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8 min to readDigital Workplace

How to increase Microsoft 365 adoption for better internal collaboration

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Kevin J. BernsteinGlobal Practice Lead - Governance, Change Management, Adoption, Service Success Management
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Operations and processes within an organisation always take a lot of planning and optimising for best results. But with the right tools managing this challenge can be made easier.  Having the right tools to manage this challenge can help simplify even the most difficult tasks.  

This guide focuses on how you can use Microsoft 365 services to improve your internal communications. We will also go over a few points that drive efficiency and, hopefully, provide you with more clarity on how to lead organisational change.

The challenges of internal communication

There are some existing and emerging trends when it comes to running an AI-powered, high-performance workplace area. What are the key things to know?

  1. Email, the foundation of digital business, is still the main form of communication.
    However, many of our clients say that they get too many emails. Getting back from a holiday and launching your inbox is always a daunting task. There are often hundreds, if not thousands of emails waiting for you to review. Most of them are unnecessary. And in many organisations it is still the main tool for file-sharing.
  2. Chatbots, video and generative AIkeep gaining importance.
    We are captivated by video content, interactivity and multiple use cases of of AI and chatbots. However, these ways of engaging employees (and customers) can take up a lot of resources, both in terms of time and budget. What’s worse, a successful technical implementation doesn’t always mean that you have the best solution.
  3. Employers need to maintain dialogue with employees.
    This is really about giving your employees a way to be heard and provide feedback. Using a digital medium to encourage two-way conversation with management moves your culture towards greater transparency. Dialogue is the pathway to understanding.
  4. Staying connected with remote personnel can still be a challenge.
    Though this matter has been simplified in recent years, organisations are still figuring out the best ways for remote employees to communicate and collaborate. Even in the return to office world, engaging with remote employees, partners, and vendors is more important now than ever. Collaboration tools are being used in new and innovative ways, even when in-person.
  5. How to measure the efficiency of communication?
    Improvement is impossible without measurement. Identifying KPIs suitable for our scenarios, assessing the effectiveness of our actions, and making adjustments that drive improvement is essential.

But before we explore some tips to overcome these challenges, let’s look at the services themselves.

Microsoft 365 services for collaboration

Here we are going to mainly focus on tools that will help you to implement your communication strategy and empower your people to work from anywhere in a safe and compliant way.

Microsoft Teams

This is a multi-faceted tool used both in personal communication (chat, audio/video conferences 1:1 or 1:many). It’s also a very powerful service for project work. This is where Microsoft sees the future of communication and collaboration, which given recent years, is no surprise. But it’s not just a tool for communication. With numerous in-Teams applications you can greatly extend its capacities and enable your employees to manage many administrative or project-related processes directly in their chats.

SharePoint Online

This service is used mostly for intranet pages for departmental or group level. SharePoint makes it easy to publish documents, posts, graphics, videos, surveys and a lot of other content.

While there may be some areas that are a bit more tricky or need a bit more customisation, such as ease of changing content, a unified menu, content targeting to specified recipient groups, it is still a very effective tool.

Viva Engage (formerly Yammer)

An enterprise social network. It’s a straightforward, intuitive platform for broad-scale communication within a company, with a lot of ready-made graphics, memes and videos.

It’s a lot like a social media tool for companies but protected from outside access, along with the IT department’s oversight of employee usage (basic level statistics).

Stream

These days it seems that everyone is talking about video publishing. Stream can help us immensely with this. Think of it as another social media tool for company employee usage.

You still have to create the video content yourself, but publication and usage are made more accessible.

Additionally, depending on the bandwidth and the device we use to watch the video, Stream automatically scales video resolution to prevent buffering and unwanted pauses.

Forms

A simple polling tool. You can create a survey in a few minutes, send it to your recipients or publish on SharePoint/Teams and gather employee feedback. You can even export the results into Excel.

Sway

A simple yet effective, visual storytelling tool. If you’re bored of PowerPoint, you can get creative with Sway, and then post the results, e.g. on a SharePoint site.

Delve

This service is mainly used to find information in Office 365. If you have Office 365 implemented at your organisation then definitely give it a try. You will be surprised by the amount of information available.

CoPilot

In preview at the time of witing, Microsoft CoPilot is set to revolutionise the way we work. Integrated with the Microsoft 365 suite, it uses natural language processing to generate summaries, organise information and edit messaging to minimise manual effort and leave more space for creative work.

What are the challenges with Microsoft 365 use?

The majority of medium to large organisations already have the Office suite. The unfortunate part is that many times IT departments reduce its deployment to a complete minimum, or the adoption phase has been omitted.

This can mean that even though you are licensed for much more, you likely only have Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint and Word installed on your work machine, and maybe a few other things that you don’t ever use. But Microsoft 365 offers so much more. And its features and services make a big difference in improving internal communication and collaboration.

Of course, we can’t expect employees to adopt features and services that they have never used before. They sometimes require training, a culture change, or even new processes.

It is neither easy nor cheap. Promoting these services is a difficult and long-term endeavour. Depending on the level of engagement from the board or department directors, budget and a plan, it can take six months to a year to get things going, and success is not always guaranteed. There are no shortcuts – this takes time and effort. One thing that is guaranteed; many organisations license tools that are not deployed or underutilised impacting the ROI

Where to start with Microsoft 365 adoption for better communication?

There are a few steps you can take to improve the odds of success when implementing your communication strategy.

1. Make a plan!

Rolling out new software and simultaneously changing your company culture is so challenging that without a plan you are doomed to fail.

Remember that your employees have been using old tools for years. They developed habits and processes for getting the results they need. Even the best feature demonstration and training won’t change their ways overnight.

Your implementation plan should begin with you taking stock of all tools and software that your employees use daily. The best way to do this is by surveying your employees. You will be surprised to learn how various departments use these tools.

Learn what channels of communication are used by the Communications Department, employees and other content managers (branch/department heads, mid-level managers) to communicate the following:

  • Business mission and vision
  • Corporate news
  • Company events –announcements and reports
  • Changes in company processes
  • Information on personnel changes
  • Department-specific information
  • Required training
  • Company procedures
  • CSR activities.

2. Evaluate and execute your policy

Assess your current situation. Is your organisation using the appropriate tools? Are the procedures and document templates stored on the employee portal, where they are centrally updated and have business owners? Or are they always sent by email and everyone is left wondering whether they have the right version?

At this point, you can begin creating a Business Communications Plan. We know most of you already have an up-to-date one already.

Wherever possible, it is essential to reserve a particular type of communication to a particular channel. For instance, if we’re talking about meals in the work canteen, we only do it on Yammer in a “Meals at work” group instead of an email.

3. Set goals and follow through on their implementation

  • Find out what you care about the most. (e.g. employee activity level, the amount of site visits on the company project website, the number of messages sent via Teams etc.)
  • Measure the current state
  • Set your goals
  • Review metrics regularly – e.g. every month or quarter
  • Customise, change, experiment with content, targeting or channels.

4. Set up a group of Ambassadors of change

A group of people eager to act, appropriately led and motivated, trained and distinguished will have a completely different level of persuasion across the business, especially when implementing a new communication tool.

5. Get leadership on board

Without their support, it’s just not going to happen! Support from the top will solve plenty of doubts among the team.

If a busy CEO or HR Director adopts a new tool, it is difficult to argue as to whether or not it is worth using. The support of leadership will give you wings. Trust us; it’s worth selling this idea and engaging an influential business owner.

6. Reward engagement

Before the snowball effect happens and people have plenty of discussions or creatively produce content of their own, they need to be motivated.

This is an excellent opportunity for creative people to come up with neat ideas. We’ve seen various types of rewards, from simple trinkets to development training, to concepts like assigning a parking space at the HQ building for a month.

Moving forward with M365 adoption 

The frequent reason for disappointment is the hope that conducting training and showing use cases are enough for our employees to happily begin using the new tools.

The engagement might grow, especially among younger employees. After all, they can use a social network (Viva Engage), publish videos, use mobiles and tablets, work remotely.

Typically though, once the IT department announces a successful deployment, usually a year later, we see frustration coming from the business. What happened? All these great tools, modern, constantly developed, used successfully around the world, and yet they don’t work? 

Once again, remember – have a plan, execute it, monitor progress and amend as needed. IT’s important to note that there is no magic bullet. each situation and organisation is unique and most can benefit by external coaching. When you need support, you can always contact us, and we’ll work out a solution that’s right for your company.

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Author

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Kevin J. Bernstein
Global Practice Lead - Governance, Change Management, Adoption, Service Success Management

Focusing on the people-side of change