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If your investment into Office 365 isn't resulting in improved collaboration, there's something wrong. Check if you have one of these five symptoms PHOTO: Dana Vollenweider

When organizations adopt Office 365, some expect collaboration to suddenly become both engaging and painless. However, users often find Office 365 confusing at the start and blame the multitude of tools for collaboration mess. Companies then turn to different approaches in an effort to reach the right collaboration formula and adapt the suite to various use scenarios, project specifics and employees’ characteristics.

In reality, the complex collaboration logic of Office 365, combined with the absence of proper training and adoption strategy often result in an organization displaying clear symptoms of poor collaboration. 

Let’s investigate some of these symptoms and try to find proper remedies.

Chaotic Collaboration

The abundance of Office 365 collaboration tools is a topic that's provoked many debates. While Office 365 provides users with collaboration freedom, this freedom can just as often end up in collaboration anarchy. Collaboration becomes disorganized, its fragments get dispersed over different tools and unfit for reuse. In this case, employees often don’t know how to use the different Office 365 apps effectively.

Remedy: A collaboration diet. To cure the collaborative mess, you should stick to the principle of guided and controlled Office 365 usage. Clear policies can help employees who feel lost in the collaboration ocean. Document each tool’s capabilities, collaboration scenarios they can cover, and possible combinations of Office 365 tools

Another option is to temporarily disable some of the collaboration apps and reactivate them when employees master the core ones.

False-Positive Collaboration

If users don’t understand how to handle collaboration in Office 365 or just don’t like it, they'll switch to third-party tools. In this situation, collaboration may look quite dynamic, but there's a catch: it bypasses Office 365. Which means you're throwing away money paid for subscriptions.

Remedy: Intensive collaborative therapy. Only in-depth user training with a thorough explanation of Office 365 capabilities can help companies break the ice between their employees and Office 365. Getting positive results with a single session is impossible, so prepare regular training activities targeted at different user groups to explain collaboration patterns in Office 365 and make them put third-party tools aside.

Selective Collaboration

Let's say you pay for a corporate-wide subscription to the full set of Office 365 apps. However, an audit reveals your employees mostly use only one particular tool, for example, only SharePoint or only Microsoft Teams. This means the other applications remain idle and are bringing no value to the organization.

Remedy: Collaboration balancing. First, you can ask users about their reasons for one-channel collaboration and change your adoption strategy. Second, as in the case with messy collaboration, you can disable unused apps. Third, you can question the entire Office 365 subscription.

Once again, you have several options here. You can lower your subscription level, thus reducing both the package and the subscription cost. You can also think about switching to a standalone app, for example, SharePoint Online. Finally, you can replace Office 365 with a more lightweight solution, such as Slack, Wrike, Asana, Trello, etc.

Email-Addicted Collaboration

If a company has an arsenal of collaboration tools, yet employees continue to rely exclusively on email to collaborate, this is cause for alarm. No email system can provide a truly collaborative environment, so if you're waiting for effective team collaboration and content management to come out of your team's email habits, stop.

Remedy: Email amputation. To overcome email silos and turn employees’ attention to Office 365 collaboration, create a feasible strategy to smoothly move employees from emails to collaboration tools. For example, you can choose a test group of users and ask them to minimize or eliminate email usage for collaboration. After you assess the results, you will be able to spread the optimal approach to email across the rest of the company.

Noxious Collaboration

When misused, Office 365 can hinder working processes. Excessive chatting, unmanaged collaboration spaces and contradictory discussions can lead to severe gaps in projects and business mistakes due to employees’ unaligned actions.

Remedy: Collaboration disinfection. To eradicate unneeded and excessive collaboration, introduce moderators in each collaboration group. For example, team leaders can follow their teams’ collaboration and then fine tune the collaboration style in that team. Another helpful approach is creating a single source of collaboration truth. SharePoint works well here, a place where employees record key information essential to a task or a project, away from the collaboration noise (empty talks, unimportant details).

If Office 365 Collaboration Brings No Value, It's Time for Action

As enterprise-wide software, Office 365 should contribute to effective content management, easy knowledge sharing and smooth connection between employees and successful team collaboration. If after several months of using Office 365 you still don’t see any changes or worse, identify negative trends, it's time to reconsider your approach to Office 365 collaboration. 

When symptoms of bad collaboration arise, revise your approach to spreading Office 365 among users and adapting it to your internal needs. Continue to assess the solution's effectiveness and evaluate how justified your further investments into the suite are.