Office 365 Adoption. It never ends.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’m preparing for an Office 365 Adoption presentation I’m giving in a couple of weeks and one of the key points I’ll be emphasizing is this… “To do it right, it never ends”. The view of Office 365 adoption being a once and done training effort is, in my opinion, off the mark. The idea of a never-ending adoption effort can, however, be a foreign concept to some organizations new to the world of Office 365.

I believe as long as you have Office 365 deployed in your organization, you will have a permanent adoption requirement. Plain and simple.

Let me explain…

Information Technology departments would fully expect to have a server administration team as a necessary part of managing a successful on-premises environment. This more traditional aspect of IT is well-understood in the industry. This same expectation, however, often doesn’t translate into the more nebulous world of technology adoption. I believe a successful Office 365 deployment requires an adoption team to drive business-centric, information worker-centric adoption that goes well beyond just knowing how to use the tools.

This is a key differentiator between Office 365 and many other applications deployed in an organization. For example, when deploying a new HR system, all staff would certainly need to be trained on how to use the application, but once the initial training was complete, by and large the effort is considered “done”.

To be clear, you certainly need to train information workers on how to use the specific tools within Office 365 (OneDrive for Business, Outlook, SharePoint, Teams, etc.) similar to the new HR system above, however there is an additional aspect when it comes to Office 365 – that is adoption. I’ve discovered the adoption of new tools and collaboration experiences can be as much about changing human behaviour as it is about the underlying technology. This is why a steadfast focus on end-user centric adoption is critical to its success.

This sounds simple, but it’s not easy.

What makes Office 365 different?

Opportunity for productivity is everywhere in Office 365. Users will be interacting with it for email, chat and document collaboration in one way or another all day long regardless of job role or team. Because users spend so much time with these tools day in and day out, you can have a very big impact on their overall productivity thru the adoption techniques you deploy. You need to ensure users are using these tools effectively to be as productive as possible anywhere they may be and on any device they may be on. If you don’t have a continuous user-centric adoption focus, adoption may start to lag thereby causing a large-scale productivity decrease over time.  This problem at-scale can translate into real dollars for an organization.

  • Productive users make up a productive team
  • Productive teams make up a productive department
  • Productive departments make up a productive organization

A sound approach for Office 365 adoption is to approach it like an enduring service rather than a once and done training effort. Here are 4 reasons why I think Adoption needs to be elevated to this status:

  1. Change is the new norm in Office 365. Gone are the controlled days of 3-year release cycles. New, changed, and removed features are commonplace in Office 365 and can often affect how information workers interact with it. Like it or not, these changes will not always be seen as a positive difference. This has the potential to negatively affect end-user adoption so an organization needs to stay ahead of the curve, decide how/if your organization will leverage the feature and prepare end-users for it to mitigate the risk of a negative hit on adoption.
  2. Staff come and go. New hires and changing roles within an organization happen all the time. Even if you have everyone perfectly trained on the feature set in Office 365 at a particular point in time, how are you ensuring both new employees and changed roles are trained and adopting the services enabled in your tenant over time? Don’t assume they’ll just know. This is where Business champions (next point) can help.
  3. Business (productivity) champions come and go. To realize adoption-at-scale, an organization cannot rely solely on IT to fill this role which is why business champions are critical to drive adoption. I’ve previously blogged about this at What makes a great O365 Adoption Productivity Champion? These are business users  who continue to work alongside their teams but who also have advanced Office 365 training and a keen interest in leveraging the technology to help their team. As employees move in and out of the business champion role, you need to be constantly mentoring and building new business champions from across your organization to ensure adoption continues to flourish at the team (grass roots) level.
  4. Business processes change. Beyond the technical training on how to use the tools, the best way to drive adoption in Office 365 is to use its tools for specific business scenarios/processes at the individual/team/department level. There needs to be an ongoing effort to work with the business to identify opportunities where Office 365 tools can be leveraged to help automate/streamline their business processes. Don’t assume all information workers will be able to self-identify these processes. In some cases, we should also be empowering end-users to self-serve on many of the advanced capabilities (Microsoft Forms, Microsoft Flow, PowerApps) and provide them the appropriate training and support to set them up for success.

These are the reasons why I believe sustainable adoption across an organization (and let’s be honest, sustainable adoption is the only kind that matters) will not happen if you just “staff up” the adoption/training team for the initial roll-out of Office 365 and then disband it once it’s rolled out. Taking that approach, the likelihood of experiencing long-term success with Office 365 is significantly reduced.

Start thinking about how your organization should build their own Office 365 team to offer Adoption as a service. The size of the team can vary, but as long as you have Office 365 in your organization, the need will always exist.

I’d love to know if you feel the same and what your organization is doing on the adoption front.

Thanks for reading.


Credit: Photo by Kaboompics // Karolina from Pexels


  1. Hi there, I think many organizations are happy to take a wait and see approach, instead using external teams to drive initial adoption initiatives, but actually standing up an evergreen adoption is farther down the road for the average size Co right now. This is a pity because embedding such a team deep with the business can uncover great ways to work smarter that’s can’t be realized as easily for specific once off adoption objectives.

  2. Great article – and I couldn’t agree more. Successful user adoption requires focus and ongoing efforts by a person or a team focused on activities that promote it. This is a message that needs to be sounded over and over. It makes all the difference.

  3. Great article! A good user adoption plan is indeed key with driving Office 365 forward and I’m glad the company I represent is embracing Office 365. Thanks for the a great insightful article as ever.

  4. In the end, its like talking to the wall. There are no teams or people to pay for this lunatic refresh rate, and here we are. If microsoft cannot provide what I require I am gone. Either settle down to a stable product, or go and do something else.

  5. Adoption as a Service sounds like a good idea. I would choose a different acronym though. Adoption Services? Increased Usage? IU instead of UI?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.