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The Office 365 Licensing Gap Part III – Adoption

Apr 22, 2020 by Nigel Williams

An IT admin monitoring Office 365 license management and adoption metrics

In the first two parts of this blog series, we analyzed the causes and potential remedies for the first big gap in the license lifecycle – between licenses purchased and assigned. In this, the last post in the series, we’ll do the same for the other substantial gap in the license lifecycle: under-utilization, or poor user adoption.

There are three main causes of license under-utilization/poor adoption: poorly understood user requirements, an inability to monitor active workload usage, and the lack of an effective methodology to change the level of user adoption once it is known.

The first of these is the knowledge of user requirements, which is typically far from complete. The needs of the workforce that can be addressed by Office 365 vary substantially by role and these are seldom well understood, documented, and updated.

User requirements vary in terms of application and collaborative capabilities required, but also in terms of the mode of use, such as authoring versus consuming content, online/offline working, mobile usage, search, and retention requirements.

Driving license adoption

Users will adopt only what they understand contributes to performing their job function more effectively, so if the organization does not provide guidance on how Office 365 can best support a given role, this will exist only in the heads of a few power users per role who have figured this out for themselves.

Whilst this knowledge may spread out across the organization organically, progress will be slow and unpredictable.

Building functional user profiles is an effective way to capture and document user requirements. To build those functional profiles it is useful to embrace User Experience (UX) techniques to match workload functionality to roles.

This practice is growing but it is far from universal. There are some quick wins in building profiles, however. For example, identifying mobile – often front line – users who access information exclusively on their mobile devices means they can be classified as requiring web-only access to Office 365 applications, removing the need for desktop applications they would never adopt.

The second cause is the lack of available data relating to active workload usage. Baselining workload adoption and active usage and embracing a data-driven approach is fundamental to improving adoption. Workload specific metrics need to be captured and baselined – examples of these are shown below:

A table showing Office 365 license adoption metrics

Table 1: Workload specific adoption metrics

The third factor is the organization’s ability or inability to change those metrics. This is typically limited by the lack of an effective methodology, which in turn is highly dependent on the skills, data, and tools available. The rise of the discipline known as either ‘adoption’ or ‘readiness’ to drive adoption is well underway, with Microsoft playing a very active part, but it is still relatively new.

Change management

Far too many adoption projects don’t provide sufficient resources to enable users to change because they focus almost exclusively on training the user may not see the need for. Training is an essential resource, but it shouldn’t be the only one. The adoption program needs other resources to succeed, such as champions within given roles, early adopter success stories, and other motivational content.

These resources need to be delivered to users as part of a well-defined and phased campaign that embraces the principles of change management. Defining campaign phases is important as these determine how frequently users receive communications and content throughout the campaign.

Other critical success factors for an adoption campaign include setting the right adoption goals, which could be based on any one of the metrics shown in the table above, determining an appropriate period for measurement, selecting the right target audience based on department, geography or other grouping and selecting the right content and sequencing it to best effect.

To conclude, both of the gaps in the license lifecycle – over purchasing and under-utilization, can be closed. That does require the organization to change, but by taking a data-driven approach and embracing change management principles, Office 365 will deliver greater user productivity much more economically.

Learn more: Office 365 license management with Nova