Driving change is like squaring a circle unless you are Alexandra Jones (Alex)! Alex makes change management fun and fast. Microsoft sales teams are eager to adopt the latest technologies like Viva Sales quickly and effectively across 60,000+ global users, and Alex is at the forefront of this change. Alex shares her best practices for managing change across global organizations in this blog.
Smita: Alex, first things first, tell us about yourself.
I am Alexandra, a British ex-pat mother of three living in the UAE. My background is in computer science. I have worked in the finance and technology industry with Salomon Smith Barney and Citigroup and have been with Microsoft for the last nine years. My current role is with Microsoft Digital Employee Success as a global change manager, where I am fortunate enough to collaborate with people worldwide. I'm an energetic person, so you can find me in a pool, the ocean, or cycling when I am not busy driving digital transformation at work.
Smita: Tell me more about your change management team.
My team includes change management professionals from diverse backgrounds who drive digital transformation within Microsoft. We use the mantra of land, listen, adopt, and then iterate to effect a change. We do this globally across every geography where Microsoft operates. Through structured change management, we strive to improve the employee experience by capturing insights that help us improve those same experiences for our customers.
Let's say we've got a new feature like the new Copilot functionality in Viva sales. The landing piece includes activities to inform users that something has changed and then to train them to use it. Then from a listening perspective, we want to hear from the users as to whether the changes we've put out there are alleviating their pain points and making them more productive.
So now that we have put something out there with awareness and listened to what has come back. We aim for consistent usage. Often the first time I land something, sellers may look and use it a few times but then forget about it. It takes time to build things into your daily rhythm. Therefore, we pull multiple adoption levers to keep these solutions at the forefront of people's minds so they continue to use and benefit from them.
Smita: How do you do change management?
The first thing I do tactically is to build a stakeholder map and build a good working relationship with my stakeholders, as I do not have direct authority or autonomy over anyone that we're working with - the sellers that I am landing things to, the organization we are helping land changes or to product teams that are building the solution that I am landing.
To drive change, I follow a process based on Prosci called the ADKAR framework: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement.
A is for Awareness: You want to make sure people know about the upcoming change in a timely manner.
D is for Desire: You want people to want the change coming their way. You also want to make sure they see it as a positive change and understand the benefits to them.
K is for knowledge: This is where all our training comes into play and the readiness materials we develop, like in-app help, train-the-trainer decks, documentation, training guides, and communications. We have teams that look after each geography worldwide, like the UK or Middle Eastern Africa, who run training sessions, put information into newsletters, and raise awareness.
The second A is for ability: It's one thing to know how to play tennis, but it's another to win Wimbledon. So, you can know what a solution is about or what the features do, but you need to have a real ability to use something in a way that increases your productivity. This speaks to the adoption piece on increasing people's ability to realize the benefits of a technology.
Finally, the R is for reinforcement: This speaks to the adoption piece. We don't just land a change once and walk away. We continue to iterate and improve on it for the best results.
Smita: Wow, this is a great framework. I love the focus on end-user productivity with continuous improvement. How do you know that your change management is going per your expectations? Also, how do you define success?
Yes, this is always a tricky bit. Firstly, we always specify success metrics for any change we make, which are typically more ambitious than the industry standard, because that is who we are. And those success measures, amongst other things, always include monthly active usage: we set a usage target for global and regional levels, as geographies can be vastly different.
Once we have the metrics in place, we will work towards achieving them. Also, often with a solution like Viva Sales, there are regular updates and enhancements, which I call incremental changes. With each incremental change, we set a new target. So many changes we work with are evergreen or ongoing, but we ensure we have specific measures.
Smita: How do you define the right MAU (monthly active users) level for a new application like Viva Sales?
It can be as much art as science to determine benchmark figures like target MAU. We first look at some industry standards on adoption rate for comparable products focusing on the correct target audience. We look at whether a solution is optional versus mandatory. We also look at the pain points that a solution addresses and whether this is something that people are desperately waiting for or something new that they have perhaps not even thought about. Once we have our initial estimates based on the above factors, we look at past project benchmarks to ensure we set a reasonable target for an organization and its users.
Smita: Your approach to usage metrics will help our Viva Sales customers. Another topic that is top of mind for them is user training. Can you tell me about your training processes?
So first, I am a huge advocate of having a training framework. When I worked on developing Microsoft's Inside Sales centers, we mostly had brand-new sellers coming into the role. We built quite a comprehensive training program and rolled it into something ongoing called the SMC Academy. We have an Academy in place globally for all our Microsoft sellers now.
The benefit of using an Academy framework is you build a perpetual framework through which we can land end-user training via sessions that users have in their calendars. This framework typically includes monthly virtual sessions, which are hour-long Microsoft Teams calls where we demo and discuss the changes. We also reinforce upcoming changes with posts on Viva Engage and regular newsletters.
We have built champion communities as sellers listen more to their peers. We then train these trainers using trainer decks by leveraging relevant documentation from Microsoft Learn with screenshots that step through every element of a feature or change and act like a reference guide.
Smita: This is great! One of my favorite parts of collaborating with you was the user feedback you shared on Viva Sales. Could you elaborate on your listening process?
Yes, for sure. Another suitable mechanism that I have not mentioned so far is User Pilots. You can go out to the pilot community or a champion community, put some upcoming or even proposed changes in front of them and get their feedback to improve it before we go live with a much broader audience.
So, pilots are also a massive piece of what we do. I document every individual piece of feedback, even if it is duplicate, from pilots because if ten salespeople tell you the same thing, that's useful to know. So not only is it essential to bring all those pieces of feedback to the engineering organizations but be able to prioritize them.
We then collate all feedback insights collected through interviews or forums to the engineering organizations to deliver that value to our users. This is where Microsoft, as customer zero, helps our external customers because by listening to ourselves and making changes accordingly, we also improve the products for our external customers.
Smita: Our customers love listening to your approach and processes on landing Viva Sales. Can you share some examples of customer advocacy you do?
Our organization has a market advocacy program, where we will talk to external customers about how we, Microsoft Digital, do digital transformation and change management at Microsoft. This is not a sales conversation but a knowledge sharing where we also have the chance to learn. I recently spoke to a significant Dynamics customer in Industrial Automation on Viva Sales. They wanted to understand compliance by looking at what we have done at Microsoft to gain approval from European worker councils. I have spoken to Adesso about landing an integration into Dynamics 365.
Another area where we help our customers is trying to get their heads around landing to large numbers of sellers or users that are not physically located at the same place because, at Microsoft, we have experience and are adept at working remotely and making remote working technology work for us.
Smita: As you went through landing Viva Sales, what are some top examples of Viva Sales value you heard from Microsoft sellers?
I heard a great phrase from one of the sellers that I love "I am anchored in Outlook and Teams." So first, Viva Sales essentially enables them to continue working where they are rather than going to another product to find customer information.
For a seller, having good-quality contact information is fundamental, so quickly adding contacts into the system of record (Dynamics 365 for Microsoft) is a great time saver. Having done that, they can now see all this information related to the contact, like the opportunities, the account information, or the last interaction when drafting an email to the customer, which is excellent. Finally, they can maintain contacts in a clean state with a wealth of up-to-date information.
On Teams, our pilot users think the meeting summary information and the ability to stay in Teams is incredible. Quickly pulling in dynamics records and sharing them with their colleagues is a huge win.
Smita: And what was some feedback on Viva Sales' areas of improvement?
Regarding improvements, there are simple things around the navigation aspect of the solution in Outlook, like the number of clicks it takes to look at an opportunity record, for example. Then the imagination is fueled by what's already there, leading to requests for other ways that Viva Sales could make their lives easier, which is fantastic—new scenarios, like tracking an email back to multiple records and not just one opportunity in Dynamics. Also, sellers think it would be great to see a suggestion on including additional contacts from a customer's organization when drafting an email to them. We listeners or technologists can offer some ideas for ease of use on our own. But the light bulb moments of imagination always come from the users.
Smita: In your opinion, what kind of sales organizations could get value from Viva sales?
Any and every sales organization, as being anchored in Teams and Outlook, is valid for lots of people in lots of companies these days. Also, it is fundamental to sales roles to have good clean contact information and then to be able to quickly open and expand into the further information you have about that contact as valuable. For as long as I have been working with the sellers at Microsoft, time spent researching and analyzing information has been a continual pain point in a world of ever-increasing data.
The quicker we can put consumable, curated information into their hands, the better. So, I cannot think of a sales organization that wouldn't benefit from having Viva Sales. I can also see the value beyond just sales organizations, marketing, and even myself internally, and IT, you know, call summaries are super useful for any internal meeting.
Smita: A lot of us love to think in threes. So, what are three things to focus on for a customer going through change management when landing Viva Sales?
First and foremost, understand your target audience. For example, on the surface, our target audience is Microsoft customer and partner-facing roles. However, I go deeper and create role profiles to understand their pain points because, returning to the ADKAR framework, the "Desire" piece is critical. No one will use something unless they see it as beneficial to them. I need to understand my audience at a role level to understand better who I'm landing to before I can even begin to create a landing plan. So, that's my top point.
Secondly, use a proper change management methodology. Most of it is common sense, but having that structure to ensure you cover everything is good.
Thirdly, 'KIS' Keep it simple. Identify the key benefits and reinforce those. Create short consumable videos and demos to get people up and running. People are bright, and our products are intuitive. They can use a product with basic information and develop their expertise and knowledge with time. Don't overwhelm people at the outset with information overload!
Thank you, Alex!
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