Office 365 User Adoption and Change Management

There’s no point implementing new technologies if nobody’s using them. CompanyNet’s Office 365 User Adoption and Change Management services ensure your staff, processes and systems are all aligned and ready to get going with new ways of working.

What is a User Adoption Guide?

A user adoption guide explains how to successfully roll-out a new technology or process. It typically identifies stakeholders to involve, typical scenarios, success metrics to measure adoption and impact, the plan and approach, communications to guide users through the journey, and a training strategy to support and reinforce user adoption.

How are adoption rates calculated?

User adoption rates are calculated by the number of new users divide by the total number of users over a pre- agreed time. Adoption rates increase when you include training and support to the new users as part of an overall user adoption and change management plan.

How can we improve user adoption?

Put a user adoption strategy at the core of the wider project plan. It should focus on the people impacted by the change, raising awareness of why it’s happening, and sharing the benefits. A training strategy focuses on real-world scenarios and uses multiple formats to accommodate different learning styles.

Microsoft Office 365 User Adoption

Office 365 User Adoption
Office 365 User Adoption

User adoption for Office 365 comes with the advantage of the familiarity of many of the core apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but also with the challenge that introduces a fundamentally new way of working in the cloud, along with a host of new tools and apps that many users are not familiar with at all.

Many of the deeply ingrained habits users have developed over the years working in network drives and file shares create problems in the new cloud-based world, and many of the features that solve old world problems aren’t immediately known by users if they are not given the proper guidance and training that makes them aware of these new benefits.

Microsoft Teams revolutionises and enhances the way we collaborate, communicate and work with files, but only if users are aware of all the handy features that will make their working lives better.

With all the new tools and apps available to users, it can be tricky to figure out what to use when, and which tool is best for the task at hand. Organisations who have made the move to Office 365 or on the verge of doing so would benefit greatly from giving user adoption the focus and attention it deserves to make best use of the licenses purchased, and fundamentally improving digital ways of working across the board.

When implementing technologies such as the cloud and Microsoft Teams for the first time, it’s therefore important that you undertake a well-planned programme of change management in order to ensure new ways of working are fully adopted.

Common Microsoft User Adoption Pitfalls

Common Microsoft User Adoption Pitfalls

The most common pitfall with Office 365 user adoption and change management is simply turning it on and leaving it to the user to figure out how to use the apps and features, what to use when, and to find out the benefits for themselves.

While this may work for the early adopter mindset who is eager to try out new tools and products, most users simply don’t have the time during their working day to figure these things out and still meet the goals, deliverables and deadlines of their jobs.

This means that they’ll utilise only a small fraction of what’s now available to them, while sticking with tried and tested old ways of working. Even with the presence of eager early adopters championing the new ways of working, if the organisation as a whole and its leadership don’t forge and promote the path of adoption, the old status quo will persist.

Lack of reinforcement

Another pitfall is the lack of reinforcement of the new ways of working. Even with the proper training, guidance, and change management techniques, it’s hard to rewire years of habit of doing things a certain way, and users can easily revert back to the old ways. When leadership figures, champions and super users continuously guide others to the new ways, eventually they will become the default way of communicating and collaborating.

Examples of these deeply engrained habits that need to be rewired can include sending files attachments via email instead of a sharing the file (creating duplicates and multiple versions that are stored in a diversity of places); collaborating in email discussions where key people might not be copied in on the entire conversation, instead of using a Microsoft Teams channel or chat; a group of people working on their own separate version of a file and having to compile all them into a single document, instead of using co-authoring while would allow everyone to work in the same file at the same time.

Office 365 User Adoption Strategy

office 365 user adoption guide
Office 365 User Adoption Strategy

An Office 365 user adoption strategy is the planned approach to change management, leading to the full adoptinoof Microsoft 365 and the ways of working it supports within an organisation.

We advocate for a strategy that focuses on the people impacted by the change, overcoming the natural resistance to change, driving awareness and focusing on what will benefit them. Where possible, engagement with a pilot user community prior to a broader roll out will help evaluate the wider plan, and allow for improvements and the discovery of any unforeseen problems which can be solved before the full launch to the wider organisation.

Tailor strategy to your organisation

It’s important to note that the user adoption strategy for a small creative agency in a single office with tech-savvy users will be very different to one for a large organisation distributed across multiple regional offices and encompassing different business teams with a diversity of basic IT skills.

So that’s where we start the change management process: learning about your organisation. Not only the needs and challenges faced by management, but also those of the end-users who will be using Office 365 and Microsoft Teams. We learn about the most common work tasks that can benefit from the new tools and features in Office 365, and provide guidance, training and support on how best to use them. We learn about the particular challenges faced by different teams, and figure out how these new tools and features can help overcome those challenges.

Engaging mobile and field workers

With the introduction of Microsoft 365, and associated technologies like Microsoft Teams in an organisation, there are often groups or teams of staff – usually mobile or field staff – who were previously disconnected digitally from the organisation, and now have to start using a digital tool set to work with their office-based colleagues. Their particular needs and challenges often differ, and their training should be approached from a different starting perspective based on their time-constraints and general IT literacy. There would be wasted effort in spending a lot of time training a tech-savvy office-based on basic functionality, but those who have seldom used digital apps during their working day benefit from additional hand-holding as they navigate this new world.

The strategy should be tailored to the organisation and its userbase, and will depend on whether there are existing resources available within the organisation – such as a Learning and Development or Training team, a Communications team, a Business Change team – who can absorb user adoption of Office 365 into their standing programmes. Those roles might need to be outsourced to partners like CompanyNet, until there is enough self-sufficiency within the organisation.

Either way, our goal is always towards enabling the organisation to gain that self-sufficiency once enough people have been onboarded into the new ways of working.

Office 365 User Adoption Roll Out Plan

The best roll-out plan is the one tailored to the organisation’s strategy, priorities and resources. By learning about your organisation, engaging with staff to discover how you work, we can help you maximise the benefits of all the tools Office 365 has to offer, including Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive and determining which of the apps are suited for individuals and teams in delivering their work.

A key point to keep in mind is that new features and tools, and improvements are continuously released by Microsoft. The initial roll-out is the starting point, but with the ever-changing and ever-improving Office 365, an organisation should revisit how the new can improve what’s already been implemented. Additionally, many organisations rightfully steer away from deploying everything all at once, to minimise the amount of change and disruption their users must tolerate during the initial roll-out.

The following provides a comprehensive outline of typical roll out plan, which is then modified and tailored to the particular needs of an organisation. By following this process, we help you achieve a successful programme of change management for Microsoft 365:

Here are some key takeaways from each step in the process:

Discover and Design

This stage lays the foundations for the roll out plan.

Assemble team

We pinpoint everyone who needs to be involved in the project, and what their roles and responsibilities will be.

Define business strategy

We learn about your organisation from a strategic point of view, as well as from the end-user point of view, consolidating the priorities and key scenarios that will drive how Office 365 is adopted by the organisation.

Technical analysis

We understand the technological landscape, uncovering any challenges or dependencies that will need to be overcome from a technical perspective to move forward.

Design scope and solution

The scope of what will be implemented and the strategy to implement is agreed, taking into account the business strategy and technical requirements.

Plan for ‘Engage & Adopt’

Whether an initial pilot to explore how best to adopt Office 365, or a bold roll-out to an entire organisation, the plan for engagement and adoption will coordinate all the streams of activity for the next stage.

Engage & Adopt

This stage takes the organisation from the theoretical to the practical, and from strategy to implementation.

Prepare your environment

We make sure everything is in place from a technical point of view for the roll-out of Office 365

Build adoption plan

Focusing in on the departments, teams and individuals, training, communications and awareness plans are put into place.

Execute sprints

The solution is deployed, and users are engaged, trained and supported.

Support sprints

Users are supported in the initial adoption phase, collecting feedback and discovering areas of improvement for future sprints.

Adjust plan

Based on the feedback and outcome of the prior sprints, any adjustments needed to the plan are put into place for upcoming sprints.

Optimise & Reinforce

This stage monitors adoption, looks for enhancements for existing solutions, and incorporates the new features and tools released on an ongoing basis.

Monitor end-user adoption

Feedback is gathered from users to provide actionable insights.

Measure and report usage

Usage reporting supplements the human feedback.

Continuous enhancement

As not everything is rolled out all at once, once users are comfortable in the new ways of working, further enhancements and additional apps and features can be turned on.


With an ever-improving product like Office 365, new features need to be explored to see if they would benefit the organisation, and risks mitigated for changes that might impact existing solutions.

Office 365 End User Training

The biggest pitfall in user adoption is simply turning on Office 365 and hoping that users will have the time, energy and desire to figure things out themselves. This often means that an organisation will not be using Office 365 to the full extent of its potential and benefit.

Without proper training and guidance, users are likely to bring old-world habits into the new cloud world that ultimately create additional problems. Continuing to attach documents to emails instead of sharing them, creating nested upon nested folders and subfolders that increase the file path length to the point that the desktop applications can’t open the files, creating copies for offline use when Office 365 already has the functionality to support offline work are just some examples of this.

Core functionality training

All users should have basic core functionality training of the primary features of Office 365 that are common to all organisations. But not all users learn in the same way: some might only need short two minute videos to get up to speed, others might only really acquire the knowledge through hands-on training, some prefer short bullet-point instructions, and there are those who will need the extra hand-holding if they’ve never needed to develop basic IT skills in their profession.

Different teams will then benefit from different tools and apps within Office 365: some will want to learn to use Planner, while others will find OneNote to be particularly helpful in their work. Discovering which tools are most appropriate to which teams, and showing them how best to use those tools should inform a training program.

Office 365 Collaboration

Part of the essence of Office 365 is to promote and support collaboration between individuals, teams, and the organisation at large, including partner organisations, clients or third-party entities outside of your organisation. All of this within any constraints defined by your organisation: it might be that you should not allow external guests, or control who is allowed access.

At the individual level, you can invite others to view or collaborate on files you save in OneDrive – giving you the tools you need to manage and revoke access as needed, rather than having to rely on IT or clog up inboxes with multiple versions of the same file. Teams will allow you to communicate in real time via chat, audio calls or video calls with your colleagues, or to collaborate in a channel in a remote and flexible way. Files saved in SharePoint sites can be co-authored in real time by members of that site, and shared with others as needed.

At the team level, you can collaborate with your colleagues within the channels and associated SharePoint sites and folders, and hold Team meetings. You can use apps like Planner to coordinate and assign tasks.

At the organisational level, you can set up Teams and SharePoint site for external collaboration while retaining all the data, information and files within your Office 365 tenant or home.

Here are some scenarios that have made a real impact on those who have successfully adopted Office 365 within their organisation:

Unclutter and stop drowning in your inbox

By moving the collaborative workspace from email to Teams channels and chats, user inboxes become a lot more manageable – in many cases, their inbox reflects those contacts that they are not collaborating with directly on Teams.

Prevent important information from getting lost or not communicated to relevant parties

Collaborating in Teams channels means that everyone who belongs to the team stays informed on the different topics. Often, people are mistakenly not copied in on emails they should be seeing, or a user forgets to ‘Reply to all’ to keep everyone informed. Moving that discussion to a Teams channel keeps everyone on the same page (or screen).

All the information is there to provide coverage for those on holiday or sick leave

When a user needs to provide coverage for colleagues who are absent, they can quickly get up to speed if everything has been shared in Teams, rather than buried within the absent user’s inbox.

No more duplicates or multiple versions of the same file

With sharing and co-authoring, users no longer waste their valuable time compiling different versions of a file into a single document, or figuring out which version is up-to-date.

However, all these benefits can only come to life if users are aware of the features, know how to use them appropriately, and stop reverting to old ways of working. This is where user adoption once again takes centre stage in a successful roll-out of Office 365.

Office 365 Remote working

COVID-19 has been the greatest driver of change in enabling companies across the globe to transform their organisations to support remote working. For a period of time, it has become the new normal for most office-based workers, and might become the status quo going forward for many teams across an organisation.

Remote working is made possible not only by the online digital workspace itself, but by training and guiding users towards best practices.

Understanding how best to run a remote meeting, using status indicators to inform colleagues of when you’re available for ad-hoc chats and brainstorming, the importance of scheduling focus time in calendars as just some of the best practices we cover when working with our clients.

Office 365 Flexible Working

Flexible working can attract and keep talented employees that otherwise might not be able to conform to traditional working hours, but whose contributions are just as significant and beneficial to an organisation.

By successfully adopting the Office 365 digital workspace, employees can work from anywhere in the world at any time of the day or night local time – as the cloud workspace allows for communication and collaboration across geographical and time divisions.

Ready to find out more? Get in touch now

Get in touch with our friendly team now:

The CompanyNet Team

The CompanyNet team has more than 20 years’ experience of creating Microsoft digital workplaces that really work.

We’re a tight-knit team that delivers results for customers including Scottish Water, Mencap, the Student Loans Company, Walt Disney, Tesco Bank, the Scottish Housing Regulator and many more.

We’re always keen to discuss whether we can help you get more out of Office 365.

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