Cross-posted: 8 Ways to Drive Usage Adoption for Office 365

4WARD365, an ISV (Independent Software Vendor) that makes management tools for Office 365, invited me to blog for hire.  I’ve just published my first post for them. It’s on their website at

The article is reprinted below.

These are several recommendations I’d like to share in this blog entry to help folks do a better job of driving adoption for their Office 365 deployments. If you’re spending a lot of money on Microsoft licenses that include all kinds of useful productivity features, you should try to get the most out of your investment. By helping your end-users understand how those capabilities can improve their team collaboration and simplify their day-to-day tasks, you can make some positive changes for your company.
When you first deploy Office 365, most users will gravitate to using just the e-mail capabilities they’re comfortable with and shy away from the advanced workloads for file-sharing, collaboration and IM/Voice. How do you make them aware of more of the tools that are available to them? Sending out a generic announcement email is a common attempt, but what you will find is that less than 20% of recipients read your email. Obviously then, basic email blasts are not enough.
Which brings me to my first recommendation for driving usage adoption.
    1. Use Targeted Communications. If you are going to send out communications to prompt your end-user community to change their behavior and adopt new technology, you need to customize the message to their job role and specify how the new features can help THEM be more productive. That key element of personalizing the messages should have a laser focus on your audience and their needs. Something in each e-mail communication should answer the “WIIFM” question – What’s In It For Me? Then of course you need to track who opens those messages, clicks on the educational links, and actually starts using the new technology. Without tracking and reporting for adoption campaigns you can’t gauge your success.
The other seven channels of communication to help drive the adoption of Office 365 include the following:
  1. Printed matter such as posters, flyers, brochures, and reference cards. Posters can be put up in common areas such as break rooms, printer bays, and bathrooms. Yes, bathroom stall doors and above urinals are effective places. Laminating the posters before hanging them makes them more durable and easier to hang. You can make 11×17 posters and 8.5×11 flyers from the templates Microsoft provides in the FastTrack site. Flyers can be put in common areas with a sign encouraging users to take a copy back to their desk for easy reference.
  2. Digital signage. If the company does not already have digital signage in use internally, you can create your own with PowerPoint decks. For example, I created an auto-advancing slideshow using content from the poster templates and my own set of tips and tricks. I then put it on a tablet on a table in the break room or on a screen in another common area.
  3. Live events such as webinars, lunch and learns, and IT Fairs. These are a great way for IT to engage with end users, learn about how the business actually operates, and discover many opportunities to solve real business problems with Office 365.
  4. Word of mouth. This ranges from executive support for your adoption efforts to managers telling their direct reports to peers telling peers. You can harness the power of peers telling peers by creating a champions program. See #7 below.
  5. The IT Helpdesk. The IT Helpdesk staff should be trained in what Office 365 can do, as well as how to support and troubleshoot the office desktop clients, especially OneDrive Sync. Having the helpdesk staff understand what Office 365 can do is incredibly valuable because they are often the first opportunity to identify a business productivity problem that Office 365 can solve in ways the end user is not aware.
    • Examples include:
      • A user asks for support with Google Drive or Dropbox. This is an opportunity to introduce them to OneDrive or SharePoint, not just fix their Google Drive or Drobox problem.
      • A user needs to get 64-bit Excel installed because they have hit the row limit in 32-bit Excel. This is an opportunity for IT to solve a data management problem by creating an enterprise-scale reporting solution for that dataset, greatly improving the business process for that user’s team.
  6. Champions. As you identify people in the business who see the value of Office 365 through personal experience and are willing to mentor their peers, nurture those people with training and recognition. These people will promote the use of the tools with the credibility of being in the business. If you are a business person, who will you believe more? Your coworker saying how great Office 365 is, or the IT person saying how great Office 365 is? Hint: It’s not the IT person. Tip: Partner with the HR department and start a formal IT Champions program.
  7. Employee onboarding. Employee onboarding is a critically important opportunity to make new employees aware of the software tools available to them. The fresh energy they bring can also make them champions of new ways to work. You want to harness that energy and align it with the technology choices that the organization has made.
To ensure your technology adoption message gets through, use as many of these channels as possible. Start thinking of this as an internal multi-channel (also called omnichannel) marketing effort. These techniques apply not only to driving adoption of Office 365 but can also apply to driving adoption of better IT security behaviors or any other organizational behavior change. But remember, you need to keep track of your success. Tools like 4ward365 do a great job of monitoring and reporting user activity in Office 365 so you can watch adoption grow over time. And that tool even helps with automating the targeted e-mail communications to specific user groups.
Creating awareness of the broader set of Office 365 tools available is the first step. Microsoft advises following the ADKAR model from Prosci. I’ll leave the next step, a desire for change, for a future blog post.
Note that I’m not saying you should promote the entire list of Office 365 tools at once. Use your governance team and governance process to determine which tools to lead with. Focus on those and target your communications to the appropriate groups and watch the adoption numbers climb.