Any IT project is a big investment in time and money. It’s obvious that when users are happy, the implementation has gone well. What’s less obvious is how much a new SharePoint Intranet or Office 365 implementation can impact the users and the working culture of their organization - even on implementations that go well from a technical point of view.
Consider your Office 365 implementation impact
Office 365 clearly has huge potential to disrupt an organization’s IT ecosystem because it effectively whisks it away into the cloud, but even SharePoint Intranets pose a challenge because they may require a change in working practices and mindsets to realize their full potential.
Take for example the Groups in Office 365; it works best when users actively hold conversations in the group rather than via email. Unfortunately, email has become such a fundamental part of working practices that even the most forward looking business users initially struggle to imagine not using it for everything. Even if users are struggling to adapt how they work, nobody will deny that a single, centralized place to collaborate and share documents is the way to go.
New IT tools are inevitably met with resistance by at least some users. The success of the new system doesn't depend on avoiding change, but on smoothing out the process of change so that resistance is as low as possible. Traditionally, this is achieved by training staff and offering help and support as they adjust to the new system, but training on its own is not enough.
Now just hang on one second there
Before I go on to share the tips that can help minimize the negative impact of implementing SharePoint & Office 365, I'd like to state one caveat: if you’re not solving a business problem or improving a process for your users then the implementation has failed before it even starts.
If you have a clear vision of how the new system is going to make the business work smarter and quicker, then read on.
A good communications plan
Users need to trust that IT isn't just embarking on another hare-brained project just for the sake of change. The best way to secure their buy-in is to effectively communicate how they stand to benefit. Get leaders involved so that users can see that the business wants and needs the change; maybe ask the CEO or COO to blog or drop in on regular team meetings to give an overview of the project.
Share simple benefits statements like “Office 365 means that you don’t have to log on to the VPN just to check your email” or “You'll be able to recover previous version of a document you are working on” with the users. Put up posters if you like, or maybe make some short fun videos to promote its benefits.
A good communication plan doesn’t just channel information from the project team to the users, it needs to work both ways. Users should have a clear idea of how they can submit ideas and feedback to the project and then make sure that their ideas are acknowledged, even if you can’t implement them. Reward users who come up with great ideas.
Training and support is critical to the success of the project, and should be fine-tuned to your users.
Are you a small, tech savvy start-up that employs geeks who live for technology? You could probably provide more than enough training by simply pointing users to some e-learning!
But keep in mind that most companies are staffed by users who are not (gasp!) tech-lovers and who will need to be shown the ropes in a more supportive and structured training environment.
Another invaluable benefit is that training can be used to communicate the ‘why’, and not just the ‘how’ of using the new software.
Keep users on side
User training and the communications plan are necessary, but they’re just the beginning.
Think of ways that you can show users that IT cares about how the implementation is going to affect them, for better or worse. While it’s not practical to implement every idea from every user every time, you need to demonstrate that you take their feedback seriously.
To avoid the perception that you're simply paying lip service to their concerns you’ll need to actively involve users in the project with activities like surveys and feedback sessions, and to transparently communicate back to the business how and why you'll act on their input.
Stage the roll out
When comes the time to roll out your new system, different ways of doing it are possible. It could, for example, be on a team by team or on a feature by feature basis, depending on the nature of your implementation.
Software bugs and other teething problems can result in lost time, money and user goodwill, so it's best to minimize their impact to a small group where the issue is contained and more easily resolved.
The lessons learned from overcoming the problem can then also be applied to the remainder of the roll out.
Don’t ever ‘finish’
Much like Office 365 itself, your project shouldn’t ever be ‘finished’.
One of the benefits of this departure from traditional project's communication is that it'll help everyone understand that implementing SharePoint, and in a broader sense Office 365, isn’t just another IT project: It’s not an evolution, it’s a revolution.
There may be future iterations and smaller projects to improve services or roll out new features.
Make the impact positive
Implementing Office 365 & SharePoint will undoubtedly have a major impact on your organization, so you need to do what you can to make sure that impact is as positive as possible.
To sum up, you can minimize the negative impact of a SharePoint & Office 365 implementation in your organization by communicating the benefits to your users, providing the proper support and training before and after the launch of the platform, and by making it easy to users to provide feedback.
With all that in mind when deploying the platform, you'll definitely ease the adoption of the platform and increase productivity in your workplace.
If you have any questions or tips of your own I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.