Why I ❤ Office 365!

I feel that early on in my blogging career, I need to come clean around my obsession with Office 365. I realise that part of ‘digital’ is about disrupting the market, enhancing the role of SMEs and utilising open source software but I confess, that is not the world I live in. I am a convert for all things Office 365… and I feel the need to share it with the world.

My Journey with Office 365

In 2018 my organisation delivered a significant IT Transformation to bring the Corporate desktop right up to date. The organisation is now 80% tablet or desktop, with most of our core services (email, personal file storage, document management, Intranet) now in Office 365, giving our staff access to the latest offerings from Microsoft. What we didn’t realise at the time was that not only were we providing a more resilient, accessible platform, but that we were unlocking a treasure trove of tools to radically transform the working culture and practices of the organisation.

It has been a sharp learning curve for me and my team, getting to grips with the potential of Office 365 and then shaping the narrative to explain it all to our users. Initially we focussed on the basics – Microsoft Office, OneDrive (which is now used for personal file storage) and SharePoint Online. Like most organisations, we already had an older version of SharePoint on premise, which had been a mixed success, so as part of the Programme we reviewed the existing sites and migrated those still required to SharePoint Online. SharePoint Online was one of the early successes for us, as the number of active sites grew from less than 100, to over 300. One of the great drivers for us was the ability to create external collaboration sites, a secure location for our users to work and share files with external partner organisations.

The next area of focus was Skype for Business and changing the organisational culture from traditional meetings and emails to audio and video conferencing and instant messages. In the first few months we saw a steep increase in Skype use to more than 1000 regular users (about a 3rd of the organisation). Initially instant messaging, but we have also seen month on month increases in audio and video conferencing use as well. One of the great headlines for me is that the organisation has halved the number of emails that are sent each month – reducing from 1.2m emails in October last year, to less than 600k in recent months.

Most recently we have installed a number of Skype Room Systems at our main office site, including in some Senior Manager’s Offices. Again this is likely to be a slow burner, as with any cultural change, although there have been some very promising leadership from some Directors, who are now using Skype for their regular meetings. One key lesson is the need for Senior Managers to lead by example, and often staff need to be given license to make best use of technology by their manager.

In recent months we have been turning our attention to Microsoft Teams and some of the other applications like PowerBI, Forms, Planner, Flow and PowerApps. These will be featuring in a different blog as I can write about these forever.

Personal Effectiveness

Office 365 has also seen something of a transformation for my own working practices – and from a personal perspective I have never been so productive but at the same time never worked so flexibly. The ability to work anytime and anywhere is a reality for me – though the challenge now is to ensure that working anytime doesnt become working all the time.

I love the ability to catch up on emails or instant messages over my morning cup of coffee, and perhaps fire one or two back – using my Intune managed Corporate Phone. It is great to have the option to review documents or check in using Teams on the train or catch up on the latest team issues on Planner – on my Corporate phone or laptop. (N.B. I always reserve the right to read my kindle or watch the latest trending TED Talk instead). My current obsession is the Microsoft Usage dashboard, delivered through PowerBI, which gives me a breakdown of which Office 365 tools are being utilised at a organisation, department or user level – of course this is surfaced through the PowerBI mobile app on my Corporate phone.

Last week I was interested (and slightly appalled) to see on the dashboard that I was the third highest culprit for emails sent in my organisation, as well as being one of the highest users of Skype and Teams for communication. In May 2019 I sent nearly 2000 emails, which even for the customer facing lead in the IT Division, is a little embarrassing – and that is despite now using Teams to communicate with all of my team and colleagues. That is certainly one for me to reflect on and I am very conscious that in my role as the organisation’s lead on Office 365 adoption and a senior manager, I need to lead by example – giving my staff license to transform the way that they work, whilst maintaining a healthy work-life balance!

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