Lesson 3: IT and the business can have conflicting priorities

I have been consulting solely on Microsoft 365 technology for just over a decade. I reflected on this recently and realised I have engaged with over 80 clients. This is a 6-part series diving into some consistent themes from engaging across many organisations and industries.

For this lesson, let’s take a moment to consider some of the challenges with conflicting needs and view between the business stakeholders and the IT department managing your Microsoft 365 platform.

I have many times seen IT make decisions around configuration or governance without any involvement from other stakeholders. This can have a negative impact on staff and the use of Microsoft 365 tools.

A quick example – external sharing.

It is common to have an IT department be told, or decide, to eliminate the ability to share externally believing it is risky and outside of organisation process or compliance. In these situations, the business leaders or IT don’t want staff to use links and provide access to documents or data for external stakeholders. This decision does not consider key roles and scenarios of staff who work with external stakeholders which then blocks process and creates challenges in how they are trying to work. Often those staff will find other ways to meet their collaboration and sharing needs at times pushing them to shadow IT.

It isn’t just about document sharing. At times there are features unnecessarily disabled due to compliance reasons that can also block staff ways of working and inhibit innovation.

What else can be impacted by disconnection between the business and IT?

Event just making assumptions about applications can reduce the value of the platform.
Sway is a poor forgotten product that many organisations disable without any consultation. When you show a person in an organisation responsible for sending newsletters what they could achieve with Sway, they are often blown away and it’s an easy win, but many are unaware this great application exists.

Planner is on the rise with many IT departments only starting to provide access now. The same is common for Microsoft Forms and then also lower-level configuration of features in meetings or Teams/ SharePoint libraries.

If the people managing the platform are guided by assumptions or decisions that don’t consult with or take into account the business opinions or needs, so much is lost in great features and applications that are available.

There is not one single user experience across the applications. One person will use chat for communication, getting the information they need to solve problems and get things done. Others need more detailed document collaboration and will use co-authoring, accessing things online, and perhaps version history or comments in documents. Then there are users automating processes with Power Automate or diving deep into data and analysis with Power BI. The platform enables communication and collaboration in ways that differ per role and individual work style.
You cannot have the experience of many decided upon, or feedback given by, a small group. Whether it is an IT department or leader confident they know the business and make decisions on their behalf, or business leaders from different areas giving direction based on organisation needs that leave out the opinion and experience or process of key other areas.

Ensure you have key representation to drive use cases that suit the needs and build the experience in a specific area. Some aspects will be broad – everyone uses email, everyone accesses the staff Team or channel, as an example. But get ‘in the weeds’ with areas and help drive their Microsoft 365 ways of working to align the perspective of IT and general business stakeholders.

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