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Before You Migrate to Office 365 – Read This

Before You Migrate to Office 365 – Read This

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently reported that there are already more than 80 million monthly active business users of Office 365, and every day, more and more businesses are migrating. Why? Because there's an endless list of benefits to migrating to Office 365, such as better security, anytime-anywhere access to applications, improved collaboration tools, simplified maintenance, and more. But if you're reading this, you probably already know all of that.

While some companies have already made the switch to Office 365, many remain uncertain about the transition, with most fearing the migration process itself. As with any major transition, an Office 365 migration can present some roadblocks, but many are easily addressed for a smooth transition to the cloud.

As the Chief Operating Officer for NH Learning Solutions, the largest group of New Horizons training centers in America, I have been involved in several preliminary discussions with businesses about Office 365 Migration. In several ways, these meetings were a real learning experience for me, as I was truly surprised to learn that so many decision makers were unaware of the tremendous impact deploying brand new software could have on their organization. Having been in this industry for close to 20 years, and having trained and coordinated training for organizations who have migrated from legacy versions of Office, there are several things your business can do that can help ensure success, which I have highlighted below:


1. Define What Success Looks Like for Your Business

It will come as no surprise to learn that every company is going to approach an Office 365 implementation a bit differently; but what I fail to hear during each consultation is a clear definition of what a successful migration would look like to the client. 

In every consultation, I ask a very simple but important question: "What key performance indicators (KPIs) will you use to determine whether or not your Office 365 migration was a success?" 

It's clear that they were not anticipating this questions, and I am often met with silence, or they respond with something like: “We don’t want our Help Desk to get flooded with calls and emails about basic Office functionality and troubleshooting. And we certainly do not want to see a dip in productivity because our end users are struggling with the new software tools!"

Fair enough, and in many ways that is a perfectly acceptable answer, but in order to truly gauge the success of your Office 365 migration, you should go into it with highly defined key performance indicators, so that you can measure the success throughout the duration of the migration. 

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This is very important, since arguably, in the beginning stages of the migration, everything may not go 100% according to plan, and you may have to pivot and make adjustments. But if you aren’t measuring anything, and haven’t established KPIs, then it will be quite difficult to know whether or not the Office 365 migration was a success, and if it was well received by your employees. All you are going to get is anecdotal feedback, without the ability to pinpoint hits or misses. And more importantly, you are not going to be able to demonstrate to your senior leadership what the positive and negative impacts were of this migration and what you would do differently next time.

Here are a few things to consider to help you measure your success:

  • Establish a Starting Point – First, before implementing Office 365, get a baseline of your Help Desk activity as it currently stands. Go back 90 days during a typical time period, and get a snapshot of what your daily Help Desk activity looks like. You can use this baseline as a comparison point after the migration.
  • Monitor Activation and Adoption – Within Office 365, there are some basic reporting tools that are included, which will allow you to see who has and has not activated their Office 365 accounts, and more importantly who is using or not using specific applications. Track this over an extended period of the migration to see who is using the software and at what duration.
  • Ask for Employee Feedback – You might consider sending out a company-wide survey several weeks after Office 365 has been fully deployed and ask how they rate the software compared to the legacy version. You can also decide to send out a survey before the migration to inquire about the legacy software to determine where your employees would like to see better functionality and usable of the software they are using.


2. Consider a Phased-In Approach to the Migration

If you plan to implement a Business or Business Premium version of Office 365 that includes a host of services, such as Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online, Delve, Yammer, and more, I recommend that you take a phased in approach with your deployment. Don’t try to implement every product and service all at once. This can become overwhelming, both to your IT Department and to your end users.

Instead, pick the applications and services that you feel are most essential and can be deployed with the least headache. Get a handful of those implemented, and build on that positive experience, and then start to layer in the other applications and services.

In my experience, the first phase typically involves launching Outlook, followed quickly by Skype for Business. The next phase would then be the core Office products, such as Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. Once the core products are launched, you can deploy SharePoint and OneDrive. Finally, now is the time to look at launching ancillary products, such as Delve, Sway, Teams, and Yammer.

3. Develop a Change Management Strategy

Businesses often underestimate the impact of change. When you decide to deploy Office 365 to employees who are unfamiliar with the new tools, you are changing their work environment—and to some users, this can be a dramatic change, which can lead to ill feelings. Without any communication about why the change was made, some employees may not understand the value and only focus on the negative impact.

At least 30 days before the actual software is launched, I recommend that your business incorporate some sort of change management plan as part of the Office 365 migration. It’s really important that you effectively communicate to your employees why the company has decided to adopt this new software, making sure to highlight the many benefits to the end user. This can be done quite easily by creating and sending an email to your staff that discusses the plan to migrate and why they business has chosen to do so. Plus, if your resources allow, you could even create an excitement video of some kind that discusses the plan and purpose of the migration. Either way, be sure to communicate this change early on, and express that you have your employees' best interests at heart. 

4. Don’t Assume Your Employees Will Know How to Use the Software

In quite a few conversations with clients, I have found that there is this assumption that end users will adapt quickly and easily to the new software, since many of their employees are already using Office 365 at home. That can be dangerous. The way people use software at home is much different than how they would or should leverage software for business. Once the software is deployed, do not underestimate the need for training, or you may never see the real results of why you migrated to Office 365 in the first place.

Every version of Office is created to help businesses work faster and smarter, but if your employees are unaware of these advancements and don’t know how to incorporate them into their daily duties, how will your business ever see a return-on-investment?

Let’s say your business consists of 5,000 employees, and all of them spend 10 minutes a day trying to figure out how to use a specific feature—over time, that can equate to thousands and thousands of unproductive hours. This is why training is so important. If your business launched Office 365 with the intention of increasing collaboration, yet you never trained your employees on how to leverage the available collaboration tools, there is a very real chance that they are not going to make the most out of the new software on their own.

5. Work to Achieve New Levels of Proficiency

Typically, when new software is introduced, the user will look first to uncover what is new, get comfortable with some of the tools, and incorporate them into their daily activities the best that they can. But is this true proficiency? Are the employees making the very most out of the new software? Don’t you want your end users to go beyond just knowing how to use Excel. Of course you do!

True proficiency with Office 365 is being able to integrate soft skills with that technology. So you may be able to work in Excel to compile data, but from a soft-skills standpoint, how do you do you analyze that data to drive business decisions and affect change in your organization? This new level of proficiency is much different than teaching your employees simply how to use Excel.

Same thing goes for Skype for Business. Let’s say you’re a manager and most of your team is remote. So of course you will want to know how to use the features within Skype, but more importantly, don’t you want to learn how to conduct a powerful and effective meeting, leveraging all of the tools? Don’t you want to learn how it can help you become a better manager? I am willing to bet that the answer is yes, and providing training is truly how to achieve the best productivity.

6. Speak with an Experienced Learning Partner

There is absolutely no harm in reaching out to a learning provider like NH Learning Solutions and exploring your options. You may decide to implement some sort of training as part of your Office 365 migration or you may decide not to. But at least you can hear about some of the services that are offered that can help you be successful.

If you are in the middle of a migration or planning to migrate soon, the earlier you engage with a learning provider, the better. When it comes to training your employees, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and there are many flexible options. Reach out to us for a free consultation, and our team will work to acquire a comprehensive understanding of your business and what you hope to gain out of the migration. We will work with you to develop a tailored learning plan to ensure that you get all of the services and support you need.

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Closing Thoughts

I truly believe that if your true goal is to eliminate the impact that an Office 365 migration can have on your IT staff and help desk, and avoid any loss in employee productivity, then you should develop and then implement a full learning solution as part of the migration.

Migrating to Office 365 can and should be a positive experience for your business. My role is managing the learning resources, which consist of trainers, courseware, and curriculum – bringing them all together into a comprehensive program that help an organization successfully educate and migrate their users to a new version of Office. Our role specifically is around educating and preparing both the IT department and Help Desk, as well as the end users for the new version of Office. I look forward to speaking with you about how we can help put your business on a path to a successful migration.

Tynan FischerAuthor: Tynan Fischer, Chief Operating Officer
NH Learning Solutions Corp.

Tynan has spent nearly 20 years helping organizations across the country achieve better results and productivity by educating their employees. He specializes in partnering with companies to help determine and identify business challenges regarding technology, business processes, migrations, and employee development. Over the course of Tynan’s career with New Horizons, he has held a wide range of positions, including Applications Instructor, Training Manager, General Manager & Regional Director of Operations. He currently leads the Office 365 Launch Program at NH Learning Solutions, which is a multi-pronged approach to end-user training, designed to increase adoption and activation, proving users with the skills necessary to transition seamlessly to Office 365.


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