Help Us Understand Office 365 User Needs


This post is the second in a series that began last month as part of the Tech Community's Driving Adoption theme. Here, we'll explore how you can better understand users' needs, so that you can more effectively increase adoption of your company's Office 365 investment.


Ask any inventor where their inspiration comes from, and you're likely to get a similar answer: they've experienced or observed some kind of challenge that made them think, "There has to be a better way." The most successful inventors do their research. They find out what types of people are experiencing the challenge and what those people are looking for in a solution. This effort not only helps inventors determine what their solution could and should be, but it also yields valuable insight into how they can convince prospective customers to try, buy - and use - their solution when they take it to market.


In many ways, managing your organization's digital transformation is similar. More and more companies”perhaps yours among them - have identified user experience as the key factor in the success of their transitions. It's part of what's driving the evolution of your role as an IT pro. When it comes to helping your users with their transition to Office 365, you first figure out what your users need. Next, leverage that information to help you make connections to how Office 365 can meet those needs. Then articulate those connections to users across your company to help increase adoption. 


How do you find out what users want? The short answer: you ask. But the trick is to ask your questions in the right way. Here are three tips to help you guide users to sharing insightful information that can inform your adoption efforts.


  1. Cast a wide net.

Regardless of the size of your company, the groups you're going to be communicating with are likely quite diverse. And their level of experience is equally diverse - from power user to novice. So are their attitudes toward change - from enthusiast to straggler. However, you might be surprised by how easy it can be to unintentionally narrow your focus - and your efforts to increase adoption - in ways that accidentally overlook some groups. Go deeper than demographic data. Learn about what motivates different user groups, along with their behaviors and attitudes. Ask questions that help you understand, for example, the features that appeal to the finance department - and how they might be different from those that human resource department find useful. Considering every potential user group as you develop your questions - and later, your communications - can go a long way toward ensuring the success of your adoption efforts.


  1. Speak their language.

As an IT pro, you're an expert at understanding and using tech-speak. You don't have to think about it when you're among fellow IT pros, but it becomes an important consideration when you're reaching out to the broader, more diverse groups of users you'll be helping to transition to Office 365. A single communication approach may not work for everyone. The questions you ask - and the way you respond to questions - must be tailored to your audience, to the terminology they use every day. How do people in different business units or departments talk about their work or describe their tasks? That's the language you should adopt and use to ask your questions. Building this language into your questions enables you to build rapport with users, so that you can elicit candid, meaningful responses that can help make your communications about the transition and Office 365 adoption more effective.


  1. Focus on the future.

You've probably heard that an important aspect of understanding users' needs is learning about their pain points - and that's absolutely true. But when you're preparing for conversations with users about your company's transition to Office 365, a more effective approach might be to focus on the future. Frame your questions to encourage people to focus their responses on how they want to navigate the different tasks and responsibilities that make up their work days. For example, instead of asking "What barriers to collaboration are you experiencing?" you can ask "What would be the ideal collaboration experience for you?" By giving your questions a more positive, forward-looking slant, you can actually help people feel more comfortable and be more honest and open in their responses. 


Get help when you need it

Maybe you need help figuring out what your questions should be. Or maybe you'd like guidance about what to do with all the information you've gathered from asking your questions. Regardless, you can always turn to Microsoft FastTrack. I recommend downloading the Office 365 Adoption Guide, if you haven't already, for step-by-step guidance about planning for and driving adoption. And the Productivity Library is an excellent place to find resources that can help you tailor your communications to different user groups. 


Stay tuned for the final article in this series, which focuses on creating an implementation plan to motivate and train users!

7 Replies
Ey Sharon,
Quick question here: are there localized versions for both the Office 365 Adoption Gude and Productivity Library content materials?
best response confirmed by Roxanne Kenison (Microsoft)

Yes! Simply select your language on the Microsoft FastTrack site - bottom left bar of the site and then navigate to the content you wish to view. Please note, we publish new features/content in English first and localization will follow in subsequent releases.


Dear Sharon,

One of the key points I have noticed is that, during the days when users used Office documents in shared folders off Windows server that were designated as file servers, they often created their process of collaborating using emails as well as by mapping drive letters to these Windows Shares.

In case of Excel documents, they go further and link up several Excel workbooks inside formulae inside other similar Excel worksheets.

When we introduced Office 365 to cover our 10000 odd user Base in MAS Holdings Sri Lanka (the company I work in), we noticed challenges in moving these Excel sheets to Share Point Online based document libraries, because of the complex formula links to other Excel sheets.

Therefore we are currently embarking on a project, where we study the process that the user has been having and understand the UNDERLYING PROBLEM to find a better solution with Office 365 and SharePoint Online Libraries. 

That way, we bring in all the user's who access shared worksheets together and demonstrate a new process that is dependent on Office 365, using the shared worksheets to identify the user group, rather than having a disconnected adoption session.


We must always use the problem and demonstrate a solution.

The solution must be easy and consistent in its value.

There cannot be any bugs in the solution. If there is, they must be addressed fast.

Then adoption will happen.

Nobody needs to put in extra effort for adoption, unless of course to overcome any company-culture issue, which is hopefully very rare these days.

So that the key point is to check on the existing documents and shares and address the need for that in a different way using Office 365, where users see better value. The other tools such as Teams, Teams Video or Skype for Business will enrich the experience making messaging more actionable than email, and thereby fostering IMMEDIATE and ADHOC collaboration. Nothing is more catchy, than we folk giving users the ability to act fast in a way their team always follows those actions in real time, irrespective of where they are located...! There is also the additional concern of security and Intellectual Property protection, which is addressed by Microsoft but which we feel is not addressed together with the solution, and is taken up via EMS. Companies get worried when Microsoft discontinued certain products midway (example Azure Remote) and they ask whether the same thing will happen to Office 365 as well...!  These are valid questions... and Adoption suffers as a result if there is no comprehensive and simple answer...

Hi Senaka,

Thank you for the feedback. We also believe SharePoint Online and and OneDrive offer much better ways of collaborating on content than traditional file shares including, modern email attachments, anywhere access, co-authoring, etc. But the move can have migration and change management elements to it.


I reached out to the Excel product team and they aren't aware of any issues with SharePoint Online references in formulas. These should work just as they would on a file share. You can learn more about how Excel stores links in workbooks here Basically, if the files are stored together in the same folder, they can be moved together and the links will just work. If the files are not stored together in the same folder, or they are not moved at the same time or to the same folder, then someone will need to go into each Excel file that has links to other files and verify or fix the links so that they are targeting the correct location of the linked files.


I hope this helps and if you do find a product issue during your investigation please let us know.

Thank you Aaron.
It helps very much...! In fact I found it the hard way sometime back... and I had to because these were the "road blocks" to adoption. That was why I replied Sharon in order to illustrate the need to identify the practical aspects... Incidentally, I shared your web-link to our users and IT support folk.