Principles for Working with M365

Adoption & Change Management

Principles for Working with Microsoft 365

Principles for Working with Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 is a collaboration suite that hosts many productivity, communication and collaboration apps like Planner, OneNote, and Forms to name a few in addition to the traditional Office apps like Excel, PowerPoint, and Word.

Users frequently ask me for best practices when using Microsoft 365 but since everyone has their own ways and habits of working, it can be a difficult task to determine what the “best practices” actually are. In fact, there are others who may be able to provide even better guidance on how to work.

For example, Graham Allcott’s book, ‘The Productivity Ninja’, contains "all the tips and techniques you need to stay calm, get through your tasks, make the most of your time and stop procrastinating. It's fun, easy to read, and practical." His recommendations are 100% relevant to working with the M365 platform. The title is not stating "The top 10 rules of how to work with Teams" or "Everything you need to know about Microsoft 365" which would either be too restrictive or too big a task to manage.

For IT professionals who would like to know more about Microsoft 365 specifically, I also recommend Office 365 for IT Pros which is a website created by Tony Redmond and his team. These MVPs give you all the insight you need.

Additionally, these principles are more for how to approach working with Microsoft 365. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, gave a presentation some years ago that still resonates with me. His key statements are:

  • Information is powerful. Make it transparent and share it openly.
  • Be connected, and work towards shared goals.
  • Value contributions to and with others - together we are better.
  • Optimize for the whole organization, across all teams.

These principles are found in Microsoft 365 today. Suppose you are a department within a company and still working in silos. M365 has the apps and methods to support connecting your work across teams. M365 can make your work transparent and shared openly. It has the means to value the contribution of others and co-author and work together. The M365 platform, created to execute your strategy effectively, is for all corners of your organization.

First Principle. Work with the Communication Circle.

As an individual within an organization, you learn 70% on the job, 20% from interactions with others, and 10% from formal education. Therefore, besides developing documents with the traditional apps, you need to drive your skills and experiences. This is what we at SoftwareONE call the we-circle. You store the documents you create on OneDrive. You grow by learning from others and through the information you get from others within your community. Yammer and LinkedIn are also ways to gather feedback and connect with your peers.

Modern Collaboration Architecture (MOCA)
Modern Collaboration Architecture (MOCA), source: Microsoft

Your input is valuable and applicable for your team (your we-circle, so to speak). Instead of your own personal ToDo App, you now start using your teams' planner app to stay connected and work on shared goals.

Your team drives active and open communication to the organization and the apps and documents are communicated in a way is optimized for the whole organization. The system of learning and developing as an individual is interconnected, just like M365, and you are interconnected with your organization.

Second Principle: Share Openly and Frequently.

Through the use of "@-mentions" through the apps in Microsoft 365, you have a powerful tool to share and communicate directly and frequently. By using "@-Mentions," you include people who can read your comments at their convenience. Even if they have personal time off or have reduced working hours, they are always included. "@-Mentions" even work inside Word-documents.

Sharing is not presenting. If you share your screen, the audience looks at what you are doing. If you want to stimulate collaboration and co-authoring, do not present your documents but instead, share the link and ask people to step into it. Co-authoring drives responsibility and creates an excellent co-working experience.

Share the link and co-author. It will drive more transparency. 

Third Principle: Together is Better.

If we look at the last 21 years in the software industry, it’s clear that we have made a leap in the capabilities of platforms and applications; of course, we talked about Cloud computing in the year 2000, but in those days, to be honest, we were too busy with the millennial bug. The Cloud innovation was created at the fringes of the software industry and is now all over us. Innovation is what drives growth and makes new dynamic capabilities. Combining cloud computing innovation with a renewed look at the value of data and data science gives people ample opportunities to develop new business models and create unique competitive advantages.

For your organization to flourish, you need knowledge tools that drive the combination of connecting the dots and linking the departments and the people. Your organization should work together as a well-oiled machine, and should be resilient to attacks on the system. The Microsoft 365 platform supports this method of working. The apps can be used together by creating workflows that automate all the standard processes.

Additionally, the 365 ecosystem supports interconnections with groups of people outside your organization. It drives innovation at the fringes of your organization by securing your data and driving collaboration. Look for ways to combine your apps or connect them as much as possible to get the best out of the platform and drive your innovation. Together is better for people and for the apps too. Combined apps drive communication between people.

Fourth Principle: Value Contributions.

Working the way you always did will bring you the results you always had. As stated before, the value you gain fades over time, and you need to innovate and get input from others to stay on top of your game. Look at how others are doing in the market place. The platforms you select are critical for your capability to listen and learn from your organization and the world outside. What are the challenges in the different business units? In which areas do you need a different approach to drive your business? What kind of modern communication tools do your employees want to have?

This way of thinking can sometimes be met with indifference. Most employees within your organization do not think about these things; they prefer simple rules on how to use your IT infrastructure. If they do not know, they do not want to know. Well, it is time to step up your game and ask the right people. The 70-20-10 rule applies here too. 70% of the people are not ready to start this conversation, 20% are interested but do not have the time to discuss, and 10% are open to talking about it and will give you valuable insights into constructing your organization's best governance model. Looking for the right people inside and outside is a great day-to-day habit to drive significant change.

Governance of Microsoft 365

Hey, I do not have time for principles. I need answers: Who can create MS Teams and what naming conventions do we agree on? Do we allow guest access? What apps do we approve of? What data security conventions do we apply?

With the four principles discussed earlier in mind, let’s take a renewed look at the Governance of Microsoft 365. Is it a rule book? I genuinely hope you are as convinced as I am that it should not be a rulebook or a top ten list of steps to take to create a well-oiled machine. It should do that and foster organizational growth.

From an IT perspective, you want structure and maximum utilization of available resources. However, the idea of restricting people in your organization when creating their Teams conflicts with all the business innovation literature in the world. People need autonomy and freedom to express themselves and to test their thoughts and ideas. The faster they can test, the quicker they can let go of ideas that are not supported or ready yet. Who can create Teams? That question should be replaced with Who can drive innovation?

As far as naming conventions are concerned, in my personal environment, I have at least 4 Maria's and maybe 6 John's; while browsing through our active directory, I see many duplicate names and although I do not know them, there are even more Herbert’s at SoftwareONE than I thought. Computers cannot handle duplicates yet - with the emphasis on yet. However, as you place an "@-Mention" in a document, Microsoft 365 already suggests the most frequent and likely person you’re trying to mention. Since computing systems need unique identifiers, naming conventions need to foster uniqueness and autonomy - structure and freedom all at the same time. Creating automated systems that make automatic naming creates inflexibility and standardization.

Finally, when determining who to give access to, there are some things to consider: are you open to input from others? How do you know who you can trust? Do you trust everybody? What purpose do guests have and what permissions do you all them to have? It depends on the guest. One you can give more space and one you might give less. It is, however, crucial to know who is in the house in case of a fire, so to speak. For that reason, you need to have a structured and unique overview of who-is-who and what permissions have been assigned.

Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow

Of course, circumstances and time pressures can prevent you from making quick decisions. However, it’s important to make the time to determine the rules you want to apply. Use the principles in this article as valuable guidelines for growth. Involve people outside of the IT organization. Be empathic to all opinions and design the innovative capabilities for the overall organization. In the case of governance, think slow and make principled decisions. Set aside your organizational bias and fast thinking. Make several iterations and learn fast.

The Fast-list of M365 Governance

  • Team creation limitations
    • during test phase
    • in production
    • behavior monitoring
    • types of teams
    • security labels
  • Naming conventions
    • duplicate names
    • prefix-suffix based names
    • classifications
    • test naming conventions with early adopters
  • Guest access
    • Who can give access?
    • privacy and guest sharing
    • meeting room equipment, conference room hardware
  • Licensing requirements for the different settings
  • Lifecycle management of groups, teams, and data

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  • User Productivity, Digital Transformation, Adoption and Change Management
  • Modern Work, People, Technology Transformation, Microsoft 365, ACM

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Herbert van Sintemaartensdijk

Herbert van Sintemaartensdijk

Digital Business Innovator and Transformation Advisor

Herbert is a Digital Business Innovator and Transformation advisor, currently researching cognitive behavior design for large corporations in complex environments. Passionate about both consulting and teaching digital transformation, organizational change and driving new business models.

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