What’s the point of paying for, managing, and securing Microsoft 365 if employees aren’t actually using it? In this blog, we’ll give you tips on how to increase Microsoft 365 adoption.
A lot of organizations today could be getting a lot more value out of their Microsoft 365 investment if only they could boost adoption. Microsoft 365 is an immensely feature-rich platform with powerful tools to improve collaboration and productivity, but only to the extent that end users are leveraging them in their day-to-day work.
But, that’s always the challenge, right? Getting people to use the Microsoft Office tools you provide is easier said than done because people are often resistant to new technologies and IT processes, especially if they don’t see what’s in it for them. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools and resources available to help you boost user adoption in your organization.
A great place to start is with ShareGate’s free Microsoft 365 maturity assessment tool. In less than 10 minutes, you can gain insights on adoption within your organization along with specific steps you can take now to improve it.
In this article, we’ll tell you more about how to get started on improving adoption in your organization and introduce you to additional resources you can use to make that a whole lot easier. But first, let’s take a quick look at what you stand to gain by investing your time in driving better adoption.
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The benefits of Microsoft 365 adoption
Successful adoption of Microsoft 365 benefits your organization and everyone in it.
End user adoption of Microsoft Office applications such as Microsoft Teams and SharePoint can enhance business users’ communication, make it easier to collaborate, and streamline their workflows—all of which leads to greater productivity and happier, more engaged employees and better employee engagement overall.
At the organizational level, adoption should be part of the business strategy because higher adoption rates translate into better employee retention, which reduces costs associated with recruiting and onboarding new employees. And, when individual employees are more productive, the organization as a whole is more productive, which improves business performance and enhances competitiveness.
Steps for getting started with Microsoft 365 adoption
There are a couple of key things to remember as you begin working to improve the Microsoft 365 adoption process in your organization. One is that end-user adoption doesn’t happen organically.
Sure, there is always an early adopter or two, a few people in every organization that can’t wait to try out new digital tools and features. But the reality is, people are often resistant to changes coming from the IT department.
This means that helping your end users successfully use their new Microsoft Office tools in their day-to-day work is going to be an essential part of improving adoption over the long term.
The other thing to remember is that adoption is an ongoing change management process because, as with all things IT, change is inevitable. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true steps you can take to start improving Microsoft 365 adoption in your organization now, no matter where you’re currently at.
Understand your tenant’s maturity level
Right about now, you may be asking yourself, “So, where do I start?” With a platform as broad and deep as Microsoft 365, it can be hard to know where to jump into the work of improving adoption in your organization. We recommend starting with a good understanding of the Microsoft 365 maturity level of your tenant.
The more mature your tenant is in terms of how your end users are using the tools and features available in Microsoft 365, the greater the value you can get from the time and money you put into maintaining your tenant.
With a platform as robust and feature-rich as Microsoft 365, there’s almost always more you can do with it to be more productive. But, your people actually have to use the tools you’re paying for, managing, and securing in order to maximize your investment, and that begins with adoption.
When you use ShareGate’s free Microsoft 365 maturity assessment tool, you’ll get individualized results that will help you identify the areas you need to improve to increase user adoption. Based on your results, you’ll be given resources, including free, online courses, to help you increase your tenant’s maturity level, not only in terms of Microsoft 365 adoption but also in the areas of governance, security, shadow IT, and sprawl.
Provide training for employees
If you’ve ever met with resistance from end users when you roll out a new digital tool or policy, rest assured you’re not the only one. Resistance to change is an almost universal human trait, and it can take many forms within your organization. Part of that resistance has to do with fear.
People might worry about making mistakes with the software or that they’ll “break” something. Some are more concerned about how the new tools or policies might affect the way they get their work done. Most people don’t trust what they don’t understand (there’s that pesky human nature again), and still others simply don’t want to take the time to learn new tools.
Fortunately, there’s a solution that can address all of these forms of resistance that might be hampering Microsoft 365 adoption in your organization. That tool is training.
Training is an essential part of growing Microsoft 365 adoption, and if you do it right, it can reduce or eliminate a lot of the resistance you will encounter when working to improve adoption in your organization.
Let’s be honest here, while Microsoft 365 is very powerful for driving productivity and enabling collaboration, it isn’t always the most intuitive. There’s no way your end users can possibly know all the different ways they can use their Microsoft Office applications to make their work easier without training. When you provide the training they need and they start seeing the results, you become the superhero that made their jobs easier.
Providing ample employee training is one of many Microsoft 365 security best practices you can implement to boost productivity and secure your organization’s sensitive data.
Training is the best way to reduce adoption resistance
Training breaks down almost all forms of end user resistance by:
- Helping people become more comfortable with Microsoft Office apps so they no longer worry about doing something wrong and actually begin to explore them to find new efficiencies in their work.
- Showing them how Microsoft 365 can make their work easier and how new policies can make their system more secure (after all, no one wants to be the reason the system got hacked, right?).
- Creating familiarity (the first step towards affinity) with Microsoft 365 makes end users more open-minded and less wary of the platform and how it might change the way they do their work.
- Introducing them to new ways of working with their Microsoft 365 tools that save them time and energy will more than compensate for the learning curve it takes to get them up to speed.
3 essential components of training to drive adoption
1. Explain why end users should adopt Microsoft 365
Having a solid change management plan can help you drive Microsoft 365 adoption from the start. But, if your organization has been working with Microsoft 365 for a while, you can use some of the core concepts of change management to help drive better user adoption, including establishing the reason for the change.
Your end users first need to understand why you’re asking them to use use the new technology. What’s in it for them? If you can answer this question in their minds, they will be more receptive to the tools you’re asking them to use.
One way to accomplish this is to tailor your training to specific teams. Instead of generic examples of how to use Teams, or SharePoint, or other Microsoft 365 tools, use relevant examples of how different Microsoft 365 applications can be used to make the kinds of work each team does easier. This will help in raising awareness of the benefits they can achieve in using them, such as improved collaboration, streamlined communications, and documents that are much easier to find.
Make sure to also explain the business objectives you’re trying to achieve with Microsoft 365. In addition to knowing how Microsoft 365 will help them in their own day-to-day work, end users often want to understand the bigger picture. Share success stories from other groups in the organization that have used Microsoft Office tools to make their work easier and get better results. Providing this context can them better understand how their use of the tools you’re providing will contribute not only to their success but to that of the organization as a whole.
2. Make training easily accessible
The same way friction with Microsoft 365 applications can reduce end user adoption, making it hard for them to find or access the training they need will reduce its effectiveness. If you want to improve adoption (and who wouldn’t?), you need to make the training you provide easily accessible to your end users. Here are some ideas to help you do that:
- Leverage Microsoft 365 learning pathways—Microsoft’s learning pathways provide up-to-date training content that you can pick and choose from to create a customized learning experience for your end users to boost adoption. If you know where your end users are struggling, you can choose resources to address those issues, which are probably hampering user adoption.
- Use Microsoft Bookings to set up live training sessions in Teams—Bookings not only makes scheduling support sessions and training easy, it also allows you to set up a customized bookings page where you can define the training topics you’ll cover on given dates, who will be covering them, and other information that can help your end users select the training that will best fit their needs.
- Create a video learning channel with Stream on SharePoint—Stream is fully integrated with Microsoft Teams. So, when you use Teams to provide training, it’s easy to record and publish those sessions on Stream to make them accessible on demand, along with searchable transcripts that you can generate automatically.
3. Facilitate and encourage continual, two-way communication with your end users
Microsoft 365 is an ever-evolving platform, which means that end users will need your support on an ongoing basis. Having a strategy for end-user communication can be a game-changer when it comes to user adoption, especially in the hybrid workplace.
Bookings is a great tool for facilitating ongoing dialogue with your end users. In addition to making it easier to schedule training sessions, using Bookings to provide “office hours” is a great way to build in the opportunity to get feedback from end users and offer individualized and small group support to address very specific needs. You can also set up training that’s developed for a specific project team to address needs specific to that project.
In addition to providing mechanisms for two-way communication, the effectiveness of your training also depends on how and when you communicate.
To improve adoption, you need to meet your end users where they are in their use of Microsoft 365 tools, and this requires good communication skills. Excessively technical, jargon-filled answers to end user questions or explanations of how to use a given application is absolutely the fastest way to get them to tune out.
When working with your end users, it’s important to be approachable and talk to them in a language they can understand. If this is a skill that’s lacking on your team, it can help to partner with other teams in your organization, such as HR or the communications teams, to develop and/or provide end user training.
And remember, no one likes surprises (except maybe on their birthday). End users need to feel like you’re keeping them in the loop on upcoming changes that might affect the way they work. So, it’s important to always be proactive in your communications.
Secure your Microsoft 365 environment to enable self-serve
Empowering employees to have more autonomy in their work by enabling self-service definitely improves Microsoft 365 adoption. But, it does come with some security risks, particularly in a hybrid work environment. Fortunately, with Microsoft 365, you don’t have to choose between keeping your tenant secure and giving your end users the freedom to work with their Microsoft 365 tools in the ways they work best.
The security risks associated with enabling self-serve in your organization can be very effectively managed by putting appropriate guardrails in place to ensure safe collaboration with external organizations while at the same time, preventing data leaks and breaches.
With proper guardrails in place, you get the best of both worlds, eliminating most of the risks associated with self-serve and getting all the benefits it can provide, including:
- Higher productivity—Empowering end users to find the best ways to do their work makes them more productive.
- Better data security—Self-service gives end users more freedom to work the way they want to, which in turn, reduces the temptation for them to turn to shadow IT.
Guardrails work hand-in-hand with training to reduce barriers to end-user adoption. When you have the right guardrails in place, you can focus more of your attention on working with your end users to help them understand how the guardrails protect them and how they can use their Microsoft 365 tools more effectively.
And, best of all—for you, your end users, and your organization as a whole—a secure self-service environment means you’ll have far fewer tickets to wade through, giving you more time to focus on the important, value-added projects that can move your business forward.
Microsoft 365 adoption tools and resources
If you want to figure out where you stand today in terms of your Microsoft 365 adoption, you have a couple choices: you can slog through all the Microsoft documentation pertaining to adoption and how to measure and track it, or you can use our free, Microsoft 365 maturity assessment tool to find out in less than 10 minutes.
ShareGate’s Microsoft 365 maturity assessment tool
ShareGate’s Microsoft 365 maturity assessment tool is a series of questions designed to evaluate the maturity of your environment within the context of Microsoft’s maturity model.
The assessment only takes about 10 minutes to complete, and at the end you’ll get an analysis of your results that will help you know what steps you need to take in different areas of your organization to level up your Microsoft 365 maturity.
The tool is designed to be used by any IT pro that works with Microsoft 365 and is interested in learning more about Microsoft maturity. However, it’s most powerful in the hands of Microsoft 365 admins in charge of managing all or part of their organization’s tenant.
When you complete the assessment, in addition to getting results personalized for your Microsoft 365 tenant, you’ll get actionable insights into its strengths and weaknesses plus free resources to help you focus on improving it.
These resources include free, online courses specific to the areas identified in your results that might need attention. So, if you’re thinking it’s time to level up your organization’s Microsoft 365 adoption, you’re probably right, and ShareGate’s free maturity assessment tool can help you figure out where you currently are and how to get where you want to be.
Adoption is one of the areas the maturity assessment tool evaluates, and there’s an entire free course dedicated to adoption in ShareGate Academy’s Microsoft 365 Maturity Program.
Learn Microsoft 365 adoption best practices from the pros
You can also learn a lot from Microsoft MVPs about how to improve Microsoft 365 adoption in your organization. So, be sure to check out these resources, too:
- Watch our free, on-demand webinar about adoption and cloud maturity with Microsoft MVP Marc D. Anderson to learn how to get the most out of Microsoft 365.
- Get insights and advice from the pros in our expert roundup blog offering tips and on how to improve Microsoft 365 adoption.
- Learn how to create an end user adoption strategy to help you take full advantage of what Microsoft 365 has to offer.
With all the resources ShareGate provides, improving Microsoft 365 adoption doesn’t have to feel like an uphill climb. If you start with our Microsoft 365 maturity assessment tool, you can quickly find out what you need to do next to start making measurable improvements in adoption.
In this article, we touched on how enabling a secure self-serve environment can help boost adoption. In our free online course on improving adoption, you can learn even more, including the best practices, policies, and processes you can put into place today to drive better and faster Microsoft 365 adoption.