Office 365 User Adoption Series: Thomas Deacon Education Trust

Smooth, frictionless user adoption can be tricky.

You’ve decided that Office 365 and SharePoint is right for you. But, there’s the small matter of convincing the rest of your team and getting everyone in your organisation on board.

We’re creating a series of podcasts focusing on real-life user adoption stories, with schools, academies and businesses just like yours.



Our aim is to share and encourage a community resource that will help others who may be struggling with user adoption.

The first episode of this podcast features Tony Phillips, Cloud Design Box Founder, Darren Hemming, our Operations Manager, and Martin Byford-Rew who is the Head of ICT Services at Thomas Deacon Education Trust.

Martin outlines the key challenges he faced when starting to move across to Office 365 and SharePoint, as well as giving some excellent actionable tips on how to roll out the suite across a school, academy or business.

“Our overall vision has been the same throughout the whole process – to move over to the cloud and get everyone to see the value in Office 365 and SharePoint,” Martin tells us.

“However, achieving this has been challenging and we’re still not 100% of the way there. I hope that my experience will help others avoid some of the pitfalls we have fallen down.”

Based in the East Midlands, Thomas Deacon Education Trust is a small but growing organisation with five schools and around 4,000 students. With experience using an on-premise SharePoint solution for several years in one of these schools, Martin has now begun gradually moving everyone over to the cloud. Here’s how he is achieving this:

1. Start at the top.

“We started user adoption from the very top – the board. This involved a very short, concise training session with board members to show them the basic building blocks of Office 365 and SharePoint,” Martin explains.

From there, the ICT team worked their way down the school structure, introducing the technology to each level of the school.

2. Take small, simple steps.

“It’s all about small, quick wins. Teach the ‘ABC’ steps of Office 365 and what you can do with it, instead of overwhelming people with the vast number of features that may not even be useful for them,” he continues.

Martin accomplished this by organising short, 10-minute sessions where he encouraged staff to log in, create and save a file and then share it with a colleague.

“When people see that they can create a document and not physically press save to save a file to OneDrive, they are willing to learn more. Everyone has a memory of the time when they forgot to press save on a document they’ve been working on.”

3. Know your audience.

“There’s no point in presenting a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Get to know how your staff work, get to know what their pain points are and offer a resolution from there,” Martin highlights.

“No matter how much training you give someone, if they don’t need to use a feature, they won’t use it.”

By tailoring your training to individuals or small groups of people with a similar job role, you can really get them to understand how the product can help them save time.

Finally, Martin gives some real-life examples of where he has rolled out Office 365 and SharePoint.

1. Parents evening feedback.

Previously, parents would fill out a paper slip, which would then have to be processed and sorted by admin staff. It was a slow process and many parents would forget to complete the forms.

Now, teachers approach parents with an iPad that has four or five questions on. It’s instant feedback and doesn’t require as much time from the admin team.

2. Friday quizzes.

A similar example of how Office 365 and SharePoint has transformed pupils’ learning experiences is with end-of-the-week quizzes.

Again, this was once a paper-based exercise that was time-consuming and unengaging.

Students now answer questions on an iPad or other device and can see their results straight away, as well as compare their progress to their fellow classmates. It gives them an opportunity to take control of their own learning, as well as providing the teacher with insight into how well their class understood the lesson.

Final, takeaway points from Martin on user adoption:

  • Keep training short and concise.
  • Leadership first and work down.
  • Start simple.
  • Solve problems.
  • Tailor for audience.
  • Transformation takes time.

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