6 Steps To A Successful Office 365 Pilot

The process of testing and launching an Office 365 pilot in organizations has changed. It used to be strictly technical, we had around 200 slides and 100 detailed technical questions which we discussed only with IT departments. The goal was to confirm that there are no technical blockers for a successful Office 365 deployment. Where are we now? Today, I will guide you through 6 critical steps to become your users’ hero without much time and effort. 

So again, back to my memories, there used to be a couple of well-known limitations – such as public UPN requirements for Exchange configuration that had to be met to enable the migration.

Now, the landscape is completely different.

Microsoft worked hard on technology to enable as many deployment scenarios as possible while keeping the service standardized. They also recommend going straight to the business with an offering called Value Discovery Workshop.

However, some of the challenges are still the same if you want to check whether the Office 365 platform suits your company.

 

Start with gathering feedback

It’s a good starting point not an easy task, but still, from my experience, it’s always best to just talk. It works much better than using tools such as surveys, doodles and others.

People become more open, especially when they talk to an external consultant. The goal here is to discover how your people work and what are their daily problems.

 

Choose real business cases for an Office 365 pilot

Based on the feedback you get from people, it’s good to identify real cases for the pilot. Only after identifying and prioritizing the scenarios you should propose the technology that will help with achieving your goals. Each of the scenarios below can be addressed with many services.

For example:

Scenario Technology
Reduce the time spent on email management Use a bigger inbox, archiving, intelligent rules (inbox management will be quicker)
or
Use Yammer (for offloading the inbox from internal communication)
Lower meeting costs Use Exchange resources for booking meeting rooms (saves people’s time spent on organizing the meeting)
or
Use Skype for Business (to allow virtual meetings where you will probably save on travel costs)
Provide a platform for easy knowledge sharing Use SharePoint Wiki (semi-controlled knowledge base)
or
Use Office 365 Video (social knowledge base with easy-to-use videos)
or
Use Yammer (social network with rapid sharing capabilities)

Defining scenarios will also help with a bunch of well-known but painful end-user situations.

 

Don’t test everything

When you ask your users what they want to test, you will probably get an answer such as: “We don’t know what we want because we don’t know what is possible in the service”.

Office 365 already gives you many services even more are about to come. You should focus on just a few during the pilot. That is also why you should start with business cases first. Rolling out Yammer, SharePoint, One Drive, Video, PowerApps and Power BI during the pilot will result in just one type of feedback from your users:

“Yep. Works for me. OK, cool. “

But does it help you with your job?

“I don’t know”.

It’s also hard to make a decision on which plan to purchase and what is even more important – it’s hard to get a budget for the project after getting similar feedback. My advice here is to prioritize and choose wisely, limit your tests to a maximum of 3-4 services.

To make it clear – as IT you can, of course, check if the services work, just don’t bother end users with it.

 

Support your pilot users and communicate with them often

The worst scenario you may be up against is to enable the technology and leave your users on their own.

Remember that not everything is intuitive for them, and they will become demotivated very, very quickly. The best pilots I have seen were the ones where a dedicated person was constantly in contact with testers.

On the one hand, it gives you some early invaluable feedback, on the other – testers know whom to contact when help is needed.

You can ask – “Isn’t the service a modern and intuitive one?”. Well, it is, and it is not at the same time.

Some recent parts such as Yammer or Planner are well thought out and easy to adopt, but others, such as SharePoint or Outlook clients, bring a huge legacy do deal with.

Don’t forget to go through a technical assessment

It’s easier than ever before to deploy Office 365 in your organization. The funny thing here is that apart from Office ProPlus client, there is hardly anything else you can deploy. All the technical work is usually connected with AD or email system integration.

The list of 100 technical questions I mentioned in this article’s lead is still valid. Remember to go through the technical assessment to identify any blockers or problems you may have.

There are also many technical decisions to make – for example, “Is it worth to deploy SSO, or maybe password sync will be sufficient?”. All of these will help you with scoping your final project.

 

Engage with an expert

I have seen many customers trying to do the pilot by themselves… It almost always ends up taking much longer than expected with many questions not answered. Just look for an expert to support you during the process.

This person or company should have certain experience with both technical (services tips and tricks) and business (adoption) parts of the service to guide you through it.

To sum up – Office 365 grows very quickly, and it’s quite easy to do a technical deployment, but it takes some energy to decide on what you should deploy and how to support your business users during adoption.

I hope that these 6 tips will help you break the ice. And as always, if you need more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Key takeaways
  1. Gather feedback from the end users
  2. Work on real-case scenarios
  3. Limit the services tested to the most necessary ones
  4. Keep communicating with the users
  5. Remember about the technical assessment
  6. Work with an expert to guide you through the process

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