Critical Issues in Office 365 Implementation

Bongo IT Introduce: Dr James A Robertson - Business Systems Specialist

Bongo IT collaborate with a number of affiliates across different sectors including change/process managers and strategic business advisors, to deliver effective projects every time. The author of this article, Dr James A Robertson, works with Bongo IT leading the charge in understanding the business needs by working with the C-level stakeholders, in most cases the CEO. Understanding business needs and processes from the top level down helps bring about highly effective implementations of IT systems, improving productivity companywide.

Critical Issues in Office 365 Implementation

The full implementation of Office 365 represents a distinct change in the way of working for most organizations.

The level of collaboration that is enabled goes well beyond what most organizations are accustomed to and, for that reason, effective implementation is vital. As with all business systems it is the non-technical factors that will make or break an Office 365 implementation and it is attention to these issues that is critical.

Executive Custody

I recently attended a talk on Office 365 which included a case study of a very successful implementation by a Global Legal Firm which was accompanied by new offices and a radical shift in the way of working of personnel within the firm. Substantial efficiencies and cost savings were reported. What was noteworthy in this case study was that the managing partner of the firm concerned personally took charge of the entire project and made sure that everything worked. This is a classic example of a high level of Executive Custody for a project delivering exceptional results.

My experience indicates that without this high level of Executive Custody the outcome would have been less satisfactory and might have ended up being aborted. A move to Office 365 by its nature impacts every area of the business. Office 365 is an integrating technology designed to get personnel collaborating across departmental and geographic boundaries, whether by way of on-line meetings, collaborative document review or any of the other attractive functionality that Office 365 provides. Fundamentally the Chief Executive Officer, in the above case the Managing Partner, is the custodian of the integrated view of the business and is the only person with the authority to ensure that all departments and branches make the sometimes traumatic adjustments to the new way of working.

As a general principle, Executive Custody accounts for about 25% of the soft, intellectual energy that is required to achieve a high value outcome. In other words, with strong Executive Custody the probability of a successful outcome increases by around 25%. This does not relate to person hours but to focus and leadership input.

Conversely, inappropriate or inadequate Executive Custody increases the probability of failure by around 19%.


It is a fundamental principle of Engineering that Engineers do not design bridges to stand up, they design them not to fall down and this principle applies just as much to business systems such as Office 365. In the IT space, success is the consequence of a well-designed solution not failing.

In order to achieve success it is vital to understand what causes failure and the single biggest factor with regard to IT project failure is what I term “IT Mythology” – the tendency of human beings to ascribe magical or human attributes to technology that the technology is incapable of delivering – only humans enabled by the technology and using it effectively can deliver those benefits.

In the same presentation I noticed that the presenters, who were all tech people clearly passionately in love with the new tech, made some statements that fell clearly into the mythology trap. For example, the case study referred to above only incidentally mentioned the role of the Managing Partner when from the video, as one attuned to Executive Custody, I immediately recognized the key role of this individual. The average delegate to the seminar would almost certainly not have made this connection and would have concluded that all that was needed was to install Office 365 and all the remarkable benefits would follow automatically.

Thus, in considering “The Cloud”, Office 365 and related technologies and opportunities I urge caution. Yes dramatic organizational benefits can be achieved but a key element of achieving these benefits is a well-designed configuration including document cataloguing in SharePoint Online (SPO), a thoughtful definition of standards, standard ways of working, and effective training.

Inherent in the deployment of Office 365 is a material change in the way of working for most, if not all, office workers. A successful deployment requires that these changes in ways of working are well thought out and captured in effective training programmes that train personnel in the new ways of working.

Remember that the default position for any human being confronted with change is to revert to what they know best, their comfort zone. So there is a real risk that once an organization has implemented Office 365 most personnel will continue to use Microsoft Office very much the way that they did before with the result that little or no benefit will be derived and inefficiencies and strong change resistance may develop.

Strategic Alignment

Support for the Essence of the Business and how it Thrives Another major factor in the successful implementation of new business technologies is strategic alignment, in other words, the alignment of the new solution with the essence of the business and how it thrives. A necessary consequence of this point is that for some businesses Office 365 will be entirely appropriate and deliver considerable value while for others it may be close to irrelevant and may even be destructive in that it gets in the way of running the organization.

Returning to the example above, the legal firm, as a global player with specialists around the globe, was already in a mode of operation where significant levels of collaboration were called for as a necessary part of doing business in the way they did. Putting in collaboration tools and changing the way things were done to embrace the tools was clearly the right thing for that firm to do and so Office 365 was a resounding success. Typically, effective strategic definition and strategic alignment will reduce the probability of failure by 16% and increase the probability of success by 22%.


There is much more that can be written about the effective high value implementation of Office 365 but I hope this will give you a taste of some of the issues to manage.

James Robertson 07768-622-875 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. http://www.James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com https://uk.Linkedin.com/in/DrJamesARobertsonERPDoctor  

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Tuesday, 27 February 2024

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