How IT Can Enable Business Performance

August 8, 2023

How IT Can Enable Business Performance

During our recent webinar on balancing governance and business productivity in Microsoft Teams with Benjamin Niaulin, VP Product of ShareGate, we delved into the importance of IT aligning with business units to ensure Microsoft 365 is helping them achieve their goals. Here’s a recap of why it matters and how to set the stage for a winning partnership.

Microsoft 365 migration as a business transformation opportunity

Microsoft 365 isn’t just a bunch of new technologies; it’s a platform to adopt a better way of working. But far too often Microsoft 365 rollouts are IT-driven, technology-focused exercises that don’t obviously have a connection with the everyday lives and business functions of end users. To them, it’s just new software they need to figure out and deal with, rather than fully understanding and leveraging the many ways it can impact their productivity.

This is in part due to the fact that these rollouts are spearheaded and socialized by IT. They view the situation through their own lens of compliance, security, and information management. But those are often abstract concepts that don’t connect with workers in the trenches trying to complete their tasks and achieve their own goals.

To turn this dynamic around, IT must not only make their business case for Microsoft 365 on the technology front, but also how it aligns with each business unit’s objectives and pain points.

IT needs a product mindset

While every IT department knows its purpose is to support the business and its employees, the pendulum often swings toward corporate objectives rather than end-user needs. But the appropriate balance ensures corporate objectives are still being met—such as security—while also helping end users and business units achieve their goals as well.

First, that means IT must view end users as customers and not just users, and those customers are under more pressure than ever to deliver. IT must then understand how their internal customers measure success and align their own success metrics accordingly.

This requires a more discrete Microsoft 365 value proposition than the broader, top-line talking points. For an end user, they should be seeing that Microsoft 365 helps them do their job better or faster or more efficiently or more profitably, and IT can only help them do that by delivering value at the use-case level.

Information Management might be important to IT because of the ever-increasing demands for compliance and security, for example, but how is an individual supposed to engage with those concepts when it’s not their core focus and seems only tangentially related to their day-to-day lives?

Guardrails vs. obstacles

IT is all about rules and permissions… who can do what, when, where, and how. But that’s not how end users think about things. They just want to get stuff done and they see IT as the curmudgeonly hall monitor telling them to slow down or go another route. While this might keep the business safe, it’s not making end user lives easier.

Instead, IT should view its role as an enabler rather than a blocker, which means setting up guardrails to keep everyone safe. When done right, these guardrails are established at the very beginning when people are setting up their workspaces on SharePoint and Microsoft Teams and creating content.

One approach is proactively provisioning these workspaces using templates designed with the end-user business case in mind. However, if IT builds these in a vacuum, they’ll inevitably get things wrong. To avoid this, IT must partner with business units and end users to gather requirements and then provide a starting point with the right structures and rules in place to facilitate productivity while still keeping folks from driving into a ditch.

And while it might be easier for IT to just create a few stock templates on their own, those are unlikely to match the intention and needs of actual, real-world projects with all their nuances and quirks. For IT organizations to fully engage end users and stakeholders, they should leverage other support departments in these efforts. This may include engaging with human resources and/or marketing to properly convey key messages to educate the workforce on these matters and to humanize things a bit.

More isn’t always better

While employees not adopting Microsoft Teams or SharePoint is its own problem, there are also concerns when employees get a little too enthusiastic and optimistic about their Microsoft 365 plans. Without proper training, guidance, and guardrails, folks can be overly ambitious at first, which can create a problematic legacy for the organization.

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept organizations up in a rapid dash to adopt SharePoint and Microsoft Teams as collaboration platforms, there was understandably a flurry of activity as workers tried to figure out how to use these solutions on the fly, often with little guidance or training. People started creating workspaces and adding content everywhere, with little management, planning, or organization.

Unfortunately, while some of these new collaboration beachheads have seen plenty of activity and proper file sharing, this also created a surge in inactive groups—ShareGate’s research found a 66% increase in inactive groups over six months. However, those abandoned SharePoint sites and Teams channels are doing more harm than just using up storage space and gathering digital dust. They’re actually making it harder for knowledge workers to do their jobs and making things less efficient. That’s because inactive groups are cluttering search results and making navigation and discovery a lengthier and more frustrating process.

The unintended side effect of giving end users the power to utilize these platforms was making workers less efficient because they don’t know where things are or are supposed to be, which slows them down and frustrates them, and that can impact long-term adoption.

Some guardrails won’t make everyone happy

While making things fast and easy generally aids productivity, there are some cases where IT’s guardrails may still inconvenience or frustrate end users. This is where we can remember that both end users and the business itself are IT’s customers, and when in doubt the business will always take priority.

One common area where convenience and compliance butt heads is around sharing files outside the organization. ShareGate’s research found a surge in external file sharing at the dawn of the pandemic—a 74% increase in external links from December 2020 to February 2021—and only 41% of organizations have a process in place to review those external links. Even more concerning, 25.6% of organizations have no user verification or sign-in requirements to access shared files.

When these glaring security holes surface, IT may have to play “bad cop” to rein things in a bit. This isn’t being overzealous, but rather matching up how work happens in practice with the security requirements needed to protect the business.

Choosing the right tools

The Microsoft 365 ecosystem provides a plethora of tools, utilities, and plug-ins, but we wanted to highlight how two of them work together to create an IT approach that doesn’t sacrifice governance while enabling productivity.

ShareGate sets the stage for frictionless IT governance, allowing IT to quickly create templates and pre-define different rules and structures to set those important guardrails in place. then provides an empowering user experience for end users, bridging the gap between Outlook and Microsoft Teams so colleagues can easily share files and emails via drag and drop and defining key metadata properties.

For a deeper dive into this topic and a demonstration of how these tools work together, view the entire webinar here.

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