Creating an Enterprise Collaboration Implementation Action Plan

There is no tool or platform in the world that will address every possible security, compliance, and governance requirement or scenario. The key to operational success within enterprise collaboration is to properly plan and regularly review your assumptions and strategies, and to incorporate end user feedback into the process. In a recent AvePoint blog post, Sr. Director of Content and Communications, Michael Segner, put together an excellent outline on migration planning, providing a detailed checklist and implied methodology for your end-to-end process.

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

So much goodness in that one post that it got me thinking about some of the previous work I had done on the topic. In some of the research conducted by CollabTalk a couple years back, we interviewed dozens of companies about their SharePoint migration and ongoing management takeaways, which I summarized in a checklist for operational planning, including:

  • Planning
  • Inventory Assessment / Audit
  • Training
  • Governance and Change Management
  • Innovation

Building upon Michael’s tactical migration planning checklist, here is a summary of the guidance provided as a result of this research — and an action plan for enterprise collaboration:

Planning

Have a holistic approach

Organizations should look at Office 365 as an integrated business solution rather than through functional silos or individual workloads. Review the end-to-end experience as well as individual workloads within your existing or future governance oversight committee meetings, as the review and management of security and compliance issues will likely comprise a large portion of your ongoing operational activities. Develop metrics for each workload that will be meaningful at the company-level, as well as the business unit or team-level and provide deeper insights into how different user groups are adhering to company security and compliance standards.

Prepare for changing information needs

There’s a reason why agile development is becoming so pervasive — the rate at which our business needs change is increasing. A key to keeping people engaged is to ensure that the right data is available and in a timely manner. This is another great example of where regularly talking with your employees or end users will impact how they view and participate within your collaboration platform. No matter how well you document the requirements of your system, end user needs will change.

Manage organizational and cultural differences

We live in a “fix it” culture where problems surface, and we immediately want to run to them and solve them. But sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to allow the participants to find their own path. And if people understand that there is a method (or process) for resolving their differences, they are less likely to use a policy disagreement as a reason to disengage.

Inventory Assessment / Audit

Conduct a detailed self-assessment

Regularly conduct a detailed assessment of your systems and tools, information architecture, and business goals to better understand what is in place today, how it maps across to the Office 365 tools and capabilities, and where there may be gaps. With this baseline in place, you will be able to properly plan for future system and tool deployments and business requests.

Identify feature gaps and create an operational strategy

By regularly auditing your systems and identifying needs gaps, you allow IT Managers and other key business stakeholders to understand the features and limitations of each workload within Office 365 (For example, OneDrive can only restore deleted files for 93 days) and more transparently manage employee expectations.

Expand your information architecture

Technology is changing so rapidly, the information architecture designed for your earlier SharePoint deployment is likely out of date and should be updated to reflect the growing usage of other workloads, such as Teams, Yammer, OneDrive, and others. Whether or not your organization uses a formal intranet, understanding where your information assets sit and how to access them is essential.

Conduct scheduled inventory audits

Cleaning up content and verifying classifications will strengthen your overall information architecture (IA), improving search results while also ensuring that content lifecycles are compliant. Setting security and compliance policies is difficult when managers and employees do not know the state and disposition of their information assets. Audits provide visibility, and present opportunities to re-evaluate the priority of information assets, as well as to make policies and procedures around the content lifecycle clear to everyone.

Training

Invest in training and adoption

Do not assume that the initial training conducted when Office 365 was initially rolled out will be sufficient for long-term success. Provide a blend of self-help and ongoing productivity training for all employees, and leverage some of the “Customer Success” best-practices provided through Microsoft and the expert community to look for ways to continually inspire and encourage end users to collaborate and stay engaged.

Create a training plan to better disseminate policies and procedures

Training should not happen one-time (usually at launch). Make awareness of security and compliance standards part of a mandatory education plan. Training plans that incorporate multiple tools and distribution methods are always more effective than simply providing a digital training PDF or posting a single training video to the company intranet. Organizations should take the time to create training assets that match the learning culture within the organization, providing self-help tools (videos, content, internal quizzes) and both formal and informal sessions (classroom, brown bags, ask me anything (AMA) discussions) to reach the broadest audience.

Treat people like adults

Depending on the culture of your organization, this may not be an issue, but it’s worth pointing out that people feeling like they are not taken seriously or are being marginalized is often a sign of micro-management. The best-run collaborative platforms are the results of clear rules and guidelines and then getting out of the way to let people work. Effective managers are clear on what needs to be accomplished, but do not dictate how people accomplish their work.

Governance and Change Management

Create (or improve / extend) your governance committee

The overall governance of your Office 365 environment has less to do with the technology and more to do with the practices and procedures you put in place to administrate your information assets. One of the essential steps to successful Office 365 governance is the creation of an oversight committee, tasked with the ongoing operational review of the platform as it is planned, deployed, extended, and supported. The goal of this team is to regularly review the state of operations, monitor changing business needs and evolving technology capabilities, ensure that information architecture, security and regulatory requirements are being met, and to track end user adoption and engagement.

Keep pace with change

Supporting transparency and holding the organization accountable is especially critical as the pace of the Office 365 change release process is incredibly fast (including monthly and weekly builds), and organizations can easily miss key improvements or new features if they fail to stay on top of these releases.

Incorporate change management into your culture

An effective change management process is the key to transparency and should be led by your IT organization or Project Management Organization (PMO) to provide a formal front-door process for business and feature requests, to provide issue tracking and status updates, and to work with end users and management alike to ensure that what is delivered meets expectations.

Provide transparency

People do not work well in an information vacuum. Take away transparency and people will go around you to try and solve their issues on their own. It’s amazing how quickly a planned and articulated communication strategy can affect how people react to the state of a project. The more you involve people in the process, the more likely they are to support that process and stay engaged.

Stay on schedule

Communicate your schedule for delivery of new features, new content, lifecycle or permissions changes, and similar activities to ensure you are meeting your end user expectations. If your communication channels are open and people feel confident in their ability to voice opinions, you may be more capable of handling any schedule slips — but your goal should always be to hit that delivery schedule.

Innovation

Better leverage the latest technology

Microsoft tries to provide business guidance and user scenarios for all new features and capabilities, documenting administrator and end user guidance to help customers quickly adopt. Organizations should constantly pilot these new capabilities, creating an environment where new features are quickly tested and deployed. Companies that can successfully adapt and adopt will have a distinct competitive advantage over those who fail to keep up. This is especially true with security and compliance features, which can have an immediate financial impact through risk reduction.

Pay attention to industry trends

As with the changing information needs for your end users, it is important that you are aware of industry trends and innovations that may evolve or disrupt your platforms. A great example has been the disruption of traditional enterprise content management (ECM) platforms by social collaboration tools. Be aware of improvements to your key workloads and stay ahead of your end users by testing out new solutions. If your team recognizes that you are constantly evaluating new technologies, looking for ways to improve and to stay on top of industry trends and best practices, they will be less likely to let their attention wander.

Focus on business outcomes, not technology

Be careful to balance your use of metrics with end user feedback, working collaboratively to improve employee experiences. Taking the time to understand the root cause of issues and focus on outcomes rather than the process of getting there (and nitpicking the mistakes made along the way) often proves to employees that you are making an effort to do the right thing, encouraging them to provide more information and helping to solve problems faster and, ultimately, helping to build trust within your collaboration platform.

Summary

Once you have the ability to view and understand your operational indicators, and to generate scenarios and contingency plans based on these strategies, you will be positioned to efficiently and effectively plan for obsolescence, as well as develop new product and feature strategies – and unlock unrealized revenue that had otherwise been lost within the shuffle of deficient lifecycle planning.

Much like an organization’s operational excellence strategy, we as individuals need to be constantly looking for ways to improve our own roles. Change is a fact of life — and one of three constants in life (along with taxes and death). To succeed in collaboration overall and to help end users stay engaged and productive, you will need to establish healthy habits and best practices.

The fundamental role of management is to watch for and mitigate risks — and yet the level of engagement of end users is rarely a risk mentioned in most organizational planning sessions. Engagement should be one of your primary organizational metrics. Clearly defined governance and consistent communications are at the core of end user engagement issues. If you’re experiencing serious issues with end user engagement, the first step is always to get a clear picture of where things are today — and be honest about what you see. Only with awareness can you begin to take the right steps forward and build out healthy collaboration practices within your organization.

The result of changing your operational activities toward a productivity focus means a higher return on investment (ROI) for the platform overall, because it will have a direct impact on platform usage. And when more people are using the platform, your company will get more out of the platform. You’ll see these benefits through faster employee on-boarding and training, more business output and stronger platform usage — all of which means a faster realization of the financial investments you’ve already made in the Microsoft stack. But remember that there is no end to your operational focus. Your business is constantly changing, the technology is constantly changing, and your end user needs are also constantly changing.

Christian Buckley

Christian is the Microsoft GTM Director for AvePoint Inc., and a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Apps & Services MVP based in Silicon Slopes (Lehi), Utah. He hosts the AvePoint Office 365 Hours (#O365hours) series, monthly #CollabTalk TweetJam, the #CollabTalk Podcast, and leads the monthly Microsoft 365 Ask-Me-Anything (#M365AMA) live stream. He is based in Lehi, Utah (Silicon Slopes).