Developing Your Office 365 Deployment Strategy

Don't treat it as just an extension of your desktop applications. That's a waste.

By John Higgins
CPA Crossings

Once you have made the decision to commit to deploying Office 365 in your organization, it is important that you develop a deployment strategy. This will determine whether you achieve success or failure.

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There are countless examples of organizations that treat Office 365 as simply an extension of the Microsoft Office desktop applications. They simply make Office 365 available to their staff without any advanced planning or training. A sure recipe for disaster.

My goal is to provide you with some insight into how to effectively plan for your Office 365 deployment to maximize the return on your investment and optimize the efficiency in your workflows.
These are the key issues that need to be addressed in your deployment strategy:

  • Establishing your Office 365 deployment goals
  • Data storage model
  • Office 365 administrator role(s)
  • Subscription plan requirements
  • End-user training plan
  • Defining your permission models
  • Developing your deployment timeline
 Let's start with a discussion about establishing your strategic goals for Office 365.

Developing Your O365 Deployment Goals

With any important initiative, it is imperative that you establish specific goals to measure your achievements. Your Office 365 deployment initiative is no exception. I would like to provide you with some guidance on how to develop your Office 365 goals.

I suggest that you organize your Office 365 goals into two categories: organizational and individual. The organizational goals are important for your shareholders and management team. These goals will define the essence of what you are trying to achieve as an organization with your deployment of Office 365. The more you are able to articulate these goals, the greater your ability to optimize the return on your investment.

The individual goals are intended to bring the perspective of deploying Office 365 to the individual user. While individual staff may appreciate the fact that the organization is investing in Office 365 to move the business toward a more digital workflow environment, what they care most about is what the impact is going to be on their day-to-day work. So we need to work with them to create personal goals related to embracing Office 365.

Establishing Organizational Goals

There some very definite goals that are worthy of driving toward as an organization deploying Office 365. There are two specific goal types I would like to recommend you consider pursuing. Let us look first at workflow efficiency goals. There are many different ways to evaluate and measure workflow efficiency. I would put it into three buckets:

  • collaboration,
  • communication and
  • information sharing.

Collectively pursuing these three objectives is sure to improve overall workflow efficiency at the organization level. 

In terms of collaboration, the ability to leverage the integration of the desktop and cloud-based versions of the Office applications can have a substantial impact on efficiency. Think about all of the situations when you have sent emails back and forth, often with an updated version of the Excel workbook or the Word document attached, and each person sort of took their turn working on the file. With the online version that is part of Office 365, you can have two or more people working in the same Word or Excel file simultaneously and everyone can see the spot at which the others are making edits or reviewing the document.

On the communication front, the opportunity to have more timely and consistent communication among your staff is sure to result in greater efficiency. The ability to reduce or eliminate the time and space gaps in internal and external communications is invaluable.  This can be accomplished by leveraging the key communication apps within Office 365: Skype for Business and Teams. The combined features of these two apps let you have online meetings instantly. You can view and edit documents online as a group, leverage webcams to bring body language into the conversation and use instant messaging to communicate in real time. I believe that organizations that fully leverage these two applications will quickly realize a multitude of benefits through improved communication.

The other primary goal to work toward achieving is to leverage the benefit of outsourcing a significant amount of your IT infrastructure investment. Office 365 cloud-based applications provide you with a comprehensive and secure server infrastructure to manage all of your shared data. This infrastructure is managed by a team of skilled engineers from Microsoft. Not only can you reduce your investment in infrastructure, but you can also reduce your operating expenses required to manage and secure the infrastructure. A goal to achieve a specific dollar amount of savings in these two areas is recommended.

Establishing Individual Goals

When it comes to establishing individual or personal goals for leveraging your Office 365 investment, you should approach it from the WIIFM principle – What's In It For Me. The vast majority of people working in an organization don’t like change.  So any change introduced should be accompanied by a review of what the benefits will be to the individual. This may be the elimination of tedious tasks, redundant tasks or perhaps just the ability to get their work done in less time or to have more flexibility to work remotely. Individual goal setting can be done at the time of training to get your team members thinking about how the features of a specific app might be used to improve their daily tasks.

Example Goals for Office 365

In order to help kick-start your goal-setting process, I have listed some practical goals to pursue that can easily be measured.

  • Eliminate investment in on-premise servers
  • Reduce sending email attachments by 90 percent
  • Reduce interoffice email by 25 percent in year one
  • Eliminate saving file versions separately
  • Implement instant messaging and persistent chat across the organization with Teams app
  • Use Skype for Business for all conference calls

When it comes to establishing your goals, whether organizational or individual, it is not really important how many goals you have. The real value is in the quality of the goals.