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How to ensure the successful adoption of Microsoft Teams – and avoid confusion and chaos

In my last article I looked at why Microsoft Teams is mature, credible and ready to be the hub for your organization’s teamwork.

In this follow-up, I’m going to consider some of the challenges that, as cloud communications experts, we encounter most often and that must be avoided to ensure its successful adoption. This is all the more important as businesses look to quickly adapt and enable employees to work remotely and maintain productivity in the ongoing global health crisis.

I’ll also give a couple of real world examples of common pitfalls we often see in our client work. In this post I am going to focus on problems that – unfortunately – arise from not understanding how Teams will fundamentally change the way people will collaborate and communicate.

Microsoft Teams is not a like-for-like replacement for Skype for Business

In part, this is because some clients who underestimate what a transition to Microsoft Teams will mean. They view it as simply ‘the Skype replacement’. Now, to be fair this is how Microsoft first talked about it when they announced it, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that this is what a lot of people took on board.

Yes, Microsoft Teams will replace Skype, but it is not a like-for-like replacement – it goes way beyond what Skype for Business does. It totally changes the way people communicate, collaborate and how they can be productive. So whilst it’s important to get a good understanding of all the wonderful ways Teams can empower your workforce, you also need to have a good understanding of your enterprise’s culture, and their willingness to change. Only then can you look to ensure that your end-users also get the right level of understanding, and ensure they maximise their use of these new solutions.

At this point, let’s look at a real world example – and one of the most common pitfalls we encounter…

Common pitfall #1: no change management programme

‘Client A’ is a global telecoms organization, established in around 30 countries, and a mid-sized company with around 1000 employees. They already had extensive Microsoft knowledge, and were immersed in the Microsoft Office 365 suite. They had Skype for Business – and before this, OCS (Office Communications Server); they were using Exchange, SharePoint, Yammer, etc, and had good experience using the whole Office 365 stack. The idea was simply to transition from Skype for Business on-premise to Microsoft Teams with voice.

On the face of it, they were well placed. They had done lots of previous technical work around Skype, and most of the ‘being ready’ technical work was also done. The network was ready too. They had everything necessary to cope with video streams, heavy video usage, meetings and so on. They were also prepared for the roll-out of Teams – because when you have Office 365 you can relatively easily transition – and their IT Support were fairly well up to speed. You could argue that they were not perfectly trained but they certainly had enough knowledge to be getting on with and start the project. Overall though, things seemed well set for the successful adoption of Microsoft Teams.

A recipe for confusion and chaos

What created issues wasn’t the technical side of things, but user confusion. We had offered to run a change management programme with Client A’s user base but – perhaps because of this misconception that Microsoft Teams was just a Skype replacement, and not something that goes way beyond what Skype can do – they felt it wasn’t needed.

What you must realize is that in Microsoft Teams, you don’t really have a central control panel. There isn’t one way to see if someone else – maybe in the same division or team as you – has created another team on the same subject. Without any governance or best-practise guidelines to avoid this, it can be a recipe for confusion and chaos. Things can – and did in this case – start to get quite messy.

As the rollout happened, Client A’s employees were pretty much left to fend for themselves. After just a few weeks, there were numerous similar sounding teams with similar groups of people. There would be huge overlaps, but also gaps too, and people who didn’t necessarily know what existed, might create yet more new groups. In some cases, people created teams as a one-off, perhaps to send some files to a group of people, but then no-one would use that team again. In other cases, teams were being created, then abandoned, once people found there was another similar team, or one they preferred for a specific topic. 

Overall, it had become a rather bloated deployment with so many different teams all over the place, and many with very little actual usage. Worse than that, it was starting to become difficult for people to find information they needed, and productivity was falling.

Adoption by end-users is vital

That’s the point at which we came in to help with change management and adoption. The client of course now had realized that Teams really was very different from Skype, and that they needed some help. Help to improve end-user behaviour, and best practice on what-to-do and what-not-to-do.

You really must establish some governance – and the way to do this is to truly anticipate the impact on end-users of introducing Teams. Yes, it involves a change in technology but, first and foremost, you should consider it as a change in philosophy, and a change in behaviour within your enterprise. In doing so, you can take steps to reduce confusion, increase adoption, and ensure you get the productivity you intended.

This is also why it’s so important to involve your broader business stakeholders – not just the IT stakeholders – right from the beginning. They will be well-placed to know what challenges may be faced by their end-users, and what pitfalls may be encountered in moving from what is in place to something completely unified and different.

Common pitfall #2: a lack of advance training

I’ll turn now to another common pitfall, again using a real world example, although in this case I am relieved it was not a client of ours, but one our partner Microsoft shared with us.

‘Client B’ is a very large organization and with a large number of physical sites and a very diverse set of end-user profiles in a wide range of roles. They wanted to retire all their old PBXs and to bring everyone into the new comms system too. This move beyond their old telephony system would see Microsoft Teams used across the business with, as is common, staff in teams aligned with their roles, departments, and projects.

Given the diversity of end users, they had identified sponsors in each user group. All were highly visible and very engaged in the project. In addition, the client had run local IT training.

No governance guidelines

However, as in the above example, Client B also chose not to run a change management programme, and in this case soon ran into a problem arising from not having created governance guidelines and suitable training.

The consequences of this were to most noticeably hit the Finance Department. The team there didn’t know how to restrict confidential files from being accessible, and soon enough someone in the Finance team shared a file containing all staff salaries, and accidentally made it freely discoverable. Now, since anyone could potentially find it and access it, the inevitable happened, and someone soon did exactly that. As you can imagine, it was soon shared much, much wider causing much amusement, consternation and embarrassment, depending on who you were.

Of course, once information is out there, you can’t get it back. So, on top of getting on top of adoption and change management behaviour, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have good governance and give end users good training on creating, storing, and sharing information.

Clearly, this needs to be done before any roll-out, so that everything is clear in advance: governance, naming conventions, user access, before you then go into the rollout phase. These kinds of mistakes cannot be undone.

Yet, you can still move quickly and enable Microsoft Teams

These examples focus on what can go wrong if you don’t understand how people are likely to behave without guidance. But a poor understanding of the technical environment can also cause problems. In my next post, I will look at this in more detail, again with a real-world example to illustrate,

In the meantime and, in particular, in these unprecedented times, do get in touch if you are looking to quickly empower your employees with the collaboration tools they need while working remotely.

We can quickly get you enabled with a unified communications solution and ensure the successful adoption of Microsoft Teams in a very short space of time, whilst ensuring you avoid the kinds of problems covered here. We can also help you add Cloud Voice to give you the complete meeting and calling experience.

It’s part of our rapid response for business continuity – designed to enable your employees to work securely, safely, and productively and still ensure you have the controls you need in place.

About the author

VP, Product Marketing & Go-To-Market; Cloud Communications division of NTT Ltd.

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