Can Microsoft 365 really transform organisations?

Image: Microsoft 365 New Way traffic sign
By Linda Parkinson-Hardman on

Digital transformation only happens when people change their behaviour, in fact any change or transformation only happens when people change what they do now to something different.

The ‘CBI and Oracle’s report ‘bigger, faster, stronger’ summer 2019 report showed that greater adoption of technology could unlock productivity and add up to £100bn to the UK economy as well as reduce income inequality by 5%. They went on to say that culture is crucial, and knowledge is power, requiring the latest technologies and connected thinking.

And a 2018 McKinsey ‘Unlocking success in digital transformation’ report found that just 16% of respondents said their organisation’s digital transformation had successfully improved performance in a sustainable way. Another 7% said that performance had improved but only for a time.

Which means the biggest single reason Microsoft 365 adoption fails is because most organisations don’t define the business impact. And because they don’t define business impact, they can never know what ‘good’ looks like.

So, what does ‘good’ look like to your organisation?

Is it a numbers-based economy along the lines of numbers of documents stored in SharePoint or the reduction in emails sent since Teams was enabled?

Or is it a behaviours-based economy perhaps demonstrated by your organisation NPS score (Net Promoter Score is a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships), or the speed with which complex decisions are made.

Neither number nor behaviours based ways of measuring success are better or worse than the other, but they do help illustrate the challenges we face when we try to determine the actual return on the investment made in suites like Microsoft 365.

On the one hand, an increase in the number of files being stored online does show change, but the change is simply in the location and is an indicator of channel shift – where people are still doing the same thing, just in a different place. And it can be easy to think that this is transformative, but rather like the COVID-19 crisis we’re all going through the question has to be ‘has anything really changed’ for most office workers? Or is it simply a change of location?

And on the other hand, how can you demonstrate that the use of tools like Teams has improved your company’s overall NPS score or improved your speed of decision making?

The answer to the question of measuring success lies in using a matrix approach to understand the value of the Microsoft 365 product suite in enabling your organisation to reach its strategic goals.

But first, you must know which goals to reach and why you want to reach them.

The starting point then has to be the strategic direction of travel and the current situation is a great example of this. For instance, how many of us could have envisaged last year a wholesale move for office workers to their home environments?

And, although it would be fair to say that many companies have been toying with the idea of remote working ‘to save costs and reduce estate’ for some years already, none had really expected it to happen so swiftly.

And yet, we all managed somehow; some better than others and some with a lot of clearing up of Governance to do once things return to a semblance of ‘normal’. But what, exactly, has changed beyond the location? And if you weren’t paying attention to start with, how can you know if something fundamental is now different?

If we break it down, we can see there are many ways to measure and understand the overall impact of Microsoft 365 on an organisation.

For example, let’s say your board had an overall strategic goal to improve profitability over the next five years. The senior leadership team were probably thinking about a range of changes they could make, each of which would contribute something to the goal.

And let’s say one of those changes was to increase the amount of remote working and reduce the amount of desk space. That way they could conceivably reduce the lease costs of buildings, they may even be able to get rid of some office space altogether.

But to realise that gain there are number of factors that need to be considered before an assumption can be made that tools like Microsoft Teams has driven any tangible return on investment. Those factors include things like:

  • the cost of licencing Microsoft 365 for the workforce,
  • the cost of fitting everyone out with laptops and other devices to enable them to work from home vs the risk of people using personal devices, that may not be secure, up to date or even virus free,
  • the continuing or remaining lease costs of any buildings you’re thinking of ditching or reducing use of,
  • changes to existing buildings to support hot-desking,
  • upgrades to meeting rooms to enable better quality hybrid meetings where some staff are ‘in’ and some are ‘remote’,
  • upgrades to internal networks to support greater use of WiFi around buildings,
  • improving the quality of existing lines into offices and other buildings,
  • managing the knowledge and learning needs of staff so they become acquainted with the new opportunities presented by Microsoft 365,
  • the amount of time and number of decisions it takes to implement technical, application and user governance,
  • changes to technical infrastructure such as the replacement of existing remote desktop solutions like Citrix if staff are accessing from home,
  • the cost of determining and implementing new policies and procedures for information management, and the add on cost of communicating those rules,
  • the ongoing costs associated with maintaining momentum as the product suite and the company mature,
  • and finally, what about the additional cloud storage costs if there is no retention policy in place to manage the increase.

This is just a small list of fixed costs you might face when thinking about making remote working a long-term option for all or some of the workforce. And these costs are easily measurable, just add them up and you know how much, financially, it will cost to deliver this goal.

However, when we consider this as part of a bigger strategic endeavour, we see that a numbers-based way of measuring the value of Microsoft 365 doesn’t stack up because it ignores these ‘change costs’. It’s only when we include these considerations with the number of files or users that we can demonstrate that, despite the investment costs, it adds value in a BIG way.

This is called impact and impact is “an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life”.

And impact can be felt in many ways because not all organisations are equal.

For example, you might see impact in terms of things like:

  • productivity,
  • cost savings or cost reduction,
  • improved internal or external communication,
  • improved internal and external collaboration,
  • better customer service,
  • easier team development,
  • better employee engagement,
  • more flexible working,
  • improved accessibility and inclusivity resulting in greater diversity in the workforce
  • improved employee knowledge and learning leading to increased self-development and a reduction in ‘how-to’ calls to the service desk,
  • employee well-being,
  • increased skills development,
  • improved product or service development,
  • more innovation and ideation as staff share their thoughts in a wider, more inclusive forum
  • more appropriate governance,
  • and the improved skills with which people handle information and content and transaction management.

Or in a strategic mission statement driven environment such things might look like:

  • My team finds it easier to make and implement complex decisions
  • Staff work less outside formal contracted hours because they get it done faster and easier
  • I no longer spend as much time travelling to meetings
  • I can work more easily from any location
  • I have fewer meetings to attend and those I do attend are shorter and more productive
  • Faster decision making between staff and partners
  • Essential information and knowledge is easily accessible by any member of the team at any time.
  • I can easily find and share the knowledge I need from within my organisation
  • I don’t automatically look outside for knowledge and expertise as I can find much of it in-house

When we take a more considered approach to understanding what ‘good’ looks like, then the costs become part of the solution because the aim of the work is to drive change physically and behaviourally.

As an example I’d like to share a real story and for this I want to use a personal experience to highlight how Microsoft 365 might have been able to save the day with one British high street chain.

As an assumption, let’s say that this retailer might want to add to an original goal of increasing profitability by increasing their NPS score because as we all know, keeping a customer is cheaper than acquiring new ones, therefore, we want to keep as many as possible, at the same time as generating new ones.

At the beginning of March, I placed an order online with a largish high street chain. Normally, I’d shop in the store, which was still open, but I wanted to stick to the rules and ordering online seemed to make sense. I got an email confirmation with a message to say it would take between 10-15 days to deliver and although that was longer than I’d hoped for it was still OK, I was prepared to wait because of the situation we were all in.

In that 15 day period I didn’t get a single email from the company about my order, but I did get lots of sales emails!

15 days came and went and no sign of my order.

I emailed the company through their customer support page on the website and got a stock reply saying they’d get back to me. They didn’t.

I emailed them again via the customer complaint form and got a stock reply saying they’d get back to me. They didn’t.

I then tried telephoning and after hours of hanging on the line they never picked up the phone, but I was held in a queue with a very nice lady telling me that my call was important to them, but clearly not important enough to pick up the phone!

Eventually, at the end of April, I’d had enough and turned to social media, firstly Twitter and then Facebook, asking their representatives if they could shed any light on where my order was and why they weren’t responding. It was then I discovered hundreds of people just like me, frustrated and angry at the lack of response.

I finally turned to LinkedIn, tracked down the commercial director, and sent him a direct message. The response was swift. My order was refunded in full the same day and was then dispatched to me as a gesture of good-will. What that tells me is that either he didn’t know there was a crisis in customer complaints or that he was only responding to those who savvy enough to track him down. Either way, it didn’t make for good customer relations.

Today, if you were to check their Trustpilot reviews, you would see that 5% are poor and a whopping 70% are ‘bad’. How on earth can they turn this around?

Perhaps they could use Microsoft 365!

For example, they could have set up a Team to manage the crisis calls using staff from across the business, not just the customer complaints team. Simply pulling in up-to-date stock information from warehouse and shops with a bit of Power Platform trickery might have meant that orders could have been handed off to the stores with stock. And perhaps collating customer complaints from a variety of sources using third-party apps would give them greater insight into where the problems lay so they could then get back to customers with a choice.

If you read the customer comments, particularly on Facebook, you’d see that most people just wanted to be kept informed and would have liked the option to cancel their orders if necessary. But despite the fact you have a legal right to cancel online orders within 14 days of placing them, that cancel button isn’t there. With that insight, the team could have contacted their commercial director to sign-off an agreement to add a cancel button to the customer profile page, they could also have alerted the web development team to make the change.

And watching what happens in all of these spaces through a simple benchmarking process at the beginning, then checking on a regular basis would be a measurement that could clearly demonstrate the value of rapid decision making and improved customer support using a platform like Microsoft 365.

They didn’t need a call centre; they simply need a committed group working together in a shared space with all the relevant information to hand and most importantly with the authority (and responsibility) to implement changes.

Measuring the value of Microsoft 365 is never going to be an exact science, data must be pulled from multiple sources to enable an informed view to be taken. But without the original goal, you will never know what data makes sense so you can’t plan for it or assess which tools might work for you. And without understanding the strategic direction of travel you will not understand which aspects of the business are most likely to be impacted or improved.

At Silversands the types of activities we encourage our clients to do to measure that all-important return on investment are a mix of data-based and sentiment-based, that way we have a picture that is both informed and informative.

Right at the beginning of a project we set up an adoption readiness audit, this provides us and the client with a good understanding of what they already have in place that will support their adoption and change management, and what they need to either think about or implement. At the end of the process, we can look back at it, review and then demonstrate where change has been made and this helps them structure their long-term approach to managing Microsoft 365.

Where possible, we use communications tools that enable us to see what works and what doesn’t so we can assess which messages and channels ‘land’ with the audience it was intended for. This means we can be agile in our approach and make changes as they become necessary.

And when we start delivery we set up knowledge surveys which help assess where users are now and their attitude to the change that is about to happen. We measure again at the end of an intervention and then at roughly 6 months post implementation. In theory, this could then be run every year to see changes in trends over time.

If we are working with individual teams, we’ll create surveys specifically for the goals of that team, and again we measure at beginning, end and post-intervention.

We look at the admin usage reports to make a starting point assessment of the numbers across the core Microsoft 365 workloads which gives us a baseline we can then track over time.

And setting up the Power BI Microsoft 365 Usage Analytics can provide more Microsoft driven data supporting our many additional methods of measurement.

Microsoft has also released an additional admin reporting tool called the productivity score which gives insights into communication and collaboration across the suite.

But these project-specific tools aren’t the only place you can draw information from. If we go back to our NPS score, we could analyse changes in customer sentiment and responses to new ways of communicating; we could look at the number and quality of complaints emails, or the number of people using the cancel button on their orders.

Knowing how much stock is in the warehouse and in shops could allow order fulfilment to be re-routed to a specific branch or combination of branches, improving order delivery fulfillment. All these things, alongside other information, will help to demonstrate the value added by a change in behaviour and activity by doing something different.

As I said before, this is not and never will be an exact science. Reporting to the board that you have 2TB of data stored in SharePoint will almost certainly result in a ‘so what’ response, unless the aim of the exercise was simply to move everything to the cloud! And if that were the case, my response would be ‘why!’.

How Silversands can help

Silversands is a Microsoft Gold Partner and specialises in Microsoft 365 delivered across Azure cloud and hybrid IT environments. As well as technical consultancy we also have a professional Adoption and Change Management practice. We provide help with things such as user adoption audit, knowledge and learning plans, communications plans, privacy impact assessments (PIA) and equality impact assessments (EqIA).

Quarterly we run a number of online events which provide an opportunity to learn directly from our consultants and this quarter we have a series of 3 in December. Visit our events page for more information and to register.

If you would like to speak to one of our Adoption & Change Management experts please complete and submit the form below:

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