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Management Hurdles Mitigated with Microsoft
Many of the components offered by Microsoft Office 365 were implemented by us, at Milwaukee County as it’s a solution that fits well at work and at home. It is beginning to mitigate many of the collaborative hurdles that we in the government face in the workforce.
The good news is that Microsoft is a technology we understand, have experience with and is understood by the workforce—this made our jump to Office 365 easier. Microsoft Office 365 has made great strides forward in the “Cloud space” and this product brings IT efficiency with respect to where we can devote our time and attention—and that is the business of the government rather than the business of technology. This is Milwaukee County’s first major step into online services with cloud-based solutions and it has been a great experience. We can now focus internal talents on other important items like service management and security which is a huge benefit to us.
Careful Weighing of the Change Management Aspect
To broadly sum up the surprises we encountered with Microsoft Office 365—firstly it is not that easy to implement and secondly it is not that hard to implement either. There should be no surprises in this.
“A current challenge with Microsoft Office 365 offerings is that their Office web apps are not quite traditional Office and create change management problems; they have a great future but are not ready for prime time here yet”
Implementation of Office 365 is highly technical and requires lots of planning. It is important to understand the technology, develop a good plan and execute against that plan. Success also depends on having the right partner, who works with the organization in a collaborative fashion and is a leader, in terms of how to carry forth a plan. It is surprising to see how both IT and the broader organization responds to big change and the questions they ask. So rather than unleashing the full suite of technologies at once like SharePoint, Lync and Yammer, we have chosen to implement technology-based advancements in a controlled manner across time. This gives IT the ability to manage change and delight the customers across time. The solution provider is of paramount importance throughout the entire process of planning and implementation and it is essential to select that partner carefully. A challenge that we faced internally within IT was bridging skill sets when moving to an Exchange online environment. Bottom line, the change management component of Office 365 is huge and the approach used must be defined with an understanding of the dynamics of the organization. It became clear to us early that younger employees took to Office 365 quickly whereas the more mature elements of the workforce struggled at times with the change.
Critically Evaluate the Foundation
For the success of Microsoft and other companies in providing technology-based solutions to an enterprise, it is important to focus on the foundational elements (e.g., people, technologies and processes) and ensure that they are effective and working. I am a big believer of enterprise architecture as a key component of strategic planning and actionable approaches to building solutions. Integrated solutions require careful planning to ensure successful solutions.
This pertains not only to Microsoft Office 365 but is a core philosophy that all IT professionals should adopt. We are not here to invent technology we are here to deliver high quality, reliable services at reasonable cost. Microsoft Office 365 is an effective solution for us and positions us well for the future. I am glad we are implementing it in a measured and planful manner.
Microsoft to Drive Integrated Solutions
We are still in the earlier stages of integrated solutions with respect to technology and we look forward to the work ahead. I think Microsoft has many great stories to tell such as with their case management XRM platform. We currently have too many unique and highly customized case management systems in place today. I envision a time in the future when we will consolidate onto a single case management foundation and extend an integrated solution across many of the business units of county government.
Web Apps not Ready for Prime Time
We originally thought we would provide the web apps of Office 365 to everybody for all general office uses and purposes. We found that the youthful members of the workforce that grew up with the Internet embraced these change with few issues. In contrast, members of the workforce that “grew up” with the traditional set of Office applications had a more difficult time adjusting to this change. We found that the Office 365 web apps are not where we need them to be just yet for our workforce and that a cultural shift needs to occur as well in order to be successful. We think that the Office 365 web apps have a great future but that they are just not ready for prime time yet at Milwaukee County
Three Parties in Microsoft Communication
Understand your current and new IT environment. Microsoft seems to be remaking itself and many of their Solutions are fairly new—even to them. One of the challenges we had as a government entity when we first signed up for the Office 365 package was that Microsoft did not yet have a separate government tenant in place. In making the decision to move to Office 365, we found that we had to work with Microsoft closely as they filled that gap in their online service offerings.
This took time, patience and dialog. The consequent challenge which followed was that it was new for everyone, including Microsoft. An additional challenge is that we work not only with Microsoft but also a third part reseller of Microsoft’s products. The lines of communication should be open between all the three parties involved as holding everyone accountable is the key success in this platform.
Change with a Big Bang
Building a strong business case and getting top-down support from the business is essential for success. Once you have that support it is important to engage the business ruthlessly in its implementation since they are principle parties to the change and not simply bystanders. Once those agreements are in place, get the foundation ready and pay attention to the change management plan. Make the necessary adjustments before you build and after that, aim for managed change over a measured period of time. While we have chosen to implement the other components of Office 365 over time, we did implement their new Office 365 online email system overnight and were immensely successful because we had consensus and support across the entire business.