Effective Use of Microsoft Teams

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I talked the other day about the need for something more than active use when assessing how a product in Office 365 is actually being used and advanced the idea of “effective use” as a better measure of the quality of adoption. I offered an example from the world of PowerPoint for the quality of usage, and while acknowledging the scale was coarse and unrefined, suggested three buckets: low effectiveness, medium effectiveness, and high effectiveness.

Interestingly, on the same day, Tony Redmond posted on Petri on The Joys of Managing Large Microsoft Teams. As I had just written my own blog post on effective use, I read Tony’s blog post with interest through that lens. In the table below, I have taken Tony’s ideas for managing large teams and grouped them into low, medium and high effectiveness.



  Low Effectiveness Medium Effectiveness High Effectiveness
 Adding Team Members Add team members manually one at a time. Import a distribution list or use PowerShell to extract membership information from another source. [Option 1] Use a joining code for the team, enabling self-joining. [Option 2] Use dynamic teams in Azure AD, which uses a query against Azure AD to manage team membership based on particular criteria (e.g., department name).
Reviewing Team Membership  Use the Teams client (desktop or browser), which lacks sortable columns and search facets. Reviewing team membership in the Teams Admin Center (rights permitting), because columns are sortable.  
General Channel Open access for starting conversations, by any team member. Preference to use another channel for conversations, but use the General channel if you don’t know where to start. Restrict the use of the General channel for managing the team and announcing information that's of relevance to everyone in the team.
Channel Design Make no attempt to develop the right channels before releasing a new team. Develop some channels, but don’t keep channels in line with the work of the team. Guide conversations to the right channels, by pre-designing the conversation space.
Etiquette Make no attempt to define etiquette or discuss and explore the collaboration practices that make Microsoft Teams flourish. Define etiquette but do nothing to model or practice it. Have a one-time conversation with no follow-through. Describe, model and practice team etiquette, such as starting new topics with a title, and replying to existing topics rather than spawning anarchy in the conversation space.
Tool Selection Use Microsoft Teams for all teams and discussions, because this is what “the cool kids” across the world are doing.   Evaluate using Yammer instead of Teams for very large teams and company-wide discussions, because this is what Yammer is supposedly best at in Office 365.

On reviewing the above table, it’s not hard to imagine that:

  • Microsoft has some holes to fill. For example, Microsoft Teams should offer much better tools to team owners for reviewing current team members.
  • The organisational team responsible for the successful adoption of Microsoft Teams in your organisation needs to set the context for successful adoption, through guidance on team etiquette, conversation space design, and tool selection.
  • New team owners could be taken through a training course to explore and explain how to use Microsoft Teams in a way that pushes on the ideas in the high effectiveness column.
  • A qualitative assessment tool could be developed for team owners to regularly review the use of Microsoft Teams, highlighting areas of improvement.
  • A quantitative assessment tool could be developed to look at events such as general channel misuse, number of topics without titles, and replies that spawn new topics rather than appending to existing topics.

The above table could be complemented with a whole range of additional ideas and signals; this is merely a starting place.

Download our Adoption Plan for Microsoft Teams!

Collaboration in Alzheimer’s Research

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The February 1, 2019 edition of Fortune magazine for Asia Pacific includes a fascinating story on Alzheimer’s, and how an ethnobotanist is reshaping research into the disease. See the story on Fortune.com, at Could This Radical New Approach to Alzheimer’s Lead to a Breakthrough?
The story is a tale of failed science, expensive bets that haven’t paid off (to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, AND countless lives not saved from Alzheimer’s), and a very different approach that’s bringing new hope to a heart-breaking disease. What interests me the most throughout the story is the emphasis on collaboration. We always say that collaboration isn’t about the technology you use – it’s the mindset and approach to getting work done. And in the case of Alzheimer’s disease, Paul Cox’s new collaboration-based approach is creating a roadmap for health transformation that has been missing in action.

Here are some of the themes in the story that stood out to me:

  • The power of the outsider. Most research on Alzheimer’s has followed a single idea. Paul Cox, an ethnobotanist, saw the problem differently, approached the question differently, and has helped pioneer a different narrative that points to a very different set of outcomes.
  • The need for a different approach to funding science. “The problem is the way science is done and funded,” said Zaven Khachaturian, editor-in-chief of trade journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia who formerly directed Alzheimer’s research across the National Institutes of Health, during one of several long phone calls. “It’s populated by people who follow the orthodoxy. To get continuous support, scientists must follow existing orthodoxies. Everybody says they value the individual or the maverick, but nobody will fund them because they say it’s a fishing expedition.” Research has shown that evaluators on panels that award government funding to scientists at research universities regularly give higher scores to conservative proposals than to those trying to break new ground.
  • The power of cross-fertilisation between disciplines and sub-disciplines, and the use of a structured process to achieve it. Cox is the consortium’s ringleader, emcee, flack, and switchboard operator. He says he’s on email or phone calls with a handful or two of the scientists every week, learning about new research, suggesting new avenues to pursue, and connecting them to others in the group. The consortium gathers once a year, often in Jackson but sometimes in places like Johannesburg or Stockholm. “We’re all in different fields,” marine biologist Larry Brand told me. “We all present our results and try to connect the dots on everything from causes of algae blooms to medical problems to possible prevention and treatment.” Brand’s work has evolved as a result of these collaborations. A decade ago, when he first joined the consortium, Brand was trying to understand what causes the huge algae blooms that Florida sees so often. Now he’s trying to figure out how much BMAA is getting into the food chain via crabs, shrimp, and other marine life that can be found in those blooms. “Paul’s something of a Renaissance man,” Brand told me. “He’s very knowledgeable in a lot of different fields, and he’s very good at connecting the dots.”
  • The cost of not changing how health research is done. In the absence of a cure, the pool of Alz­heimer’s patients will soar: while 47 million people worldwide live with Alzheimer’s today, 141 million may have the disease in 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. In the U.S. alone, the financial cost of caring for today’s 5.7 million patients is a staggering annual $277 billion. By mid-century, Americans may spend $1.1 trillion annually on Alzheimer’s, a crippling blow to a reeling health care system. The ultimate cost, of course, is that we are no closer to curing Alzheimer’s than we were 20 years ago.

Collaboration is about people bringing their expertise, experiences, research and brilliance to bear on problems, challenges and opportunities that can’t be solved alone—a reality that’s beautifully shown in the above story. Technology can indeed help to connect the dots and enable something great to happen within a new collaborative approach, or can merely be used to replicate the existing (broken) processes and structures that haven’t resulted in any progress.
It’s certain that the well-funded Pharma companies that have experienced such dismal failures in Alzheimer’s research have had access to the best-in-world technology to enable the delivery of good science. But without the corresponding change in approach, it’s all ultimately been for nothing.

Download our Collaboration Framework to have the right guidance on how to collaborate with the right technology!


Driving Change into Daily Life

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One of the principles of achieving effective change is to embed it into the habits and practices of everyday life.

  •  If you want to lose weight (e.g., change your weight)—then watch everything that goes into your mouth. Every spoonful counts. Every day.
  •  If you want to get fitter (e.g., change your fitness level)—then put your exercise avenue of choice on your calendar every day, whether that’s a swim, a bike ride through the mountains, a spin class, a long run, a weights session at the gym, or a walk with a friend (dogs count too).
  • If you want to achieve a long-range goal that can’t be done in a single day, then do something every day that moves you closer to the realisation of that goal. If it’s writing a book, write a page a day. If it’s becoming a blogger, write a post a day. If it’s saving money, transfer something every day into your savings account. If it’s reading a book a week, read 1-2 chapters every day.

As consultants and advisors on a particular type of change—working with people and organisations on adopting new technology that helps them get better—we really love the principle of every day. New ways of working, new ways of collaborating, better ways of interacting and driving forward the pursuit of the organisation, has to be an everyday event (or it’s just words on the wall). In some cases, “every day” doesn’t work because that’s not the cadence, and so “every time” is the perfectly acceptable alternative.

Here are some examples of where every day / every time can be used:

  • You are calling a meeting. Every time you do, prepare an agenda—because an agenda is one of the most important keys to more effective meetings. Every time.
  • You are the leader of a group, and you are championing a change in toolset to achieve a better result set. Every time you meeting with your group, talk about the change, find out how things are progressing, identify any roadblocks, and mitigate where possible. Every time.
  • Your organisation is introducing Microsoft Teams, and you see the power of Teams to drive greater transparency in communication, greater consistency in coordination, and greater options for seamless collaboration. Open Teams every day, see what is happening, respond and comment, and do your own work for the team inside Teams. Every day.

Tiny Habits, one of the adoption strategies we introduce to our clients, is all about changing behaviour by changing what you do when triggered. A trigger such as “I need to check my email” leads to the behaviour of checking your email, but if you change your response to that trigger—”I need to check in with my team in Microsoft Teams”—then initial behaviour starts to shift and change long-term outcomes. Tiny Habits is every time, which probably happens multiple times every day.

Every day. Every time. Welcome to the new.

Something More Than Active Use

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Microsoft measures whether someone is using Office 365 based on what they call “active use,” which is measured as at least a single interaction with a given workload in Office 365 during a month. So if you read or send a single email in Exchange Online, you’re an “active user” of Exchange Online. If you create a single file in OneDrive for Business, you are an “active user” of OneDrive for Business. If you like a single message on Yammer and do nothing else during the rest of the month, you are still counted as an “active user” of Yammer. It’s a binary option – you either are or aren’t an active user – and the bar is one single event.

From a product usage perspective by the vendor … whatever. As long as the purpose is only to assess who is and isn’t doing something with a given tool, it’s fine. But as a measure of what they’re doing with the workload – how well or effectively they are using it – active use as reported by Microsoft is completely useless. 

Let’s take an example from the world of PowerPoint. You have undoubtedly heard of “death by PowerPoint.” This is when a presenter uses PowerPoint to create and deliver such a boring presentation that his or her listeners come to prefer death over sitting through the remainder of the deck. Sometimes the presenter has no passion for his or her topic and delivers the session in a monotone. Other times he or she just reads the words – every single one of them – from each and every slide, and since the audience can read faster than the presenter can talk, the whole thing drags on until the presenter finally sits down. Or the way the deck is structured is confusing, and it doesn’t convey the message at all.

In the world of higher education, PowerPoint has been found to be toxic for three reasons: slides discourage complex thinking and deep analysis, students see the course as merely a set of slides, and slides discourage reasonable expectations of the learning journey.

From the perspective of active use, however – and Microsoft doesn’t actually measure this for PowerPoint – any use of PowerPoint would classify the presenter as an “active user.” Herein lies the problem. If the user doesn’t use PowerPoint in an effective way – so that he or she gets across the core message that needs to be conveyed – then being an active user is worth nothing.

That means something more than “active use” is required when looking at how tools in Office 365 are put to use, and as a very coarse and unrefined graduated scale, we could say that a user (the person making use of the product offering) can fit into one of three buckets of effectiveness:

  • Low Effectiveness. In PowerPoint terms, creates and delivers slide decks that lead to “death by PowerPoint.”
  • Medium Effectiveness. In PowerPoint terms, the slides complement the spoken words, support the speaker, and get some parts of the message across.
  • High Effectiveness. In PowerPoint terms, slide decks are designed and used to capture attention, get the message across, and move people to action.

Every person using PowerPoint needs to know how to use the tools in PowerPoint (e.g., slides, sections, backgrounds, slide layouts, animation, etc.). But the ones who move out of the low effectiveness bucket have learned to use PowerPoint to advance a goal beyond just using PowerPoint.

Counting active users is simple (and completely useless as a practical measure of adoption). Pursuing effective use is not simple (but extremely important). 

Helping People Get Better

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PACE – is about people. Real people facing real challenges and issues in their work. Not numbers. Not metrics. Not quantifiable cadence and KPI momentum. Yes, those things are by-products and it’s good to know them for planning what next. But the core of change and adoption – the core of introducing new technology to help people get better – is to help people get better. Real people like your friend Jane, neighbour Bill, and boss Judith. Like the secretary down the hall – Sarah – and the others that work on your team: Roger, Dennis, Hannah, Fredrik and Josephine.

I wrote the above during the weekend. I don’t recall exactly what I had just read or thought about – the spark of inspiration that led to such a paragraph – but something in my comings and goings over the weekend crystalised into a succinct summary of intent for the PACE methodology. And a reminder of fundamentals.

Your friend Jane, the teacher, is seeking ideas on how to take her students on a journey of discovery, to ignite their passion for learning, and to connect them to resources, experts and ideas to challenge and extend their thinking. Jane and her students have several opportunities for using new technology to both bring the outside world into the classroom, and to provide new ways of working within the classroom. In Office 365, this is likely to include OneNote (and the OneNote for Classrooms edition) and Microsoft Teams (for shared workspaces, on-demand video meetings, and access to class schedules).

Your neighbour Bill, the lawyer, is constantly working with local and remote lawyers, para-legals, legal executives, and clients to build cases, discover insights, and connect with the right people. He, too, has opportunities to use new technologies to find the right resources, identify expertise at his firm and beyond, and create documents with the input of many. Office 365 provides a foundation of search, a collection of tools for coordinating with other people, and real-time co-authoring and co-editing options in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and beyond to shape collaboration.

Judith, your boss, has a team to coordinate, milestones to track, and her own work to complete. She could make use of Microsoft Teams, Planner, and several other tools in Office 365 in doing all this work, and in doing so, could become an example to other managers and executives of what’s possible for better communication, coordination and collaboration.

Help the Person

Helping Jane get better in her classroom is going to involve sitting in on a class or three, reading up on what other teachers at other schools are doing, and bringing some small scale experiments to life for Jane and her students. Discover, implement, debrief, re-plan / adjust. Start small, experiment, get better, push broader to other teachers and classrooms.

Helping Bill get better in his practice of law will involve observing what he’s doing today – what does that actually look like – and then demonstrating several new options in Office 365 that could streamline current steps, eliminate waste from current activities, and open new possibilities that haven’t even occurred to Bill. Observe, conceptualise, implement, debrief, re-plan / adjust. Start small, experiment, get better, push broader to other lawyers and legal teams.

Helping Judith get better in managing her team requires an agreement to become a coach, a willingness on the behalf of Judith to try some new things, and an advocacy within the team to try together on new ways of working. That it’s alright to not know how to do something, but there’s a willingness to experiment, learn and get better together. Discover, implement, debrief, re-plan / adjust. Start small, experiment, get better, push broader to other managers and executives.

People and getting better first. Metrics later.

Our Alone in Pursuit of a Better Together

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“Yeah, I know that.”
“But do you do it?”

“That’s just common sense.”
“But it’s not common practice.”

“Those guidelines have been true forever.”
“But we’re so quick to forget them.”

There’s a fine dance to be had in our practice of collaborating with others to achieve better together than we can alone. While there have been breathtaking advances in the technology to support collaboration over the past decade – to the extent that the technology is hardly ever the limiting factor now – our ability to actually collaborate with others requires something the technology can’t offer. Ever. And that’s the human willingness to offer our alone in pursuit of a better together.

In Pursuit of a Better Together

It’s the willingness to state your own viewpoint with passion and conviction – to speak what you believe – but to provide the equal right to another to do the same. You have your viewpoint. They have their viewpoint. And while both can seem perfectly correct and well-founded and well-researched when held internally, it’s the intersection between the two (or three or ten) that creates collaborative synergy. I don’t really like the language of “a little bit of your viewpoint mixed with my viewpoint to get your buy-in;” that seems too much like fake news. Perhaps my viewpoint, while valid at a point in time, isn’t the full story or the best story, and I’m actually more than happy to give away my viewpoint and embrace yours when I can see a better way. 

It’s the willingness to do the best you can in preparation for a collaborative session, but then listen with even greater intensity to the feedback, ideas, viewpoints – and disagreements – from the other people in the meeting. That can mean turning on a Euro (“turning on a dime” is the more usual way of saying that) to embrace better ideas that bubble up through conversation, dialogue, and shared learning. Bringing such willingness doesn’t change whether we meet face-to-face in-person, face-to-face via Microsoft Teams, face-to-face via Cisco Telepresence, or mind-to-mind through a discussion forum … the technology, irrespective of what it is, is only ever a facilitator of connection. It’s what happens between us as human beings that holds the potential to transform mere technical connectivity into creativity and collaborative synergy.

It’s the willingness to try again this day, despite human failings, disappointments, language barriers, technical sub-optimalities, and being knocked off your best game. The willingness to listen so as to learn. To speak so as to enlighten. To work together so as to flourish together.

How to get the most out of your Microsoft Office 365 investment?

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Your IT manager suggested migrating to Microsoft Office 365, as it has been addressed as the best option now for your company. You trust him, you trust the IT team. So you did the migration, bought the licenses and now all employees are in. The investment was huge, and it’s time to get the most out of it. But how do you know whether and how your employees are going to use and exploit the possibilities that Office 365 can offer them in terms of productivity, collaboration and smart working?
By helping your end-users understand how those capabilities can improve their team collaboration and simplify their day-to-day tasks, you can make some positive changes for your company, starting to act for your return on investment.


Return on investment



1. Use Targeted Communications

To change the behavior of your end-user community and make them adopt the new technology, a communication strategy is essential. First of all, you have to create awareness and information about what is going on and what this changes will mean for end users.
You need to customize the message to their job role and specify how the new features can help them to be more productive, meaning do more in less time. So, focus on your audience and their needs. The critical question is “What’s in it for me? “ In other words, highlight the benefits for them.

2. Media mix

To implement your communication strategy, you can use several channels.
Printed material such as posters, flyers, brochures, and reference cards. They can be put up in common areas such as break rooms, printer bays, and bathrooms. Communicate your message and boost discussions, questions, dialogues.
Live events such as webinars, workshops, lunch and training. These are a great way for IT to engage with end users, learn about how the tool works, and discover many opportunities to solve real business problems with Office 365.
Audiovisual material. Videos broadcasted in your collaboration platform, internal organizational channels, WhatsApp groups, social media, intranet, corporate emails and newsletter.

media mix

3. Word of mouth

The good old way of communicating always works. People like to talk with people about what is happening in the organization. Everyone is involved in the word of mouth process to communicate the changes and marketing the new technology. Executives and managers are not excluded. They also have to tell their direct reports to peers telling peers. You can harness the power of peers telling peers by creating a champions program.

4. Champions program

Identify people in your company who see the value of Office 365 through personal experience and are willing to mentor their peers. They will be your ambassadors, promoting the use of the tools to their colleagues and inspiring them to follow their example.

5. Technical support for new users

The IT Helpdesk staff should be trained in what Office 365 can do, as well as how to support users facing problems and difficulties. Moreover, the IT help desk can identify a business productivity problem that Office 365 can solve in ways the end user is not aware, or discover common issues experienced by users that need more training.

6. Learning opportunities

Whether it is e-learning sessions, workshops, live or virtual training, the most important thing is to help users familiarize and experiment with Office 365. Learning how it works, the concrete possibilities and actions they can do in the daily work explained by experts is fundamental to avoid the barriers that can stop new users to adapt to the new tools.


conference call Skype


7. Keep track and monitor the progress

To do so, Microsoft provides many tools, such as Microsoft 365 usage analytics within Power BI. Thanks to this tool, you can gain insights on how your organization is adopting the various services within Office 365 to communicate and collaborate. You can visualize and analyze Office 365 usage data, create custom reports and share the insights within your organization and gain insights into how specific regions or departments are utilizing Office 365.


These seven points represent some tips and general ideas on how to proceed when a new technology, like Office 365, is being introduced in your company. However, to ensure a positive rate of user adoption and a successful change management strategy that will pay back your investment, a more structured user adoption strategy and change management methodology are needed.

Pace methodology SilversideSilverside PACE methodology is made of four phases: Prepare, Activate, Capitalise, Enhance. Managing the organizational changes in the method of working and in technologies is just easier for managers, consultants and end users. Firstly, be aware of the organizational culture of your company and plan a complete and predictive change management strategy in all the aspects. Secondly, acquire the new collaborative business vision and the technologies necessary to implement the strategy. A user adoption strategy is fundamental at this stage to instill change at every level in the organization. Lastly, optimize the value gained by adjusting the strategy, address key challenges and align with the required business outcomes.

Download the PACE whitepaper! 

Top 9 tech trends you don't want to miss in 2019

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A new year has just started. It’s that time of the year in which you need novelties. We all feel more innovative and with good prompts. Especially if you are a digital savvy or technology lover, I am sure you already made some researches to find out what you can expect from 2019 regarding innovations and technology. I wrote this blog to put things together and to make your search easier.  After some accurate research, these 9 points summarize the best (and newest) technology trends for this year. 

1. More Chatbots and Automation

Chat-botAlmost every brand website now has chatbots that can answer to simple questions. All rigorously automated, with no human intervention needed; it’s not a person you’re talking to, it’s a chatbot. The consumer-facing benefits are numerous. But there are also plenty for businesses who choose to use this technology to help employees with meeting scheduling, research, note-taking, reminders. If in 2018 you probably have had some frustrating experiences with chatbots, this won’t certainly happen in 2019. Huge steps have been made in the way of natural language processing and sentiment analytics.  Some 40% of large businesses have or will adopt chatbots by the end of 2019—which makes it one of our top 2019 digital transformation trends. 

2. API Use and Seamless Integration

In a digital-first workplace, it really is irrelevant where you are physical. You should be able to do your job regardless of your location: at home, in the car, in a cafe on the other side of the world. Remote work it’s just normal nowadays. That’s why seamless integration of digital technology is a must. When some workplace applications are cloud-based and others are on-site, it can be a nightmare for remote employees to work properly.  This is where the API comes in. Employees can find the documents they need easily, share them with colleagues, and seamlessly track progress. APIs are the future of remote working.

3. Focus on User Experience

user experience If your company is undergoing a digital transformation, then this means that core business systems like HR, finance, sales, marketing and management are becoming highly digitalized. Despite the high costs in time and money for the investment, the benefits will be huge in terms of productivity (if you handle the process with care and success). However, if employees do not adopt the new technologies, everything is vain. Instead of benefits, you will just get a big waste of resources. Employees are lost and overwhelmed not only because they do not know how the technology work (and how to use it to make their work done), but also due to the number of regular updates and changes. The solution? Provide a great digital employee experience. Deliver a smooth experience when using the new tool and implement the right user adoption strategy. And remember that a well-designed user interface could raise your website’s conversion rate by up to 200%. A better UX design could yield conversion rates up to 400% and productivity will rocket. 

4. Training and User Adoption Analytics

Big Data keeps on getting better and better. The fields in which Big Data can be used are limitless and It has found its way into the realm of training and digital adoption. How? By providing analytics and insights to help you understand who needs to do what and by when. There are also tools designed specifically to improve the adoption of new digital systems. This data enables to get a deeper understanding of how people are using these new tools. You can learn what adoption issues they’re encountering and deliver the right solutions. Besides quantitative data, it is always important to track and monitor your training and user adoption programs with qualitative data (through interviews, questionnaires, focus groups). In this way, you can combine “numbers” with the real feedback from your employees.

5. Technology will adapt to Users’ Needs

Technology will adapt to users’ needs. Not the other way around. Users don’t need to learn the software anymore. When it comes to eLearning, analytics has the potential to learn more about our specific roles, behaviours, and actions to personalize how we use business software. And again, Artificial Intelligence comes into play. So yes, AI will be a hot topic also in 2019. Specifically, AI can be used combined with analytics to proactively identify who is likely to stop engaging with software, and even provide a notification in the app to prevent any obstacles to engagement and adoption. 

6. Digital-first Approach

The biggest trend of the moment across all industries regards the digital-first approach. With this term, we define a shift in organisational culture away from favouring traditional channels to prioritising digital ones. This approach is the direct consequence of the process of digital transformation that organizations all over the world are embracing. And as we move closer to the third decade of this millennium, organizations that don’t follow this trend are going to get left behind. 

7. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Virtual reality will be gain the protagonist in gaming and other highly specialized applications. However, virtual reality appears to be not so feasible to be applied in other fields of the marketplace. Instead, augmented reality continues to be at the centre of digital transformation trends for 2019. Augmented reality has found many use cases in enterprise workforce training, only to cite one (useful) example.

8. Connected Clouds

connected cloudThe cloud revolution has been one of the biggest changes for companies in the last few years. Companies are progressively abandoning local storages, replacing them with the cloud. This makes it easier for them to share files and documents, but also collaborate with each other. The cloud revolution has a great impact not only in the way the IT department is changing its role but also in the way employees work and collaborate. In 2019 we can say that moving to the cloud is not a novelty anymore since it’s becoming the norm. Basically, what’s happening is that companies are realizing that going all public cloud, private cloud, or data centre isn’t the best option. Sometimes, they need a mix of all. Thus, connected clouds are continuing to develop to meet companies’ changing needs.

9. CEOs guiding the digital transformation 

Many studies have shown a big desire from employees to see digital transformation start at the very top of the company. Despite this, the evidence says that the task of guiding the digital revolution in companies is being too often delegated to IT, Marketing or HR departments. So even though we’ve seen a range of C-suite leaders charged with taking the reins of digital transformation, I believe that the CEO will and must finally step up in 2019, realizing digital transformation isn’t going anywhere without their commitment and involvement. 

The pace of change regarding technologies will always be very high. But the pace at which these new technologies are changing the way of working and doing business is even higher. 2019 will be a great and exciting year if you are a digital savvy craving for innovations and new developments. But remember that it’s not only about technology. It’s about the intersection of technology, people and business. 

Download our ebook Resistance to Change to get an inspiring view on how to overcome the resistance of employees towards changes in technology and the way of working. 

Gartner on Adoption and Value of Office 365

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One of the reasons for deciding to write a second edition of my User Adoption Strategies book in 2012, rather than just ordering a reprint of the first edition from 2010, was to add a new chapter on Measuring Adoption (it definitely wasn’t to introduce the spelling mistake on the spine of the book, but … stuff happens). Spine spelling mistakes notwithstanding, one of the key messages in the new chapter was that adoption isn’t the goal: achieving better business value is. The chapter and the associated session in the workshop explore this idea, outlining various principles for measurement, plus strategies for measuring with business value in mind (see slide deck above).

Against this background, I was pleasantly surprised in January to read about a recent Gartner report, with the headline Office 365: Enterprise Usage Doesn’t Translate into Enterprise Value. While I’ve been saying that for years, it’s great to have the weight of a large technology research firm behind the assertion. Here’s the basic outline of what Gartner did:

– surveyed 160 IT professionals to ask about usage and value from Office 365 tools. It would have been good to have had a survey base of 1,000 respondents, but 160 will have to do.
– found that Office ProPlus and Exchange/Outlook are by far the highest used parts of Office 365.
– respondents were asked to allocate value points to different parts of Office 365, out of a total pool of 100 points. Office ProPlus and Exchange/Outlook received the lion’s share.
– on the value assessment, the third place (for SharePoint) had less than half of what Office ProPlus and Exchange/Outlook were awarded.


report at Gartner

Craig Roth, the author of the report at Gartner, offered this key line:

“There’s a baseline of value to switching to the cloud, especially if things were expensive to manage [on-premises]. But the real value comes when you start changing your work processes to take advantage [of Office 365] to its full extent.”

That’s a beautiful sound bite – and I wrote a whole book on what that could actually look like in Office 365 in mid-2016. Craig also said:

“Many enterprises simply aren’t set up to tap the value of Office 365’s other components, which are oriented toward ‘working in a collaborative, mobile and analytical fashion’. Or if they are ready and willing to work in such ways, they may not be able to. It’s often painful to transform the way of doing things. Even if you find individuals who would like to work that way, in teams, as a whole the company may not be ready to.”

“Companies have to find a new way of working. They have to work more in teams, not store documents on [local] hard drives, and work from anywhere. That’s when you start seeing the value of Office 365.”

If ever there was a strong lead into Silverside’s PACE methodology for transforming organisations into a collaborative business, this is a strong contender. Through PACE, we:
• help organisations uncover what it means to become a collaborative business, in practical terms. The new and updated scenarios that we have developed show the possibilities and how to make it actually happen.
• offer specific strategies and directions for changing work processes to take advantage of all (that’s appropriate) within Office 365. We’re glad to see that Gartner agrees with our work on Teams as a very important go-forward capability.
• provide guidance on handling resistance to change, because indeed, it’s about changing how the company works – not just an individual.

Is improving the value you derive from the possibilities in Office 365 of concern to you? Let’s talk.

Christian Buckley from CollabTalk hosted a Tweetjam last week on The Keys to Employee Adoption and Engagement. There were seven questions asked of the panelists, and you can review their comments, discussion, fun and jibes on Twitter, at the hashtag #collabtalk.

Here’s my answers to three of Christian’s questions:

Here’s my answer to Question 5.

5. Many projects report high initial adoption rates, but see a rapid decrease in adoption over time. How do you reverse the trend?

If that situation is occurring, then knowing why it is happening is step one. For example, a rapid decrease in adoption could be caused by:

  • the project being completely irrelevant to the people is was intended to serve.
  • the adoption strategies you have used emphasised short-term and flashy, not long-run and transformational.
  • you haven’t allowed enough time for people to pivot and the adoption / effective usage rates to flow through.

Assuming you “still believe in the vision” (a line that’s used at Amazon when something doesn’t work the first or tenth time), there’s work to be done … depending on what the root cause is.

Root Cause #1 – Irrelevance

If the root cause is irrelevance, then reversing the trend requires completely rethinking what has been introduced and on what guiding principles. 

Was the project homed in the IT department and driven as an IT delivery project – new capabilities, it’s available, go for it? If yes, it’s a wild swing not a fit-for-purpose initiative. The entire project was poorly conceived; start again.

How did the project team (if there was one) gather / collect / understand / test the needs, opportunities and capabilities of the target people and teams? If this wasn’t done, then starting searching for answers. If it was done (and assuming it was done right), why the misalignment between pre-delivery needs and post-delivery rejection? You’ll have to ask to find out.

How clear is the alignment between the capabilities in the product and the day-to-day work flow and work practice approaches of the people and teams who are “supposed” to be using it? Is it an “every day” alignment, or does it address something that will happen much less infrequently? Low frequency of use could just reflect a reality that the capabilities aren’t needed everyday.

Root Cause #2 – Inappropriate

Selecting inappropriate user adoption strategies to create a long-term change will flounder. You won’t get the changes you are seeking, even though they might inflate your metrics in the short term. Balloons, mouse pads, posters in the elevators, floor roaming adoption specialists, an email blast to everyone that new capabilities are now available … and nothing else … will create an initial level of excitement that will burst as quickly as the balloon.

The longer term strategies are aligning the offerings with the work people and teams do, equipping and empowering managers / executives / in-the-trenches champions to create change habits that endure over time, and an internal user group that offers an opportunity for people and teams to share stories of success, look at what is and isn’t working, and better integrate the new offerings into how work gets done. And others like them. These take time and investment, but if the new offerings are going to have a long-term impact, are core and central.

If you’re only doing the short-term and flashy, then the adoption metrics you’ll get will be a flash in the pan.

Root Cause #3 – Impatience

Shiny objects catch eyes, and drive short-term behaviour. Longer term behaviour change requires more than just shiny and latest and new, and if there is a real need for the product that’s been introduced, if there are several people and teams who have latched onto the new offerings and are starting to see a transformation in the way they work and the outcomes they are gaining, then be more patient for the metrics to catch up with the reality. And for the transformation that’s starting slow to spread more broadly across your organisation.

While you are practicing patience, do one or more of the following:

– track the metrics on which people and teams are making good use of the offerings.

– continue (start?) a dialogue with these people and teams, in order to understand what is working for them.

– start to share around the stories of success and value that these people and teams are gaining. An internal newsletter, an internal user group, a series of brown bag lunches … that kind of thing.

– provide resources to equip and empower people to take the learnings from one team to another team, as they naturally move around the organisation and are involved in different activities. This could be a great time to start an internal champions network.

Reversal – Net-Net

Step one is to figure out why.

Step two … take the appropriate action based on what you learn.

Step two point five … we’d love to help.

Microsoft released its quarter two earnings yesterday. Lots of numbers are trending upwards – Office 365 revenue in the commercial sector, Dynamics 365 revenue, Surface revenue – and more. What’s interesting is that there was no official pronouncement on the latest number of monthly active users of Office 365 commercial, a growth point that I find interesting to track. So I had to revert to some Excel magic to figure it out myself; by my calculations, Microsoft now has 166 million monthly active users of Office 365 commercial, up from 155 million three months ago (this was the last official Microsoft number that’s been supplied).

166 Million Monthly Active Users

Click for the more readable version

Here’s how I got to that point:

1. Mapped out the quarter-by-quarter numbers that Microsoft has disclosed over the past couple of years. 

2. Used Microsoft’s year-on-year percentage growth rate to divide growth across the quarters. On the Earnings Release FY19 Q2 metrics sheet, Microsoft said that this was 29% for the year ended July 2018. Have a look at my spreadsheet above, and you’ll see 29% in a blue coloured cell down from Jul-18. And below that is 28.6%, which is my calculation for the quarter-by-quarter growth rates for the four quarters that make up the 2018 financial year. 

3. Used the other growth rates that Microsoft had in its Earnings Release – 29% for Q119, and 27% for Q219. These are also in the spreadsheet above, and once you guesstimate the quarter-by-quarter growth rates that make up those two rolling averages, then you get … 166 million monthly active users at the end of Q2 2019.

Okay, So What?

Okay, so what? First, that’s a whole lot of people and organisations who have new technology available to them. As I wrote yesterday, there’s a digital transformation underway as organisations move to embrace new cloud-powered services. But secondly and more importantly, that’s a whole lot of people and organisations who have an opportunity to leverage the great tools that Microsoft offers to work better together, improve business outcomes, and deliver more value to their customers.

Check out our PACE Whitepaper for the approach we take in equipping, empowering and enabling people and organisations to take this much more significant journey from “having the tools available” to “getting value from the tools in day-to-day life.”

Christian Buckley from CollabTalk hosted a Tweetjam yesterday on The Keys to Employee Adoption and Engagement. There were seven questions asked of the panelists, and you can review their comments, discussion, fun and jibes on Twitter, at the hashtag #collabtalk.

I posted by answers to two of the questions yesterday. Here’s my answer to Question 3.

3. What is the impact of low adoption and engagement on digital transformation?

That entirely depends on how you define and practice “digital transformation.”

Definition 1 – “Digital” Transformation

If it is merely the availability of new digital tools, or merely the transformation of the current crop of on-premises digital tools to a new suite of modern cloud-based digital tools, then low adoption and engagement have no impact. It’s irrelevant. The two aren’t linked. One delivers availability, and one equates with usage (hopefully effective usage). Under this definition (or in line with how digital transformation can be practiced), digital can be transformed entirely without user adoption. It’s just a transformation of how tools are delivered by the IT or technology group.

Availability used to be a big deal and require a significant investment of time and resource. Server infrastructure, network topology, OS and application upgrades, updates, maintenance, backup, disaster recovery, fault tolerance, administration tasks, etc., used to easily consume the bulk of an IT department’s time and resources. A digital transformation that pushes the bulk of those responsibilities to a cloud services provider like Microsoft creates the opportunity for a very differently focused IT department.

So in essence, there’s nothing wrong with “digital transformation” being defined this way, because it’s just a step on a larger journey. “Digital transformation” is not the goal. That’s not what we’re pursuing. But if we define and practice it this way, then the ultimate “so what?” question is how do we leverage what’s available to do business better (do cool stuff in more cool ways, achieve certain outcomes, etc.).

Definition 2 – “Transformation” by Digital

The second way of defining digital transformation is to rejig the emphasis in the phrase to get the outcome front-and-centre. That is, the purpose is transformation, of which digital is one strategy to achieve that. Transformation is the outcome we seek, and among other levers, digital provides one way of getting there. Under this definition, the impact of low adoption is devastating. In its ultimate manifestation, low adoption of the capabilities to achieve transformation will undermine the transformation and result in failure in reaching the outcome and perhaps even end-of-life for the business, organisation or project. 

I like thinking about it with this question: “Given what’s now available, how would we design and deliver value to our customers?” Or “Given what’s now available, how would we design the processes we use to create value for our customers?” This requires frequently re-assessing the vision (purpose, outcome) against the tools / methods / strategic levers we have to get there. And when that new way is identified, there’s often a journey of change and transformation in the working habits and routines of the people who deliver value … and that’s where “change” and “adoption” and “engagement” (in the sense of giving more) are critical / essential.

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