools
    Most promotional activities and training content is about HOW to use these tools. Nobody usually bothers about mapping it to day-to-day usage scenarios (use cases).
    Even if some use cases are covered, these are pertaining only to the specific product which is being covered during the training.
    An integrated business scenario list of “what to use when” is generally missing.
  3. After attending training they are aware of the benefits (hopefully). However, awareness does not lead to a change in behavior. It requires confidence to use the new features in place of a two-decade old process – which is their “comfort zone”.
    Providing that conviction requires a test setup with sample data which can be used by all users as the experience gaining ground (or playground – if you like Gamification).
  4. Most users do NOT attend training for all products – their knowledge is limited to Outlook and whichever other product they got a chance to learn.
    In this case, they will never have an integrated view of “which tool to use when”.
    Again they fall into their comfort zone and continue using  Exchange, along with partial use of the newly learnt product. If anything goes wrong, it is simpler for them to abandon the new tool and fall back to Exchange.

Pitfall 3: Office usage is not measured at all

Office 365 adds powerful capabilities to Office. It is not a substitute but an additive benefit. With the introduction of Office 365, I was hoping that Office itself gets the recognition, accolades and glory that it genuinely deserves. Unfortunately, the situation is reversed.

Now, even more than before, nobody cares about Office. Instead of getting attention and recognition, nobody even considers Office itself while driving Office 365 Consumption .

Everyone is busy running behind the new buzzwords like Modern Workplace, Digital Transformation, Mobility, Cloud enabled business, Reinventing Productivity and so on…

Specifically, most of the customers I have seen are busy launching OneDrive, Skype (for business), Yammer, Power BI and so on – all the components of Office 365 – except Office.

This is absolutely wrong. Of course new products are very useful but not without taking into account the integration with the base Office desktop.

Most customers feel happy when the Exchange utilization goes up and feel sad when nothing else is utilized at all. In reality, if you use all these products efficiently, the Exchange traffic should REDUCE significantly.

Using SFB for getting immediate response, coupled with OneDrive ability to make all files always have a single copy are good ideas. But if implemented in isolation these provide a fraction of their potential value.

Remember that Office has been there for decades. The “I already know Office” thought process is like a “false sense of false knowledge”.

Office usage is NOT measurable

Even if you wanted to measure Office usage, it is simply not available. Because Office telemetry is not publicly available. All you get to see is Office activations (C2R). It only answers the question, how many users have upgraded to the latest Office.

This information is useful for monitoring the DEPLOYMENT. When it comes to measuring Office 365 Consumption, this parameter is useless.

Best Practice

  1. Remember that Exchange usage should GO DOWN once effective usage of Office 365 platform is imbibed and internalized by all users.
  2. Please cover effective usage of Office (on Desktop / Laptop) along with each server based tool.
  3. Office 365 is integrated with Office (desktop) by design. These integration points are never utilized proactively. Some users do discover this integration during the trial and error phase. However, it is in everyone’s interest to achieve this proactively.
  4. Change your KRAs and make sure that this correlation is maintained.
  5. Finally, all this is not possible unless you have at least a part-time (if not dedicated) internal team who is given the long-term responsibility for maximizing the efficiency gains from Office 365 platform.
  6. All this can happen if there is someone powerful and senior in the organization endorsing this initiative as a priority. If you do not have an executive sponsor, nothing will happen beyond the launch itself.


I do understand the importance of Mobility and Multi-device scenarios. However REAL work and efficient work requires Windows, Office (desktop) and all the tools which help you with collaboration.

Sources of information

The article above is a part of an ongoing series – Office 365 Worst Practices.
Please read this series of articles (11 as of now). I update this list when I write more articles on the same subject. It is like a live book. I call these Knowledge Packs.

The article is based upon what I learnt while interacting with and advising many customers – most of them large and complex organizations. However, it applies equally to smaller companies as well. The mindset of users (in the context of Office) is not dependent upon total number of staff!

Feedback and debate is important

These are my thoughts. Your thoughts as well as scenarios may be different. I am very keen to learn from your experience. It will also help all the readers as well.

Please post your feedback and suggestions here (or on other syndicated sites).

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Comments? Suggestions? Wish list?