Education is the Key to a Successful Office 365 Deployment

Lowell Simpson, Global CIO, MediaCom
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Lowell Simpson, Global CIO, MediaCom

WPP is the largest communications services group in the world, employing 200,000 people in 3,000 offices in more than 100 countries. We are three years into our mission to deploy standard IT processes and governance across the entire network (and boy, are our arms tired).

As part of this transformation, WPP partnered with IBM to deploy the Office 365 suite to the 25,000 employees that work for GroupM, a division with multiple companies of its own. Here’s how it’s gone so far.

GroupM’s dedicated IT department and IBM began with the transition from Lotus Notes Email to a proper MSFT Exchange environment. This created waves of change, as employees adapted to the heavy integration between Office and its email communication tools.

In fact, deploying the Office 365 product suite was a wholesale culture change for our user community. Untethered from location or specific device, the ability to have full mobile access to all our tools and capabilities got rave reviews from many of our users. Most of the feedback we received were positive and help desk tickets were minimal considering the size of the affected user base. But for some? Not so much. Knowing what we know now, we’d have offered more training and guidance to help our internal customers through the initial transition.

Once we completed the staggered email roll-out, we planned to upgrade the entire community to the full Office 365 suite. While the technical upgrade went smoothly, the first 90 days revealed that employees were not taking advantage of some of the Suite’s products, including One Drive and One Note. This had to change, as the network reliability demands on our shared drives (for documentation storage and collaboration) was overwhelming and had begun to choke our network.

Turnover was a part of our problem. Our industry has a rather high employee churn rate, so it soon became obvious that our companies were welcoming new employees, who had missed our initial communications. Some non-Office users came on board, for example, to find that they were joining teams who were using Evernote to deliver work to clients and fellow associates. Plus, we had to constantly ensure that everyone understood the importance of One Note not only to lower costs but also to realize the Suite’s full advantages. The return on each wave of marketing outreach was a 12 percent uptick in usage in the following 90 days. My advice would be to recognize that your organization may need education far beyond the point of transition, perhaps indefinitely.

The next step to conquer was the migration from shared drives to One Drive and this has been the most challenging phase to date. Despite the fact that only a minority of users can access the shared drives via approved VPN from their laptops–and mobile access is unavailable altogether–employees are holding fast to their current workflows. In addition to network reliability, this has put a strain on storage capacity and even FTEs required to support the drives.

As with any large IT project, a “lessons learnt” exercise was executed, and we came to realize that we did not get ahead of our customers with enough information and education. We needed to provide more specific use cases to demonstrate how these tools would improve users’ day-to-day work and overall productivity. Going forward, we will launch more information campaigns during any large-scale migration (and we are still working to coach people away from the shared drives!).

In conclusion, early and ongoing education is vital to realizing the game-changing effects of an Office 365 implementation at scale. While the work is slower than we expected, our Office 365 migration has created great benefits for our user base and it’ll only get better from here.

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