As we head into the digital future, people increasingly have access to technologies like Microsoft 365 and Teams that enable collaboration. But moving to the cloud and getting value out of technology is not so easy.
Consider the results of a Gartner survey published earlier this year—according to the survey, an increasing number of organizations are using the cloud, yet they don’t believe they are getting much value from their investments.
It’s not for lack of availability—last year Microsoft introduced Microsoft 365, an integrated system driven by artificial intelligence (AI) that consolidates productivity and collaboration tools (Office 365 and Windows 10), security, and mobile device management tools.
Microsoft 365 can simplify mobile device set up, can reduce the time and effort it takes to work with colleagues on files and can streamline the meeting process.
In addition to Microsoft, Google, Apple, and others also have changed their approach—they’ve responded to demands for holistic systems that encourage collaboration and innovation.
But to see those rewards, organizations must get everyone on board. They must work hard to change deep-set work habits, they must show employees that Office 365 is more than just Outlook and Excel—it’s an integrated system that also includes SharePoint, Flow, Delve, Yammer, Power BI, Planner, and more. Each app plays a part in the larger productivity picture. But employees cannot be expected to figure it out on their own.
In the Gartner survey, the tools with the greatest usage vs. value gap include Power BI, Flow, Planner, and Delve, among others. It’s hardly surprising—these apps are relatively new to the Office suite, and many business users have yet to discover them.
Here are some of the benefits these apps can deliver, and steps organizations can take to increase their usage and value:
For sales reps, an inability to utilize all available information often means missed opportunities. Using Power BI’s data visualization, sales reps can collect, unify and visualize all their data in one place. They can create instant reports, share and draw upon data from all departments, and more easily gather past and present data to manage quotas.
How to achieve the benefits: Provide intensive Power BI training before, during and after a migration. Show employees what it can do, and how it works within the larger system. Create customized training tracks for different departments—after all, how a person uses Power BI depends largely on their company role. Provide ongoing support and coaching to encourage proficiency and mastery of the tools.
If you have ever used Yahoo! Pipes, If This Then That (IFTTT) or Zapier, then you understand the utility of automated workflows. With Microsoft Flow, automation is even easier—it’s integrated with the rest of Office and is designed for the enterprise. Flow enables business users to simplify everyday tasks by using basic workflow templates (such as saving all email attachments to a OneDrive folder) or creating their own for more complicated tasks (such as a flow that automatically pulls customer email addresses from an Excel table on OneDrive and adds new addresses to a customer mailing list in any marketing automation service).
How to achieve the benefits: For users who have had little experience with workflows, apps like Microsoft Flow can seem overwhelming. Start small by offering training on using templates and creating simple workflows. Ensure that the training is relevant to their job roles. Provide ongoing training and support to guide them toward more complex uses.
Microsoft Planner, like its competitors Trello and Asana, is designed to help teams coordinate projects, share files and work more efficiently. Planner has an advantage over the others, however—it is integrated with other Office 365 tools, such as Teams and Project.
How to achieve the benefits: Survey and identify departments in your organization who are already using team collaboration services like Trello, and those who could benefit from such a service. Provide training to introduce the service and offer instruction that’s tailored to company departments to encourage use.
It’s important to understand that, as with any new technology solution, transforming user adoption into value will require vigilance. Employees need to embrace new ways of working and keep up with the tech changes that are coming to their organizations—and it’s up to business leaders to ensure they have the guidance, training and support to do so.
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.