How Automating 5 Key Business Processes Can Help Life Sciences Companies During High Growth Phases

automating business processes for life sciences companies

Life sciences companies experience various degrees of growth based on their evolution through discovery and R&D efforts leading into clinical trials. As a company’s target drug receives positive feedback through initial clinical trials, they can experience 50% to 100% growth in one year. If they are granted approval, they also can experience growth as they add on more personnel to sales and operations.

This growth is exciting but results in insecure collaboration and significant challenges to operational efficiency.

As a life science company grows, what was once an efficient process quickly gets out of control and becomes an operational burden. Manual processes that were once simple and easy become cumbersome and inefficient.  This may be simple HR processes like vacation requests or expense management, or it may be more complicated solutions such as employee reviews, contract management, or the onboarding of new employees.

Navigating the ups and downs of growth phases is successful only if your organization adopts the proper processes and technology to support its day-to-day operations.

Defined and automated solutions that can handle basic and complicated operational tasks – and automatically scale and retract as appropriate – will enable your organization to focus on developing and moving drugs through the FDA approval process.

In this blog post, we’ll explore five key areas where business processes automation can make a material difference, based on our work with 70+ life sciences organizations – from nimble start-ups to publicly-traded enterprises.

1.) Human Resources

We find many life sciences companies use 3rd party Human Resource (HR) providers/tools, such as ADP, that allow them to automate some business processes.  Other companies use SaaS solutions for HR workflows that, depending on the solution, have some capability to automate processes.

Whether you have a separate HR solution or not, we have found that the tools in Office 365 can easily be used to automate and simplify many HR processes.  The best part — you can implement these solutions at a relatively low cost without requiring any additional investment in software.

Here are some examples of how we’ve automated HR processes in Office 365 for our customers:

  • Vacation Request and Carry Over
  • Tuition Reimbursement
  • Review Process
  • Timesheet Tracking
  • Employee Training and Tracking

These streamlined and automated processes save HR and your users a significant amount of time.  Instead of managing your review process via emails and multiple versions of a review document, an automated solution ensures all individuals involved in a particular review are notified, their responses are tracked, and, if you have multiple managers submitting data on one review, and all responses are automatically tallied into one final review.

2.) Contract Management

A Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA) is one of the most widely used agreements in the life sciences sector.  Although this is a simple agreement to execute, with the volume of CDA’s sent to partners, vendors, and contractors, finding and managing these documents can quickly get out of control.

Beyond CDA documents, contracts also need to be maintained for all your key relationships.  These contracts need to be organized, searchable, and easily tracked for renewals. You also need to ensure proper rules are in place to approve and process contracts efficiently.

Timlin has built several solutions to manage the entire contract management process at life sciences firms.  Historically we accomplished these solutions using 3rd party workflow and forms solutions.  Recently, we have seen that the evolution of Microsoft Flow and Power Apps has allowed us to build these solutions using the tools and applications within Office 365, removing the need for our customers to purchase 3rd party solutions.  Here’s an example below:

With the core document management and publishing capabilities in SharePoint Online, combined with the forms and workflow capabilities of Flow and Power Apps, and integration of electronic signatures, life science organizations can have a powerful contract management solution.

3.) Onboarding and Offboarding Employees & Contractors 

Although technically an HR process, the critical nature of efficiently and securely onboarding and offboarding employees and contractors has proven to be a huge benefit to our customers.  When you’re hiring 15 people a week, it’s essential to have a pre-defined and automated process to onboard everyone, so they add value and perform their tasks as soon as possible.

Life science organizations should consider automating the entire onboarding process.  The process would begin before the new employee or contractor has set foot in the door.

For example, we can build a workflow that will add a new record into your Active Directory (AD) when an offer is accepted, and then the flow triggers based on the employee start date to enable access to the appropriate systems on that date.  Our onboarding solutions can integrate with your HR, finance, and other systems as required to ensure all required steps are handled based on pre-defined rules.  One of our customers was able to help automate the analysis of over 400 systems and services with this solution.

In addition to onboarding new employees and contractors efficiently, it is equally important to shut down all access once someone leaves the organization.

Data and intellectual property protection are incredibly important for life science organizations to maintain. Not only does access need to be terminated, but these actions also need to be logged, especially for public companies who are under SOX compliance.  We have delivered automated offboarding solutions at several organizations, and have built offboarding PowerShell scripts that:

  • Capture last login date
  • Last password set date
  • Current AD security group membership
  • Set new password
  • Cancel O365 meetings
  • Remove from all AD security groups
  • Remove manager
  • Set default group to “No Access”
  • Move user to off boarded OU

4.) Finance

Finance is another key area ripe for automation in life sciences organizations.  Imagine implementing expense request approvals and reporting that provide separate approval workflows based on the amount of the expense, requestor, or department.

Another key finance flow that has proven to greatly help finance operations is Purchase Order (PO) approvals and processing. An automated PO process allows users to enter details on a new PO Request, then a workflow is triggered to ensure the correct individual(s) approve the request based on the amount, requesting department or individual.

The workflow would also provide full transparency to the submitter on the status of their request. Lastly, the workflow can integrate with or allow finance to enter the required General Ledger items.

5.) Information Technology

There are two primary areas where automating IT processes make a material difference. First, life science organizations typically follow a specific documentation review and approval process. Imagine if that workflow was built into documentation development using SharePoint? Not only is the process streamlined, but also results in more effective document management and security.

The second area is the trouble ticket resolution. Given the speed at which life sciences organizations operate, uptime is critical. Providing self-service and automated trouble ticketing solutions ensure all IT requests are tracked and managed effectively.

Successful Growth Phases Are Dependent on Strategic and Sustainable Business Automation

When you are in a high-growth phase of your company’s lifespan, it’s critical to ensure business processes are efficient. It may feel stressful most of the time, but it’s a good problem to have. These phases mean you are receiving positive results in your drug development and clinical trials.  With the proper levels of process automation, your life science organization will be able to easily and efficiently ride the waves toward FDA approval.

If you’re interested in learning more about the automation services we provide to life sciences organizations, reach out to our team of Office 365 and SharePoint experts here.

6 Ways To Transform Construction Operations With Office 365

construction operations with office 365

Timlin’s focus is on helping customers with their digital transformation journey.  Although we have worked with clients in several industries, our work in the Construction industry has illustrated some notable opportunities to transform business operations using the tools in the Office 365 platform.

The Construction Lag

The construction industry currently lags other industries in the implementation of technology.  Technology advancements could boost productivity and operational efficiency through more effective communications, collaboration, business process automation, business analytics, and project management. Employees could be more empowered, optimize operations, and identify and address inefficiency.

It’s time for construction organizations to embrace technology, else they may find their peers gaining a competitive advantage. Consider that there are over 273,000 open jobs in the construction industry.  Also, consider the average age of a construction employee is 43, and one-fifth of the workforce is over 55.

As companies replace their workforce with younger staff, they are going to find employees with expectations of higher-level digital tools and capabilities.

Opportunities to Achieve Digital Transformation in the Construction Industry

In our experience, we’ve found several areas where the tools in Office 365 can transform construction Operations:

In our experience, we’ve found several areas where the tools in Office 365 can transform construction Operations:

1.) Enable employees to access critical job-related information, regardless of location or device

Bandwidth can be an issue at construction sites, but a well thought out approach allows on-site and remote employees to access to information they need quickly and easily on a phone or tablet. This information typically includes from CAD files, design specifications, contract information, and project plans and schedules.  The mobile applications available for Teams, SharePoint, or OneDrive all provide access to all the documents you may need to get the job done.

2.) Optimize – and even automate – business processes

Job delays are problematic and all too common in the industry. One of the biggest ways technology can transform operations is time savings from optimizing – and even automating – business processes. Employees in offices and in the field can move from manual processes, often using paper, to more effective document management, sharing, and security.

Such efficiencies can extend to supporting departments as well. HR can automate vacation tracking, employee reviews, or expense management. Legal can more effectively organize and secure documentation for faster claims response. And that’s just a start. All of this automation can be provided through the implementation of Microsoft Flow workflows and PowerApps forms, and they are available to the desktop, tablet or phone users.

3.) Improve internal communications

With a large number of remote workers, it is critical to bring the team together, communicate key news, and reinforce your company culture. As you move to a younger workforce, this type of communication is going to be assumed.

A SharePoint intranet makes it easy to access and share information and documents, regardless of where employees reside. It does not have to be too elaborate but it should be kept up to date with effective communication.  The result is an improved sense of community that allows you to enforce your brand and culture through electronic communications.

4.) Enable efficient and secure project management and collaboration

Microsoft Project Online and Teams are tools to enable efficient project management and collaboration. These tools allow your internal and contract resources to work together, and your IP is protected through proper security measures. The structured nature of Project Online also allows you to more effectively resource your projects, track your variances, and get projects done on time.

5.) Increase and improve business analytics to make better, data-driven decisions

Power BI is a powerful reporting tool that can be used to build dashboards that present the KPIs you need to track and act on to improve operations.  Dashboards that present your gross revenue, profit, and other project financials in real-time ensure you act on these metrics quickly and are not surprised by actual results.

6.) Eliminate time-wasting activities

Construction operations produce a lot of documentation. And, as mentioned, it’s often paper-based documents. With highly-organized document repositories, employees can access a document based on its content classification, if it’s specific to a project, architecture, engineering, supply chain, vendor, or another category.  With proper content classification, you can set up powerful search capabilities that eliminate wasting time looking for documents.

Timlin has successfully implemented the tools in Microsoft Office 365 for several construction companies. For example, read our case study about we helped The Middlesex Corporation achieve digital transformation with Office 365.

And contact us if you’d like to have a quick conversation to see how we can help you as well.

Offshore Support: The Detriment to Digital Transformation

Effectively supporting a platform as extensive (and complex) as Office 365 is challenging, and you need to know the resources in place are up to the task.  

It’s why we made an intentional decision when we introduced our new Office 365 Center of Excellence Managed Services to continue our approach of using only US-based support resources. An offshore approach is often in direct opposition to the goals of our company and our clients.

Digital transformation requires collaboration, automation, and task efficie

cy, and it relies heavily on clear and trustworthy communication among key stakeholders of an organization, their teams, and their vendors. I have had countless conversations with business users and owners who are frustrated with poor customer support and then turn to Shadow IT as a result of their poor experiences.

This trend of short-term cost-savings by using less expensive resources overseas has permeated beyond its original usefulness.

There is a place for offshore work, but directly engaging with business users to assist with the training, support, and implementation of Office 365 tools and capabilities is not one of them. Why? Because the successful adoption of Office 365 requires a change in people, NOT technology.

You need the right tools for the job, and this job is about applying the right people to the process.  Business users are listening only at a point when they have a need.

If there is a communication, culture, or technical barrier at that extremely impactful point in time, there is a chance you lose the opportunity to solve that organization’s problems.  

I look at each and every one of those moments as the most critical aspect of digital transformation. If we can help that one user in that instance, some small magic happens: We gained a little more of their trust.  We gave them some knowledge they lacked previously. They use the tools a little more than yesterday. They might tell their colleagues about this.

However, if the situation ended poorly, it can have a big and negative impact on the business as a whole. With the wrong people assisting your business users, you’re probably moving the needle in the wrong direction.

This applies to more than offshoring, it applies to poorly skilled support staff in general. It all adds upon the same — if your business users don’t receive the required experience during the overwhelming majority of their direct encounters, you are most likely doing more harm than good.

If your organization cares about digital transformation, keep this in mind as you build your plan to actually enable your broader workforce to adopt these tools. And if you’re interested in how we deliver expectational services by using only US-based services, learn more about our Office 365 Center of Excellence approach here.

An Alternative Approach: How to Achieve Success with an Office 365 Center of Excellence

The future is digital. Every company, irrespective of industry, is, or will soon be, thinking and operating like a digital company, re-engineering operations to support the new speed of business. If you’ve invested in Office 365, you have the capability to execute your own digital transformation. Enabling and sustaining that capability, however, can be challenging for even the largest organizations.  

Just maintaining deep knowledge on the entire platform and understanding the implications of each tool and every enhancement on your environment alone can be daunting. It’s why taking the “if you build it they will come” approach to Office 365 is simply destined for failure.

That’s why we developed an alternative, managed approach – the Office 365 Center of Excellence. We approach digital transformation as a process, instead of a project. Our proven methodology is made up of six pillars which we’ll explore in this blog post and will show how you can achieve the maximum success of your Office 365 investment with a Center of Excellence approach.

What is a Center of Excellence?

The Center of Excellence is a proven process methodology that provides solutions beyond standard managed services by utilizing six services areas to improve and execute on digital transformation in Office 365 and SharePoint. Through this process, Office 365 becomes an extremely powerful business productivity solution that if used and supported correctly, can greatly improve innovation, deliver business value, protect your internal and external data, decrease reliance on email, and further empower your employees.  


Six Pillars of a Successful Office 365 Center of Excellence

The power of the Center of Excellence (CoE) comes from combining the right skills, activities, and commitment and focusing them on your organization’s goals. There are six service areas that require focus for a successful Office 365 CoE, and communication is their underlying foundation. Let’s take a look at each service area:

  • Strategy
    Strategy is critical to success because it forces your organization to define what you need instead of expecting the technology to solve problems that have not been thoroughly defined. Strategic efforts focus heavily on asking stakeholders what problems must be solved and defining the value derived by meeting the goals. Developing a strategy first allows you to measure success in a tangible way to ensure you meet your objectives. In addition, when employees understand why they are being asked to do something, they generally respond more favorably when they know the vision of the project.
  • Governance
    Governance takes Strategy down to the service level. Governance efforts define usage policies, guidelines, and rules for your solutions. A successful plan leverages Microsoft’s best practices, demonstrates how to use different services to meet the business objectives, and ensures there is ownership of critical requirements and processes.

    Governance is critical because it requires that other parts of the business are engaged to ensure success. One of the most important aspects of governance is gaining traction with a group of stakeholders that will take ownership of the digital transformation process. And governance doesn’t stop — it requires regular meetings to discuss progress, collect feedback, and make changes to the governance plan, roadmap, and service offerings as technology and business needs change.
  • Architecture
    Architecture focuses on the technical components of leveraging Office 365, including information architecture, taxonomy, metadata, branding, user experience, best practices, technology changes, application integration, and the continuous effort to ensure that all the pieces fit together correctly for your organization.
  • Training
    Training isn’t one size fits all. It’s customized training in small doses on a regular basis in order to increase user understanding and adoption. Custom training combined with repetition increases user interaction and sends a message to the end users that your organization cares enough to ensure users have what they need to be effective.
  • Administration
    Administration components in Office 365 are different from classic on-premises platforms. The needs of patching, service packs, upgrades, and most of the routine maintenance activities are gone. However, many of those requirements have been replaced with new features and capabilities that should not be ignored. A successfully engaged administration plan will involve monitoring Microsoft messaging relating to tenant updates, changes, and outages. It’s not uncommon to see 15 or more messages per week relating to items affecting each Office 365 environment.
  • Support
    Support includes defined service level agreements based on requirements of the business. If your organization needs 24×7, one-hour response time because it’s critical to the business objectives, then this must be considered. CoE resources must have deep understanding of the platform and capabilities. While no single person understands it all, it’s imperative that your organization’s support skills align with its intended use of Office 365. With user adoption, including from your support teams, this will grow organically. While all the service areas are important, this is the area to absolutely ensure the proper resources are in place. Most customer contact, feedback, and ideas are generated through support interaction. Proper support teams will have plans to collect feedback and present this information to the governance and architecture teams to continue the circle of improvement.

The Importance of Process

The real CoE magic happens when you have the right combination of pillars driven by a defined and ongoing process, supported by the right resources for each set of activities, all of which are set with the proper cadence.

Your CoE is like a puzzle. All your components should fit together to showcase your vision with a total solution.

Without some pillars (or pieces of the puzzle), you will find there will be a hole in your process. Depending on the size of your organization, the needs and complexity of the solution will vary, but all are necessary to a certain degree.

When your entire plan is working harmoniously, it demonstrates to the organization the capability of IT to deliver on the needs of the business. This builds internal trust, while spotlighting IT as a leader and innovator in your organization, versus positioning IT as a cost center. This is key to transform your internal end users’ impressions of IT of simply providing tools and services to one where IT provides full life-cycle solutions to business problems.

A Customer-Centric Approach

The difficulty with digital transformation is that it is 100% based on people and their ability and willingness to change how they operate. When all of the pillars of the CoE are executed and maintained, user adoption will increase. As adoption increases, the entire solution becomes self-sustaining.

There is a tipping point where existing users create most of the new demand for capabilities because of their reliance on these tools. Your CoE activities drive user adoption, which in turn, support your overall transformation efforts. You should see a few of these benefits across your organization as overall user adoption grows:

  • Cultural shift from manual processes to automated technologies
  • Increased efficiency from a work processing perspective
  • Decreased reliance on email
  • Streamlined communication, searchable communication

With a Center of Excellence approach, you will begin to see an increase in user awareness, engagement, adoption, and all of the measurable and tangible benefits of true digital transformation.

The Ultimate Guide to SPTechCon Boston

It’s summertime and that means the annual SPTechCon Boston conference is happening in a few weeks. The Sharepoint & Office 365 conference will be in the Bay State from August 26 – 29, 2018. The conference is a training, problem-solving, and networking event for those who are working with SharePoint, OneDrive, and Office 365. Attendees will have access to users and companies to find solutions to their current environments. In addition, attendees will have many opportunities to collaborate with other users and to discover strategies to work smarter and increase productivity within their organizations.

If you’re planning to attend SPTechCon this year, we put together this ultimate guide so you know all the details, and information, and even a couple of strategies to make the most of your experience.

SPTechCon Key Dates

Now until August 10th: Registration open – get your ticket to SPTechCon Boston here. Register using our code TIM18 to receive a discount.

August 10th: Registration Ends

August 15th: Last day to make hotel reservations at Sheraton Boston Hotel

August 26th: First Day of Conference — Tutorials & Challenges, Exhibit Hall Open and Evening Reception with Lightning talks (at 5 pm)

August 27th: Second Day of Conference — Technical Classes, Keynote by Karuana Gatimu from Microsoft, Exhibit Hall Open, Networking Reception (at 5:30 pm)

August 28th: Third Day of Conference — Technical Classes, Naomi Moneypenny from Microsoft, Exhibit Hall Open, O365 User Group Meeting (at 5:30 pm)

August 29th: Last Day of Conference — Stump the Experts (at 10 am), Interactive Panel Discussion (at 10:45 am), Technical Classes  

Exciting Programs Happening at SPTechCon Boston

Office 365 Hands-On Challenge

When: Sunday, August 26, 2018 
Join fellow members on August 26th of the collaborative Office 365 and SharePoint community in participating in a challenge to create digital collaborative solutions for Plymouth State University’s Music and Theater Department. There will be up to five teams each with a different Office 365 related challenge to solve, and each team will have an expert advisor from the SPTechCon Speakers to guide them through hurdles uncovered in the challenge. To learn more and to apply to participate in the challenge,
visit the conference website.

Communication Sites as a Real-World Example

When: Monday, August 27 at 11:30 am
Description: Ian Dicker, Director of Architecture at Timlin Enterprises will provide a real-world example of an intranet built using Communication Sites, extensions, and web parts using the SharePoint Framework. He will discuss the design challenges and how they were addressed. Add this session to your agenda here

Digital Transformation and Employee Engagement – How to Make It Happen with Office 365
When: Monday, August 27, 2018, at 3:15 pm
Description: In this session, Ryan Thomas, CEO of Timlin Enterprises, will provide specific ideas on what you can do to help your organization successfully implement features in Office 365 that result in increased user adoption and true employee engagement. User adoption is not a project and requires a disciplined, process-driven approach with the proper strategy, governance, architecture, and training components. This approach ensures you engage your employees and gain the business value of digital transformation using O365.

Ask SharePoint & Office 365 Experts Anything
When: Tuesday, August 28, 2018, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Description: This will be a 1:1 discussion with experts in the SharePoint community as we hold a combined SharePoint User Group meeting for the entire New England region. Speakers from the SPTechCon Conference as well as other Microsoft and MVP attendees will take your questions in an informal setting. For more details, 
visit the conference website.

Stump the Experts
When: Wednesday, August 29, 2018, at 10:00 am
Timlin Enterprises is excited to moderate this year’s Stump the Experts Panel happening on August 29th at 10 am. This will be an open discussion where you can test your knowledge or find out the answers to troubling SharePoint and Office 365 topics against some of the best. So come prepared to listen, learn some new things, and to have some fun.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your SPTechCon Experience

  • To make the most of your attendance, you need to prepare.  Build your conference schedule in advance, but make sure you leave some time open during the day to recharge and find some solitude. Conferences are jam packed with sessions and networking so you want to make sure you have time in your day to see everything you want to see, without burning out by the end of each day.
  • Register for SPTechCon Boston before August 10th and use the Timlin discount code, TIM18.
  • Set goals for networking and education. While you’re planning your schedule, make a list of the new things you want to learn while attending SPTechCon and who you want to meet.
  • Speak to the companies in the Exhibit Hall. They want to chat with you and this is a great way to warm up to networking and conversing with those people on your list. While you’re in the Exhibit Hall, be sure to say hello to the Timlin team at booth #301.
  • Join the conversation on social media. Connect with speakers and other Sharepoint and Office 365 users by chatting on Twitter under the official conference hashtag, #SPTechCon

We can’t wait to SPTechCon Boston and look forward to seeing you there! Let us know if you’ll be coming to the conference by following and sending us a message on Twitter, @TimlinEnt.

Y B a < SP > H8r? Learn to Love the New SharePoint

If there’s one, strong, recurring theme I’ve witnessed over my 10+ years working with SharePoint and the people who use it, it’s that most folks love to hate SharePoint!  

And for good reasons.

SharePoint is far from perfect – I too have been plagued with deep negative thoughts about the platform. But admittedly, MOST of the time, my frustration has turned out to be my own fault.. 

  • Rushing into building farms by clicking next>next>next 
  • Building tall, rigid hierarchies that followed my company’s org chart 
  • Showing enthusiastic power users how to copy their files over with Explorer and build elaborate InfoPath forms 
  • Installing free 3rd party widgets to make sites “pop”  
  • Crawling EVERYTHING!   

Most of these mistakes were made in my early days of SharePointing, and I learned quickly just how bad they werePerformance would drag, tickets would pile up, and HR folks once asked me to explain why employees’ salary information was visible in SharePoint search results (oops). If you’re anything like me, you don’t often learn things the easy way. So, we repeat these mistakes and keep wondering why the platform is so bad. 

And it’s not just the Admins   

End users have been forced to adopt a new way of doing things that is clunky, confusing, undependable, and slow …then have to deal with bad attitudes of already frustrated IT techs who helped create these unfortunate messes (or worse, have inherited them, not given time/$$$ to fix them, and have to juggle complaints that grow exponentially). Then, the business gets a vendor quote for an upgrade or migration, and panic ensues. Is it any wonder why some people are visibly shaken when they hear the word “SharePoint” 

Sure, there are bugs – some stuff just doesn’t work the way it should. And, yes, it is true that Microsoft “stitched” together several products from different (and competing) project groups to deliver early versions of SharePoint. This resulted in a disjointed, awkward admin experience that seemed always broken and nearly impossible to troubleshoot with any speed. End users paid the price with poor collaboration experiences and the inability to find their stuff. They reverted to email and attachments from file shares (or their desktops <shudder>)Weren’t these the very things we were all told would never happen in the world of SharePoint?  

Then Microsoft wised up 

Even with mounting frustrations, Microsoft saw strong potential in this new way to collaborate. With time, they wised up and pulled product teams together with more clarity on vision, leadership, and product strategy. They listened to end users and delivered vast improvements in administrative ease, end-user experience, and scalability with each major release. Since the 2010 version (the first “true” enterprise version), the total cost of ownership has continued to go down even as adoption and overall environment size has gone up.   

Now, with the cloud offering virtually unlimited scale, stable performance, flexible costing models, and a constantly evolving set of features/functionality, the platform appears to be unstoppable. While on-prem environments remain highly relevant for some organizations, the steady push from Microsoft is to go to the cloud. It’s better for them (who doesn’t want predictable, recurring revenue?), and they’re doing everything they can to make it better for clients. The more recent enhancements implemented across the Office 365 platform with Microsoft Teams, Planner and Flow/PowerApps to name just a few, make it quite compelling platform for your digital transformation.  

Pushback against going to the cloud 

Yet, there has been pushback against going to the cloud. However, in our experience, most of the pushback we see is purely psychological.

  1. Is it secure?
    Fears about data security and/or geolocation abound. However, growing evidence has shown that Microsoft’s infrastructure is likely (and statistically) far more secure than yours.  
  2. My portal doesn’t look right.
    Yes, businesses may not be able to make their portal look, feel, and act exactly the way they’d like. Trust us, this is usually a good thing! Standardization seems like small beans in the grand scheme of things when weighed against stability, supportability, performance, better end-user adoption, and lower costs. And, keep in mind that migration happens! More customizations = harder, more expensive, longer migrations that no one enjoys. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill for this condition! Even the best migration tools simply cannot handle all the variability of these boutique environments.  
  3. If we go to the cloud, what’s a SharePoint Administrator to do?
    Rather than shedding their SharePoint administrators, many businesses are finding huge value in leveraging them throughout the organization. Behind the scenes, former admins can prove indispensable for:  

    • Managing external sharing 
    • Forming and managing governance committees  
    • Prepping for compliance audits 
    • Establishing taxonomy/folksonomy 
    • Archiving stale data 
    • Monitoring and testing new functionality 
    • Enforcing the general rules of engagement  
    • Automating processes 
    • Building forms  
    • Setting up managed metadata 
    • Optimizing search 
Bottom line? You can learn to love again. 

The Office 365 platform has a lot to offer organizations striving for digital transformation, but balancing flexibility, scalability, performance, end-user experience, administrative overhead, and a constantly-evolving feature set is exceptionally difficult. There are bound to be missteps along the way, and most organizations are not prepared to manage Microsoft’s rapid release cycles. You will want to think differently about your resources, just like you did about your platform. 

If you don’t have in-house expertise that has kept up with the evolution of the platform, it will be imperative to leverage a trusted partner who has. Doing so can dramatically improve your business outcomes, increase user adoption, and reduce your long-term costs.

Seven Key Ways to Gain Value from Office 365 User Adoption

To maximize your Office 365 investment, you need to ensure user adoption, so it’s imperative to incorporate proven change acceptance techniques when introducing new technology to your employees. Once you have business and IT alignment in regards to your innovation goals, it’s time to implement the software and ensure your users adopt, use, and expand their skills within Office 365.

Let’s explore seven key areas of value your business will realize with full Office 365 user adoption.

1.) Increased Efficiency and Innovation

With a functioning and adopted Office 365 solution in place, you save time managing technology and can focus on delivering innovation to your business. In order to achieve this level of innovation, your users will need to know how to properly use the Office 365 tools and will need to be comfortable using them on a daily basis.

Continually provide the solutions you know users need. For example, don’t let users randomly discover tools like Microsoft Teams. Instead, engage with and provide them with training, guidelines, and a process for using Teams to ensure they’re using it optimally amongst their own teams and across departments.

“With a functioning and adopted Office 365 solution in place, you save time required for managing technology and instead, can focus on delivering innovation and value to your business.”

2.) Protected Data: Internally and Externally

In 2017 alone, there were 1,120 total data breaches and more than 171 million personal records of consumers exposed. This number of attacks is only expected to increase, with a target on small and large companies alike.

Luckily, Office 365 has tremendous control and compliance capabilities across email, SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, and Yammer, which makes it easier to control and protect proprietary information.

Properly enacting the policies, procedures, retention, disposition, data loss prevention, and information protection enable content sharing, internally and externally, while ensuring data is secure. Using Office 365 tools to collaborate with external partners, as opposed to non-supported third-party tools like Box or Dropbox, also ensures your content is properly governed and risk is reduced.

3.) Effectively Managed Intellectual Property

When your users have properly adopted Office 365, confidential or proprietary information moves to your intranet, Teams or team sites, communication sites, project areas, and OneDrive. By reducing your organization’s reliance on email, and instead, storing key information in a reliable system specifically designed for a search-first user experience, you more efficiently manage critical data and intellectual property.

Gone are the days when file shares, email, and the “My Documents” folder are haphazardly used. And with today’s agile workforce, it’s key that your important knowledge is maintained within your organization’s Office 365 structure and not in someone’s inbox, on their own personal device, or another unsupported third-party service.

“Using Office 365 components for more than simple email and document storage creates new opportunities for improving efficiencies.”

4.) Increased Business Intelligence

Once users have adopted Office 365, your organization can use Power BI to access valuable data stored in the various tools and deliver insights to make intelligent business decisions.

Microsoft has long been a leader in this area for a decade. Gartner has positioned them as a Leader in their Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms for ten consecutive years. Sample areas where Power BI delivers insight include:

  • Key financial metrics
  • IT spend
  • Sales effectiveness

It’s another way using Office 365 components for more than simple email and document storage creates new opportunities for improving your organization’s efficiencies.

5.) Empowered Employees

With Office 365, you can empower employees by enabling more effective collaboration and supporting decentralized teams and remote workers through tools like intranets, extranets, and collaboration solutions using SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, OneDrive and all the features in Office 365. Employees now have a work environment that’s intelligent, flexible, and secure, and they can collaborate from anywhere, on any device.

6.) Decreased Reliance on Email & Client Applications

With Office 365, you eliminate the need to upgrade your desktop software, patch servers, and perform platform migrations every four years. This time savings improves productivity, allowing you to identify your organization’s business opportunities instead of just worrying about the IT problems. The underlying changes with upgrades, server patches, and platform migrations still happen, but they are gradual and more manageable as they happen over the platform life cycles.

Embracing and supporting employees’ use of Office 365 also keeps them on the front edge of modern technology, providing opportunities to grow their skills and career.

7.) Accelerated Digital Transformation

The difficulty with digital transformation is that it is 100% based on people and their ability and willingness to change how they operate. Users can send emails and use online file shares, but social content, publishing, project management, document management, business automation, and business intelligence are a different story. Full user adoption accelerates the speed of business and your digital transformation.

Unfortunately, an organization cannot simply deploy software and expect magic to happen. It’s accelerating broader business activities, processes, competencies, and models to fully leverage digital technologies. It’s challenging business leaders to harness technology to shape their specific destiny. It’s a living process that shifts throughout the journey.

It’s why 88% rely on third-party providers for at least one component.  

 It’s also why we leverage a proven process methodology that we refer to as Center of Excellence service for Office 365 and related technologies.

Interested in learning more about a Center of Excellence approach? Download our free whitepaper here.

The New Role of IT: How to Be Successful with Office 365 in the Face of Constant Change and Innovation

Over the past few years, IT has transitioned from a department focused on infrastructure and support to one of innovation, transformation, and competitive advantage. Traditional roles, resources, and expectations have been disrupted by shifting user demands and needs. To keep up and ahead of these demands, the IT department now has an important seat at the executive table. The role of IT is to not only provide technical support but to also provide fresh solutions and tools that will keep their organization ahead of the wave of innovation.

Cloud Computing Brings Change and Innovation

The focus in IT has been sky-high. Organizations and users fully understand and prefer the flexibility and collaboration of cloud technology. Now, IT is expected to lead the charge into the cloud by providing innovation, efficiency, collaboration, and—most importantly—business value. But many IT departments have high expectations to provide increased, faster, and better results with fewer resources and less time. Without the right technology and budgets, supporting, training, and managing SaaS technology becomes a daunting task.

At the same time of all this change and disruption, Office 365 has emerged and is aimed squarely at supplying the tools to make these capabilities accessible and less daunting for IT departments. By 2019, Microsoft expects two-thirds of their traditional Office customers to migrate to Office 365 subscription plans. This demonstrates a new normal for IT and the end-user community.

So as IT faces this new normal, how can you be successful in this new role? It requires two requisites.
Let’s dive in.

Business and IT Alignment

Leading business transformation with these new tools requires vision and focus. Without a laser-focused vision and a means to measure your intended success, most implementations are based on assumptions, and IT professionals are guessing their way through the process.

Instead of playing a guessing game, IT can take a step up to align technology with the needs of the business. IT can no longer work in a silo — they need to be invited to the table to define, release, and support solutions that will improve the business.

To successfully align IT with business, start by:

  • Meet with all stakeholders to understand their specific requirements—in detail—and clearly communicate why the services will benefit them and how business value will be achieved.
  • Implement solutions like Office 365 that meet all requirements.
  • Align stakeholders when planning and deploying collaboration solutions.

User Adoption

Just because an organization deploys Office 365, doesn’t mean they’ll reap the benefits of digital transformation. ‘Build it and they will come’ simply doesn’t work with this type of solution. The difficulty is that success is 100% based on people and their abilities and willingness to change how they operate. Users can send emails and use online file shares, but social content, publishing, project management, document management, business automation, business intelligence, etc., need support from skilled personnel.

The path to success begins at user awareness, which leads to user engagement, and ends with user adoption. Here are a few ways to become successful in your user adoption strategies:

  • Awareness
    It’s important to communicate to end users the benefits that the Office 365 platform provides. Initial and ongoing communication across your end user community enlightens them on what is possible, prevents misunderstandings, and provides a sense of belonging to the organization. When internal groups are aware that tools and technologies are available to them, they are more likely to use and build upon them.
  • Engagement
    Aware employees become engaged employees. Employee engagement goes beyond knowing tools, capabilities, and information exist and leads to genuine and sustained interest in how they can do their jobs better for the overall success of the organization. This occurs only when your tools are delivered deliberately and with purpose, training, support, and ongoing enhancements to suit user needs. Ongoing communication of the vision and value these tools bring to the organization fosters engagement and leads to adoption.
  • Adoption
    Successful adoption is the holy grail in the land of collaboration and digital transformation. Adoption occurs when the user community employs the tools, services, and solutions provided for them because they want to take advantage of the value they continue to experience. Additionally, engaged employees who have adopted the use of the tools in their everyday work will encourage their colleagues and new hires to do the same, promoting the use of the capabilities across their own teams and departments. True adoption leads to employee efficiency and fewer user complaints and increases the organization’s confidence in IT to deliver solutions that meet business needs.

How a Center of Excellence Drives User Adoption and Value

In today’s changing IT landscape, it’s imperative to incorporate proven change acceptance techniques. With the above requisites along with a proven, deliberate framework, organizations can begin to truly realize the value of their Office 365 investment.

An alternative approach to achieving this success is the Office 365 Center of Excellence (CoE). What is the Center of Excellence? It is a proven process methodology that utilizes six services areas to improve and execute on digital transformation in Office 365 and SharePoint. It can greatly improve innovation, deliver business value, protect your internal and external data, decrease reliance on email, and empower your employees.

Learn more about the Center of Excellence framework by downloading our free whitepaper here.

Top 10 Reasons You Need an Office 365 Center of Excellence

Adopting and using Office 365 is a big investment and enabling and sustaining the capabilities of the Office 365 platform can be challenging even for the largest organization. Just maintaining deep knowledge on the entire platform and understanding the implications of each tool and every enhancement on your environment alone can be daunting. It’s why taking the “if you build it they will come” approach to Office 365 is simply destined for failure.

“Just maintaining deep knowledge on the entire platform and understanding the implications of each tool and every enhancement on your environment alone can be daunting”

One proven solution to maximizing and sustaining your Office 365 and SharePoint solutions is to adopt a managed, Center of Excellence approach. Let’s explore the common challenges of companies with Office 365 and SharePoint solutions and how a Center of Excellence can remedy them.

  1. You struggle with user adoption or see other colleagues struggling to understand the value of Office 365. Users will not flock to the higher value features of Office 365 without training and support. They can send emails and use online file shares on their own, but social content, publishing, project management, document management, business automation, business intelligence, and a lot more, need support from skilled personnel.
  2. You know you need a broader Vision, Roadmap, and Plan. A plan is required to provide the platform tools, but there are a lot of moving parts required to effectively launch, train, and support your end users for an effective set of capabilities.
  3. You know there is a lot of capability in those menu items, but you don’t really know what they do or how to use them effectively. Office 365 is a big platform – it’s Microsoft Teams, Project Online, Planner, SharePoint & SharePoint Online, OneDrive, Exchange, PowerBI, Flow, Yammer, and PowerApps and more – and it takes dedication by multiple people to truly understand all the functionality. There is a lot of value to be gained with the right people to help you understand and leverage it.
  4. You need help with Governance & Communication strategies. Governance is a difficult undertaking for many organizations. You see the value in bringing in a partner that has experience in helping organizations understand how to undertake envisioning of key, strategic elements of platforms this large. A partner with a process and set of questions ready to hit the ground running will save you a lot of time.
  5. You can’t keep up with all the enhancements. Microsoft is releasing changes to the Office 365 platform at a brisk pace. Keeping up with the features in your tenant, applications, and the impact they have on your end users can be difficult to manage. You need someone who not only is abreast of all of the enhancements but also knows your deployment and is accustomed to reviewing your administration center, identifying the key information, and working within a framework to communicate the updates to you and your team.
  6. You need Training that is specific to your policies, guidelines, and intended use of Office 365. Generic training falls short when you’ve spent the time to deliver and support Office 365 in a way that works best for your users. You don’t want all that effort to be wasted with “one size fits all” training. You want to guide your users down the path you have built for them.
  7. You have varying needs that can be difficult to forecast. You may need architecture, development, analysis, or troubleshooting at various times. You also may not understand the best way to solve a problem because you don’t have the experience in-house to understand the depth of all the features available to you.
  8. Your IT Department wants to focus on solutions, projects, and innovation, not training and support. Time spent supporting user requests takes employees away from other priority work. Ad hoc responses and supporting users is critical, but it’s not what every IT expert or Business Analyst wants from their career. Keep your people happy and engaged in doing the work they enjoy that provides value to your organization. Delegate the rest.
  9. You need elasticity in your team. Sometimes you need more help for small projects, sometimes you need less. Many times, you have two critical issues or projects, and it’s difficult to triage. Employees go on vacation and many prefer not to be on-call. A small cost to provide around the clock SLAs may be highly valuable to your organization.
  10. You don’t have a full-time employee with enough skills across the platform.  Between a variety of skills (Business Analyst, Developer, Architect, Support Engineer, Workflow Specialist, Information Rights Guru, etc.) it is simply too difficult to have a single person or team fractionally available that knows you, your organization, and Office 365. It’s much more valuable and cost-effective to set this up as a service.

Learn more about the Center of Excellence framework by downloading our free whitepaper here.