What I Do: Office 365 User Adoption and Service Management (Feb 2018 edition)

I do a job that didn’t exist just a few years ago. It’s a service management and user adoption role focused on Office 365. Office 365 itself has only been around since 2011, and this role is newer than that.  So what is service management and what is user adoption? What’s it got to do with creating a digital workplace?

Service management of Office 365 is managing the Office 365 service. Admittedly, that’s nearly a circular reference, but I think the rephrasing is the first step in breaking down what is involved in managing Office 365.  For me, managing Office 365 means being responsible for my employer or my client getting value from the collaboration workloads inside Office 365. That means:

1)      Staying on top of service changes and assessing their impact.  I stay on top of service changes by:

  1. I read the Collab365 Daily Digest almost every day.
  2. Once a week I read every item in the Office 365 Weekly Digest and assess its impact on the organization, as I described in this blog post.
  3. Because I am a Microsoft MVP, I have the privilege of attending monthly private training calls hosted by the Office 365 product teams at Microsoft.
  4. I attend the MVP Summit at Microsoft’s HQ almost annually.
  5. I attend and speak at Microsoft Ignite annually. By speaking, I get to attend for free, and MVPs get a special pre-conference day all about upcoming product updates.
  6. I attend SharePoint Fest Chicago annually, often speaking and always hosting a user group meeting featuring a discussion panel of conference speakers.
  7. I co-lead the Office 365 Adoption User Group (Chicagoland Chapter), where I not only present what’s new in Office 365 in the last month but also learn from the experiences of other members. I work to schedule speakers that all our membership and leadership team can learn from.

2)      Determining what service configuration changes are needed to meet the needs of the business.  Examples of service configuration changes include evaluating preview services and configuring released services to match the business needs. This also means planning the end user communication needed to make people aware of user experience changes and working with the help desk to prepare them as well.

3)      Creating a governance process for Office 365, which includes organizing the governance team and running governance meetings.  When I lead the governance team to make policies and strategic decisions, I also work to ensure that these policies and decisions are actually implemented.

4)      Training the helpdesk team so that they are prepared to respond to common Office 365 issues and questions.

Although service management is critically important, it is user adoption that provides the greatest value to the business.  My approach to driving adoption is a mix of technical marketing and consultative training, mentoring, and solution creation.  I also work closely with a number of other roles across the organization, including the Office 365 Exchange, Skype, and identity management experts, our IT security team, corporate communications, and the corporate training department.  If I had to make a slogan for the way I do user adoption, it would be “Making Work Creative Again”.  User adoption is about getting end users to use a larger subset of the tools that Office 365 provides because it will make their job better.  Most users don’t realize Office 365 is more than just Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and that even those tools are being constantly improved. Because of that, the precursor to driving adoption is raising awareness of the tools available. To raise awareness, I put together omni-channel communication campaigns which include email, flyers, posters, webinars, helpdesk readiness, and in-person training.

Once users are either aware of the tools available to them or aware of who to ask for help with productivity challenges, next is helping end users use those Office 365 tools which will improve their personal work day.  This improvement is usually by saving them and their team time or money. It’s about automating away drudgery so people can be more engaged, creative, and valuable.  By working with end users to improve their business processes, I save the company time and money and improve employee morale.  No one person can change an organization at the “grass roots level”, so I can also run an Office 365 Champions program to recruit, train, and reward business users who will evangelize the technology to their peers. Additionally, educating the help desk on how to help users in this way elevates the help desk’s role in driving productivity too.

Another benefit of driving adoption of Office 365 is that it provides another way to discover rogue uses of 3rd party applications. Similarly, I also partner with the IT Security team to drive organizational change in human security behaviors, such as using password managers, multifactor authentication, and longer passwords.  This involves identifying the IT Security “marketing messages” we want to put forth, and including them in some of our change communications for Office 365.

I consider myself a “digital workplace innovator” because Office 365 is a fundamental technology of the modern workplace. Digitally transforming the modern workplace is about both replacing traditional paper processes with electronic ones as well as improving electronic processes that still have too much friction. One common symptom of inefficient electronic processes is when someone spends far too much of their day copying and pasting as part of critical business processes. There is  a lot Office 365 can offer to fix those. Per the book, “The Employee Experience Advantage” by Jacob Morgan, the employee experience is the sum of a company’s culture, technology, and physical environment.  That middle portion, Technology, is where Office 365 and I play.

As an MVP, Microsoft measures me by my community contributions.  I choose to contribute through public speaking, running a user group, blogging, and participating in selected online discussion forums. My public speaking often mirrors the adoption topics that I focus on for my job. Presenting to both internal and external audiences on adoption topics helps me refine my message for maximum impact.  In addition to the events mentioned above, I participate in both the city and suburban SharePoint Saturday Chicago events. My career path has taken me from deep technical expertise in SharePoint (since 2003) to focus on the end user experience, the digital workplace experience, and service management.  As a result of that evolution, I also have the opportunity to participate in conferences that are not strictly technical, such as events hosted by the Advanced Learning Institute.

Because I do a lot of public speaking, I also participate actively in the Microsoft Midwest Toastmasters Club, where I have had the opportunity to improve my public speaking skills and achieve the Competent Communicator, Advanced Communicator Bronze, and Advanced Communicator Silver education awards. Likewise, over more than two decades, I have invested heavily in developing and validating my technical skills through Microsoft certification. I have a long history of Microsoft certifications, having started with getting certified on Windows 3.1, and most recently achieving the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Productivity title.

There are only about 4000 MVPs worldwide, and only about 80 Office Server and Services MVPs. Only a handful of those live in Illinois, and I’m probably the only once that is both a Toastmasters Advanced Communicator Silver and a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Productivity.