Case Study #1: Adoption as a Marketing Campaign


Company Size: ~750 Employees

Industry: Manufacturing


The Approach

This organization took a unique approach to end-user adoption and deployed new products like a marketing campaign—starting with end users’ needs. The IT organization first went to end users to identify their needs and issues.  From there, they determined how Office 365 could solve those issues as well as worked to gain buy-in with executives.  This needs-based approach was central to how they developed end user training.


After Office 365 was deployed, the IT department went on a series of “roadshows,” meeting with individual teams to address how O365 solved their specific issues.  Additionally, the company brought in external training to help drive end user adoption even further. While the company philosophy was to keep things in-house as much as possible to grow people internally, they chose to use partners for specific tasks not easily learned by watching videos or taking classes. However, adoption efforts didn’t end after the roadshows and initial trainings. The company hired a full-time training person, who was also tasked with managing SharePoint. This individual provided ongoing trainings to drive end user adoption further.


The Takeaway

Employing a marketing perspective encourages technology implementers to involve end users early in the process, identify ways to configure products fit user needs, and prepare the users to receive the new technology.


Rather than just providing a convincing argument like a sales pitch, the marketing approach brings the end user along, identifying ways in which unique business processes will be impacted. As one IT pro in the company identified, the challenge is learning about the individual business processes in departments and teams so that deployments and trainings can be tailored for a critical mass of end users.


What marketing tactics have you implemented or seen used during deployment? What are the biggest challenges with this approach?

6 Replies

Love this approach, and the results speak for themselves. We favor a system that we like to call Drip Training (originating from the idea of drip irrigation and drip marketing) and ultimately consistency and communication live at the heart of it all.

best response confirmed by Deleted

When a user is given new software, the first question they usually ask is, "how do I still do my job?" 


Similar to @Chandler Milne, I like to think about the job the user is hiring the software to do, and then start early with small gems of wisdom, long before they have the software. Communicating the story about how the software will change the way the user works--for the better--is crucial to successful adoption. 


So much of adoption is based on breaking down barriers. Once the user understands the true benefits--saving them time, making them more productive, avoiding that unprepared embarrassment in a meeting, etc.--they will be begging for the change to happen rather than fighting it. 


If you don't understand your users, you can't be successful with this approach. We like to give users small bits of wisdom, asking them questions along the way. Then we segment the training we offer them by their roles, job tasks, or business scenarios. For example, the needs of an exeuctive admin who is looking to upgrade from Outlook 2007 to Office 365 is in a very different place from a sales guy, using a Mac, who just started at the company, and previously only used Google. 

What if you cannot afford to have the one on one training and support to get users to adopt it?  Our struggle is the systems we have in place now work just fine.  It seems like Teams is just adding a new way to do the same things.  For example, the chat features.  We already have Skype for Business/email and those two work just fine.   If we are talking about files, well we already use file server shares for that. 

How do you get users to change that thinking?  This is the struggle we have.      

Just thinking aloud really so treat accordingly!


Taking a step back what are the underlying business problems or issues that are being tackled, not to get bogged down on individual features at this point - what are the low hanging fruit etc. Why did you get Office 365 for in the first place, what drove it and how much has been achieved to date?  


Talking about files but how about OneDrive for Business, has that taken off for example.  That's a huge enabler for working from anywhere and staying productive. 


One size doesn't fit all - Microsoft Teams might not be a good fit in all cases, don't try and do too much all at once, focus on the essentials and doing them well


Cascade knowledge - Having Champions, power users, enthusiasts that spread knowledge can work well if there are people that can take up this role


Use the tools at hand - SharePoint Communication Sites is easy way to way to build an adoption site for example.  Use Microsoft Forms for a survey to find and identify pain points or areas where staff could be more productive.   Use the Office 365 Adoption content pack, what does it tell you, trends or areas to focus on.


Be Creative - Not everyone has the resources for one on one training that's true, thats quite a luxury but what about newsletters, webinars, posters, quizzes, competitions that can raise awareness and remind staff whats available 


Use the resouces at hand - The Office 365 Adoption Guide is a good resource,  the Office 365 Productivity Library is well worth reviewing, training etc.


@Kendall England There are certainly solutions that can bring a 1:1 learning and adoption experience without the 1:1 price tag and in the EDU space you're probably eligible for discounts. I suppose organizations should be asking themselves A) what value does driving adoption bring to the organization and B) by not allocating budget to adoption is that just a short-term gain, long-term loss?


Like @Cian Allner mentioned, evaluating why you bought O365 and what you have accomplished so far is very important. Have you maximized your investment? Are users working in new, more productive ways or are they just "fine" with a basic level of functionality? 


CDW published a pretty good article on change management and steps you should take if you don't feel like you've completely capitalized on your investments:


At the user level, getting them to change isn't easy - you're absolutely right in highlighting that struggle. Most everyone faces it. What I've seen work most effectively is: 

  • Communicate the change - It's not "Field of Dreams". Users won't magically start using OneDrive just because you put it out there. Let them know it exists and why the organization is making the change. 
  • Develop affinity for the change - You might have mentioned why the change benefits the org (security, cost, etc.) but don't forget to regularly tell the users why the change benefits them (productivity, mobility, speed, etc.). MSFT sold you on 365, but did anyone sell the user? 
  • Communicate consistantly - habits are hard to change and without encouragement and reminders users may slide back into old ways. One initial email or a bunch of links on an intranet will not cut it. Be proactive
  • Build the support network@Cian Allner hit it again on the head. Make sure you develop your champions, management, etc. to promote organic adoption growth and so that users have peer support. 

Creating a culture of change is not easy, maximizing your MSFT investments takes work, but making these things a reality are VERY worth it. Again, most organizations need some help and there are solutions out there, for some Microsoft may also provide funding. 

@Kendall England 

I specialise in user adoption and have come across some software that I think is a game changer.

I agree training has limited effect because people forget much of what they learn and 1:1 support is not sustainable. So I looked at VisualSP which is a software help system on steroids embedded into the Office 365 interface.

Crucially the software provides just-in-time training to users at the point of most need. The training uniquely uses very short video clips - not courses - PDFs, text etc to show how to achieve a given task.


The best part is the walk-thru functionality where you can easily and auto-magically create a guided walk through either existing or bespoke to match a companies intranet - see I am not an employee BTW.