So you want to start using Microsoft Teams.
More specifically, you want your company (or a company you manage) to start using Microsoft Teams (because using collaboration software by yourself is lonely and sad).
Is it the chat? The conference video calling? The seamless integration with SharePoint or the ability to send Teams meeting invitations through Outlook? (OK, I’ll stop sounding like a Microsoft ad.) If you’re an IT admin, it’s probably because Teams consolidates what used to be several different programs into a single software solution, which basically gives you more control for less work … and who doesn’t love that?
So, let’s say you’ve got all the technical setup in place and you’re ready to start using Teams. So now…go! Right? Like, guys? Teams? Let’s… let’s do the Teams? Guys? …Guys?
The Human Problem
The thing about user adoption is that it involves users…as in, people – specifically, other people, not you. (This is terrifying to us introverts, who make up a large bulk of the IT profession.) I know, I know. “Blame the users,” you might think as you’re sitting there, talking to yourself, laughing at your own jokes, on your collaboration software, alone – but here’s the thing. It’s a lot less fun to be a tech super-genius without other people to appreciate or at least use the new technology you set up. This is no longer a tech problem; this is a human problem. Therefore, what we actually need here is a human solution.
The Human Solution
Driving user adoption in Microsoft Teams is done by people, from beginning to end. Microsoft recommends a three-phase rollout of Teams following a Start > Experiment > Scale model, and there are key steps in each of these involving real people to end up with successful user adoption. Let’s take a quick look at each of these key people and groups that will make the difference between being the unsung hero of a “fundamental shift in the way people communicate and collaborate” and singing to the crickets who are your only company on your new Teams channel.
- The Executive Sponsor
One of the first people you are going to need is the Executive Sponsor. Ideally, this is going to be that charismatic person near the top of the organization that people know, respect, look up to, and generally like. Get this person on board, and they can give your big scary change a makeover. People think, “we don’t like change. Change is scary. But this person isn’t scary, and this person is excited about the change. So, maybe we should be excited for this change, too.” And suddenly, many of them will be.
More importantly, your Executive Sponsor is the person with the authority to execute your vision. They are the person who can authorize company-wide changes and bulldoze corporate obstacles for you. If need be, they are your advocate with other company execs. They have the inner-circle insight on how Teams can improve – and how the rollout is affecting – their business from the 10,000-foot (and bottom-line) perspective, which will provide your project team vital feedback throughout the process.
You’re going to need this person right away, in the Start phase, as soon as you’ve completed your initial “assessment of organizational readiness” and determined that your company is ready for Teams.
- The Point Person
The next person you will need is a Point Person. This needs to be someone less busy than the Executive Sponsor, because they will be tasked with answering any and all questions about the change from stakeholders (which includes employees, customers, corporate partners, shareholders, and anyone else with an interest in this shift in business practices). This person can reassure and give specifics for the logical thinkers unpersuaded by the Executive Sponsor’s emotional appeal. Not only does sharing information build trust and interest, it gives you another avenue to paint a clear picture of corporate life with Teams compared to the present.
This is another person you’re going to want right away, who can be prepared for an onslaught of questions as soon as an announcement is made, even to a limited group of people.
Microsoft puts a lot of emphasis on Champions, for good reason. These are going to be catalytic individuals within departments who help drive change with the people immediately around them. To put it another way: You want everyone in the company to have someone they know personally who’s using Teams, is excited about it, and is available to answer questions from their peers – that is the Champion. They also take a ton of pressure off you and the Point Person to answer everybody’s every question.
According to Microsoft, “a good champion is a motivator, excited about helping others, and interested in new technology.” You want to take good care of them. Microsoft says, make sure their contributions are recognized. Give them formal training and have a clear execution plan so they have what they need to help their peers. Microsoft even offers such formal training for Champions with O365 and provides a roadmap for how to build this within your organization for Teams.
Champions become essential in the Experiment phase of user adoption, after you’ve finished laying the groundwork and you’re ready for a pilot group to start the implementation.
- Pilot Group
During your initial assessment of organizational readiness, Microsoft strongly recommends getting a sense of who within your organization is more or less excited about the new technology and why. When choosing your pilot groups, it’s a great idea to start with those groups that are ready to jump on board and “circle back to those more hesitant or for whom a big change right now would be disruptive.”
Before you start your pilot, figure out what metrics you are going to use to track progress, set some specific goals, and establish some “go/no-go” decision points at various stages of the pilot to help verify solid implementation. Track your pilot group’s progress along these points and listen carefully to their feedback.
You want to figure out exactly how to set up and use Teams with this small, forgiving group first to minimize disruption for the rest of the company, so get as much feedback as you can and use this time to experiment with different configurations, policies, and features so you end up with the best results you can. That forgiving aspect is especially valuable in a pilot group, and a little bit of face time goes a long way to building that – which, yes, does require you to wear actual pants, not pajamas, but you will thank yourself later.
- Help Desk
Finally, let’s not forget about the help desk! Before beginning the Scale phase of implementation, make sure your service desk is well-trained and well-equipped to handle an increasing number of callers with questions about the new technology. Help them out by building clear, concise documentation along the way so they can quickly and easily find answers for callers with a wide range of questions and issues.
It’s important to remember that your help desk consists of fellow IT professionals who are likely as introverted as you are and nonetheless have to talk to everyone you don’t – so take good care of them. Ultimately, they will determine whether people have a good experience with your awesome new cool tech, no matter how excited people were to start using it beforehand.
Leveraging Other People
Appropriately using each of these people and groups throughout the rollout of Teams (or, really, any change you want to implement…) is the key to successful user adoption. In other words, the difference between just having cool new (expensive) tech and actually seeing it used and positively affecting a business.
Amazingly, while it’s likely counter-intuitive for us techy introverts to leverage other people, this system is not only effective, it makes our jobs significantly easier in that it saves us from having to deal with even more people. Other people now get to worry about all the things we’d rather not do or aren’t very good at, like answering questions (the Point Person and Champions), user training (Champions and the Help Desk), and building excitement for this awesome tech you can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t already be excited about (Champions and your Executive Sponsor) – so, win-win!
Open Door Policy
Of course, one of the biggest advantages of having these key people throughout the organization is the feedback they provide. Throughout the deployment, check in frequently with all your key adoption personnel, and ask how you can best help them continue to help you. Even once the rollout is complete and people have already forgotten what life was like without Teams, keep an open channel of communication at least with your Executive Sponsor to monitor usage, service health, and keep them up to date on new capabilities as Teams continues to evolve.
Because, of course, it will evolve. In Microsoft’s words, “Teams experiences will continue to evolve to meet modern collaboration needs, so your deployment is a continual process of assessing and communicating of common changes to services.” The good news is, once your Teams account is set up and adopted, not only will you have your awesome new collaboration tech to make all future conversations much easier, you’ll also have a great team of real people on the other side of that tech that you can count on to help you actually implement future changes.
And with that, I’m out! Thanks for reading.
- Microsoft Mechanics. “Drive Microsoft Teams User Adoption.” YouTube, 10 Mar. 2020
- Microsoft. “How ready is your organization for Microsoft Teams?” Microsoft Teams admin documentation. 2020
- Microsoft. “Champions Program.” Microsoft.com. 2020
- Microsoft. “Create your Champions program for Microsoft Teams.” Microsoft Teams admin documentation. 2020