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Microsoft 365 for Partners

Change management

What’s the driving force behind adoption? Change management. A discipline that applies a framework and set of tools to help people make the transition from a current state to a future state to achieve expected benefits and organizational objectives.

Why develop an Adoption and Change Management practice?

Microsoft 365 is an enabler for business transformation that offers your customers best-in-class productivity and collaboration tools—leading to a whole new way of working. For your customers to realize their desired business outcomes and return on investment, it’s critical for users to not only adopt new services, but also to embrace those services and use them as part of their natural rhythm of work. Recent studies show that customers are six times more likely to meet or exceed business objectives when effective change management is in place.1

Developing Adoption and Change Management (ACM) services enables partners to take advantage of a US$9.5 billion market for change management related to Microsoft technologies, growing at 7 percent annually, and to drive customer success and lifetime value.2

1Prosci, Best Practices in Change Management, 2018.
2Microsoft commissioned IDC study, Services Market Forecast for Microsoft, March 2018.
How to develop an Adoption and Change Management practice

To implement Office 365 in customer environments, you’ll need to employ two complementary disciplines to help your customers make a successful transition: project management and change management. Project management focuses on deployment planning and the implementation of the Office 365 technical component. Change management—the human side of the transformation—focuses on the activities required to prepare organizations for the delivered change. To facilitate the transition from the old way of working to the future state. And to embed the change as the new norm.

Common approach

User focus is an afterthought. Rather than engaging users in the process, an email containing a link to training, for example, is sent post-deployment.

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Ideal approach

User adoption is a parallel, integrated work stream that includes deployment.
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Change Management Framework

The Change Management Framework for Partners, offers a simplified change-management approach, tailored for partners like you who help to drive Office 365 customer adoption. The plans included in the framework apply to the people who lead the change and to those who'll be affected by the change and the new ways of working they need to adopt.

Key success factors

Through the Change Management Framework for Partners, we’ll illustrate planning and implementation of four identified key success factors -stakeholders, scenarios, awareness, and training. Then, we'll explain how these key factors are applied in the context of change management. Customer adoption should be reinforced through measurement and learning.

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A three-phased adoption approach

A three-phased approach to customer adoption—envision, onboard, and drive value—provides the foundation to help you guide your customers’ successful Office 365 transition.

Envision (prelaunch)

Understand the context of the organization, define the scope and objectives of the change, and identify who will drive the change forward—prioritizing groups affected and defining the new behaviors required to achieve customer business outcomes. During this phase, you’ll also complete the development of the change management plans and work on related detailed activities.

Onboard (launch)

With the blueprint defined in the envision phase, you now have the plans and activities necessary to implement change. The Office 365 service is available, and early adopters make the transition. Stakeholders begin communicating, managers engage their workforces, training (contextualized to support how people can transition and adopt new ways of working) is available and delivered. The workforce begins to adapt to new ways of working.

Drive value (post-launch)

In this phase, feedback from the workforce is gathered, the business outcomes (defined during the envision phase) are measured, and any necessary corrective action is identified and implemented within your established plans. Feedback is essential to identify the corrections that may be needed in the adoption approach. Feedback also enables additional benefits, improvements in ways of working, and recognition of how future capabilities should be introduced.

Adatum Corporation

Sample customer

The Change Management Framework for Partners includes a set of completed change management plans for a sample customer organization, Adatum Corporation.

Adatum Corporation—a sample midsize company—illustrates how a customer can successfully follow the simplified Change Management Framework for Office 365. Understanding change and related planning in the context of this sample organization can help you to successfully drive adoption for your customers.

Adatum Corporation – Company Background

Adatum Corporation manufactures widgets and sells them through direct sales and distributors worldwide. While sales and growth are acceptable, the company sees challenges from competitors and knows it must innovate. The Adatum CEO’s vision: to modernize the company, and by doing so, to capture additional market share. The CEO has set a two-year target to increase sales by 25 percent and reduce expenses by 15 percent.

The strategic planning team has noted that to achieve these business goals, organizational changes will need to focus on three main areas: improved customer focus, improved process efficiency, and increased employee skill levels.

Three business scenarios have been prioritized to achieve Adatum’s business goals: Communication and Community, Schedule and Task Management, and Smarter Meetings.

Theodore Margrand is Adatum’s Microsoft partner responsible for leading the change management project.

More opportunities to grow your adoption business

You can dive into the three phases of change management that are described in the following section. Or if you’re ready to explore change management in even greater depth right now, you can take advantage of the Microsoft Services Adoption Services Program for Partners (coming soon).

The program enables you to customize its assets to accommodate unique customer needs, take on more complex change projects, and provide access to a comprehensive set of change management tools across the change lifecycle. You can also get support directly from Microsoft Services to help build your practice.

Change Management Framework

A three-phased adoption approach

To better tailor your Office 365 adoption plans to a specific customer organization, the envision phase is designed to help you define the scope and objectives of the change; understand people in the organization who will drive the change; prioritize the groups who will be affected by the change; and identify the ways they’ll need to work differently.

Adatum Corporation plan

The Adatum Corporation Plan is 20 weeks in duration. Factors that attribute to this length are the number of employees affected and the speed of adoption Adatum leadership specified. Adatum Corporation decided that they’ll phase service availability as follows: Phase one will introduce Yammer; Phase two, Microsoft Teams; and Phase three, Schedule and Task Management. As noted in the Adatum Corporation Overall Plan, phased technology adoption includes persona and department.

While the total duration of the Adatum’s Change Plan is 20 weeks, Theodore Margrand (Adatum’s partner representative) is expected to invest a total effort of about 12 weeks. At the beginning of this phased project, Theodore would likely be engaged full time. However, his time commitment will lessen as the plans are implemented, tapering off to one or two days per week.


Define change scope and objectives

Customers deploy Office 365 to meet specific strategic business objectives. Those objectives may be departmental or enterprise-wide. Incremental or transformational. Understanding each customer situation and establishing a short high-level scope for the change will guide your customer’s transformation.

You need to work with the customer to clearly outline a charter for the change:

  • What is the desired change?
  • Why is the change needed?
  • Where will the change occur (geographically or organizationally)?
  • Who will change?
  • How will people’s behavior shift in light of the change?
  • When will the change need to occur to realize business benefits?

You’ll need to capture the business goals, objectives, and criteria that will be used to evaluate project success.

  • Work with your customer sponsor to define business goals, including business value, business metric, and business owner.
  • Later, develop the measurement KPIs and associated targets.


Identify and prioritize scenarios and personas

When are Office 365 business benefits realized? When most staff have adopted the service, adjusted the ways they work, and are fully applying these changes to improve performance. Identifying and defining business scenarios and personas are important steps to help customer organizations smooth the adoption process and get full value from their Office 365 investments.

Business scenarios describe the ways staff will use Office 365 capabilities to address business challenges or achieve defined goals.

Personas describe the characteristics of the groups affected by the change.

To limit the amount of change that occurs at any one time, it’s recommended to break your customer’s Office 365 rollout into a series of phases. Document the characteristics of the new ways of working (scenarios) and the people who will be working differently (personas), then prioritize the scenarios and personas that will be part of this rollout phase.


Develop detailed success plans

To drive Office 365 adoption, you’ll need to develop five core success plans: stakeholder engagement, communications, training, measurement, and reinforcement.

Stakeholder engagement plan

The key to a successful adoption is to create a dynamic team of committed individuals—or change network—made up of sponsors, stakeholders, and change agents who represent a cross-section of your customer’s organization and who can drive and effect change in other staff. Key team members include:

  • Sponsors. Key leaders within the organization. Their participation is essential to driving employee adoption. Key leaders have the greatest influence on company culture and can actively communicate the rationale for and the value and benefits of a new technology and new ways of working throughout the organization.

    • Active involvement in the project: 2 hours per month
    • Target 4 - 5 executives
  • Ambassadors. In most organizations, directors or vice presidents who drive and encourage staff in a region or function to engage in the change.

    • Active involvement in project: 4 hours per month
    • Target 5 - 10 director-level or above staff
  • Change champions. Success owners who take responsibility for ensuring individuals use the service, get value from it, and become high performers. Establishing change champions is important to ensure the business goals set for Office 365 are realized. Change champions are knowledgeable, committed to furthering their expertise, and are willing to provide peer coaching and assistance. They help advocate and showcase how Office 365 technology can meet the needs their department and team.

    • Active involvement in the project: 10 hours per month
    • Target 20 - 40 employees at various levels
  • All managers or supervisors. Lead change with their direct reports. An employee’s direct supervisor is crucial in delivering the most personal messages for that employee.

    • Active involvement in the project: 4 hours per month
    • Target all staff managers

Gaining buy-in from every user across an organization is a challenge. Broad engagement from the change network will help alleviate this adoption challenge.


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Communications plan

Defines the target audiences, key messages, senders, channels, frequency, and timing required to build awareness of the change, and clearly outlines what’s expected from staff affected by the change.

Training plan

Defines the target audiences, methods of delivery, requirements for training, and timing that are required to build the skills and knowledge in the organization. Plan the training delivery by using the detailed assets that are included in the Onboarding phase.

Measurement plan

Creates a scorecard that tracks adoption and usage measures for Office 365; helps to ensure the success of an ongoing process for collecting feedback and analyzing results. Monitoring and reporting on usage helps demonstrate overall adoption levels and areas where improvement is required. The Office 365 adoption content pack is available to gain insights into how the customer organization is adopting the various services within Office 365.

Reinforcement plan

Drives change sustainability and helps ensure adoption continues to progress effectively after the go-live date. Without ongoing reinforcement from all levels of the organization, affected users will revert to previous ways of doing things or find alternative paths.

Focuses on collecting feedback, analyzing patterns of resistance, and then building and implementing corrective action plans. Also includes the management of specific rewards and recognition to celebrate successes.

Fully aligned with your technical deployment activities and plans, the onboard phase delivers the plans you created during the envision phase, and includes all activities up to the Office 365 service launch. All affected users should be trained and as capable as possible with their specific new ways of working prior to the launch.

Adatum Corporation

Sample onboarding plan

Each customer’s service launch should be rolled out in a phased approach, as illustrated in the following sections for Adatum Corporation. A phased approach results in each community of users (such as IT, sales, customer service, finance, and other support teams) gaining access to a new capability over a two-week period.

Phase 1. Communication and Community: Bring our organization together.
Phase 2. Teams – Smarter Meetings: Make meetings matter; provide a chat-based workspace.
Phase 3. Schedule and Task Management: Make it easier to create, update, and manage schedules and tasks.

Implementation guidance and schedule

Implementation should be approached in a phased manner, beginning with an early adoption phase, with the first set of users. Identification of early adopters should be representative of the workforce, for example, your customer’s change network team.

To illustrate, in the Adatum Corporation Overall Plan, the change network team was identified as the early adopters. The decision to assign this community was made because the company’s ambassadors and change champions can provide context and experience for the entire workforce.

Stakeholder engagement delivery

Implement the stakeholder engagement plan to recruit, coach, and support all members in all levels of the change network (sponsor coalition, ambassadors, champions, and managers) to help drive the change forward. Detailed activities, timing, and roles responsible are identified within the plan.

Communications delivery

Your communications plan created awareness of the need for the change and helped to set clear direction for all levels of the change network. Now you can implement the set of actions that can enable the workforce to engage in the change.

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Training delivery

The training plan equips the change network and workforce with the necessary skills and abilities to make a successful transition to new ways of working.

Continuing focus on change implementation, management, and monitoring, the drive value phase looks at how your customers’ organizations can sustain the change.

Measurement delivery

The measurement plan sets the baseline criteria and metrics needed to help realize expected business outcomes. Along with feedback directly received through listening channels, the metrics can provide the change network team and sponsor with evidence that the change is in process and is sustained.

As the workforce adopts new behaviors and ways of working, the telemetry data within Office 365 will be populated and assets like the Office 365 Adoption content pack.

Reinforcement delivery

How can your customers sustain change after the service launch date? With ongoing reinforcement from all levels of the organization. Without reinforcement, affected users will revert to their old ways of doing things or will find alternative paths. Reinforcement focuses on collecting feedback, analyzing patterns of resistance, and then building and implementing corrective action plans. It also includes the management of specific rewards and recognition to celebrate successes.

By putting reinforcement activities in place, you can help sustain change and help your customers’ organizations achieve optimal Office 365 adoption and usage.