The Gatehouse Blog

Getting the most out of Microsoft Office 365

As Microsoft Office 365 continues to take organisations by storm, many internal communicators find themselves struggling to communicate the breadth and complexity of tools available to employees. Lucy Braun and Sergey Datsenko share their experience running a campaign to help employees of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) collaborate more effectively by leveraging the full potential of the 365 suite.

With a workforce of 18,000 staff members and consultants spread across about 170 countries and territories in the world, UNDP has an interesting challenge around collaboration across locations and with partners. Two years after the roll-out of Office 365 throughout the organisation, data showed that levels of uptake of the tools differed substantively between individuals, teams, offices and regions. There was clearly a lack of awareness among staff of the technology available to support collaboration and team productivity, which resulted in Office 365 tools being significantly under-utilised.

In 2017, the Knowledge Management and IT teams joined forces to address this challenge and to increase awareness and adoption of the tools available to help colleagues with everyday tasks and enable them to make informed decisions about ‘which tool to use when’. We came up with a campaign that included three components: awareness raising, training and additional support channels.

The challenges of communicating Office 365

One of the key challenges with Office 365 is the ever-increasing number of features. The plethora of options is overwhelming for many users, and you can approach it from many different angles. Our approach was to focus on one of our staff ’s biggest pain points – the collaboration aspect – and to create interest by demonstrating that we have the tools available to allow them to get work done collaboratively.

In addition, there are many overlaps between tools and features that make it quite difficult for people to choose. Just like in real life, having choice can be exciting but is often daunting at the same time. Many of our colleagues were craving very clear ‘instructions’ on which tool to use in light of many competing choices. Our decision was to not train people on how to use one specific tool, but instead go through the pros and cons of using one tool versus the other options in various scenarios (e.g. collaborate as a team through Microsoft Teams vs. through a Yammer group or using OneNote for action points from a meeting vs. tracking them in Planner or Outlook) to allow colleagues to make informed decisions.

Finally, the pace at which the tools are evolving and being updated makes it hard to keep up, for end-users, IT staff and internal communicators alike. It is virtually impossible to keep guidelines or training materials up-to-date, so instead of creating our own branded versions of training assets, we decided early on to rely on Microsoft’s resources as much as possible, even if the language and examples used are more appropriate for corporations than non-profit sector organisations like us.

“There was clearly a lack of awareness among staff of the technology available to support collaboration and team productivity, which resulted in Office 365 tools being significantly under-utilised.”

Three campaign principles

Our training and awareness campaign relied of a few core principles:

  • ‘Make it matter’: we focused on relatable real-life scenarios. In the planning phase, we identified situations in which our people would need to adopt these tool, and built the campaign around these – examples include ‘Work as a team across locations’ or ‘Co-author, co-edit and share document’.
  • ‘Practice what we preach’: we exposed colleagues to as many Office 365 tools throughout the campaign as possible: By signing up for just one training session, they got to interact with 10 to 12 different Office 365 tools along the way, from watching an animation in Video, to registering for a session through Forms and asking their questions in a dedicated Yammer group.
  • ‘Keep it simple and flexible’: we kept the language free from technical jargon and the programme flexible: People could sign up for as many or as few of the 1-hour training sessions as they were able to fit into their schedules.

A three-phased campaign, the programme kicked off with awareness raising activities between July and September 2017. We developed a visual identity for the campaign, as well as a series of materials, such as a promotional video, and a quick- reference guide mapping the tools to be

used for every-day tasks. Our ‘A day in the Office 365 life of…’ Sway series featured sample schedules of different UNDP personas using Office 365 tools in their work day. We also created a SharePoint portal for all materials and a Yammer group to share weekly tips, latest updates and

answer questions, and recruited a group of champions but also engaged with senior management for support. The second phase included a general Office 365 overview roadshow to interested teams that was very useful in terms of collecting

feedback on content and format.


The third phase was a series of ‘bite- sized’, 1-hour training sessions over a 3 month-period. Each month, we focused on a different aspect: ‘collaborate on content and connect online’ in October, which focused on sharing content, co-editing

documents and managing webinars and online meetings; ‘tools for teams and projects’ in November, where we reviewed task and project management tools and team collaboration platforms; and ‘work out loud’ in December, which encouraged staff to share lessons learned and best practices, create interactive newsletters and reports, and showcase their work using tools like blogs and Sway. Overall, we conducted over 90 sessions around these themes, both in person in New York and as webinars catering to various time zones and reaching colleagues in over 90 countries.

“We will continue to analyse the impact the campaign has had on adoption over the coming months. However, as always with technology the question is, how quickly can you expect to ‘move the needle’ on adoption?”

We’re now in the last stage of the programme, analysing the lessons learned and focusing on sustaining the message and providing ongoing support to staff via our Yammer community. Feedback from the training sessions was very positive and we have many promising signs that individuals and teams are starting to use the tools more and more.

We will continue to analyse the impact the campaign has had on adoption over the coming months. However, as always with technology the question is, how quickly can you expect to ‘move the needle’ on adoption? One thing we’ve come to realise is that with new people joining or moving roles regularly, this can’t be a one-off exercise. This training should be an ongoing programme of work, and we are aware that we will need to review adoption regularly and to maintain our efforts to help colleagues collaborate effectively.


BIOGRAPHY – Sergey Datsenko
Sergey is an information and communication technology expert with over twenty years of experience in Internet services and technologies. He currently leads the team that provides infrastructure and cloud platforms and services, including Microsoft Azure and Office 365 services at UNDP.
BIOGRAPHY – Lucy Braun
Lucy is a communications specialist and expert in humanitarian relief operations by background and has worked in Europe, the US and Asia in both the public and the private sector. She has over thirteen years of experience with United Nations agencies, managing teams around internal and external communications and leading significant digital workplace and change management initiatives – including as Chief of Communications for UNICEF’s US$3.4 billion supply operation. Lucy currently supports UNDP as Knowledge and Information Systems Advocate in the Knowledge Management Team. Linkedin profile: