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Collaboration with Office 365

Collaboration with Office 365

by: Eric Riz

Twenty years ago, collaboration was considered to be a discussion with a colleague or a group review of a document. In recent years our collaborative needs have changed, expediency is demanded, and collaboration through technology is expected. Without question, day in and day out, we all demand our technologies provide us the best experience in order to collaborate among friends, family and colleagues.

As I write this article, I am in fact dictating it through my voice in my car, and the notes are being transcribed immediately into OneNote on my iPhone. Years ago, this would've been an impossible accomplishment. Today, it is the reality.

Regardless of how technology has changed the way we do business, so too have the avenues we use to collaborate. Collaboration today is about getting the best experience and ensuring that your creative voice is heard by anybody and everybody with access to the information. Whether via Twitter, e-mail, YouTube, the web or otherwise, without question everyone likes to be seen and heard, and the Internet has provided the community and environment for this to take place.

Organizations have been successful in tapping into this creativity by providing collaborative toolsets such as Microsoft SharePoint, OneDrive, SkyDrive, OneNote, Skype and Skype for Business to employees across organizations worldwide. In just less than five years, Office 365 has become the most popular system for online collaboration, allowing organizations to empower users with cross-departmental tools that provide integration across the company.

Tools such as Microsoft Word and Excel have traditionally been used in independent silos where collaboration only occurred when the document at hand was sent to other team members. Today, this is a distant memory. With the heightened demand of access to information, Office 365 provides the functionality required to connect and collaborate at every level of the organization.

Companies that deploy Office 365 believe its promises of greater collaboration, however, it is left up to the users to not only accept the tool in their workday and environment, but to use these tools at an enhanced level in order to best maximize potential. This blog post helps organizations design a strategy to allow its users to more effectively collaborate with Office 365. In order to plan for the future, it's important to take a step back and review some statistics to set a baseline for moving forward.

The dynamics of collaboration have changed today, ultimately affecting how work is completed. Though we have pushed collaboration to new places; some companies will be left behind as traditional methods are maintained. One of the issues for stagnant organizations in this regard can be adoption, for as we know, adoption takes time to achieve. Failure to achieve adoption across the enterprise can lead to larger issues, such as discord among staff, or even collaboration pushback as staff outright object to collaborative engagement.

Statistically, the general Office user utilizes a mere 8% of the functionality contained in the product, while I'm sure some reading this believe they use closer to 100%. Using Word as an example, most understand how to create a document, save, print, e-mail, and use some of the specific features like inserting comments, or formatting. Enhanced features, such as Office Remote, citations, equations or layout features, are rarely used.

Setting objectives
The first step in setting objectives is deciding which of the Office 365 components will be implemented. Will you only utilize Word while storing your files in SharePoint? Or will you roll out the entire suite of apps to allow employees personal spaces where they can share information with other staff. Not an easy decision, and one that requires a great deal of tacit, business-level knowledge to be unearthed, described and documented.

By definition, tacit business knowledge is that which cannot be seen by the naked or untrained eye. It is the knowledge that you, your staff and employees have based on their years of experience with the business, the industry or the profession. Regardless of how it was acquired, it is the knowledge that makes that individual invaluable to the business.

Explicit knowledge, conversely, is knowledge that is commonly known, or acquired in a situation or role, such as human resource procedures that a new employee must learn when they join an organization. There is no way to eliminate tacit knowledge from an individual, however, thought the right techniques, processes can be built around the knowledge and then learned by others in the organization. That being said, it is not always a foolproof plan, as poorly formatted explicit knowledge, which can be detrimental to the long-term growth of the organization, as it would essentially teach the wrong information to others as the company grows.

Important in the objective-setting scenario is understanding which knowledge set you are building upon, and training your employees accordingly. The following questions are a key starting point for Office 365 deployments.

  1. Data
    1. What are the requirements for working with data in Office 365?
    2. How will the information be stored and accessed?
    3. Is there an understanding of what data truly is, where it exists and under what context?
    4. Do employees understand and recognize tacit and implicit knowledge in the organization?
  2. Functional
    1. What collaboration tools are in place today?
    2. What are the major functions that need to be accomplished by Office 365?
    3. What usage patterns do employees currently maintain in desktop applications? How will these be replicated in Office 365?
  3. Reporting
    1. What type of reports will need to be provided?
    2. Will custom reporting need to be available?
  4. Communication
    1. How do teams currently communicate?
    2. What tools are deployed for communication today?
    3. What Office 365 functionality can be extended to remedy communication gaps?

Paramount to this conversation is user success, which is the result of the correct levels of empowerment and embracement of Office 365. Remember that any collaborative conversation must begin with a strategy that takes into account the needs and demands of employees and businesses alike. As technologies have advanced, so too have the expectations around collaboration. It is this expectation that Microsoft has solved with Office 365, and companies can expect collaboration to connect employees together through a unified platform that they find easily consumable, adoptable and meaningful.

Eric is the Founder and CEO of Empty Cubicle, an HR platform changing the way businesses source and verify candidates. As a thought leader, Eric is a sought-after speaker, author and consultant. He is a regular contributor to many industry journals and newsletters, and sits on the Microsoft Solution Advisory Board. In 2013, Eric won the prestigious Microsoft SharePoint MVP award. You can reach Eric at eric@ericriz.com and follow him on Twitter at RizInsights.

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