OneDrive for Business feature shifts how employees save files within Microsoft

Oct 9, 2019   |  

Within Microsoft, there are some entrenched employee habits that make the company what it is, like living in email, dressing casually, and project managing a solution for every problem.

Also high on that list?

Saving files locally, a habit that has stuck with a company that grew up around Windows and its system of using folders to store and organize files.

[If you’re going to Microsoft Ignite, you can attend Anne Marie Suchanek’s session, “How Microsoft drove employee adoption of OneDrive for Business for content storage” from 11:30-11:50 a.m. Eastern Time on November 6th. Learn about Microsoft’s strategy for file management.]

Now, the company wants its employees to store everything in the cloud on OneDrive for Business, where it’ll be more secure and easy to access, plus several other reasons that will be shared below.

But first, about changing the entrenched habit of clicking File, Save As, and then navigating to your favorite folder on drive C.

“We thought about asking our employees to change their behavior, but then we asked ourselves, ‘Why? This is how our employees like to work,’” says Anne Marie Suchanek, a program manager on the team that manages OneDrive for Business internally at Microsoft for Core Services Engineering and Operations (CSEO).

Instead, CSEO worked with the Microsoft OneDrive Sync team to deploy a feature called Known Folder Move (also available to external customers) that makes it possible for employees to save documents, and pictures to their file folder system the same way they always have. The only difference when they save their content via that familiar local drive file path is that their content also will automatically save to OneDrive for Business.

“Why change a good thing?” asks Suchanek, who is currently leading a rollout of the file-saving experience within Microsoft in North America. “We decided to go to them with a solution that will allow them to keep doing things the way they like to do them.”

Known Folder Move very specifically mimics the exact motions that employees (and all Windows users) have used for decades to save files—the only difference is now Microsoft and its employees enjoy the security and convenience of having their content automatically saved in the cloud.

Suchanek’s CSEO team is currently rolling out the feature via an email announcement that encourages employees to adopt early. After the opt-in phase finishes, the team will—after letting them know that it’s coming—silently deploy the system to everyone in North America (except those employees whose complex folder workflows would be disrupted by such a move). When North America is finished, the plan is to expand to the rest of the world.

It’s all part of the company’s journey to the cloud.

“We want to be a cloud-first company,” Suchanek says. “That means doing everything we can to embrace all the different features of the cloud, and part of that is getting our corporate data on the cloud.”

Getting employees on board

Eva Etchells smiles as she leans forward in her chair in a café on the Microsoft campus.
Microsoft employees like that they get five terabytes of storage space to store their work in the cloud on OneDrive for Business, says Eva Etchells, a program manager on CSEO’s End User Readiness and Communications team. (Photo by Jim Adams | Showcase)

Saving to the cloud is something most employees are already doing, given that OneDrive for Business has been an option for employees for quite a while, says Eva Etchells, a program manager on CSEO’s End User Readiness and Communications team. She also said many of them are accustomed to backing up their personal data on the version of OneDrive that supports their personal Microsoft email accounts.

“Mostly I’m just raising awareness about it so that they’re not surprised when it pops up as an alert,” says Etchells, who has the role of answering employee questions about deployments of new features like this. “I let them know it’s not malware.”

The main challenge is for developers who use intricate systems of folders to store their code on their individual PCs—a system that needs to stay intact to work correctly.

“We’re allowing those employees to opt out,” Suchanek says. “The product group is working on improvements that will improve the experience for engineers who migrate their PC folders to the cloud.”

Etchells says she’s mainly talking to employees about the benefits of moving their files to the cloud, which include being able to access files from any approved device; having everything backed up if something happens to your PC; being able to collaborate and share any file, even those on your desktop or in your documents folder; and better security.

That’s not the biggest benefit, however.

“The thing that wins them over is finding out that they’re going to get five terabytes of storage space,” says Etchells, who communicates openly with employees on Yammer. “Why would I put anything on my dev box if I’m going to have that much space? There is literally no reason to not do this.”

Suchanek says moving to the cloud brings a whole set of benefits regarding coauthoring.

“We want people to work in the cloud and to collaborate in the cloud,” she says. “When they do, this problem of creating many versions of the same document and then trying to merge them all together goes away. Once a document is saved into OneDrive, everyone is automatically working out of the same version.”

Making OneDrive better

Gaia Carini smiles at the camera for a corporate headshot.
Microsoft employees help the OneDrive product group by testing new features and capabilities before they are shipped to customers, says Gaia Carini, a principal PM manager on the OneDrive and SharePoint Team.

The OneDrive product team rolled out the Known Folder Move feature 18 months ago to help deliver a modern desktop experience and drive engagement with OneDrive by allowing users to sync where they are accustomed to saving their files, says Gaia Carini, a principal PM manager on the OneDrive and SharePoint Team.

“We think of deploying this feature as a critical step toward having a modern desktop experience,” Carini says. “We are recommending that all of our customers take the necessary steps to make sure their important files are in OneDrive.”

She says Microsoft is no exception, and that she’s happy to see the company using Known Folder Move.

“We are excited to partner with CSEO to leverage some of those same benefits within Microsoft,” Carini says.

She says getting feedback and adoption from Microsoft employees helps the product group improve features before they are rolled out to customers—something that’s very useful to the product and the company at large.

For example, many customers have been waiting on the ability to deploy the Known Folder Move for users with local OneNote notebooks saved in their documents folder.

“If you have one of those notebooks, you can’t use Known Folder Move to move it to the cloud,” she says. “Fixing that has been a major request by some of our external customers. CSEO has been helping us validate our solution within the Microsoft deployment rings, which has been a big help.”

If you’re going to Microsoft Ignite, you can attend Suchanek’s session, “How Microsoft drove employee adoption of OneDrive for Business for content storage” from 11:30-11:50 a.m. Eastern Time on November 6th.

Learn about Microsoft’s strategy for file management.

Learn more about using the Known Folder Move feature at your company.

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