An Interview with MVP Eric Riz on Adoption

Office 365 adoption

A few months back, the EUM team held a lunchtime seminar with partners, and invited Microsoft MVP Eric Riz (@@rizinsights) to speak to us on the topics of governance and change management, and their role in a successful digital transformation and ongoing employee adoption. Eric has been a consultant in the Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 community for several years, and is the Founder and CEO of Empty Cubicle, the world’s first verified job platform. While you can read through Eric's slides and check out all of the fantastic visuals, we were able to capture a couple different interviews and expand on the topic of employee adoption. As his Twitter handle implies, he provided some great insights on the topic:


Beyond what he shared in the video, we followed up with Eric and asked him to expand on the topic of adoption and some of the points made in his in-person presentation:

Eric, thanks again for the video, and for answering a few more questions on a very important topic.

Not a problem. It's a subject that is worthy of further exploration.

In your session, you talked at length about the challenges to adoption of SharePoint and Office 365. What are some of the more common barriers you've seen with adoption?

Adoption is one of the most difficult areas of SharePoint and Microsoft 365 for companies to grasp. This is largely because no definitive start or end points are established at an organizational level. A company may begin using SharePoint upon learning they have licenses to support the need; suddenly functionality is built and automation has been created, without the enterprise knowing or buying in. This becomes impossible to “sell” to the organization overall. Furthermore, failure to establish success criteria can stop the project before it starts, or permanently harm adoption long term. I recommend companies identify what success means to them and assign a real metric to the discussion for it to be understood and consumed by the organization.

A statement such as “75% of our employees need to use this platform by January 1 for all HR tasks” helps set priorities and expectations everyone requires to succeed at a business level. From there, the company can identify the supports and prioritization required to ensure these 75% of employees get online.

You also talked about the Digital Workplace being part of a "journey." What did you mean by that?

The Journey is a side-project of mine that has been developed from some senior level discussions with the largest companies in America. The concept is straight-forward - no one starts using SharePoint or Microsoft 365 and pushes its capacities from day one. In fact, some of the most common tools in business have the lowest functional usage statistics.

For example, the common user of Microsoft Word reportedly leverages only 4% of its actual functionality. Surprised? Don’t be. What do you use Word for? Composing, saving, printing – the basics. The Journey takes conceptual stepping stones of understanding, deployment, usage, adoption, training and development and makes it real for companies and employees.

With the rapid growth of Office 365, and more recently Microsoft Teams, making the news, it is always good to ask the question: Why/how are organizations using Office 365? Or, what does that Journey look like for most organizations?

 The Office 365 use case is changing for organizations. In its early days, I often heard that Office 365 was a lighter version of the installed applications, and that people preferred the desktop version. Today, with bleeding edge feature deployment addressing specific needs and users able to track development on a daily basis, Office 365 (aka Microsoft 365) is an integral tool in the collaborative arsenal. Companies are using the platform and tools to build automation, integrate cumbersome applications, integrate datasets and simplify content. This is a huge step in the right collaborative direction.

There is no single Journey or path forward, but there are some common attributes which I talked about in the 10 Steps to Adoption.

Great segue, as that was one of the core takeaways from your session. Maybe you could walk us through the 10 Steps to Adoption, and share a bit on what organizations can do to better support them? Let's begin with K-W-Y-B.

The first step is the “Know what you bought” theory, which is something I’ve been working on with clients for some time. Many companies and their employees struggle with the juxtaposition between released/available software and what their company is using/deploying. In some cases, employees have access to the same corporate-used tools at home, a trend that can disrupt usage scenarios with employees using more powerful or advanced software personally. With a feeling of empowerment, the same employees struggle to work daily with older technology.

For businesses to succeed here, they must build and communicate a roadmap that works for everyone; providing organizational goals and satisfaction for employees.

You then talked about the concept of champions.

That's right. The second step is in the same vein as KWYB. Organizations must embrace subject matter expertise (SME's) and champions of SharePoint and Microsoft 365. Putting these critical roles in place provides the strength and leadership required for companies to succeed with these tools long-term. The emphasis here is “tools”, which is what SharePoint and Microsoft 365 are. They are not your strategy -- they are a rung on your IT strategic ladder, and must be embraced as such, much like the SME’s who are charged with supporting them.

We've seen many organizations add the role of Community or Customer Success Manager. That was 3rd on your list. What is this role, and is it important to organizational adoption and engagement?

The role of the Success Manager (albeit redundant) is to ensure that SharePoint and Microsoft 365 success is achieved across the organization. Working with the SME’s and Champions, the success manager will have the experience and foresight to identify potential issues long before they arise. The goal is to provide positive leadership outside of common, everyday managerial tasks on the platform.

Next up was a formal communications plan, which is often forgotten. How often do you see these in place?

Many companies have corporate communications plans, but these are traditionally guided processes from HR, and few get to the level of tools and platforms. I do think these are essential to any adoption strategy, because they help to formalize the plan and help get executives, managers, and employees on the same page about the state of the deployment and training.

Ask yourself the following question: Am I updated on SharePoint and Microsoft 365? Hopefully the answer is yes, and you know precisely where to go to find the information you need to succeed. If not, speak to your Success Manager or SME to get the information you need.

Fifth on your list was to leverage gamification techniques to get people more engaged. There are companies entirely dedicated to this craft, and several out-of-the-box solutions that can be deployed within Microsoft 365.

Gamification is a strong tool for familiarization and enlightenment for employees utilizing SharePoint and M365. Companies with rich customization will find that employees are not comfortable navigating their sites and environments, which is a risk that must be mitigated for organizations. Creating a gaming component can allow staff to get better acquainted with the environment and provide a forum to ask questions of local SME’s and knowledge leaders in the organization.

Gamification is a great way to introduce new features and tools. Any new deployment can be overwhelming to employees -- and if people are feeling overwhelmed, they often go back to the "old way of doing things" and reject what is new. How does the 6th step in your Adoption strategy address this?

I refer to it as Realization & Environment. As you point out, organizations and employees can be overwhelmed by the amount of content and information available in the SharePoint and Microsoft 365 ecosystem. Further to the KWYB theory, understanding where to focus your time and which support methods are most important for your employees will put you on a successful path.

For the organization, realizing that employees need this support is critical. Embracing an open, knowledge-sharing environment and supporting employees with tools and people can be the difference between success and failure.

You've just touched on operational support, which is 7th in your strategy. Many organizations jump straight to this step and begin planning without having considered many of the other steps. Where should you begin?

The goal of operational support is obviously to ensure a harmonious support system for your company. Many times this is easier said than done. To support an organization, start by identifying the leader who can lead this charge. We all know whom in our company has the capability to lead an initiative of this nature; meet with and empower this individual to be the leader everyone needs. Within their tutelage comes the Success Manager, SME’s and others who can be the change agent for the company.

With the rise of video and on-demand learning tools and platforms, what are your recommendations for providing training and ongoing education for organizations?

The 8th steps in my Adoption strategy is to develop an education plan.

When was the last time you were formally educated by your organization on a system or process? If and when this happened, I hope it ideally was communicated to you during an annual review or identified on a performance plan for you to follow. Whether you’re scoffing at this ideal or thinking it would be a great starting point for yourself and your company, creating an education plan is important; people like being supported and moreover seeing that their company is invested in their growth and development.

Once again, you've segued into the next step…

That's right -- it is important to organize your centralized support. We’ve spoken about the people needed to ensure success, but who is at the other end of the phone or email to assist when required? Where is that individual getting their supportive information from, and how can that individual (or team of people) get their own support.

Centralizing support with a name and a path is important for all involved. Creating an education plan, supporting the team and being inclusive across the organization is critical and an enabler for success.

To close out your list, you talked about the importance of finding "quick wins" within your deployment. What are some ways that organizations can see some "quick wins" around adoption?

For companies kicking off a project or trying ideas to revitalize an environment, identifying a step or time saving process that can be easily automated may just be the quick win your company needs to get on the right path. Spending time identifying what this means for your organization is worth the investment.

-- --

Thank you again to Eric for participating in our summer event, and for the two follow up interviews. If you would like to learn more about Eric, you can find him on Twitter at @@RIZinsights as well as LinkedIn, or you can visit his blog at

Latest Articles

Related Pages

{{#if RollupImage}} {{Title}} {{else}} {{/if}}
{{{hyperlink RelativeURL Title Title null}}}
{{#if EventStartDate}}

{{eventDate EventStartDate EventEndDate}}

{{/if}} {{#if PublishedDate1}}

{{generalDate PublishedDate1}}

{{/if}} {{#if RollupContent}}



{{{hyperlink RelativeURL Title "Read more..." null}}}