Rolling out Microsoft Teams to an organization is far different than the typical deployment of software for IT departments. Not only does MS Teams provide a range of features and capabilities that users might not be familiar with, but you are asking users to change not only the tools that they use but how they actually work for Teams to be successful. In this article, I am going to talk about some first-hand experiences of what IT teams can do to make their Microsoft Teams roll-out as smooth and successful as possible. 

Microsoft knows that rolling out Teams is a far different process than simply installing the tool. Their Power BI dashboard shows them how adoption is trending over time.

What to do for a successful Microsoft Teams roll-out:

Run internal pilot 

Since Teams is so multi-faceted, the best way to understand the tool is to run an internal pilot with the IT team. This has the benefit of helping any support people understand the tool to better support the organization during roll-out. Remember that with Teams there are a number of ways to only allow specific users to create Teams or even use the client itself, so you can limit your pilot effectively. 

Get executive sponsorship 

Rolling out Teams is unique because it’s both a new tool and a new way of working in many organizations (much more open and collaborative than before). Because of this, having an executive sponsor that can help the organization understand that there will be some pain during this process, why they are doing it, and what results they can expect can be a godsend. Remember: no one likes having tools forced on them, particularly when it’s IT doing the forcing, so a non-IT executive sponsor can really help and should be considered essential.

Don’t treat this as a project but as a product 

Your Microsoft Teams roll-out, because it involves both a technological change and a behavioral change, should be treated not as a project but as a product. A project has a start and end date, whereas a product undergoes constant iterations of new features and capabilities based on user feedback. Thinking of Teams in this way is helpful since there are many capabilities and many features that you might want to deploy on a staggered basis. By introducing some product thinking into your MS Teams roll-out, you will undoubtedly be more successful. 

Thinking of Teams as a product instead of a project will provide a great chance of success in your implementation.

Find tangible use cases with the business 

Typically, IT teams roll out software in terms of features: “here are some features that are cool that you can use”. However, in my experience, a better approach is not to talk about features but instead concentrate on providing a solution to a business need.

In the case of Microsoft Teams, instead of rolling out Collaborative Teams with real-time chat (a bunch of features) try to use these features to create a tangible solution to offer your users (“Here is how you manage projects in Teams”).  

By involving your business in this approach it does two things: 

A) You build trust with the business and get a set of champions from the very beginning 

B) You create a solution to a tangible business need that will be much more easily adopted and explained than simply providing features 

So make sure that you engage your business and come up with some use cases. Teams has so many different features that you can create some small solutions (“Here is how to schedule meetings using Teams”) to the very large and complex (“Here is how we plan and execute organization-wide initiatives using Teams”) 

What not to do: 

Just like there are things you should be doing, there are things that you shouldn’t: 

Make Microsoft Teams magically appear one day 

The roll-out technique of just making Teams appear one day when users log into their machine is a really bad way to deploy it. This may seem obvious, but I have seen countless organizations doing this. This might work for a small and targeted piece of software but for something as complex and powerful as Teams it doesn’t. Please don’t do this. 

Not provide customized (or any) training to your organization 

Microsoft Teams users need training and in particular, I find it’s more effective if you have customized training for your organization. Now, this may be a bit too cumbersome and expensive, so having a combination of generic training for Teams features and customized training for specific capabilities that you have created can be a good combination.
Also, try to use Teams to help people train as it reinforces the power of the tool. Having an organization-wide Team that is dedicated to training can be incredibly useful if you set up different channels where users can ask questions and get quick answers. 

Not providing any options during your Microsoft Teams roll-out

Your organization isn’t going to magically one day just start using Microsoft Teams. Every organization, regardless of industry, size or culture, will follow the technology adoption life cycle. Don’t try to think that you are different because you aren’t (unless you are an organization of one). So you need to make sure that you can cater to the different categories.  

  • Innovators: Provide access to Teams early on and let them make mistakes. They won’t really mind as long as they can use the tool they will try to work out any kinks themselves. 
  • Early Adopters: They want to use Teams but probably need a little more support in terms of training and understanding what the tool should be used for. You want to get the early adopters on board since you can use them to help promote Teams to the early majority and late majority. Everyone knows that the innovators in the company will use any tool but if you can show value with the early adopters you have a greater chance for success. 
  • Early Majority: Here is where the bulk of your effort should be planned for and where you need to be organized. Training as well as support from both IT and your champions from the early adopters and innovators will help to provide stories and show how Teams can be used. Getting your executives involved to explain the ‘why’ of MS Teams is also incredibly useful. Basically, if you can get the early majority on board then you are looking good, but this group will need some convincing around the new ways of working that MS Teams provides. 
  • Late Majority: The late majority is typically the largest and most challenging group of users in your organization. You can reuse a lot of content developed in the early majority group but this group will need the most in terms of training, guidance and executive support. I have found that if the velocity of the early majority is high in terms of adoption you can get the late majority on by simply encouraging and driving usage across the organization but this group can be a challenge and bear in mind that it might take an order of magnitude more in terms of time to get them on board.  
  • Laggards: You have two ways to approach this and which you choose depends on your strategy. In some organizations you simply mandate that Microsoft Teams will be used and force the laggards to switch tools. It’s not the best way but it is effective. A better approach, however, is to offer a path from the current work tools into Teams and provide some time for the laggards to switch. Frequently with Teams, laggards will eventually start using the tool if the majority of people are, but keep in mind that there will always be people in every organization that don’t want to change their work tools or style regardless of what happens.  
The technology adoption life cycle will apply to Teams so don’t think that it wont!

Microsoft Teams Roll-out: Final Thoughts

I hope these tips are useful and help you and your IT department successfully roll out Microsoft Teams for your organization. While the roll-out process can be challenging, MS Teams is one of the most powerful collaboration tools out there, and once adopted I think you’ll find the benefits mean the challenge was worth overcoming.

Let me know if you agree or disagree with any of these. I would love to hear what you think about the dos and don’ts of rolling out Microsoft Teams from your experience too.

Further Reading

Microsoft Teams for the Rest of Us

Best Practices for Organizing Channels in Teams 

How to Roll Out Microsoft Teams – Microsoft

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