Office 365’s User Adoption Challenge

It’s Designed to Boost Productivity—Help Your Employees Realize its Potential

When Microsoft launched Office 365 in 2011, Forrester’s Chris Voce called the product one of the most important in the company’s history, and noted that it represented the single biggest change to the Microsoft customer relationship since 2001.

In the subsequent six years, the company achieved much of what it set out to do with the product—to deliver new features to users more quickly, and to make the product pervasive. According to recent surveys, Microsoft has 60 million Office 365 commercial customers, 1.2 billion people use at least one Office product, 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies have at least one Microsoft Cloud offering, Office 365 has been used to send 4 trillion emails to date, and users spend an average of 38 minutes a day on Skype calls.

But there’s another side to the story. Despite Office 365’s pervasiveness, survey data shows that adoption of the applications and features that are designed to increase productivity is low. For example, while 84 percent of active Office 365 email users have used Exchange Online, only 12 percent have used OneDrive and Skype for Business, 18 percent actively use SharePoint, and 3 percent actively use Yammer.

The data suggests that many employees are sticking with what they know—collaborating with Exchange Online webmail, for example—instead of discovering new approaches with SharePoint, Yammer, OneDrive or Skype.

The data also suggests that ubiquity isn’t enough to achieve the promises of Office 365, especially not in today’s workplace, where employees are struggling to keep pace with rapidly advancing technology and quick-changing business priorities. If people aren’t aware of new features and approaches, how can they ask for help learning how to use them? Proficiency by tinkering is a luxury of the past.

In this new world of work, just maintaining productivity can be challenging. In addition to providing new features, software updates can also deliver changed functionality to existing tools. Without help, employees can experience disruption and frustration with their everyday tasks. The technology that was designed to boost productivity could stifle it instead.

The importance of technology adoption and its connection to organizational success aren’t new concepts. They’re widely understood in business. It’s the urgency that’s changed, as well as the definition of success.

It’s increasingly clear that “sticking with what you know” no longer works, and certainly not for Office 365 implementations. To achieve Office 365’s promises—improving collaboration, fostering innovation, and increasing efficiency—business leaders need to start thinking and acting like futurists.

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