Office 365 adoption : It’s not (just) about the training

As with the roll out of any new system, training for Office 365 is essential for users. But without close consultation on what training to deliver, we run the risk of it falling on deaf ears or missing the mark completely.

By: Neil Thomas, Communications Services Director, Claranet


I’ve had a few conversations recently that have started in the same way: "We’re going to move to Office 365, but we need to organise some training for our users". Of course, training is an important consideration for any change programme and is a key part of driving adoption of the tools available in Office 365. But if it’s not considered carefully, it can be of minimal use and even counter-productive.

To address this issue, we always advise organisations to start by thinking about the business outcomes they are trying to achieve. Simply inviting teams to generic training (even once you’ve selected a tool that is likely to be used from the vast array available within Office 365) isn’t going to get much interest.

However, if you tell colleagues they are going to receive some training that will help them to do part of their job in a better way, and everything suddenly sounds interesting. For example, this could be the capability to collaborate online with colleagues on the next monthly report they need to produce so they can get it done more quickly and without version control issues. The secret is to set an outcome that aligns with their goals, not yours.

There is even more to consider, such as which users are going to work with which tools, how you are going to set them up, the order that each tool will be rolled out, and how much time you plan to allow to ensure everything goes smoothly.

All these elements need careful thought to ensure any training is specific and relevant. You may also want to develop very detailed rules about what documents are stored where on SharePoint, who can access which folders, and what rights different users have to change the structure of internal teams or create new ones. If your training doesn’t consider your own setup and policies, its value can be significantly reduced.

Remember, there are more than 170 different subscriptions available for Office 365. Businesses tend to adopt a handful of these tools company-wide, such as Exchange, OneDrive, and SharePoint. Moreover, some tools are only used by specific teams or roles across your organisation (such as Planner or Forms). This is a good starting point but, even then, you will have some key decisions to make, especially with the changes in the collaboration tooling and the increased focus on Microsoft Teams. Are you going to jump straight to Microsoft Teams now? Or are you an existing Skype for Business user and you want to stay that way, at least for the time being?

Getting all of these things right is often beyond the skill set you’ll find in an IT team. Many need cross-business support and often bring in a specialist consultant to help.

Microsoft’s modern collaboration tools can make a big impact on the efficiency, productivity, and creativity of all organisations. But without a well-considered implementation and adoption plan, IT teams run the risk of their rollout stalling or even failing to engage employees in the first place.

Key takeaways:

  • Training is a key part of any change programme.
  • There are more than 170 different subscriptions available for Office 365.
  • Microsoft’s collaboration tools can make a big impact on modern businesses.
  • The secret to great training is to set an outcome that aligns with the goals of the attendees.