my world of work and user experiences

January 31, 2018

Office 365 rollout: 5 basics easier said than done

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 23:42

Currently I am involved in the roll-out of Office 365 at a large construction company. Several thousands of users move over to new tools and a lot of content is migrated. Of course we try to disrupt these users as little as possible, because their business is construction and not IT. But it is not that easy. These are 5 basics that should be taken care of, which sound obvious but turn out to be quite challenging real life.

1.Decide early on how you deal with the different brands in the organization

Not all organizations are homogeneous. In this organization, we have different companies, with different brands, within the same Group. And they are all part of the same Office 365 tenant, facilitated by the Group. Say, the Contoso Construction Group has operating companies and business units like ‘Contoso Buildings South’, but also a unit specializing in hospital support called ‘Helping Health’. So now what?

  • Should everyone get an SMTP address (for e-mail), SIP address (for Skype for Business) and UPN (to log on) that is unified on
  • Or is it important in their market that the people working for the separate brands keep their special e-mail addresses and Skype addresses so that their clients recognize them? So do they keep for these people, in addition to the that others have?
  • Or do they have an e-mail address that clients understand, while they log on with the Group UPN This can get confusing for these users, because instructions often say that you have to log on with your email address. Not in this case.

You can keep the separate addresses, but then you need to connect those to your tenant. And for that, you need to decide what you want to do. Preferably with plenty of time before the technical guys need to make it happen and the communication and adoption people need to explain everything.

2a.Make sure you have reliable information on your users

Many things in the Office 365 roll-out are about individual users. Yes, creating a SharePoint portal and templates for collaboration sites is about communities. But licenses, mailboxes and Office 2016 installations for example are about individuals. Which means that you need correct data on those individuals. This sounds obvious, but we have been tearing our hair out over incomplete and incorrect data for a while now…

  • Who is working in the organization? So who needs a license? Whose mailboxes need to be migrated? We have seen a lot of prehistoric mailboxes and accounts that have not been used since 2015. And on the other hand we are not sure we are not missing people.
  • What type of employee are they? Who has a full laptop and who only has a smartphone? Who works in an office and who works at a construction site? As an Information Worker or a construction worker? So what license do they need? What should they install and what kind of support will they need for that? And what would be helpful in their jobs, so what should we promote to them? We have users with special Toughbooks for which the installation process is different and we still don’t know exactly who has such a machine.
  • And who is part of which operating company, business unit, team when you migrate in batches? We try to address colleagues as a group, and to get managers to encourage their own people to take action of they have not done so yet. But there are always people on the wrong list.
  • Where are they based? For example, are they in or near the Amsterdam office or the Rotterdam office? This is particularly relevant if you offer support on location. Too often we have invited people for the wrong sessions.

So if there is a way to clean up your HR-system and Active Directory before you roll out Office 365, do it! Not only for the roll-out, but also to offer the users up-to-date and correct profile information. The people pane and Delve and such are quite prominent in Office 365 and these don’t make any sense if they tie into outdated data…

2b.Set up a watertight process for joiners, movers and leavers

As a corollary to the previous point, getting correct user information should not be a one-time effort, but a process that keeps everything up-to-date. When people join the organization, they need a license. When they move to other units or other roles, their information should be updated. When they leave the organization, their license should be revoked and their content archived or disposed according to the rules and regulations. Even while you arrange to migrate, for example, the users mailboxes, the list changes, so prepare for the moving target.

3.Think about the right order and logical batches first

You cannot do everything in one day, especially if you have a large organization, with a large group of users. And there are dependencies. So what do you have to do first? And what do you have to keep together?

In our organization, it was decided that we were not allowed to store active mail and department information in the cloud (in Exchange Online resp. SharePoint Online sites) without Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). And Multi-Factor Authentication does not work with Outlook 2010.

So first we have to move everyone from Office 2010 to Office 2016. Then we can enable MFA. And then we can migrate to Exchange Online and get started with department sites in SharePoint Online. Not the other way around.

For the installation of Office 2016, we aim to roll out in batches to groups of colleagues who work on the same location. Then we can offer support on that location – users like face-to-face support more than remote support. And the colleagues can encourage each other and get triggered when they have been left out (because the list turned out to be incomplete again).

For the migration of the mailboxes and calendars from Exchange on-premises to Exchange Online, we try keep colleagues who collaborate a lot in the same batch. Especially managers and their management assistants. If one colleague is still on-prem and the other is already in the cloud, they cannot work in the same shared mailbox (they can read but not send on behalf) and they cannot consult and work in each other’s Outlook agenda. So we organize the batches by business unit.

And because we know we cannot trust batches to include all people who collaborate closely, we try to make the Exchange migration as compact as possible, to lose as little time as possible if somebody is migrated with the wrong batch. This implies that we do all the Office 2016 installations first, so that we have a clean run of Exchange migrations afterwards.

4.Don’t forget the details and the exceptions

The basic plan can be quite simple, but the devil is in the details. For example, the users need to install Office 2016 before Multi-Factor Authentication is switched on. Otherwise they can no longer use their Outlook. Ok, but what do we do with:

  • People who are on leave? Let them deal with it when they come back? Tell their boss?
  • People who don’t have the time for these things? Ask their boss to give this higher priority and stimulate them do the installation anyway?
  • Computers that do not have enough disk space for the installation? Give them a new computer or do some magic to make space anyway? How and who?
  • People who are very busy all day long at a construction site that has a very feeble internet connection? Can we ask them to do everything at home in their spare time or not?
  • Legacy applications that don’t work well with Office 2016? Is there a workaround like a remote desktop?
  • Training laptops managed by one person who does not have enough licenses to install Office 2016 on all of them?
  • People who don’t have a laptop or tablet but only a smartphone? An Office 365 license may be useful, but they don’t have to install Office 2016?
  • People who don’t have a company phone for the Multi-Factor Authentication messages? Ask them to use a private phone?
  • Non-personal accounts, like
  • …?

Users often grumble that headquarters (and IT departments in particular) try to steamroller all over them, regardless of the complexities of their everyday work. And they are right. So pay attention to these real-life exceptions.

5.Involve all of the stakeholders

You always have to involve all of the stakeholders, and this is definitely no exception. It takes quite some time, to involve everyone and even to make sure everybody is informed. But it is indispensable.

  • We have the directors and high level managers of the group and the operating companies as decision makers. And where they don’t have to make a decision, they still need to be the first to be informed, before the innocent employees.
  • The IT, communication and information management teams guide and carry out the rollout.
  • We have champions all over the organization who help their colleagues with information, support and encouragement. And don’t forget the secretaries of the different business units, who help us with practical things like locations for the floorwalkers and checks on our user lists. They get updates and knowledge sharing from us before we communicate to the end-users.
  • We communicate with the users who have to take action and/or be aware of something that is changing. They get messages and have the opportunity to respond and ask questions via email, a feedback form, a phone number, whatsapp and sometimes a floorwalker on location.
  • And we have contact with the bosses of the end-users if the end users don’t take action before the deadline: if they don’t listen to us, they may listen to their own boss…

So is this rocket science? No. is is surprising that you have to take care of these basics? No. But is it then easy to do in real life? No! It takes time and effort and smarts. But we will get it done anyway!

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