Patrick Lamber

Patrick Lamber - May 1, 2016 - Follow          
Technical consultant and Office Server and Services MVP.

Making Office 365 work for your business

by Patrick Lamber on May 1, 2016
Filed under: Office 365 Best practices
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First launched by Microsoft back in 2010, Office 365 has experienced a major boom in recent years, with many companies rushing to introduce the solution. Nevertheless, the question remains how many of these companies actually need such a powerful plattform – and, as a consequence, how many are truly getting the most out of Office 365. Here are six key steps to making Office 365 work for your business.

Like every other sector, the IT industry is subject to fast-moving trends. Just as certain clothing styles, mobile phones and holiday destinations are ‘in’ or ‘out’, the same logic applies to software. Yet, trends are a poor basis for taking important decisions – such as introducing a new piece of software – that will affect the long-term future of a company.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Office 365. Much of my day-to-day work involves advising businesses on the best way to introduce and get the most out of this platform. Yet it is precisely this experience working closely with such companies that has made me acutely aware of the many challenges that migrating to Office 365 presents – and the steps that need to be taken so that firms get the most out of it.

Step 1: Do I really need Office 365?

It may sound a little paradoxical, but the first step on the road to successfully implementing Office 365 is to take a close look at how your company works and to ask yourself the question: Do I really need it? Failing carry out such an analysis beforehand can not only burden you with a system that does match the processes or business cases within the company – it can also leave a big hole in your IT budget. Moving to Office 365 is, after all, much more than simply a case of buying the software and flicking a switch. If anything, a successful move is less of a technical challenge and more a cultural one, for in order to get the most out of this plattform you need to do one of the hardest things out there in the corporate world: get people to change the way they behave. I will talk more about the importance of change management later, but all of these factors must be taken into consideration when assessing whether Office 365 is the right solution for your business.

Step 2: Office 365 is a long-term commitment, so start planning

If you do decide that Office 365 is what your business needs, the next step is thorough planning. Moving to and working with Office 365 is a long-term process that never really ends, because Office 365 grows with your company. At the same time, introducing Office 365 is an opportunity to analyse working habits within your company and to discover hidden processes that may be hindering efficiency and performance. For example, hidden processes frequently lie buried under a mountain of files that you are storing on your file system, many of which are often outdated and redundant. In such cases, just like moving home is a good opportunity to clear out all that junk from your cellar, introducing SharePoint Online or other subservices of Office 365 offers a chance to delete many of these files. As well as the feeling of satisfaction this brings with it, clearing out the data dead wood also helps you to clearly understand and define processes which are relevant to your business today. After all, these current processes are what can and should be optimised by Office 365 services.

Step 3: Get professionals on board

Office 365 is not a piece of software that you can figure out in just a few weeks, and few companies will be lucky enough to have internal IT staff that also happen to work with Office 365. Anyway, those people usually have too many different parallel activities and products to cover for to being able to specialize into Office 365 to a satisfying extent. As a result, it is often worth calling in external specialists (or even more) to advise your company on the best way of going about moving to Office 365. It takes years to really know how to successfully introduce successfully Office 365 in to a business, so no internal IT staff – no matter how competent he or she may be – can will be able to acquire this knowledge in the short space of time normally provided for such planning processes.

Step 4: New software also means a new way of working

One of the biggest mistakes made by companies that decide to introduce Office 365 is that they see it as purely as an IT issue. With the decision taken, they think that they can leave everything to the computer guys down the corridor and carry on with business as usual. This is a fatal error, and one which has caused many Office 365 projects to fail. Introducing Office 365 means a fundamental change in the working culture of a company. That is something that no single person – certainly not an IT guy – can do on its own. Instead, it needs a concerted effort driven by all levels of management and supported by every single department to adapt processes in such a way that Office 365 can fulfil its potential. That does involve a lot of work, but it is worth it.

Step 5: Use your staff to spread Office 365 know-how

Key Users play a particularly important role when it comes to introducing Office 365. These are members of a company’s staff who are highly trained in the use of Office 365 and act as a bridge between external Office 365 experts and the other members of staff within the firm with less knowledge of Office 365. It is often a good idea to have Key Users spread strategically across the company, with one or two in each department, so that all members of staff have receive competent help with Office 365 on a day-to-day basis while keeping support costs to a minimum.

Step 6: Start small and let Office 365 grow with your business

Many firms are tempted to go for the full-featured Office 365 release with all of the whistles and bells. Yet, there is no point in buying the most expensive Office 365 solution out there if your company does not need it (now) – and at the start of a move process, it is almost impossible to know what will be required in the long term. Thanks to Office 365 modular construction it is easy to start with a smaller version of the platform, allowing you to move to the higher added features when you really need them. Rushing to implement XXL software with unnecessary features is a bad idea. Instead, be patient, start small and let Office 365 grow with your business.

Conclusion

The message is simple: as with so many other things in life, thorough preparation is the key to successfully moving to Office 365. In some cases, this may even mean choosing another, more appropriate system if your specific business case cannot be covered. If the decision is taken to introduce Office 365, change management is almost more important than the technical migration itself. Simply introducing Office 365 will do nothing to help your business and can, in the worst case, leave you frustrated and out of pocket. Yet with the correct planning and the will to adapt your company’s processes, Office 365 can help you move your business forward.

by Patrick Lamber on May 1, 2016
Filed under: Office 365 Best practices
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