Expert roundup: How to improve Microsoft 365 adoption in your organization

How to boost Microsoft 365 adoption

Adoption of Microsoft 365 is key to achieving an organized and cohesive working environment for end-users. We spoke to our friends in the Microsoft community to get their expert advice on how to get everyone in your organization on board.

To achieve success in your organization, you need to be on the same page as your end-users. Ideally, you want everyone to be working with the tools you provide for them. After all, you selected these tools for a reason, right?

However, as most IT professionals know, convincing end-users to adopt tools they’re unfamiliar with can be an uphill battle, especially with a seemingly endless array of alternatives out there. What if your team prefers to chat in Slack, for example? Or conduct their video calls via Zoom? Is it really that big of a deal?

Well, yes, actually. When users work with unapproved tools and systems, they are bypassing a significant portion of the security checks you have put in place to protect your organization and its sensitive data.

Rather than dictating to end-users the way they should work, experts tend to advocate for a more harmonious approach. Consider the way people already work, then give them tools that make their lives easier. When end-users can easily perceive the value that these tools provide for them, then adoption becomes a no-brainer.


Deploy an org-wide governance plan

The rise of both external and internal threats—like the threat of shadow IT—means governance is one of the hottest topics in today’s workplace.

Deploying a scalable governance plan can take up a lot of resources and time, resulting in many companies failing to apply strong enough governance to their data.

To keep unauthorized people away from your data, and make sure that the tool is actively meeting your business needs, you have to implement organization-wide guidelines and rules for using Microsoft 365.

Luckily, this process doesn’t need to be complicated.  

We recommend taking a “governance-light” approach, where you aim to keep things small and manageable.

For example, you can create a steering committee that meets once a month to discuss risks, governance strategy, and any steps you need to take to keep your data secure and make sure that your business needs are being met.

Simon2

“There’s an architectural sort of cliche which is you put the pavements in last. You wait to see where people are going, and then, you put the tools for movement where the people are going, and I think we miss that with technology.”

Simon Hudson
Founder of Kinata Ltd. (@simonjhudson)
Maarten Eekels 4

“If you try to come up with one communication strategy for the entire company, and then, you expect people to be on board. That’s not gonna fly. Focus on what they do already. Focus on their daily work and help them achieve their daily works in a better way so that the what’s in it for me is really obvious to them.”

Maarten Eekels
Microsoft MVP and Microsoft Regional Director (@maarteneekels)

Enable self-service in Microsoft 365

In a way, self-service is Microsoft 365—it’s what makes cloud-based collaboration the most flexible and efficient way for teams to build things together.

Here are a few ways you can keep your Microsoft 365 manageable while keeping self-service enabled:

  • Teach your users about key Microsoft 365 concepts: Microsoft’s Microsoft 365 Training Center is a treasure trove of resources designed to help everyone in your organization make proper, productive use of the tools available to them. Education really is one of the crucial components of successful Microsoft 365 adoption in the workplace.
  • Establish a naming convention for your Microsoft 365 groups and enforce it with a policy in Azure AD (requires a premium AD license) to prevent duplicate content creation and optimize search result relevancy
  • Set group expiration policies in Azure AD to automatically delete groups of a certain age unless their owners choose to keep them active. This requires an AD premium license.
  • Use a third-party Microsoft 365 management solution to monitor activity on all Microsoft 365 groups in your tenant and automatically notify owners when a group is obsolete. Letting the right users decide whether or not to archive their inactive groups promptly means everyone—not just IT—has their fair share of the responsibility for keeping clutter under control.

Stay on top of shadow IT in Microsoft 365

The use of shadow IT has grown exponentially in recent years. 

A Cloud Security Alliance survey revealed that nearly 72% of IT executives don’t know how many shadow IT applications are being used within their organization.

And less than half of respondents to a recent Forbes Insights report said they’re confident they’re aware of all the technology their employees use.

While shadow IT can certainly pose a threat to your organization, getting ahead of it—or even embracing it—may serve you better in the long run.

Here are some best practices when it comes to managing shadow IT in your organization:

  • Pick your battles: When it comes to shadow IT, you’re going to want to pick your battles. Not all tools pose the same threat to your organization. Ultimately your end-users know how they work best.
  • Observe, don’t dictate: If an unapproved app or tool is being widely used by users across your organization, it may be for good reason. Not every instance of shadow IT needs to be quashed—in fact, you may stand to learn something from end users. By observing the use of shadow IT, you may learn about a new tool that could benefit your organization.
  • Implement a cross-product governance strategy: Protect the work end users are doing across all products they’re using. This may include imposing a naming policy, configuring external sharing settings, or putting expiration policies in place. 
Simon 2

“You need to talk to your user. You need to understand what it is that they do in their day-to-day life. What are those resources? Where are the pain points?

So, it’s communication, and getting feedback, and then, you can look for the solutions.”

Simon Doy
Owner of iThink365 (@simondoy)
Marc Anderson 1

“If you don’t allow people to create things in the tools you want them to use, or if you put too much friction between them and getting work done, they’ll go use other solutions.”

Marc Anderson
Microsoft MVP, Co-founder and President of Sympraxis Consulting (@sympmarc)

Plan for change management in Microsoft 365

Change management plays a key role in the adoption of new tools within your organization. Accounting for changes over time ensures that change will be positive and, ultimately, sustainable.

According to the Microsoft experts we spoke to, it’s important to work with change. Assuming things will change over time and creating a governance plan that is effective yet flexible is going to be your best bet.

Liz Sundet

“It’s really all about working with change and really understanding what your employees need. It should be part of the cohesive plan all along.”

Liz Sundet
Program manager, Microsoft
Antje Lamartine 1

“We’re excited about all of this technology, but it also creates fear because we’re all creatures of habit. So, I think it’s important to communicate clearly and really focus on taking their fears away.”

Antje Lamartine
Microsoft 365 Adoption and Change Management MVP (@antjelamartine)

With more tools at your fingertips than ever, keeping up with the latest in the world of Microsoft is a full-time job in itself. Luckily, that’s what we do best.

Whether you’re looking to develop a Microsoft 365 governance plan or empower effective collaboration across your organization, we’ve got you covered.


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