Cloud-based product suites like Office 365 let users switch on multiple applications with new levels of ease and speed. But helping them get the most value isn’t always as fast or easy. What’s the right order for switching on the various components? How do your customers migrate their data to the cloud? And how do they best train their users?
To answer these and other related questions, my company, Content and Code, has developed what we call the “value journey.” It’s our way of helping customers get the best value from their cloud investments, based on their business needs, goals and user preferences.
Surveys play a big role in our process. Surveying a customer’s users is how we uncover a customer’s unmet needs, identify implementation problems that might otherwise go undetected, and monitor actual usage.
In the past, this kind of work wasn’t really necessary. Upgrading traditional on-premises IT was a capital-intensive project, and customers rarely took on more than one implementation a year. A company like ours could add value by doing all the infrastructure work required to get those systems running.
But now, when customers buy a cloud-based suite like Office 365—often with a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement—it’s easy for them to end up with five, six or even more products at once. Switching them on is easy, too. So that’s no longer an area in which we can add value. Instead, it’s all about helping the customer get full value. Often, that involves only a little infrastructure work, but a great deal of “softer” work around user adoption, training, communication and more.
The first thing we do with a new customer is calculate their project’s likely return on investment (ROI). To do this, we use a ROI calculator we’ve developed based on research done by management consultants McKinsey & Co., market researchers IDC, and polling firm Gallup. The calculator’s results show the client the type of ROI they can expect, based on their number of staff, the types of workers they employ and the technologies they want. We find that setting realistic ROI expectations is a great way to start working with a new client.
Next, we conduct what we call a Modern Workplace Survey. It combines feedback from both senior management at the client organization and a good distribution of workers at all levels and in all departments. We ask questions about technology usage, strategic goals, major job challenges and more. By combining the results, we can show the client any gaps between what the user base is saying and what their senior managers are aiming for. Based on this information, we can determine which Office 365 applications the client should roll out in which order to get the greatest possible value.
For example, we recently started a client engagement by sorting out the identity and access. We then moved them onto Yammer for an enterprise social network for communicating changes, getting feedback, offering self-help tools and more. Next, we activated Skype so that the organization’s staff had instant messaging, voice and video calls, and desktop sharing, the latter so they could collaborate on documents from different locations. Finally, we enabled OneDrive so they had better mobility and the ability to sync important files and content onto any device. By launching those applications in that order, we helped our client transform their business.
That’s a whole lot better than the old approach of letting IT managers drive implementations in the order that best suits them. In the past, IT professionals would tell us things like, “We want to start an email initiative, because we’ve got some old email servers we want to get rid of.” That might have helped clear out some legacy hardware, but it didn’t really help the organization achieve its most important strategic aims. By contrast, our new approach does.
Who’s On First?
You might be wondering about the costs. Well, we can do a preliminary ROI discussion and survey for free, even before a customer has signed on with us. It’s a great way to engage and win new clients. Most organizations know they want to move to the cloud; the question is, what should they do first? Our value methodology helps them—and their IT staff—with answers.
Also, we conduct surveys not just at the start, but on a rolling basis. For example, about three months into a project’s launch, we’ll conduct a survey to gauge the early results. We’ll remind the client of their original goals for the project, then measure usage and other benefits to see if those goals were achieved. If not, then we have new work to do. But often, we’re able to show great results.
We also use Microsoft’s Power BI dashboard to determine how many people are actually using a new service. We can also monitor how the services are being used. For example, if we give a client Skype, we can tell not only how many employees are using Skype overall, but also how many are using it for messaging, how many for desktop sharing, how many for conferencing, and how many for voice calls. Previously, that kind of information was difficult, costly and time-consuming to collect. Now it’s quick and easy with our prebuilt templates and connectors.
Training is another ongoing service. While installing an Office 365 application is a good start, for a client to see its full benefits, their users have to get on board, too. That often means training; if users don’t know how to use an application, you can’t expect them to get much benefit from it!
Also, by drilling down, we’re able to show why an application might not be delivering its full benefit, then go about remedying that. For example, one of our clients installed Skype, only to find that most users were still making calls on their desk and mobile phones. That’s what they were used to, and it was easy and familiar. Once we uncovered this, we offered an education program that showed users how easy it was to make calls with Skype. Usage climbed dramatically.
We also help our customers monitor their short-term, medium-term and long-term benefits. Again, surveys and monitoring can help. We had another client that gave all its Skype users cheap, ugly and uncomfortable headsets. Unsurprisingly, Skype usage was low. We identified the cause of the problem, then made the case for investing in better headsets. Though new headsets would cost $100 each, they could achieve a ROI in just eight to 12 months.
That’s not uncommon with cloud services. While the potential benefits are huge, it’s rarely as simple as just turning on a service. Taking customers on a value journey is the answer.
Tim Wallis is the founder and CEO of Content and Code, a U.K.-based IT services provider that specializes in helping clients realize measurable benefits from their Microsoft investments.