Office 365 is Microsoft’s fastest-growing commercial product ever and is now the number one deployed application in the enterprise. Microsoft earlier this year announced that Office 365 now has nearly 50 million active business users per month. And, according to Microsoft’s latest earnings report, Office 365 continues to be the company’s most profitable business and productivity product.
As enterprises and small to midsize businesses (SMBs) migrate to Office 365 ( at Amazon) and Office 2016 , they are facing challenges with migrating to a new technology while dealing with legacy systems and significant cultural changes for businesses that have operated in the same way for years. Just because a company buys Office 365 doesn’t mean their employees are taking advantage of it to improve collaboration and increase productivity. Getting employees to change what they’re used to is a challenge, and so is investing the time and resources necessary to ensure user adoption quickly and seamlessly happens.
MessageOps, a cloud-based Office 365 and Microsoft Azure document-sharing service, provides training, adoption, and change management services to help businesses transition to Office 365 on the Azure cloud. Chris Pyle, CEO of MessageOps, told PCMag that Office 365 makes the transition simple but, without a clear strategy in place for driving adoption, businesses can’t and won’t unleash the platform’s full business value.
“With Exchange and SharePoint, you don’t have to know how to set it up, configure it, manage it, make it redundant, and make it accessible,” said Pyle. “With Office 365, all you need to do is add your data and your users, giving you a fully functioned, highly available enterprise environment. This environment can be accessed from anywhere securely, with little to no application experience. Small companies can have the same environment as Fortune 500 companies without having to invest in highly trained, very expensive technical resources. They also have access to the robust tools that Office 365 offers to all companies big or small, and can be up and running in a matter of days.”
Pyle laid out 7 recommendations and tips to facilitate effective Office 365 adoption and how to use it to maximize business productivity when completing projects.
1. Top-Down Transformation
To ensure a smooth Office 365 transition, Pyle said leadership buy-in is a must. “If employees do not see the higher-ups promoting and using the platform, then neither will they,” said Pyle. “Just as leaders set a strong example, so do ‘champions’ or ‘power users’ within teams. These are the employees who are not satisfied with the status quo and are really excited about the potential of Office 365.”
2. Education and Training
A company’s executive leadership can’t expect employees to take full advantage of Office 365 without giving them proper training and education. Pyle recommended that companies compile a video library of “snackable” one-minute or two-minute learning videos as a convenient and effective way to deliver ongoing training. “Communication is also key, along with making the adoption journey fun,” said Pyle.
3. Embrace Office 2016
The release of Office 2016 makes the cloud more accessible. There’s more cloud integration, meaning expanded connectivity options. “OneDrive and SharePoint in the cloud allow you to save and share files to the cloud simply and easily,” said Pyle. “We view Office 2016 as another avenue for businesses to maximize the value of their Office 365 investment. They can use the resources that they purchased with Office 365, which includes Office 2016 for E3 users. As with any new features or new release, of course, there is always going to be a learning curve involved in finding where all of your options and settings reside.”
4. Keep Security in Mind
Office 365 currently encompasses more than a dozen applications including OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, Sway, and Yammer. But Pyle stressed the importance of data security when working with these applications. “Adding and making these applications available is straightforward; users can share internally simply by a right-click ‘share with’ and even go as far as co-authoring files in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint,” said Pyle. “Office 365 relies upon Azure Active Directory for security but organizations should be careful when planning to move sensitive data out of their direct control. Microsoft has also added Data Loss Prevention for both SharePoint and Exchange to add an additional level of security. But, as with anything new, a specific understanding of security should always be in the front of your mind.”
5. MDM and Mobile Productivity
Pyle pointed out Office 365’s mobile capabilities, in particular, its ability to help increase overall productivity. “Office 365 makes it easier for users to access their resources on any device, from anywhere, without worrying connectivity and security,” said Pyle. “For example, users can access Office applications on their tablets and phones, and mobile device management (MDM) is now included in Office 365 for all mobile devices. Lastly, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) shifts responsibility from the consumer to the vendor (in this case, Microsoft) in the sense that, if it doesn’t perform as required, you simply turn the service off and stop paying.”
6. Internal Collaboration
One of Office 365’s most advanced productivity boons, Pyle said, is the internal collaboration capability afforded by OneDrive for Business (OD4B) and SharePoint (SP). “A user can upload a file to the document library, click on the document, share it with a user or group, as well as work collaboratively on the document at the same time,” said Pyle.
“Attachments are challenging for all organizations as users seem to use email as their file cabinet. SP and OD4B enable the use of ‘links’ to files as opposed to attachments, and both in OWA and Exchange using the MessageOps tool, you can click on ‘Attach’ but be given the option of uploading to OD4B and sharing links, which adds versioning and collaboration using the process with which users are familiar. Using OD4B and SP enables users to securely work on any device using browser-based versions of Microsoft’s most popular apps, and having the ability to check out, edit, and upload the changes the next time the user is online.”
7. Skype for Business
Pyle said Skype for Business offers great Office 365 functionality for videoconferencing, online meetings, and instant messaging as productivity tools for any size business. “Users can connect via Skype, talk back and forth through their PC or on a phone, and be making edits on a file simultaneously or serially, with the ability to step back to previous versions as needed,” he said.