Overcoming the stumbling blocks to Office 365 adoption
No matter how positive the eventual outcomes may be, software deployment and migration projects are always complicated. From ensuring the correct underlying infrastructure is in place, to driving end-user adoption, there are a number of points of potential failure.
And although it is hosted in the Cloud, Microsoft Office 365 is not immune to these challenges. But there are ways that your business can smooth the transition.
1. Forget the Big Bang
The stress and drain on resources created by a major new software package are sometimes used to justify a ‘Big Bang’ transition. The idea of completing the whole migration process in one go is particularly seductive.
But experience shows that a one-time migration magnifies the impact of any ‘teething issues’ you may encounter. What might have been relatively manageable on a per-department basis suddenly becomes a show-stopper, bringing the IT department – and potentially the rest of the company – to its knees.
Instead, migration to Office 365 should be completed in several stages so that issues can be identified and rectified without business-wide implications. This approach also provides opportunities to further improve the process for the next phase of the migration.
Ideally you should start migration with the user group least likely to be majorly affected by an outage. Although Office 365 migration involves transitioning mailboxes to the Cloud, and it is therefore hard to identify a group who would be entirely immune, delivering a staged approach in this way will certainly help to minimise any potential disruptions.
2. Lead from the top
A software migration project must have support from the highest levels of management if it is to succeed. For the CTO, this means “selling” the benefits of the new system to ensure that the rest of the board understand what they are trying to achieve.
Management can then help to promote the project to the rest of the business, creating a narrative about the new platform (eg Office 365) and how it will help achieve wider strategic goals. Culture is defined and modelled by senior management, so they must be involved with any major migration project.
This cultural change will become even more important after migration has completed. As a recent IT Leaders Forum organised by Computing magazine heard: “Where objectives aren't aligned, data can make that situation more transparent. Culturally it's a big leap if everyone has access to the same dashboards. With data comes control, so [democratising data is] putting control in hands of people not executives. If you do that, where there's misalignment of objectives, it will become more obvious.”
Don’t be fooled into thinking your employees are averse to new tools. Research from Navisite shows only a very small minority - just 15% - of employees have no desire to learn about these new technologies.
3. Start training early
Microsoft Office 365 does have one advantage over most Cloud application - its familiarity. And because almost every Office 365 migration will be an exercise in replacing existing on-premises software, your end users will already be familiar with the basic concepts of using the hosted equivalent.
However, training is always an important consideration with every new application. Your team must carefully consider differences between Cloud and on-premises variants, and deliver training to address them. The sooner this training is delivered, the smaller the impact change will have on productivity levels.
“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage.” – Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric.
4. Start thinking in terms of Cloud
Managing Cloud infrastructure is markedly different to administering onsite data centres. Where software once needed to be deployed to machines over the network, Office 365 access can be provided using nothing more than a desktop shortcut, if required.
Perhaps the biggest change will be in terms of providing access. Where internal bandwidth between the server farm and the desktop was once vital, Office 365 demands faster external connectivity. And as more services move to the Cloud, pressures on corporate Internet connections will increase.
The CIO will also need to consider the compliance implications of storing information offsite. Careful planning will be required to ensure safeguards and permissions are properly replicated between the local data centre and the Cloud. Fortunately, Microsoft Cloud services like Azure and Office 365 provide native support for Active Directory – so if on-site configurations are correct, offsite should follow closely.
70% of businesses agree that productivity is impacted waiting for IT support staff to resolve issues with collaboration tools. Shifting to a cloud-based system like Office 365 offers ensures 24x7x365 support for the underlying systems infrastructure, significantly reducing the risk of down time. Further protections are available when choosing an MSP to provide end user and administrator support to relieve burdens on in-house resources.
5. Choose an MSP partner to assist
Migrating to a Cloud-based productivity suite is assumed to be one of the easiest projects, which is why many businesses choose the move to Office 365 as a way to test out SaaS and hosted applications. It is absolutely essential then that your project completes successfully because the ramifications for your ongoing IT strategy are serious.
To avoid placing your strategic goals at risk, your business much choose an experienced managed cloud services provider (MCSP) to assist. Ideally you are looking for an MCSP with a track record of delivering successful Office 365 migrations – and who has the knowledge and resources to provide long-term assistance. After all, Cloud services adoption is not a single event, nor a temporary measure – when you decide to migrate to Office 365, the move should be regarded as permanent. It’s also not a migration you want to start multiple times, by choosing the wrong provider.
Partnering with an MCSP has the added advantage of relieving your team of the overhead associated with managing the hosted service. You can guarantee you have access to the skills and resources required to resolve initial “teething issues”, and an MCSP provides much needed relief while you plan the longer term service strategy (in-house or outsourced).
Can you put a dollar value on these benefits? Navisite research suggests that partnering with a good MCSP will save the IT department as much as 50 hours every week.
Why you must overcome adoption challenges
According to statistics published by PM Solutions Research, 37% of all IT projects are put at risk or fail. Obviously there are many reasons for failure, with the most common being a lack of planning - e.g. not defining requirements, particularly timetables and resources required, and success factors. If you don't know what success looks like, the project is likely to end in failure.
But when considering Cloud services adoption, including Office 365, the stakes are much higher. How your business approaches Cloud will have a significant bearing on your ability to keep pace with a constantly changing marketplace. An incomplete or unbalanced strategy will negatively impact future Cloud projects, and could prevent your organisation from achieving the operational benefits of digital transformation.
It may be “just” a productivity suite, but an Office 365 migration project is only the start of something much larger.
To learn more about Office 365 and how to complete a migration successfully, please get in touch.