Why organisations don't realise the full value of Microsoft 365

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Why organisations don't realise the full value of Microsoft 365
There is no one size fits all framework that has been developed to suit every organisation.
Photo by Matthew Manuel on Unsplash

And how to fix it.

The worldwide market share of office suite technologies is split between Google’s G Suite and Microsoft’s Office 365, with G Suite controlling around 55.2 per cent of the global market and Office 365 holding around 38 per cent, according to Statista. That 38 per cent accounts for an extraordinary number of employees who use Office 365 each day.

So many organisations choose to migrate to M365 in the expectation they will see increased productivity, reduced costs, more effective collaboration, and higher employee engagement.

But often, organisations are disappointed because the expected benefits are not fully realised. This is primarily caused by three main issues: a hasty migration to M365, a lack of training, or the lack of a comprehensive framework that recognises and addresses all facets of M365 adoption.

Microsoft's productivity promise

Microsoft recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct an independent Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) study of Microsoft 365, to examine the potential return on investment (ROI) enterprises may realise by deploying M365 Apps.

The report found that overall, M365 presents organisations with an ROI of 127% three years after migration, enabling employee time savings in the areas of collaboration, communication, reviewing documents, designing and building presentations or spreadsheets, and waiting for feedback.

But the reality is, many organisations fail to make full use of Microsoft 365, and thereby never give themselves a chance to realise it’s full value.

A less rosy picture of M365 adoption and usage was painted by a 2019 SoftwareOne report, which noted 44 per cent of respondents found it difficult to integrate M365 with their existing infrastructure, 34 per cent of respondents were limited by budgetary issues and 22 per cent struggled with poor adoption among employees. The research reported, “individual features of Microsoft 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security (part of Microsoft 365) are currently underused, in some cases significantly” due to a number of factors including lack of knowledge of what M365 offers and limited training of employees.

Poor adoption rates often result from the common perception that M365 is simply an online version of the core Microsoft applications. While M365 does offer online versions of these applications, it fundamentally changes the way information is stored, transferred, shared, and worked on collaboratively within an organisation. Without guidance and education users tend to follow well-used and familiar procedures, and underutilise those M365 features that sit outside of the traditional office apps of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Key Roadblocks to M365 Adoption

1. Migration & the post migration reality

The rapid transition to remote working as a result of COVID-19 drove significant uptake of M365 in organisations. Many organisations were forced to migrate to M365 out of sheer necessity and with very little warning, with the sole priority of enabling staff to do their jobs from home. Exploring the capabilities of M365 and realising its full potential were comparatively very low on the priority list.

In less stressful times, the introduction of any new software tool would have been a planned, measured process with appropriate introduction and training. Once a tool has been introduced and accepted, it is difficult to wind back the clock and implement such a process: users become disillusioned with aspects and functions that they struggle to master; in the absence of appropriate guidance, policies, and procedures they develop their own ways of using the products and sharing information between applications and co-workers. These habits can be difficult to change.

The post migration reality is that each user or business unit is left to determine their way of collaborating and navigating multiple platforms.

2. Lack of training

Organisations make two major training errors when introducing M365: underestimating the need for product training, and not recognising the need for process training.

It is critical that staff understand how to use the many products available in M365.

Organisations frequently assume that these products are simple enough to require no formal training, which leads to poor usage rates.

In addition to knowing how to use the products, staff should know when to use a specific product and why they should be using it, as well as how to manipulate M365 within their particular organisation’s environment. This is referred to as process training.

For example, simple tasks like submitting a request for annual leave need to be included in M365 training if that leave form is hosted in SharePoint and the application is made through M365.

Product training alone is not sufficient. Every organisation using M365 needs to develop policies that reflect its organisational structure, operating policies and procedures and translate these into guidance on usage of all aspects of M365 — particularly how and where information is stored and shared. Without such guidance, employees will not use M365 in ways that are optimally aligned with organisational objectives and cannot be disciplined for failure to comply.

3. Lack of framework

To summarise the above: there are three components of a successful implementation of M365: training; guidance; governance. While each is a distinct process, they all need to be co-ordinated and managed together, and must be underpinned by robust and rigorous change management principles. Hence, there needs to be an overarching framework for a successful M365 implementation to ensure it achieves its full potential for productivity gains and delivers the return on investment expected.

The precise way in which all the applications are used together across an organisation is heavily dependent on that organisation’s practices, procedures, and structures. These cannot be learnt from manuals, online courses or M365 training instructors: they need to be developed, communicated, and implemented by each organisation, because they are unique to each organisation.

There is no one size fits all framework that has been developed to suit every organisation. However, all frameworks should contain training requirements and plans for employees, guidance on when and how applications should be used, and rules for where information is stored and shared.

Jon Lang is CEO of DDLS.

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