The best tips for a successful transition to Microsoft 365

The best tips for a successful transition to Microsoft 365

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The Corona crisis poses new challenges, particularly for the world of work. Many aspects of digitization, which have often been discussed in recent years, must now be implemented quickly and efficiently in many areas. The question of how remote workstations can be integrated into the operational process arises at the latest when switching to the home office. Being able to work from any location is uncharted territory for most companies. But even companies that already relied in part on the „home office model“ in the past, are now faced with the challenge of having to digitize not only individual workstations, but often entire departments in a very short time.

Realising online conferences and real digital collaboration

However, simply providing mobile hardware is not enough. People tend to forget, that the shift from a culture of presence to purely mobile working also entails changes to previous structures and communication channels. Whether it’s a department meeting lasting several hours or a short informal coffee chat – all of this is no longer appropriate due to the current situation. What is required now, is a digital collaboration tool such as Microsoft TEAMS, which, in addition to a meeting, chat and video telephony function, also enables project and task management as well as joint work on documents in a single application.

Microsoft 365 – never install outdated software again

Although Microsoft TEAMS is also available free of charge with a significantly reduced range of functions, truly productive work is only possible in conjunction with one of the available „Microsoft 365“ licenses. Only this license offers functions such as saving and sharing personal files on OneDrive or integrating additional Microsoft 365 services such as SharePoint Online, Yammer, Planner and Stream. Classics such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint are available either as a web-only version or as an always up-to-date desktop version, depending on the Microsoft 365 package booked. One of the major advantages of working with Microsoft 365 is the ability to edit data on the go via the web versions on laptops and smartphones. Classical software solutions, on the other hand, have some decisive disadvantages. The software must always be installed and configured on the respective end devices, and a separate license must be purchased for each device. Hardware compatibility with the frequently growing requirements of new versions also remains a challenge. In addition, there is the internal company data exchange between departments and employees, which also has to be rethought due to the decentralized infrastructure in the home office. Cloud-based solutions such as Microsoft Cloud Services have the decisive advantage that the system requirements are lower and the software can also be used via cell phone and tablet from any location with Internet access. Since the actual software runs on the Exchange Server, it not only remains up-to-date at all times, but also does not place too many demands on the end users‘ existing hardware. In addition, cloud services represent a technically very reliable backup solution for all projects and data stocks, which is superior to local storage in the company in almost every respect. Nevertheless, the change is anything but a no-brainer, because in addition to the processes involved in the changeover, high initial investments are often necessary, which result, among other things, from the parallel use of existing structures.

Existing infrastructure must be temporarily operated in parallel

Maybe you are lucky and are just starting your business. If so, it’s comparatively easy to set up a clean, purely digital infrastructure right away with Microsoft 365 and other cloud services, which is used and maintained by everyone involved from the very beginning. In the vast majority of cases, however, these are companies that need to migrate their existing infrastructure to the cloud – and this is an immense challenge in day-to-day operations that is often underestimated. The fact that hardly any lead times were available due to the Corona crisis exacerbates this problem. To avoid significant failures in daily operations, parallel operation with hybrid systems is therefore necessary, at least for a certain period – in other words, a dance at two weddings. So the „log in and get started“ promised by Microsoft 365 only works smoothly in very few scenarios. After all, many of the problems that arise during other IT migrations to new systems are eliminated because configuration and installation on in-house systems are generally unnecessary. However, for the overwhelming majority of companies, it all boils down to migration, including legacy IT, where the integration of existing infrastructure must be carefully considered and planned for cost reasons alone.

Fast is not always better

Even if the corona situation sometimes leaves no choice, a sudden switch to Microsoft 365 is not always recommended, despite or because of the simple registration and usage options. In fact, not only the technical implementation should be planned as long in advance as possible, but also the change management to communicate the necessity of the changes to the affected employees. These should be communicated step by step and in an understandable way. After all, most employees have been working for years or even decades with proven software solutions with which they are familiar. Every change – no matter how meaningful – must therefore be carried out hand in hand. Less problematic are standard programs such as Word or Excel, which in Office 365 are not that different from the stationary solution. However, the Office solution from Microsoft, as a complete tool, offers considerably more functions and possibilities which, although easy to use, cannot always be used sensibly without planning. For example, users who previously communicated at best by e-mail are now confronted with online conferences or tools such as Microsoft Teams, whose practical use must first be learned. To complicate the process, some tools are suitable for multiple scenarios – and if everyone does what they want, the efficiency of collaboration can be impacted negatively.

Data protection according to European standards?

Keyword data security: older companies, in particular, which have their strategies for data protection and data security, is still rooted in another time when data was stored most securely in their cabinets. Even in the age of cloud services, there is nothing to be said against local backups. The fact is, however, that the quality and reliability of cloud-based services is unbeatable for data security and up-to-date backups. For a long time, there were concerns, especially in German companies, because Microsoft Cloud Services operated in the USA and the servers operated were not compatible with the GDPR and other German and European regulations. However, these concerns should be history by now, as the hosting of cloud data at Microsoft is now carried out on German servers. There are, therefore, hardly any rational reasons to continue to refrain from using such cloud services, significantly as the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

How to plan the change to Microsoft 365 efficiently and successfully:

Transition to Microsoft 365
  • Carefully analyse the current work situation of all employees in their daily work
  • Which target groups (departments) must be considered in the company?
  • What is the need for problem solutions?
  • Talk to all users to get input for the change
  • Set up workshops where necessary and keep staff informed during preparation and implementation phases
  • Clarify to users strictly, which tools should be used for which purposes, to avoid overlap

If you observe these points, you can count on a high level of acceptance and willingness on the part of the employees to use the new tools willingly and, above all, in a targeted manner to make their everyday work more efficient. However, many companies are overburdened with the planning of such a complex migration towards the home office. The help of external experts and consultants can help to oversee better (and thus limit) the costs of the initial investment and make the changeover more efficient.