When Microsoft started the rollout to Microsoft Teams-only mode in the fall of 2018, Sarah Lundy was anticipating a tough trek for the company’s largest-ever internal upgrade.
Instead, in March 2019, when Microsoft’s internal upgrade from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams was complete, the results were pleasantly positive.
It was one of the smoothest upgrades Microsoft has ever had, thanks in large part to support from leaders and the use of old and new ways of marketing to get the word out across the company. Critical help came from grassroots champions who believed in the product and from Microsoft Teams itself, which created new ways for employees to work.
“I was amazed at how calm it was,” says Sarah Lundy, a business program manager who helped lead the Microsoft Core Services Engineering and Operations (CSEO) awareness and adoption campaign for the upgrade. “It felt like people understood why we needed to move to Teams and embraced it.”
Microsoft employees and vendors had already been using Teams to collaborate since the product’s beta version launched, but Skype for Business was still their default communications tool until last fall. That’s when the company’s upgrade to Teams-only mode started—when Teams became employees’ default client for meetings, calls, and chat. The upgrade took place over the course of six months, to minimize disruption, and finished in March.
“Since Microsoft Teams is a new way of working, we had to do some internal marketing to both get people excited about Teams and make it clear Teams is a big deal for Microsoft,” Lundy says. “We focused on showing employees how they could collaborate in new ways in Teams, something that resonated well with our very active early-adopter community. Our early efforts drove slow but steady increases in usage all the way up until the point when we turned off access to Skype for Business, when everyone moved over.”
So, what did it take to get Microsoft ready for Teams?
It was not done overnight.
Applying lessons learned from previous launches, the team knew it needed to raise awareness around the value of Teams.
Leader support makes a difference
For an organization to fully adopt Microsoft Teams, those on the adoption team knew that unless Microsoft leaders were advocating for using Teams, the path to a successful adoption would be difficult.
“We needed to get our leaders on board,” Lundy says. “If employees saw their leaders use it, they would use it. Part of our change-management strategy was to ask leaders to sponsor the upgrade to Teams and send a message to their organization announcing the timing and details of their upgrade.”
The adoption team delivered White Glove training for many leaders to help them get to know Teams and to be ready to tout its importance and benefits.
These customized informational trainings worked.
“We customized our training materials to their organization and their goals,” Lundy says. “That helped build clarity around the importance of Microsoft Teams.”
Core marketing remains critical
Marketing played a key role in smoothing the transition from Skype to Teams.
“We used internal marketing to get people familiar with new capabilities,” Lundy says. “It was a priority to show them how to get the most out of using Teams.”
The marketing tools the team relied on included Microsoft’s intranet, where employees could go for information about Teams and a blog for upgrade announcements. Conversations on Yammer were created to answer user questions, and digital and physical signage were used to get the word out. With each communication, the adoption team sought to bring clarity about how to use Teams and why the company was making the switch.
Champions prove to be a secret weapon
Because Microsoft employees were invited to start using Teams well before the company officially moved from Skype to Teams-only mode, many early adopters got to know and love the new collaboration tool.
It quickly became apparent that these internal fans were a grassroots champion community in the making. The adoption team saw this and pulled together a Teamwork Champions community that the communications team relied on.
“For example, a group of champions from Microsoft’s sales team in Brazil launched a Teams meme contest that helped drive usage and adoption locally,” says Rachelle Blanchard, a CSEO program manager. “Users were asked to create their own custom memes that were posted in Teams and later voted on. It was a fun way to get employees’ attention, and it helped us drive adoption on their team.”
Having champions spread the word made for a gentler approach, one that brought more people on board. “Microsoft Teams is a hub for teamwork,” Blanchard says. “It doesn’t work if just part of a team adopts it—you need agreement across the team for collaboration to work there.”
The Teamwork Champions program was an opt-in, volunteer effort, which made it more authentic to employees.
“It quickly became clear that our employees preferred real-time demos from colleagues than getting assigned to listen to a lecture on the benefits of the product,” Blanchard says.
Adoption is an ongoing journey
The adoption team learned many lessons along the way, Lundy says. While the team had a solid change-management and adoption plan in place from the beginning, it used multiple listening systems to get real-time feedback, and adapt where needed.
“Leadership support, training, the champions program, communications—everything we did helped generate higher use and excitement around the product,” Lundy says.
Now that the upgrade is complete, the adoption team is focused on promoting healthy teamwork behaviors in Teams and the other collaborative tools in Office 365. They’re also looking to help user groups like engineering, managers, and sales streamline their business processes in Teams.