man teaching and explaining something on a computer
Mandating software use rarely goes far, but if employees share their knowledge with others, productivity soars PHOTO: Knight Foundation

With the Office 365 platform, everyone’s productivity is directly proportional to the depth of adoption and the number of users within your organization.

Put another way, the more people in your organization who use Office 365 and its constituent applications, the more valuable the entire software suite becomes. That’s because extensive use sets a virtuous cycle in motion: shortcuts emerge, which lead to tasks getting done faster, which reduces frustration and creates a work environment where everyone feels happier and more productive.

Whose organization wouldn’t want to benefit from that scenario?

Creating Buy-in for an Adoption Plan 

After all, better document management, improved collaboration, time-saving workflows and indispensable analytics all mean that everyone will enjoy a more pleasant and productive experience working with data. The results may not happen overnight but you will very soon be glad you took the initiative.

After deploying Office 365, most companies turn to documentation or trainers to help their teams discover, learn and start using the Office 365 applications. Many times, however, an adoption plan — even one with support from senior management — won’t bring everyone on board completely.

Identify and Enlist the Early Adopters

In fact, the key to Office 365 implementation success lies not with senior management but with your company’s early adopters. No matter what levels or departments they may work in, those early adopters are the ones with the power to influence other end-users into adopting and using Office 365.

Think of your early Office 365 adopters as the pathfinders who blaze a trail for the rest of your company to follow.

Sharing Means Caring

So whether you hold a senior or junior position within your organization, you have a role to play in the adoption effort. To make your efforts even more influential, ask your managers to appoint you as a Power User and become part of Microsoft’s online user community.

From there, it is all about sharing. Early adopters do best when they think of themselves as Office 365 evangelists who share both their enthusiasm and their expertise. Specifically, your organization will benefit when your early adopters get in the habit of sharing links, results and usage tips.

3 Ways to Share Your Office 365 Expertise

Let’s take a look at what each of these three sharing habits might involve:

1. Sharing Links

The first habit consists of sharing links that drive users to Office 365 applications. Every time you get a chance, share relevant links that lead your recipients to explore team sites, lists, profiles, workflows, apps, etc.

Links to documents help users see documents in context and links to apps remind them that there is a particular tool waiting to be used. Every time you share a link, your colleagues get to explore the platform a little more.

Instead of adding attachments and including descriptions in your emails, share a link to where the item is hosted and described with all the metadata on the platform. Start by adding relevant links to your email signature. This can be a link to your Yammer conversation or your Delve profile.

When discussing a certain topic in your email body, add a relevant link by saying something like, “I hope this helps. By the way, you can find more info about this here.” And remember to make sure that every link that you share is relevant and ends with a friendly call to action.

2. Sharing Results

This is about showcasing the things that you have done so that others can get inspired. For example:

  • When colleagues need to know where to find documents, do a search with SharePoint Search and send them links to the search results pages. With the search capability on display, they will quickly realize what to do next time.
  • When colleagues ask you questions, you can type the answers in Yammer and send them links to the answers. That lets you direct everyone to that page next time instead of typing the answer every time the question is asked.
  • When colleagues want to recall something about a topic discussed in an earlier meeting, send them to your OneNote document page.

Actually, you can share everything you complete on the Office 365 platform because no one will complain that you’ve shared something interesting. In fact, it’s perfectly okay to show off your knowledge. But be generous in using the platform to showcase things that others have done. In other words, share every success story.

3. Sharing Tips

This habit is all about showing your colleagues better ways to do things within Office 365. It helps users discover applications they didn’t know existed. Share tips consistently for long enough and your colleagues will start using the applications.

You can get creative here. For example, you might say, “Thanks for the updated spreadsheet. By the way, you can add your spreadsheet on SharePoint as a list so that anyone can be able to update it.”

You can also email tips on how to do anything in Office 365. For instance, you could tell your co-workers that:

  • They can use OneNote to take notes during a meeting
  • They can use Yammer to address questions to relevant experts in the company
  • They can use Planner to brainstorm ideas
  • They can use Skype for Business to have real-time conversations with colleagues

To be able to share even more tips with more people, make yourself available for help and support. Let your co-workers know that they can always come to you if they have questions.

Become Your Company’s Office 365 Expert 

Even though your company may have appointed a training and support team, the guidance you offer will always have a major impact on the adoption process. Users learn best from their team members, but due to worries about being seen as incompetent, most employees tend to avoid asking too many questions to management or their IT departments.

But they are comfortable learning from their co-workers, namely you. By making yourself available for support, you create an atmosphere of encouragement and excitement about learning and mastering Office 365 and its constituent platforms such as SharePoint. That knowledge will lead to adoption and before long, a new generation of Office 365 product evangelists.

Richard Harbridge, CTO at 2toLead, shares some additional insights on the topic in the video below.