Cross-posted: Effective Adoption Tools 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 second post for them. It’s on their website at

The article is reprinted below.

One of the challenges with user adoption is that it can be recursive. That is, when you buy tools to help with user adoption, you need to plan how the tools will be adopted and how you can get them into the hands of the users effectively.
For example, you want to drive adoption of Office 365, so you purchase training materials for Office 365. Of course, just buying the training materials does nothing in and of itself. Once you have purchased them, you have to get users to use them. In fact, you almost certainly will need to have an adoption plan documented in order to justify the purchase of the tool.

So, what are common training materials for Office 365 and how do you get users to use them? Common training materials include:

  1. How to Videos. These are usually short – I mean VERY short, 30 second to 5 minute videos that explain how to do exactly one thing. This could be how to upload a document, how to share a document, how to create a new document in OneDrive, or how to log in to, for example.
  2. Videos about fundamental concepts. For example, a video explaining cloud computing and why we use it at our workplace. These can range from 20 minutes to an hour.
  3. A training portal that serves as a one stop shop for accessing training materials
Just like getting people to use parts of Office 365 itself, you need to start with awareness. Posters and lunch-and-learns are key to getting the message out that we are using Office 365 and that Office 365 can help us in our daily work. In these communications, always reference your training portal as where to go to find out more.
One thing to keep in mind is that users may need to be primed before training content is relevant to them. For example, the videos and reference cards about OneNote may not be helpful or interesting to the end user until you’ve had a conversation with them about how they take meeting notes and they have actually started working with OneNote.
With video content, not only do you want to make it available to the user in the training portal, but you can also feature them in monthly newsletters and digital signage.
Another key element of ensuring that the training you purchase gets used is that it has to be relevant to your users. Keep in mind WIIFM, the “What’s in it for me?” principle. Unless you have a very small company, your organization will consist of many different roles. That means you will need to segment your user population into personas. A persona represents a group of users with similar needs and work styles. For example, a project manager who frequently schedules meetings and tracks tasks will have different needs than another employee who needs to share information with outside partners, or another who sends out lots of e-mail messages with large attachments. Those could be three different personas. You will want to map out the personas in your organization so that you can target content to them appropriately. Which brings up the business value of another type of tool, one that will help you identify those personas by their activities in all workloads of Office 365 and enable you to automate the targeted messaging campaigns to them.

Once you understand the personas in your organization, you can do several things that will help your adoption efforts. Two of these are:

  1. Incorporate the needs of the different personas into your governance discussions
  2. Target each persona with relevant training communications
Let’s look at that second item in more depth. Review all your communication channels and think about how you can use them for targeted communication.
  1. Email. Use email campaign tools to communicate targeted training to the right persona and track who opens those messages and clicks on the internal training links. If you target your emails to your audience and provide them with personally relevant content on a consistent basis, you can drive readership above the 20% open rate. Additional ways to make email content more engaging include using pictures, testimonials and video links. Sending just plain text will not be as effective.
  2. Printed matter such as posters, flyers, brochures, and reference cards. Create these with content for specific personas and/or distribute them so that they are received by personas who will find them relevant.
  3. Digital Signage. Consider the personas in each office area that has a digital sign and decide what content would be relevant to them. Here again, video content, even silent with closed captions, can be very engaging.
  4. Live events such as webinars, lunch and learns, and IT Fairs.
    1. You can target specific personas when inviting people to the events.
    2.  At the beginning of your presentation identify the personas present and customize your content appropriately.
    3. Incorporate training videos into your lunch and learns.
    4. For an IT Fair, make sure the personas attending know which sessions will be relevant to them. For example, instead of “This session is about OneNote” say “Run meetings? Learn how you can use OneNote to take notes easier”.
  5. Word of mouth. Get the word out about new training content by telling managers to have their staff try the new training materials. Emphasis on “try” with the ask that feedback be provided. Select which content you promote to which managers based on the personas that report to them.
  6. Helpdesk. Make sure hour helpdesk staff are aware of the training resources that they can share with their customers. Help them understand which content they should recommend to which customer.
  7. Champions. Make sure your champions are the first to get access to the new training videos. Have them select their favorites to share with their peers.
  8. Onboarding. Include these training materials in employee onboarding and customize the onboarding experience based on their persona.
In conclusion, when you buy training assets to support your user adoption efforts, you need to plan for how to get end users to use the training. The best way I do that is to ensure the training assets are relevant to them. To ensure relevancy, align them to the users’ daily work and job role. Use persona mapping to identify common user needs and work styles based on actual activity metrics from Office 365, then target the content to those user personas. Be sure to track the behavior change in user activities to monitor the adoption trends in your organization and prove to upper management that your campaigns are being effective.